“Never write match reports when you’ve had a few beers”, as Graham Greene once wrote (The End of the Affair, 1951), but bollocks to it, it’s not often you get home from the pub having seen Port win 4-0 away after bossing a game on the road the way they generally do at home. Yes, the Swatcats were dreadful, by far the worst team we’ve played all season, but this was the kind of performance that makes you think Port have turned a corner after the watershed moment that was Chainat. Can you turn a corner after a watershed? Am I mixing too many metaphors here? Who cares. We are Tarua, and we are 3rd in the league.
Several factors contributed to a complete absence of Sandpitters at the 80th Anniversary Stadium tonight. Many of us are still scarred by that trip to Chainat; Port’s away form doesn’t in any way justify a 10-hour return trip on a Sunday night; and we tend not to like stadiums where you need the fucking Hubble Telescope to watch the action. So we convened at The Sportsman where as usual the game was on a big screen and the beer was flowing like the sacred waters of the Chao Phraya as they pass majestically by the fragrant docksides of Khlong Thoey.
Port started the game in a fairly generic formation, Suarez (5) returning in place of Bodin (10), who can consider himself very unfortunate after his superb performance against Chiang Rai last week. Such is life at Port, where reputations count for more than form. Dolah (4) kept his place after his superb show last weekend, and Worawut (36) replaced Rattanai who was presumably injured as he didn’t even make the bench.
Now at The Sandpit we try to operate on a glass-half-full basis as regards the development of Thai football, but it has to be said that the first half of this game was absolutely dreadful, and about as good an advertisement for the Thai game as Ed Sheeran is for British music. It was, frankly, fucking shocking. And yet, amidst the incompetence, Port somehow emerged at half-time with a 1-0 lead, after Boskovic (23) casually wandered through a static Swatcat defence to fire a header at our old friend Cunningham which, to be fair, the latter miraculously managed to save, only for the ball to fall to Nurul (31) who buried the fucker in the corner.
The little winger (who, according to Sandpitter Tommie Duncan, looks like a marmoset) should’ve made it 2-0 minutes later when put in the clear by a sublime pass from the otherwise nondescript Pakorn (7), but, thinking he was offside, he fluffed his chip over the keeper.
So 1-0 to Port at half-time when it could easily have been much more, but with Port dominating the game, and the Swatcats offering little other than a succession of fouls (the ludicrous Rangel being the worst offender, as per usual), hopes were high for the second half, hopes which – for a change – were fulfilled.
I think it’s well known that, so far this season, The Sandpit hasn’t been particularly impressed with Port’s marquee signing Dragan Boskovic (23), and our frustration boiled over after the Chainat defeat, when we gave the big Montenegrin a bit of what we Brits euphemistically refer to as ‘stick’. To his credit, Bosko has responded and in the second half tonight he grabbed hold of the Swatcat and, ignoring the hissing and the slashing of claws, proceeded to tear it a new feline arsehole. On 65 minutes he latched onto a lovely through ball from Suarez and blasted it past Zone B favourite Cunningham for 2-0, and then, on 90 minutes, slotted away a penalty (after a foul on Nurul) to put the cherry on the cake for Port who were already 3-0 up after a classic Suarez 6-yard poacher goal in the 66th minute.
This was a VAR game, and was yet another advertisement for why this ridiculous concept has no place in football, with the ref wasting several minutes watching incidents and then either making the right decision (sending off Ekkachai) or the wrong decision (allowing the appalling Rangel to stay on the pitch), leaving us wondering what the point of watching the video was in the first place. Please, let the game flow, embrace its randomness and errors, and leave this insistence on “fairness” to inferior sports. Football isn’t a sport, it’s a culture, a reflection of life itself, and as such it can’t be ‘decided’ by video evidence.
Anyway, Port won 4-0 away and played with the kind of confidence and swagger they show at the PAT and which we’ve been begging them for years to show away from home. It was a dominant performance from a team who have reacted to the Chainat shambles in the right way and are playing as a tight, compact unit. Yes, there are still faults – Kim (8) just isn’t the DM we hoped he would be; Siwakorn (16) had an absolute shocker; and Pakorn (7) no longer justifies a starting place. But this was a performance that gives us hope that Port’s top 3 place isn’t just a flash in the pan but is genuinely sustainable. Apart from Buriram & Bangkok Utd, T1 is a carnival of shite, and right now, Port are proving less consistently shite than those around them, so a good finish beckons.
The Sandpit Man of the Match: Dragan Boskovic
Finally, 14 games into the season, we’ve seen the player who banged in 38 goals last season. Bosko was on top form tonight, not giving Korat’s defenders a moment’s peace, running his arse off and adding two goals to his tally for the season. Runners up – Dolah, Suarez, Nitipong.