I’d Have to Say, the Worst of the Beetles: No AFC Place for Port

 

The Khlong Thoey hordes descended on Supachalasai last night, with numerous patches of orange & blue in the Buriram end as we lent our support to the Thai champions’ bid to win the double, thus handing Port a place in the AFC Champions’ League qualifying stages. Sadly it was not to be as, on a night of considerable drama, a typically rugged display of anti-football from Chiang Rai won them their third trophy of the season.

The Beetles took the lead in the second minute, after a foul by Fat Bill on a Buriram defender left William in the clear; he raced down the left and passed to the chubby Brazilian who slotted it in the corner with aplomb. Buriram had a chance to equalise in the 15th minute when MOTM Osvaldo was brought down in the box, but Diogo’s penalty was spectacularly saved.

But the Isaan team got the equaliser their neat possession football deserved in the 25th minute when Osvaldo gave the Thai FA Cup its own Ricky Villa moment, dribbling past half the Chiang Rai defence before burying the ball in the corner.

 

 

They did not stay level for long however, as another long ball found that man William who ran into the Buriram box, only to be fouled by Tunez. The ref initially didn’t spot it, but with the FAT trying out a radical new experiment which involved handing control of VAR not to an independent panel but to the Chiang Rai bench, the penalty was eventually awarded, and Blobby Bill converted it to send the Beetles into the dressing room at half-time 2-1 up.

After the restart, the drama quickly continued when Buriram midfielder Sasalak was fouled just inside the box, with the ref once again needing a look at VAR to make his decision. This time Diogo made no mistake from the spot to put Buriram level again. But another defensive lapse on the 71-minute mark saw Bill, unmarked on the edge of the box, put clear by a lovely through ball and he slotted it past the keeper for his hat-trick. 3-2 to the Beetles, and time for Operation Shithouse – and there are no better exponents of shithousery in Thai football.

Buriram brought on Suchao to fight fire with fire, and on 76 minutes he seemed to have played his role to perfection, being upended by a shocking late tackle by our old friend Chaiyatwat. The ref immediately – and correctly – pulled out his red card, but with Victor and the Chiang Rai bench by now refereeing the game it was quickly rescinded to a yellow.

12 minutes later the referee pulled out another red, after handing a second yellow to Sasalak for no apparent reason, and having just watched the video three times I still can’t see any offence; however the Chiang Rai bench were all on their feet howling for it and once again the referee obliged them. Ludicrous refereeing.

Buriram laid siege to the CR goal for the remaining 5 minutes but without a target man (oh how they missed Edgar tonight) their attack was fairly toothless, and when the ref blew up after a ridiculous 3 minutes’ extra time (Gama and his staff were clearly in charge of the watch too), the cup was heading to Chiang Rai, and Port’s AFC hopes were heading down the U-bend.

 

The Sandpit’s Player of the Year meets his adoring fans

 

How this affects La Pang’s transfer plans remains to be seen, but Thailand & Bangkok Glass midfielder Tanaboon was seen watching the game with Port full-back Nitipong. After negotiating our way out of the stadium via its unlit death-trap staircases and procuring post-match Leos, we bumped into the Sandpit’s 2018 POTY and asked him if Tanaboon was joining Port, but he just gave us that cheeky grin of his and said nothing. So watch this space.

 

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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