Top Guns! Port Cruise to Another Win: Port FC 3-1 Air Force Central Utd

 

 

Air Force flew into Khlong Thoey last night, and with the visitors glued to the bottom of the table and Port riding high in second, it looked like mission impossible for the boys from Don Muaeng. But it turned out to be a very competitive and highly entertaining game, and whilst the scoreline may make the result seem cut & dried, in reality Air Force could easily have sneaked a win.

Eyebrows were raised before kickoff with the news that Jadet had decided to drop top scorer Sergio Suarez (5), and replace him with DM Adisorn (13). A tactical masterstroke, or was the big fella losin’ it? It was a risky business for sure, but as it turned out it was just what Port needed. Suarez thrives on the edge and in the usual midfield chaos of Thai football, and whilst that’s fine when you’re battling against the likes of Muangthong, it can be a liability when you’re expected to boss the game against inferior opposition – so Jadet put SS on the bench, replaced him with Adisorn, and moved the calmer, unflappable Kim (8) into the AM position, and the result was the best 45 minutes of football Port have played all season.

Air Force started without Port legend Ekkapoom, and whilst they may have a few good men up front with the likes of Assumpcao, Marques and Jaycee John, their midfield and defence were the poorest I’ve seen all season and Port set about them with relish, aided somewhat by the visitors’ inability to hold onto the ball for longer than a few seconds. I don’t know what the possession stats were but it must’ve been at least 70:30 in Port’s favour in the first half.

 

 

Port’s new midfield cocktail was fizzing from the off, with Pakorn (7) firing an early warning shot just wide of Air Force’s post, and Nurul (31) blazing a volley over the bar after being set up by Kevin (97). Pakorn, who was making all the right moves all evening, came close with a couple of free kicks before Kim took over free kick duty and brought a terrific save from the Air Force keeper, and Kim was unlucky to have his attempt blocked when set up by Nurul. Port were far and away the better side and playing some champagne football, and finally got the breakthrough they deserved on 38 minutes – Air Force’s keeper threw the ball out pretty lazily and Siwakorn (16) nipped in to steal it and passed it to Pakorn, whose pinpoint cross landed right on the head of Boskovic (23), and the big Montenegrin nodded it into the net.

If that was champagne football, what came next was vintage Dom Perignon, as on 43 minutes that man Pakorn picked up the ball a few yards outside Air Force’s area. There appeared to be nothing on, but a quick drop of the shoulder put the winger into space and he absolutely blasted a shot into the back of the net. One of the finest goals I’ve ever seen at the PAT, and even the usually placid gold members in Zone A were on their feet.

So 2-0 at half time, and it looked like Air Force were headed for oblivion. Fortunately for them, Port’s defence came out for the second half with their eyes wide shut and just 8 minutes into the half, Marques blasted home from 20 yards to put them back in the game. Their joy, however was very short-lived – around 90 seconds – as Port hit back with yet another goal of the finest quality. Some lovely interplay on the edge of the Air Force box ended in a delightful chip from Nurul straight onto the toe of Pakorn, who buried it into the roof of the net to restore Port’s two-goal advantage and send those of us who’d moved over to Zone D at half-time into ecstasy.

 

 

This was the cue for Air Force to send on former Bangkok Utd striker Jaycee John, and with all their big three strikers now on the pitch, the visitors were suddenly a different proposition and set about causing chaos in Port’s defence which, with Rochela (22) having picked up a silly booking earlier in the game, Athibordee (35) playing out of position at CB, and Kim playing in a more advanced role, was starting to bear a worrying resemblance to the shambles of 2017. The difference from the first half was like knight & day. Fortunately Worawut (36), who has come on leaps & bounds this season, was equal to everything the Air Force strikers could throw at him, and Port made it to the whistle with their lead intact to maintain their 100% home record.

So a real game of two halves then. Port totally dominated the first half but were on the back foot for much of the second against a team who have bags of quality up front, but nothing in midfield or defence. Jadet’s tactical tinkering worked a treat, and whilst Port’s defence was at times shambolic in the second half, they were unstoppable coming forward. Pakorn, Kevin and Nurul are starting to gel nicely and create havoc in opposition defences, whilst Boskovic seems to have found his goal form and, whilst at times he doesn’t look like much of an upgrade on Josi, his hard work & selflessness create acres of space for his teammates. The win puts Port second behind Buriram and with a bit of daylight between them and a clutch of teams on 13 points. The next game is a winnable away trip to struggling Police Tero this Sunday, but what comes next – games against Bangkok Utd & Buriram – will tell us if this is a real title challenge or just early season high spirits.

 

Sandpit Man of the Match – Pakorn

It was one of those nights where you couldn’t have thrown a dodgy half-time sausage on the pitch without hitting a Port MOTM contender. Kevin was absolutely phenomenal down the left, Siwakorn had by far his best game of the season, Adisorn was the usual bundle of energy, and Nurul had Air Force’s defenders crying for their mummy every time he had the ball.

But with an assist and two of the best goals ever scored at the PAT, it simply has to be the Midfield Monk himself Pakorn. After La Pang showed the colour of money and splashed the cash on Nurul we didn’t think we’d be seeing much of Pakorn this season, but he’s risen to the challenge and reached a new level and is now Port’s first choice on the right. If he carries on like this, a national team call-up surely has to come soon.

 

Tim Russell

Tim Russell

The founder and editor of The Sandpit, Tim has been in SE Asia since 2003 and in Bangkok since 2012, where he runs a travel tech business. Tim has followed Port FC since 2014, and is also a fan of his hometown club Coventry City, and French club AS St-Etienne. He has written for the likes of Football365, ITV.com, NME and The Quietus, and is a regular contributor to God Is In the TV. He's a keen photographer and his work can be seen on his website.

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