In the end, a rousing climax to the home season; just a pity there wasn’t a bigger crowd to witness it. Chonburi proved to be the perfect fall guys as Port racked up their second 5-0 win in a row – surely unprecedented; certainly since I’ve been watching the club anyway.
On a heavy, draining surface, Port aimed to carry on where they left off on Saturday with some neat link-up play, with the stylish Suarez at the heart of most of what was good. The silky Spaniard has been a bit of an enigma this season; at his best he is unplayable, making things tick and bringing out the beast in Boskovic; at his worst, he is a moody, argumentative, unproductive hole in the middle, like a Polo without the mint.
Kevin, who for most of the evening seemed bent on picking out every single Chonburi defender with his crosses, actually got it right on eleven minutes to set Nurul up with an unmissable chance on the penalty spot. He missed, skying his shot over the bar and probably Zone D as well. Minutes later, Suarez burst into the box only to slightly over-run the ball into goalkeeper Chanin’s legs, with Boskovic in a good position to his right. Nurul’s follow up shot was well saved by former Port keeper Chanin, who at this point had done enough to provoke fears of another heroic goalkeeping performance frustrating the home team before the inevitable breakaway goal. It was not to last.
Chonburi at this stage were reduced to some long-range efforts, although one decent cross from the right was expertly guided over the bar by Dolah.
The game was becoming a bit scrappy with both teams finding the conditions unconducive to intricate, flowing football, at which point Kim took the most sensible option, sending a route one ball over the top for Boskovic to pursue. Chanin had a rush of blood, charging out of his box and missing the ball completely, leaving Bosko with a virtually empty net to aim at. 1-0. At the other end, Watchara had a similar panic, flailing at a left wing cross but his resultant weak punch was not punished. One disallowed Port goal later, it was half time.
Watchara, apart from that one moment of indecision, was catching the eye with his handling, distribution, defensive cover and general tomfoolery, like a Thai Bruce Grobbelaar. One particular save on 53 minutes, turning a fierce shot around his near post, would have made Bruce proud. With that mild fright over, Port were to extend their lead when Pakorn’s cut back from the right was met by Kim, arriving late in the box to send a perfectly timed header into the net off Chanin’s legs.
Bodin replaced Nurul in the 69th minute and two minutes later was brought down in the box after a nifty side step. There was some consternation on Zone B that Bosko might be taking the pen after his horror show last time out but Captain Rochela did indeed give him the thumbs-up. This time, there was to be no mistake, his stop-start run-up sending the hapless Chanin the wrong way, with the ball calmly dispatched into the opposite corner for what turned out to be, apparently, his 100th goal in the Thai League, thereby explaining Rochela’s selfless decision. Well done, Dragan, or Darius, as he seemed to be called by Madame Pang in her post-match tribute.
Port were on a roll now and ten minutes later were awarded a free kick in a perfect Pakorn spot after an unfortunate reflex handball by defender Kritsada Kaman resulted in a rather harsh red card. Pakorn delicately curled his shot to Chanin’s left; placement instead of power for once. Chanin was having a bit of a nightmare on his return to PAT, sad for a keeper who figured so prominently in our excellent 2014 season in the TPL, fondly remembered for his creative time-wasting in a 1-0 home victory over Champions, Buriram. The scorer of Port’s goal that day, Kroekrit, was also in Chonburi’s by now well-defeated ranks.
There was still time left though for a moment of pure theatre, involving Port’s best loved small person, Terens Puhiri. With Chonburi in total disarray, the ball was pushed forward to Terens, who found himself alone in the Chonburi half with a clear run on goal. The ball was dispatched ahead for himself to chase, like a dog in pursuit of a bus disappearing round the corner, with Boskovic, Bodin and Adisorn trailing in his wake but hoping to pick up some scraps. Zone B held its breath for a moment before urging Tiny Tot Terens to deliver us the goal we had been waiting for all season. Then, inexplicably, the diminutive dunderhead got all lovey-dovey and team-matey, unselfishly picking out Bodin at the far post to slot home, by-passing a now hat-trick, 101 goal-less Bosko on the way. The disappointment from the Port faithful was palpable – a moment frozen in time forever.
At the final whistle there was a nerve-wracking wait to get the final score from an insane match at the SCG, which at one point had Pattaya leading Muangthong by 4-1, only to be pulled back more than once for a final score of 5-5. Madness.
That draw to savour moved Port ahead of Muangthong on the head-to-head rule: a win each but 4-3 to Port in goals scored. Port now go to our most hated venue, after the SCG – the 72 years anniversary stadium in Minburi, home of Thai Honda and a ground on which none of us, I believe, have seen Port win or even play well. It would take another page to debate the ineptitude of the Thai League in allowing this late change to be made from Pattaya and the sorry choice of alternative venue but the positive side is we are on the back of two 5-0 wins and if that does not give the team the confidence and the momentum to grasp the chance of a third place finish and possible entry into the ACL, we will only have ourselves to blame. Plus, Muangthong are playing Bangkok Utd. There’s always hope.
The Sandpit Man of the Match: Watchara
Man of the Match is a tricky one as once again there were many good performances but no outstanding ones so, wishing to spread it around, I am going to nominate Watchara; a confident, eye-catching show – where have you been all season?