Nitipong Selan-OFF: Air Force Central FC 3-2 Port FC

 

 

Brevity isn’t in my wheelhouse at the best of times, but today, with Super Sunday’s Double Header on the agenda, I’m going to have to give it my best shot. Sunday’s bumper ticket saw not only Port’s away trip to Air Force, but also Port Futsal Club’s trip to Kasem Bundit University scheduled one after another. The famous Port fan bus, with its’ superhero captain at the helm, was taking in both games, and despite the hefty 80 baht price tag, I thought I’d dip in to my savings for the experience. You know the bus I’m talking about: the one that could probably have solved the Waco stand-off in a couple of hours flat just by pointing its’ speakers at the Branch Davidians and hitting shuffle. Let me sum up the experience as concisely as I can.

 

Godang Stadium, greetings, ball-grabbing, music, beer, selfies, unidentifiable food, dancing, Facebook live, beer, dancing, random plane, whiskey, Kasem Bundit University.

 

 

The Futsal

And just like that we’re at Kasem Bundit University a full hour before kickoff. No sooner had we chosen a patch of grass to colonize with beer, snacks and gratuitous whistling, free tickets from the Birthday Boy Mr. Chairman were being gratefully accepted by the Port traveling faithful. Then it was up to the 12th floor and the University gymnasium where Port’s Futsal Professors wasted no time teaching the Kasem Bundit Younglings a thing or two about how top-class futsal is played.

Within a minute Port were two goals to the good, with classy Brazilian Marcos (10) and Thai national team defender Chaivat (7) pinging two long-range efforts past a pretty useless Kasem ‘keeper. Port continued controlling the game without threatening a great deal before a comedy third goal was gifted to the impressive Anukul (22). The hapless Kasem stopper came at Anukul with something more akin to airborne attempted murder than a tackle, but the Thai forward calmly evaded the pilot-in-training and passed the ball in to an empty net.

A few Kasem players and the linesman provided most of the entertainment to the traveling fans in the second half, as several pairs of glasses were routinely offered to the linesman whenever he passed the Port fans. There were a couple of good old-fashioned pantomime villains in there too, including the dangerous heavy-set Kasem number 8 and his buddy Jahja (Binks), a pasty, gangly looking fella with a shit moustache. Number 8 scored a walloping freekick, Port replied with a couple more goals and Jahja got mercilessly abused for the rest of the game. With Port 5-1 winners however, the home players were warmly welcomed by the traveling support, and Jahja even made his peace with the black-clad Port ultras. Kasem Bundit University 1-5 Port Futsal Club. Easy!

 

 

Happy Birthday was sung to Port’s generous chairman and sweaty shirts were handed out by veteran midfielder Thananchai (17) and exquisitely named new striker Keerati (9), who looks and celebrates just like former Thai national team star Leesaw. With the organizational skills of the one and only Spiderming we were quickly back on the bus and on our way to Air Force. There was more…

 

Beer, shirtlessness, music, videos, dancing, beer, karaoke, pole-dancing, u-turns, Isaan music, whiskey, selfies, Thupatemi Stadium.

 

The Football

And just like that, we arrive at Air Force with barely a couple of minutes to go before kickoff. A traveling car-boot Leo saleswoman provides the only humane alternative to the Chang piss-water favoured by the official sellers, and as beer is allowed inside, we’re straight in just as the action is getting going. It’s an even more makeshift Port XI than expected on display, with Siwakorn (16) – presumably injured – absent from the match day squad altogether. That means a long-overdue first start for Indonesian starlet Terens Puhiri (28) on the right wing, with Bodin (10) and Pakorn (7) rotating between midfield and the left wing. There was also a first league start for on-loan Thai under 23 centre half Worawut Namvech (24), and a number of new faces on the bench. Sammy Slot (11) and Somprasong (14) have made a couple of match-day squads in recent weeks without making it on to the pitch, but Anon (20), Chanayut (99) and Sarawin (48) were all included in a first team squad for the first time.

 

 

Port started pretty sluggishly, unable to impose themselves on an Air Force team short on quality but armed to the teeth with energy. Nevertheless, the opening goal did come as a shock, with a nicely crafted passing move finding diminutive Thai forward Yodsak (9) in space on the edge of the area. I’m sure even Yodsak’s biggest fan wouldn’t have expected what happened next. The forward without a goal in 20 games in 2018 cut in, looked up and bent a sublime, unstoppable finish in to the top right-hand corner. As much as anyone has to justify why they’re being picked ahead of Kayne Vincent, Yodsak most certainly did with that finish. Questions must be asked of Nitipong (34) who was MIA, and Worawut, who was too slow to close down the forward. Wait, what just happened? Air Force 1-0 Port. Bugger.

Things quickly went from bad to worse, too. Boskovic fired wide after Pakorn put a chance on a plate for him, although he was then flagged offside, but Air Force looked the more dangerous side. Speaking of danger, Nitipong then broke forward down the right, and was absolutely annihilated from behind by a savage challenge from midfielder Phichit (28). Both feet were off the ground as Phichit scissored Nitipong like a randy lesbian porn star, but the Air Enforcer was lucky to only see yellow, although clips of his ‘tackle’ could well end up on redtube. The referee somehow got it into his head that someone had to see red though, and if not the assaulter, then why not the assaulted? As Nitipong landed, legs understandably flailing, his left boot caught Phichit in the face, and the ref, making his first but certainly not his last ridiculous decision of the day, gave Port’s mild-mannered right back his marching orders, despite the protests (and by protests I mean abuse) meted out by Boskovic.

With 10 men and down a goal, things could only get better. Oh no, wait, they could definitely get worse. Former Port winger Pinyo (44) played the lead role in the next chapter in Port’s tragic tale, with his weak shot bouncing awkwardly off Rochela (22) and spinning up and over a wrong-footed Rattanai (17) and in off the post. Air Force 2-0 Port. Bastard.

Then somehow, Port started to play. Poor old Terens (28) was stuck playing 2 positions on the right hand side, with Jadet loathe to remove an attacking player and shore up the defence. He stuck to his task admirably though, and although it limited his attacking opportunities Terens did a surprisingly good job at right wing back. It was Kim with the breakthrough, though. Having stormed out of the stadium in search of beer after the second goal went in, I was just passing by a gap in the stadium as The Korean stooped to meet Pakorn’s out-swinging corner and direct it in to the bottom left corner. It wasn’t quite Southgate’s conga line, but it did the job, and Port were back in the game at the half way point. Air Force 2-1 Port. Get in!

A reinvigorated Port took just 3 minutes after the restart to draw level. What?! Don’t we have 10 men? Boskovic put 21 year old Air Force captain Sarayut (23) under pressure with some high pressing and the Buriram loanee panicked, gifting the ball to Boskovic, who showed just how he scored 38 goals last season, lofting the cheekiest of finishes over the keeper and in to the net. Air Force 2-2 Port. Class.

What happened between Port’s equalizer and the outrageous conclusion can basically be summed up like this: Great save, Rattanai! Port’s young ‘keeper has been much less busy this season than in previous years, where he would routinely make match-altering contributions, but with Port down to 10 and both sides going hell for leather, his interventions were required on several occasions. Whether it was because of the linesman failing to flag clear offsides, the referee awarding soft free kicks or Air Force actually mounting an attack on their own merit, Rattanai stood alone a couple of times to keep Port level, with the 10 men really starting to tire.

That tiredness showed in the 86th minute when Pakorn poleaxed a marauding Air Force winger on the edge of the box. You’ll notice that I said on the edge of the box, rather than in it; a detail that the referee and linesman with the help of video technology somehow still managed to miss. Air Force forward Greg Houla (19) vociferously made the completely redundant point that Pakorn’s standing leg had kicked up some turf in the area, but the leg he tackled with looked outside the box. Still, as True’s presumably poorly placed cameras couldn’t definitively overrule the referee’s decision, it stood and Houla stepped up to take the penalty.

Rattanai, not yet done with the heroics, dived to his left and sent the admittedly poor penalty back where it came from, but Houla, struggling to regain control of the ball, hacked it back towards goal. Rattanai might still have saved his second attempt was there not a flailing Kim in front of him, but his brave resistance was finally breached and Port’s unlikely comeback attempt was shot down. Air Force 3-2 Port. Done.

After the final whistle the Air Force team was booed and shooed away from the Port end with chants of “Cheat” and “You’re going down” ringing in their ears. Opposition transgressions and refereeing incompetence are much easier to forgive after a 5-1 win than a 2-3 loss. Port’s players, and Madame Pang in particular, were given a rousing sing-song and a hearty post-game cheer. It may have taken them until they were two goals and a man down, but they mounted a gutsy comeback which could easily earned them all three points on another day. With a different referee. Madame Pang also had one her finest moments on the Port bench when she came storming out of the technical area with a face like thunder looking like she wanted to scratch the linesman’s eyes out. It could have made him any less blind, that’s for sure. Ultimately she was restrained by the best-paid bodyguard in Thailand Boskovic, and was given a soothing lullaby by the Port faithful.

Yet another chance to close the gap on second placed Bangkok United squandered. You wouldn’t have guessed it from the bus ride back, though!

 

Disco lights, karaoke, beer, shirtlessness, celebration, inappropriate touching, song requests, dancing, whiskey, lap-dancing, hastily-improvised earplugs, Godang Stadium, awesomeness.

 

The Sandpit’s Man of the Match

It could only be Rattanai, really. Terens put in a good shift, although his final ball was pretty poor when he got the chance to go forward, Boskovic worked hard and scored an excellent goal, Adisorn (13) ran himself silly, although in one sequence of play he lost the ball and won it back on two consecutive occasions. Muppet.

 

Worrying News Update

Apparently Pakorn collapsed after the game and was taken to the hospital from what may have been exhaustion. We’re hearing that on top of Port’s already packed schedule Pakorn played some kind of match for the police between Wednesday and Sunday. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope that this kind of absurd unprofessionalism isn’t allowed to happen again. Apparently his decision making is as bad off the pitch as it is on it.

 

‘Mare Force: Air Force Central FC vs. Port FC, 15 July 2018

 

Port will look to bounce back in the league after Air Force ended their 7 game unbeaten run with a shocking upset in the League Cup on Wednesday. Whether you look at league position, squad strength or form, Port are massive favourites to take 3 points home from Thupatemi Stadium, although a much improved performance from a squad really starting to struggle with injuries and suspensions will be needed.

 

Air Force Central FC

Players to Watch

 

We all know how these Croats love to overachieve. Aleksandar Kapisoda (5) is your prototypical T1 foreign defender and the leader of the Air Force back line. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that, with the exception of a couple of loanees, he’s the only player in their entire squad who deserves to be starting for a T1 team. He’s 6 foot 3, dangerous coming forward from set pieces and ought to be well acquainted with Elias Dolah by the end of the evening.

Speaking of those loanees, the headline names are Ernesto Amantegui (13) and Sarayut Sompim (23). Ernesto surprisingly lost his place in Bangkok United’s back line this season after excelling for them in 2017, but has played every minute for which he’s been available since joining Air Force mid-season. He’s a Thai-Spanish left sided player who can play at full back or on the wing, and has experience in Spain’s third tier. 21 year old Sarayut is on loan from Buriram, who he has yet to make his debut for, has also been ever-present since joining in June. The youngster has even impressed enough to be made Air Force captain in recent games. Expect stiff resistance at the back from Sarayut and Kapisoda.

 

Kapisoda, Ernesto and Sarayut

 

There will also be quite a few familiar faces in Air Force shirts this Sunday. Expect to see Kayne Vincent (10), re-signed from T2 after Air Force’s big-name signings flopped, lumber around up front looking disinterested. At least one of former Port stars Ekkapoom Potharungroj (36), Pinyo Inpinit (44) and Jirawat Makarom (7) should also get a run-out off the bench. Pace and unpredictability are the name of the game for Ekkapoom and Pinyo, whereas Jirawat is an expert from dead-ball situations.

 

Vincent, Ekkapoom, Pinyo and Jirawat

 

Finally, Frenchman Greg Houla (19) is a bit of a wildcard. The attacking midfielder is just a few games in to his first spell outside Europe. He has played for a load of teams that I haven’t heard of, including a few, like Les Herbiers VF, that I suspect might be made up. He’s scored once in 5 games since joining last month.

 

Greg Houla

 

Form

 

Awful. Just awful. Many (myself included) picked Air Force to stay out of trouble this year after signing Leandro Assumpcao, Jaycee John and Renan Marques, but things have gone worse than anyone could have imagined. All three have left and 5 points have been accrued all season, making Air Force unlikely but legitimate contenders to ‘beat’ Super Power’s record low 6 points in 2017. They’ve lost 11 on the bounce, too. Ouch.

 

Port FC

Injuries and Suspensions

 

The one thing undoubtedly in Air Force’s favour is that they’re playing Port at the ideal time. Not only have they just enjoyed that morale-boosting success in the League Cup, but Port are reeling from injuries and suspensions too.

Todsapol (6) misses out having picked up his fourth yellow cards against Sukhothai, which wouldn’t ordinarily be a big deal, except that Dolah (4) will also miss out through injury. Another big name also joining Suarez (5) and Dolah on the sidelines is Nurul (31), who is expected to be out for around 2 months with a knee injury. Bugger. Arthit (29) was also withdrawn having picked up a knock on Wednesday, but we have no idea how serious his injury is.

 

No-Brainer

 

Rather than creating a dilemma for Jadet, though, this might just make things a bit simpler. He doesn’t have a lot of options at his disposal, so experimenting with Rochela (22) or Bodin (10) in midfield this week is pretty much off the table.

Expect Worawut Namvech (24) to make his fist league start of the season, having played 45 minutes in the cup on Wednesday. The youngster on loan from Chiang Rai is a great prospect, although his two appearances so far this season have consisted of a mistake leading to a goal away against Ratchaburi, and being withdrawn at half time on Wednesday. I have faith that the sturdy centre half will find his feet given time, but he’s got to take chances like this when they present themselves. Playing alongside El Capitan rather than Todsapol this time out might just help him out a bit.

In midfield, the trio of Adisorn (13), Siwakorn (16) and Kim (8) picks itself. With the shortage of defenders meaning Rochela must move back in to defence, Nurul’s absence meaning that Bodin is a shoo-in on the left wing, and Arthit likely being injured, moving Kim in to an advanced role would seem to be the only viable solution.

Pakorn (7), Bodin and Boskovic (23) will be tasked with making things happen going forward, something which they have struggled with in the absence of key man Sergio Suarez.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport HD2 at 19:00 on Sunday 15 July, 2018. For those who can’t make it to Thupatemi Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

Port Air Forced Out of the Cup: Air Force FC 1-0 Port FC

Port traveled to Air Force looking for a comfortable route to the quarter-finals, but it was not to be. Air Force had more chances on the night. Port looked like 3 different teams in an oddly disjointed match.

Start as we mean to go on

Air Force started brightly and looked more likely to score early on. They scared Port’s defence with a decent cross into the six yard box. Thankfully turned wide by Panpanpong (19), Air force failed to capitalise on the following corner. Port finally got a potentially dangerous free kick, but Nurul (31) put it a little too close to the keeper. And the only danger was to Air Force’s Alex (5) who collided with  his own keeper and went down needing treatment, he didn’t look 100%  for a while after that.

Stuck in the middle

Port set up with Rochela (22) in front of the back four in a 4-1-4-1 formation.

Nittipong(34), Todsapol(6), Worawut (24) and Panpanpong(19).

Rochela(22)

Nurul(31) Siwkorn(16) Kim(8) Bodin(10)

Boskovic(23)

Possibly this was looking to free up Panpanpong(19) and Nittipong (34). Unfortunately it didn’t create anything, it tied up players in the centre of the pitch, with Boskovic(23) tracking back into midfield trying to pick up the ball.

Port had Worawut Srisupha (36) in goal and Worawut Namvech (on loan from Chiang Rai)  (24) in front of him in the centre of the defence. Worawut’s debut as a central defender was up and down. He started off with a completely needless yellow for clipping a player he had no right to challenge. Later he snuffed out one of Air Force’s best chances with a strong, but fair tackle taking the ball off the attacking player’s foot. Right after that it was the other Worawut (34) popping up to save Port in goal turning away a shot from Greg Houla(19) who was looking the most threatening player on the pitch.

A pedestrian Port team didn’t see many chances a difficult header for Siwkorn (16) with the ball going away from him and a skied speculative shot from Boskovic(23). It says a lot that his first genuine shot came in the 39th minute.

 A New Half, A New Hope?

The second half saw Bodin (10) off for Bunyinda (29). You could see the need for another striker but Bunyinda has not inspired much confidence in 2018. After I finished tutting at this selection Bunyinda made a decent run a won a corner for Port. Prove me wrong number 29 please prove me wrong. Along with him Pakorn was on for Worawut the 4-1-4-1 experiment is over and it’s now a 4-4-2 with Pakorn back on the wing and Bunyinda partnering Boskovic so it’s more a 4-4-1 and a half. Port definitely looked better with this change, but better is a relative term. Port’s best spell of the match encouraged some louder cheering from those fans who braved the cross town traffic jams to get to the Air Force Stadium. Along come a couple of Pakorn (7) free kicks only one of which the keeper needs to move for.

But the brief period of decent play is undercut as Bunyinda hobbles off, then hobbles back on trying to play through the pain. Now yet again it’s Air Force in the ascendancy with Port getting out of jail after a mix up in the box. Breaking up this dangerous phase of play Port create their own chance with Boskovic starting the move on the edge of the box, Nurul and Kim trade one-twos to set up Boskovic, but his shot is stopped by the keepers outstretched legs. This first 20 minutes of the second half is some rest bite on a poor night. In the 65th  Bunyinda finally limps off. Port’s third sub of the night is midfielder Chakrit (9). Now Port look to be back to 4-5-1 with Boskovic yet again tracking back trying to bring the ball out of midfield to create something.

A Port free kick and Pakorn curls it,… the keeper staggers, … I think it’s gone in,… but it goes wide. On other nights this has been exactly the sort of thing that’s saved a poor Port performance, but not tonight. This game drifts back to it’s first half tempo, poor passing letting down both teams and it looks like it’s going to need extra time.

Late on in the match after what looked like an innocuous foul Nurul goes down, the Air Force player kicked his heel, but Nurul is on the ground holding his thigh. Could have been the way he fell or an old injury. Port players nervously look to keep the ball and a sense of impending doom spreads as they see Nurul being helped to the dressing room, with all subs used, Port are now down to 10 men.

Air Force press up with 11 and another searching long ball beats the Port defence and finds Greg Houla (19). He knocks it in and Rochela is stuck trying to mark two players, Nittipong is coming back to help but he’s far too late. Yodsak (9) leaves it for Wisarut (13) to smash it into the net.

Out of Time

The game gets a meagre 3 minutes of extra time in a second half that saw a lot of stoppages.  In minute one of the three a strapped up Nurul re-enters the fray, fair play to him for attempting to return, but he is just one of the walking wounded hanging around the centre of the pitch adding moral support. In the last minute Boskovic has a volley in the box, but the defender gets close to him and it smashes into his back. Shoulders go down everyone is thinking that was Port’s last chance and seconds later the game is finally put to bed, or indeed put down.

Cup News

Elsewhere in the cup the only good news of the night is Chonburi thrashing Muangthong 5-1. Ranong beat Bangkok United in a game played on a water logged pitch which ended with the 10 players of Ranong vs the 9 of Bangkok. They only had nine for the last ten minutes, but it was a decidedly dodgy pitch and a dodgy result. Buriram won 1-0, but they waited a while to do it, the goal coming in the second half of extra time at Trang.

The last 8 of the League Cup are,

Buriram, Chiang Rai, Chonburi, Bangkok Glass,

Ubon UMT, Ranong, Air Force and Korat.

The draw for the FA Cup is on Friday 13th, Air Force are already out of the FA Cup so at least we only face them in the league on Sunday. We won’t have another Air Force Cup nightmare this year.

Jeepers Keepers! Port FC 2-2 Sukhothai FC

 

On a typically chaotic night at the PAT, Port rather fortunately earned a point against 10-man Sukhothai, in a game decided by goalkeeping that went from the ridiculous to the sublime and back again. Before the game a draw would’ve been seen as two points dropped, but in reality Port were lucky not to lose a game that exposed how shallow the squad is.


Thanks to some surprise results on Saturday night, Port went into the game knowing that a win would take them above Bangkok Utd into second and also put them six points above the Forces of Evil; however we also knew that, with Suarez still injured, Kim suspended and Sukhothai’s forward pairing of Bonilla & Baggio no doubt looking forward to running rings around Port’s defence as per usual, this would not be as easy an encounter as the league table might suggest – and so it proved.

Port have had enough previous warnings about Bonilla’s threat in & around the box, so it was very surprising when, after just 4 minutes, a pass found him unmarked in the area, and he had all the time in the world to curl a peach of a shot past a despairing Rattanai (17) into the far corner to give the Fire Bats a shock lead. Sukhothai were clearly here for the win and were passing the ball around beautifully, testing Rattanai on a couple more occasions with Port’s defenders alarmingly static. Things were little better up front, with Siwakorn (16) and Nitipong (34) blazing good chances over the bar, Pakorn (7) having one of his all too frequent off nights, and Boskovic (23) unable to impose himself on the game. The best chance of the half fell to Dolah (4) on the half hour mark, but his cheeky backheel was saved by Sukhothai’s keeper Pairote, whilst the excellent Bodin (10), revelling in his attacking midfield role, tested the keeper on a couple of occasions and found him up to the job.

Port finally got the better of Pairote in the 39th minute, when a delicious ball over the top from Siwakorn left Boskovic in a one-on-one, only for Pairote to hack him down on the edge of the box. The ref, after needlessly consulting VAR, rightly produced a red card, which was the spark for around 7 minutes of protests from Sukhothai who, despite their recent change of coach, still show little respect for the laws of the game and should have seen a few more cards. Once order was restored, Pakorn stepped up and selfishly fired the free-kick into the side-netting. We say it every week – his selfishness is hurting the team and in my opinion it’s time to cash in and move him on.

At half-time Jadet brought in Todsapol (6) for the ineffective Adisorn (13) and moved cap’n Rochela (22) into midfield, as Port set about getting back into the game. And it nearly paid off in the first minute of the second half when Kevin (97) put the ball on a plate for Boskovic some 10 yards out but inexplicably he shot wide of the goal when you’d have put your shirt on him to score. For the next 30 minutes a familiar pattern took hold, with Port launching attack after attack, and Sukhothai trying to catch them on the break, with both Baggio and Bonilla coming close to making it 2-0, the latter only denied by a superb save from Rattanai.

Eventually however Port’s relentless pressure finally told, when Arthit (29) fed Siwakorn, whose wonderful cross eluded Sukhothai’s reserve keeper Kittikun and was accidentally turned into his own net by a defender. 1-1, and the momentum was most definitely with Port, with Kittikun making point-blank saves from Nurul (31) and Arthit. But the Bats were still dangerous on the break and with just 2 minutes remaining Madagascan midfielder Nijva broke into the box, provoking an insane charge off his line from Rattanai who brought him down for a clear penalty. Quite why the Port keeper saw fit to come out so far is a mystery, but it looked like costing Port the game as that man Bonilla stepped up to give Sukhothai the lead.

But the late cave-ins of 2017 are a thing of the past and the 2018 Port are made of sterner stuff, and they came right back at Sukhothai. In the very last minute, a speculative Siwakorn shot from outside the box was inexplicably ushered into the net by Kittikun, who looked like he was allowing Port to score. It definitely had a very fishy smell to it, though I hope that was just the dried squid seller setting up his stall in the sandpit.

2-2 it finished, after a thrilling second half from two teams intent on playing good attacking football. Port were poor, with little to offer from the bench (though you can’t help thinking we could’ve used Terens’ pace late on); Sukhothai looked much better than their league position and will stay up if they keep playing like this. An opportunity missed to go second, but in the end a lucky escape.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Bodin

MOTM contenders were pretty thin on the ground tonight. Siwakorn with an assist and a goal should get a mention but he squandered too many chances and misplaced too many passes to get the nod. So the award goes to the Fresh Prince himself Bodin, who showed just how wrong Jadet has been to leave him on the bench so often. His passing was sublime and his workrate was unusually intense, and he staked a very strong claim to being the future of Port’s midfield.

 

 

Dire Bats: Port FC vs. Sukhothai FC, 8 July 2018

Looks like I’m on Sukhothai duty again.

Last time Port were set to face the “Fire Bats,” I raved about this weekend’s opponents, and more specifically their foreign attacking trinity who have 27 league goals and 63 name-letters between them. Since then, my “pundits curse” has hit them where it hurts and they have sunk into the relegation zone, and are already on their third manager of the season. Thank goodness I’m not old enough to gamble.

 

Baggio Rakotonomenjanahary, Nelson Bonilla and Njiva Rakotoharimalala

 

In their previous encounter, both teams didn’t get the memo that the League Cup is irrelevant and went full throttle at each other’s throats, ending in a 4-3 victory for the home side. The game will be remembered for the amount of time wasted by the Sukhothai players as they rolled on the floor (despite being a goal down), and of course the slightly odd attempts at Spanish swearing directed at Salvadoran striker Nelson Bonilla.

Bodin Phala (10) starred in the last game in an attempt to impress Jadet and earn a starting place, and may once again get the chance to do so as Nurul (31) could potentially move into the middle to compensate for the injured Sergio Suarez (5). The Spaniard was crucial in that last game, playing through balls from deep to beat Sukhothai’s high defensive line. His eye for a pass and fluid movement are something rarely found in the Thai League, and will surely be missed in this game.

I would like to think that, given the valuable three points at stake, Sukhothai would approach the game a little more rationally, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems as if the provincial side have already accepted that their defense is an incurable mess, and intend to rely solely on their forwards, who appear to have the combined height of the angry white man screaming on Port’s touchline (who I am told is the goalkeeping coach, which makes the situation even funnier).

In doing my research for this game (which includes at least seven different Wikipedia pages), I came across a description of Sukhothai’s new manager, Chalermwoot Sa-ngapol, which claimed he was the “Glenn Hoddle of Thai Football.” My hopes were quickly deflated when it became apparent that the comment was a reference to his playing style and not his management, which makes me even more confused as to why Glenn Hoddle is the first man to come to mind to demonstrate a player capable of “precise passes.”

 

 

Regardless, Khun Hoddle’s CV isn’t entirely horrible. He did impressively to lead Osotspa to 7th in 2013 keep Sisaket from the drop in 2014 and 2015, but he was somehow involved with both Sisaket and Super Power Samut Prakan in their abysmal 2017 campaigns which saw them both relegated. His last managerial job was Muangthong United B’s…I mean, Udon Thani’s T3 promotion campaign.

In terms of how Port can get at Sukhothai, it seems very clear that this weekend’s visitors are lacking defensive cover. Neither of their center-backs looks particularly impressive; no surprise given that the Fire Bats have the third worst defensive record in the league. Malaysian/Australian midfielder Curran Ferns, who debuted in Sukhothai’s last visit to the PAT Stadium, was supposedly brought in to reinforce the midfield.

In fact, none of their local contingent can really be considered to have any real quality. Nelson Bonilla has won more international caps with El Salvador than all of his Thai teammates have with their nation combined, which speaks volumes at the team’s reliance on foreign players.

However, on their day, the 63-letter forward line can be devastating. 3 goals at PAT Stadium, 3 goals at the SCG, wins over Chiang Rai, Chonburi and even Buriram United – they are a side that shouldn’t be underestimated. Port will need to be on their guard if they want to continue their chase of an AFC Champions League berth, and fans should probably expect a goal-fest once again.

 


 

The match will be shown live on True4U and True Sport 2 at 19:00 on Sunday 8 July, 2018. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

Kim Sung “WON” It: Port FC 5-0 PTT Rayong, FA Cup 2nd Round

 

 

FA Cup 2nd round (32 teams) Wednesday 4th July

Port started this cup match with pretty much a full strength team. Worawut (36) stepped in for Rattanai (17), probably just to give Rattanai a rest. The one notable absence was Pakorn (7), maybe he was injured, maybe being rested. I’m sure he would have enjoyed being told he was too precious too risk in this match. The rest of the Port set up was familiar to us all. There was no Sergio Suarez (5) as he’s out injured due to return against Air Force.

 

Starting Line Up

 

We have seen this before Adisorn (13) as a defensive midfielder. Kim (8) looking very happy to be pushing up in an attacking midfield role creating chances, passing to the wings and enjoying some rare time in the opponent’s penalty area.

PTT Rayong currently sit joint top of T2 with two other teams on 34 points. One of those teams is Trat F.C. who they play on Saturday. So you could forgive PTT for prioritising Saturday’s match over the Cup.

Port started the game well, looking to get forward. PTT occasionally ventured forward but looked like a team ready to soak up the pressure then occasionally counter attack. The pressure took its toll as Port opened the scoring with a goal from Kim, yes Kim. Kevin (97) floated a great ball in from the left finding a diving Kim in the six yard box. Not the most graceful of players, Kim seemed to half dive half fall over. Low marks for technical merit, but a goal buried in the back of the net and that’s what counts. Kim had a great game finding space in the lackluster Rayong defence. With Adisorn  darting about the midfield Kim looked like a player on day release from prison, happy to be the midfield impresario he dreams of being while carrying out his defensive duties. He’s a bit slow at times. I’m not sure he’s got 90 minutes in him running about in the Bangkok heat. As this is the case he will idle around the midfield a bit too much, but when he needs to make a run he can turn on the pace. Del tells me he’s been on top form for the last 10 games, I’m not so sure but I’m struggling to think of a bad game he’s had for a long time.

 

Port Take Control

On the half hour mark that man again Kim set Nurul (31) free on the edge of the area to only for him to be dragged down in the box, enter the Dragan. Boskovic (23) slotted home the penalty to put Port two up. Have penalty duties switched after Rochela’s miss at the weekend or are they alternating the penalties? It will be interesting to see who picks up the ball for the next spot kick. Now Port finally started to look at ease with the game and attacked with a bit more conviction. Five minutes later chasing a long ball Boskovic muscled his way past a Rayong defender to be confronted by the Rayong keeper ten yards outside his box. The keeper had decided to charge out with roughly the same forethought and sound planning as the charge of the light brigade. Bosko knocked it past him towards the corner then set up a wide open Siwakorn (16). It was such a tap in even the goal shy Siwakorn felt a bit reluctant to celebrate it and just congratulated Boskovic on the pass. Fast forward five minutes it was Nurul sliding the ball into Boskovic to tap it in from 4 yards out.

 

Written in the Stars

With the 4th goal going in on the 44th minute the planets were aligning and this game was decided. You got the feeling if games could end by mutual consent both sides would have been happy just to call it a day and prepare for the weekend’s fixtures. But they can’t, this is the game we have chosen to play and watch, the cross we have to bear. We all had 45 unnecessary minutes to go through.

 

Raining on Kim’s Parade

God himself decided to test the patience of the fans and the players as the heavens opened at half time. Fans took a sort of shelter under Zone C. Tim and Achim argued about the exact phrasing of a question about our 4th goal scorer “Who’s got 4th?”, or “Who’s got number 4?” or was it “Who did get number 4?”. Sheltering fans were treated to a new Thai Port version of Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on first” sketch.

 

A Second Half of Two Halves

After watching the first half from up top in Zone C (a change is as good as a break), I wandered to Zone B with my plastic raincoat on. The Port faithful now divided into two halves. Half of the fans were soaked and half of the fans were less wet but starting to sweat. The bogged down pitch saw periods of play where 22 footballers looked around thinking, “I hope he doesn’t get injured we need him to play well at the weekend”.

 

Playing it Safe

Nitipong was subbed off for Chakrit (9) which looked more like a preventative measure, maybe he got a knock, but more likely he was being saved because we have no decent back up at right back. In a similar vein Nurul was subbed off for Terens (28). Hard working as ever Terens finally had a bit more time to shine on Wednesday night but failed to light up PAT. A couple of average crosses and a shot at the keeper were all he had to show for half an hour of hard work.

Port did have more chances, throughout the evening Bodin’s work in midfield was good, but his finishing was shocking. Speaking of shocking shooting, Arthit Butjinda (29) was subbed on for Siwakorn, he came on and missed two gilt-edged opportunities. At one point Boskovic was talking to him in the box shrugging as if to say, “What was that? I just put that on a plate for you?” he then tapped him on the back by way of encouragement, but his body language was saying, “Maybe this shooting lark isn’t for you, maybe you’d be good at defending, or maybe squash is your game?”.

 

Game Set and Man of the Match

With 10 minutes to go Boskovic jinked through two defenders then unselfishly tapped the ball to Kim. Kim then thumped the ball past the keeper from point blank range to add an emphatic fun-filled full stop to the night with a fully deserved brace of goals. Man of the Match: Kim Sunghwan

 

Full Time Port 5-0 PTT Rayong

PTT Rayong largely happy they had no injuries. The group of 15 die-hard away fans drenched but banging away on the drums all night really deserved a goal for their troubles. Port’s solid defence made sure they didn’t get one, but they were duly saluted by the remaining Port fans of Zone C and B. Port advance to the last 16.

In the post-match conference the PTT manager praised Port for the team’s all round ability and wished us well in the Cup. He did go on to add the squad he put out was a mix of some first team players and some “kids he was giving a chance”.

Elsewhere in the FA Cup things went largely to form. The “favourites” were displaced in a few games with Pattaya, Ubon, and Sukhothai losing to Bankhai, Naraa and Nakorn Pathom respectively. However these three sides were no doubt a lot more focused on the hard work of grinding out three points at the weekend to save their season, rather than the old tradition of putting out a decent team the FA Cup.

 

Everybody Loves Rayong: Port FC vs. PTT Rayong, 4 July 2018

 

After the comfortable 5-1 win over amateur minnows Thamuang FC in Port’s first FA Cup game of 2018, Port face a rather trickier assignment in the last 32. PTT Rayong sit atop T2, and have just signed a Brazilian striker who has knocked in 2 goals in his first month with the club. You might remember him, he’s called Josimar! Whilst Josi and The Oil Millionaires are looking pretty slick at the moment, having eased past Ubon Kids City (yes, really) 2-0, there are a couple of reasons they will not be relishing their trip to PAT Stadium.

Firstly, they may top T2, but securing promotion is far from a formality. Both Nongbua Pitchaya and Trat are level on points with them, with Chiang Mai just one back. For a team like PTT Rayong who have been knocking on the promotion door for years, it would seem like the cups really ought to take second priority, particularly when they’re facing one of the form teams in the country on Wednesday, while promotion rivals Trat FC pay them a visit on Saturday. Secondly, Port are at home. No one wants to play Port at home.

 

PTT Rayong

Players to Watch

 

It’s usually pretty tricky to come by good information on teams outside T1, but PTT have got a few players worthy of note.

Top of the list is of course Port’s top scorer in 2017, Josimar (77). The Brazilian who led Port’s attack last season was not without his critics, but there can be little doubt that he is a T1-standard striker. Fortunately, Port’s back line know very well what they’re up against and will be prepared for their teammate’s fired-up return to PAT Stadium. They will know a lot less about his striking partner, though. Dennis Murrillo (11) has spent some time in T1 with Chiang Rai and Osotspa, scoring 9 goals in 27 games, but has really found his feet in T2. He top-scored for The Oil Millionaires in 2017 and has 11 so far this season, and is another one Port would do well not to take lightly.

 

 

The midfield looks rather less threatening. Journeymen thirty-somethings’ to a man, including third Brazilian Wellington Bruno (86) who is the stand-out man. Wellington had one excellent season in T1 with Chiang Rai, but with just a single goal to his name in 2018, it appears his best days are behind him.

 

 

The Oil Millionaires have a useful looking ASEAN player, though. Ryuji Utomo (5) is an Indonesian-Japanese defender, and seems to be the resident hard man, having picked up 4 yellow cards and currently being suspended from league action for a straight red. Then again his Wikipedia page says he likes to read books, so you never know. Along with Koravit Namwiset (27), who was a Thai national team regular under Zico, and former Buriram full-back Anawin Jujeen (6), PTT have a defence that wouldn’t be at all out of place in T1.

 

 

Form

Including their 2-0 win over Ubon Kids City, PTT have won three, drawn two and lost one in their last six. Rather more interesting than their last 6 games, though, is who they face next. Co-leaders Trat FC travel to PTT Stadium on Saturday. It certainly isn’t outside the realms of possibility that key men could be rested with this clash in mind.

 

Port FC

Suarez Injured

 

Port, however, are expected to field another strong lineup. Top-scoring Sergio Suarez (5) is unfortunately unavailable having picked up a knock last week, but Kim Sung Hwan (8), who will miss the T1 visit of Sukhothai having picked up his eighth yellow card against Ubon, will be available for the cup tie. Looking at the surely unnecessary caution that was taken to secure victory against Thamuang, I expect that Port will field a near full-strength XI.

The search for a system that works without Suarez goes on, with the most recent attempt – sticking Nurul (31) up front – being very unconvincing indeed. Whilst Nurul’s pace does undoubtedly cause problems for the opposition, he would be of much more use out wide, while Bodin (10) looks better suited to playing through the middle. In the last round of the cup Arthit (29) started alongside Boskovic (23) up top and notched two assists, although his all-around performance didn’t impress Port’s traveling support. Option three is bringing in Adisorn (13) and pushing Kim further forward. Against a pretty mediocre looking midfield this is certainly an idea worth considering.

Whatever Jadet goes with, Port will be heavy favourites to advance to the last 16. Let’s just make sure we go in to this clash thinking that that’s the case!

 

Predicted Starting XI

 

 

 


 

As with most cup games we’re not quite sure which ones will be on TV, but you can be sure that if it’s on and you can’t make it to PAT Stadium for 19:00, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

Where Eagles Daren’t Score: Ubon UMT Utd 0-1 Port FC

 

The fixture computer had not been kind this year, in terms of away trips anyway. Before the season started I’d made a list of stadiums I was hoping to cover off this season and also make a weekend of at the same time, Chiang Rai and Sukhothai were quickly crossed out after being put on Sunday nights. Weekends in two polar opposite Thai seaside resorts, Prachuap and Pattaya, were both on the cards until they got moved due to the impending U19 Tiddlywinks championship that will decimate the August program. Luckily, Ubon was still being played on a Saturday night so I went ahead and booked it up. The return flight was just shy of 1500 baht and thanks to striking lucky on Agoda, I got a voucher which meant I was able to get 2 nights at Ubons 4 star Sunee Hotel for a total of 300 baht cash. The team stayed here last year if I recall correctly as I saw the team bus parked up at the shopping mall which sits under the hotel.

When I checked in, the staff clocked my Port shirt and asked me if I was one of the players checking in. I know Thailand attracts some veteran journeymen players during the twilights of their careers, but alas, my fleeting substitute appearances for Cockney Lokomotiv in the Sceptre Sunday League over 15 years ago, may not be quite enough for me to nail down a starting spot in 2018 Thai Premier League.

I spent an enjoyable Friday evening at a Mexican restaurant near the airport with the Sandpits Ubon correspondent, Gary Jones and a few of the Thai Ubon fans. Over dinner it seemed there was still optimism of beating the drop but please, please, please, could Port roll over for them tomorrow? Stranger things have happened in Thai football. My secondary mission for the evening was to scope out a bar to watch the World Cup action on Saturday night with the France v Argentina game kicking off an hour after the Ubon – Port fixture finished.

 

 

“If found, please return to PAT Stadium”

 

Coming down for my morning swim, I got in the lift to find myself surrounded by Ubon players who got out at the same floor as me, as I passed through the gym reception on the way to the pool I inadvertently walked in on their morning team meeting. I began pondering if I should try and listen in, but dressed in a wife beater and neon orange swim shorts, I wasn’t exactly inconspicuous. Bumping into staff and players was the theme for the rest of the morning. Over lunch I saw Nurul and Siwakorn walking around the mall, it was the most I’d seen Siwakorn move without picking up a yellow card. My next trip down the lift shaft our own Rod Pellegrino got in. As he got out I joked that he might catch the end of the Ubon team meeting if he’s lucky, he advised both squads were having lunch on this floor. Sure enough when I reached Starbucks in the mall a bit later, there was Jadet sat with a few of the Ubon guys. While our only true heated rivalry is Muangthong, it was still a bit jarring and fourth wall breaking, to see both sets of players and staff all chummy chummy with the game a few hours away.

 

“We’re going to play Four-Four-F**king Two!”

My next mission for the day was to secure some proper beer for the game. My memory of Ubon last year was that they were locked into a supply from Chang, pet peeve #28 in following Thai football. Apart from Chiang Rai and Bangkok Glass, Leo and Singha need to up their game in controlling the beer supplies. Any lingering ideas from the hotel staff that I was on the Port playing staff must have finally been quashed, when I came back through hotel reception carrying a slab of Leos to the lifts.

 

 

Arriving at the stadium just over an hour before kick off, the Port party bus was already here quickly followed by Del, AC and the two Tims (that isn’t the name of an act you’ll see at Edinburgh fringe this year). The Chang tents did a roaring trade out of the Sandpit contingent ….in cups of ice. They seemed perplexed we didn’t want to buy any of the Devil’s Piss that they were promoting. In true American style we tailgated from the case of Leo in Gary’s car boot.

 

“You’ve seen the Rat Bar, now welcome to the Boot Bar”

 

Checking the team news on twitter, there was no Dolah or Suarez, their places going to Todsapol and Bordin. Entering the stadium, attendance looked very, very low, although it did fill up a bit as the game wore on. After so many away trips to <Thai city name> municipal athletics stadiums, it was nice to finally visit a purpose built football stadium again. The UMT Stadium is reminiscent of some League Two or non-League stadiums in the UK. Ticket prices seemed a bit steep with even home fans paying upwards of 200 baht for some sections, maybe a reason why attendances have slid, the ground was definitely fuller last for the match last season.

 

 

Ubon started very brightly, belying their lowly league position. After some decent performances on the road, it looked like Port were slipping back to the lethargic apathy shown at Chainat. Were some of the team still a bit leggy from having to play in the cup game on Wednesday? In Suarez’s absence, Bordin, Nurul and Pakorn seemed to be rotating, and taking it in turns to unsuccessfully audition for the part of “number 10”. Ubon had showed more attacking intent in the opening exchanges than they did for the entire 95+ minutes at the PAT earlier this season. On the 11th minute their Serbian midfielder Dimitrov connected with a diving header that was tipped onto the crossbar. From the resulting corner, large Brazilian defender (Yul) Brinner wriggled free from the attentions of Todsapol to get a free header which was over the bar. As highlighted in the preview, their direct replacement for Victor hasn’t quite filled his shoes in the goal scoring stakes. Compared to last season, Brinner aside, Ubon now had a much smaller team.

Ports highlight of the opening 25 minutes was Kevin making a low drive from outside the box, it took a deflection after clipping the heels of an Ubon player but the keeper managed to recover his footing and gather it safely. Ubon were still causing Port problems but were lacking a finisher to put them away. On the 26th minute, DImitrov had a low drive which was spilled by Rattanai into the path Apiwat who did tuck it in, only to find the offside flag was (correctly) raised with two Ubon players offside when the initial shot was drilled in. In the last 10 minutes of the first half, Port finally began to maintain some possession and pressure in the Ubon half for a couple of minutes, but Ubon quickly snuffed it out and were back in control.

 

 

Somewhat against the run of play, Port took the lead a couple of minutes before the break. Bosko finally found himself with the ball in their area and won a corner. Pakorn, who had been sluggish all game whipped in the corner which El Capitan flicked on at the near post and into the net. Totally undeserved, but as Toby said in his most recent report “It’s a funny old game”. David pointed and looked up towards the heavens as he returned to the halfway line. A poignant moment for the captain after a recent family bereavement.

Jadet made a much needed change at half time with Adisorn replacing Bordin to protect our back four a bit better. This had an instant effect as Port started the second half much more positively. Nitipong collected the ball and made a run to the Ubon byline, cutting the ball back for Nurul to blaze his shot out of the stadium. On the 55th minute, Boskovic was wrestled to the ground in the box but nothing was given. On the hour Tossapol was replaced with Dolah to add more defensive grit and to counter-balance the threat of Brinners height at set pieces. While Port were now starting to threaten a lot more, Ubon were still carving out chances which somehow were not being put away. On the 66th minute, an Ubon freekick found Dimitrov at the near post, who acrobatically did an overhead kick towards the back post where Brinner was charging in, but he didn’t connect.

A rare lapse from Nitipong saw him take an airshot on the edge of his own box, which let in the Ubon winger Jedsadakorn, his low cross-come-shot couldn’t connect with the sliding Apiwat who was trying to connect at the back post.

To try and solidify Ports defensive position further, Pakorn was then swapped for Chakrit to help Port see this out. It turned out to be an astute move as he offered more defensively on the right hand side, Pakorn had looked out of sorts all game, aside from delivering the corner onto Davids head.

The final whistle came with a sense of relief, a definite smash and grab for Port today. A better team would have carved us a new one on this form but it was “Heartache Tonight” for the Eagles fans, who slip deeper into the relegation mire and are now 12 points adrift of 15th placed Tero, with their next two games at home to Muangthong and away to Buriram.

There were joyous scenes in the car park after the game, and even a little bit of rain couldn’t dampen the spirit of the party bus, or the extinguish the flare that had been lit up.

 

 

I don’t think the Crocodile Dundee test is needed here

 

After the game we moved on to “Take Care” bar to watch what turned out to be a great match between France and Argentina. The Ubon fans, including Gary had laid on a spread for us and we also took great advantage through the evening of their “5 (large) Leos for 299” offer. The hospitality in Ubon from Gary and the Thai Ubon contingent was fantastic all weekend.

 

 

On other matchdays, it has been known that the owner takes their group out to the local Tawan Daeng, he was also a visible presence around Ubon’s “sandpit” before the game greeting and talking to fans, with no minders or staff around him. I wonder if Madam will ever try such an approach at the PAT???

Next up for Port, PTT Rayong visit on Wednesday in the Cup and then John Baggio and the Firebats are at the PAT on Sunday, in desperate need of 3 points to lift themselves out of the relegation battle.

 

The Sandpit MOTM: David Rochela

It wasn’t a great team performance today, but it was the captain who did stand out with some great last ditch blocks and tackles to keep us from embarrassment in the first half, capped off with heading in the winning goal to seal all three points.