Dragan the Dragonslayer? Port FC vs Ratchaburi FC PREVIEW

 

The unusually long wait is over. Competitive Thai League football returns to PAT Stadium on Sunday with the visit of the Dragons of Ratchaburi FC. There will be a few questions to answer:

Can I get my season ticket? Can I get my shirt? Is a pint of Leo still 70 baht? Will Madame Pang wear that Big C tracksuit again? Did Tim Walker bring his wanking glove?

Rumour has it that there is an actual ‘fan’ in charge of the shop these days. Somebody who may have suffered from the complete and utter incompetence of his forerunners, someone who understands that buying a season ticket in advance might just give you certain privileges. We live in hope, but I will be taking my FB Battery 2010 model along just in case; still my favourite shirt by the way.

A more obvious question will be, ‘Who will replace Rochela and Go?’ Port left Chiang Rai last week mightily aggrieved by a display of South American style shit-housery that even surpassed Chiang Rai’s previous shameful efforts. I really cannot recall them being as thoroughly nasty as this before the trio of successive Brazilian coaches were appointed. Prior to that they had projected a kind of hill-tribe loveliness and the fans were fabulous. Put Sunday, June 30th in your diary folks, for that is when Chiang Rai visit Khlong Toey, hopefully in front of a packed and hostile PAT!

So what of Ratchaburi? The Dragons come into this game sitting proud at the top of the League, rather like we were last season, so let them enjoy it while it lasts. Their 3-2 victory over newly promoted, and relegation favourites, Trat, featured a superb, ‘Striker’s’ hat-trick from Ivorian, Yannick Boli and one that Bosko may do well to watch on re-run. More on Yannick and Bosko later. One of Port’s finest performances last season came away at the Dragon’s Den and following their 12th place finish last season, they should be put away comfortably if Port are to have any pretensions of another top 3 finish. Their Spanish coach, whose name, Francesc d’Asis Bosch, suggests a saintly Gestapo officer must, at 30 years of age, be the youngest in the division. Remarkably, he was once assistant coach at Ratchaburi at the tender age of 24.

 

A Tale of Two Strikers: Yannick Boli and Sompong Soleb

I apologise for the fact that one of these players may not actually make it on to the pitch but the opportunity to ‘celebrate’ the career of a Port ‘legend’ was too good to miss.

Sompong – Tom Earls’ favourite player

Back in 2004, Sompong Soleb was one of three Thais selected from over 500 hopefuls to spend a year’s training with Everton. The selection process was part of a reality TV show funded by Everton’s main sponsor, Chang Beer, with Everton’s Youth Academy director Ray Hall helping judge the competition. One of the other players was Teeratep (Leesaw) Winothai, now of Bangkok Utd. After nine months at the Everton academy and a failed move to Chester City, Sompong returned to resume his career in Thailand, his propensity for missing simple chances leading him to be dubbed by local fans, the ‘Thai Welbeck’. Had he made it at Goodison Park, the Toffees may have been calling him, the ‘Thai Stuart Barlow’.

He fared better back in Thailand, joining the national team in 2010, and at Port, where he was part of the team that same year which beat Buriram PEA in the League Cup Final. He returned to Port for a brief loan spell from Bangkok Utd in 2015. In spite of his seeming ‘pedigree’ (he was also part of the Buriram league-winning squad of 2011), Sompong always split Port fans, in much the same way that Pakorn does today (pause here while Trans-Atlantic Tom rushes to his ‘defense’).

Personally, I thought he was shit: clumsy and clueless, with a propensity to drive himself into blind alleys and shoot from impossible angles, a bit like (pause here while Tom anticipates preparing his ‘defense’)……… Tana. It was a constant source of bewilderment to most of my fellow Importz how he made the national team. Still, should he come on to the pitch on Sunday, I will give him a rousing cheer before settling in to some serious abuse, no doubt precipitating him scoring a late winner off his kneecap.

 

Yannick Boli

 

Yannick Boli, on the other hand, looks and plays like a footballer…with real pedigree. Born in 1988, he joined PSG at the age of 11 and figured prominently in their youth teams and reserves before becoming the journeyman footballer he is today. He is the nephew of former Marseille and French international defender, Basile Boli, and both his other uncle and brother were, or are, professional footballers. Against Trat, he looked quick, brave and deadly. But it was Trat and not Lyon. All the same, he should be fun to watch and Dolah might have his work cut out. Which brings me to…..

 

Port: The Line-up

With Rattanai as solid as a chocolate kettle, it will be a straight choice between Worawut and Watchara. While Worawut has the most T1 experience for Port, I would plump for Watchara’s pure entertainment value, but I fear it will not be so. The ever dependable, and sometime scorer, Todsapol, could be a safe bet (if fit) alongside Dolah, while the fullbacks will be unchanged. Hopefully, with attack in mind, Jadet will start Sumanya alongside a rejuvenated Siwakorn.

 

Rattanai in training this week

 

I’m hoping for a fairly fluid line-up with the emphasis on attack. In particular, I would like Jadet to work out how to make the best use of Boskovic, who was poor against Chiang Rai, except when threatening to take them all out in numerous penalty area melees. We need to utilize his strengths further up the pitch and this is an issue that will surely be a test of Jadet’s credentials, not to mention who will replace Bosko if we should ever lose him to injury. I am still not convinced that Jadet is the man to take us to the next level but I hope to be proved wrong.

Worawut: Nitipong, Dolah, Todsapol, Kevin; Pakorn, Siwakorn, Sumanya, Nurul; Suarez, Boskovic.

Subs: Watchara, Worawut, Adisorn, Athirbordee, Anon, Jirattikan, Sansern, Bodin, Arthit.

 

Opening Day Programme

1530: Media registration

1630: Welcome ceremony with club president

1650: 2019 kit unveiling

1700: Photo session

1710: Live concert from Paradox

1900: Port FC vs Ratchaburi FC kick-off

 

 

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Know Your Enemy: Four Favourites Falter

 

The new season is upon us, and so once again I find myself thinking up ways to write stuff that no one other than me wants to read. I started with gratuitous transfer updates, moved seamlessly in to Portlists, dabbled intermittently with Futsal and Academy games, and this year my regular must-not-read articles are going to focus on something most Sandpit readers care about even less than 5 aside in a warehouse: other T1 teams.

Yes, this season after every week of T1 action I’m going to be doing a brief run-down of the notable results and performances of Port’s competitors. My main focus will be those teams in close competition with Port in the standings, but I also reserve the right to disparage Muangthong however well or poorly they’re doing. This will mean watching as much T1 action as I can bear without poking my own eyes out. So highlights videos for the most part, with the odd 90 minute shitshow every now and then.

I’ve come flying out of the blocks this week, watching the Friday night game, then flicking between a few different ones on Saturday and finally watching a match and a half on Sunday. Don’t expect that level of diligence boredom every week!

 


 

The Friday match wasn’t exactly one to whet the appetite for the new season, but Ratchaburi hosted Trat in what, to my surprise, ended up being an absolute belter. In typical T1 fashion it was very much a battle between foreign strikers, one we know and one who was introducing himself to Thai football for the first time. Some of you will be familiar with Trat’s Lonsana Doumbouya after his excellent debut campaign for Prachuap last season. It was no surprise to see him ruthlessly bully his way through Ratchaburi’s lackluster defence and score twice, one a tap-in and one a superb solo effort. It wasn’t to be enough for even a point though, with Ratchaburi’s new signing Yannick Boli going one better and netting a hattrick. He scored his first with a powerful run and shot, before 2 headers secured the win for his side. Winger Steeven Langil also impressed, although Ratchaburi didn’t get the ball to him enough. Both goalies let their side down once each, but their incompetence was canceled out by each other.

 

 

On Saturday the headline match was Buriram vs. Chonburi, but unfortunately I had to sit through Suphanburi vs. Chainat first. Former Port midfielder Gorka Unda was pretty rubbish for Cheating Chainat, and so was just about everyone else, in particular Suphanburi’s former Muangthong gaffer Totchtawan Sripan who picked a useless team while leaving a few decent players on the bench. Thanks for a couple of hours of my life I won’t get back, Coach Ban.

Luckily Buriram vs. Chonburi was a classic, with most of the credit for the exciting game going to the referee. After Chonburi took the lead through Worachit Kanitsribampen, the ref booked a Chonburi player despite apparently not realizing he was already on a yellow, and then sheepishly had to send him off. Buriram quickly took the lead with a double from excellent youngster Supachok Sarachat, but Kroekrit Thaweekarn slid in to level the tie. Chonburi got a second red after Lukian, a really nasty piece of work who was rough and gobby all game long, was sent off. They held on for a super point, but Buriram will feel like they missed an opportunity to get their title defence off to the perfect start. Their new Brazilian Pedro Junior looked pretty good, but Modibo Maiga less so. After a couple of beers I think I used the phrase ‘poundshop Doumbouya’ to describe him. Ouch.

 

 

I also flicked on to the Pattaya, I mean Samut Prakarn City, game a few times, only to be so appalled by the defending on display from both sides that I quickly averted my eyes. My favourite T1 goalie Nont Muangngam put in a typically Nont display for Chiang Mai, being lobbed after a misunderstanding with a teammate, saving a penalty and generally being a bit mental. The difference was as usual the Brazilians, with Samut Prakarn’s big lump Carlao and new signing Ibson Melo doing slightly more damage than David Bala and Eliandro for Chiang Mai. Big Slovenian centre back Aris Zarifovic got the winner, but like all the other defenders we was apparently a bit dodgy.

The other Saturday game saw Victor Cardozo put in a man of the Match display for his new club PTT Rayong against Korat, although just after the award was announced he was beaten in the air by Leandro Assumpcao, who scored the only goal of the game with his header. The Swat Cats nicked the win despite apparently being second best throughout.

And then it was Sunday. I watched the first half of Sukhothai vs. Bangkok United, hoping to see another title hopeful falter, and surprisingly the football Gods indulged me once again. Sukhothai took Bangkok to pieces in the early going before conceding to a jammy deflected effort from Tristan Do. I didn’t watch the second half, but Sukhothai got the goal their performance deserved, and the game finished in a draw. Jhon Baggio was excellent as usual, and new Sukhothai forward Orlandic looked a real handful, although he should have done better in front of goal on numerous occasions. There was more surprising team selection, this time from Bangkok boss Mano Polking, who left big new signing Mike Havenaar out up front as well as key defender Mika Chunuonsee.

 

 

Meanwhile, Muangthong were busy making it a hattrick of let downs for this season’s challengers, being downed by a Caion penalty. I’ve only seen highlights of this one, but it looks as though Prachuap were a little lucky to secure their upset victory. Then again, is it really luck when Adisak shooting and missing from close range is involved? Nah, they knew he was going to miss, as did everyone else besides new coach Pairoj, who dealt with his overabundance of attacking talent by leaving out Mario and starting Adisak alongside Teerasil, Heberty and Aung Thu in the Muangthong attack. Oops. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

We all know what happened in Sunday’s late game, but here’s our report of Port’s dramatic 0-0 draw in Chiang Rai all the same. Since publishing that report, we now also know that we will be without not only Go Seul-ki, who is suspended following his straight red card, but also Rochela, who will be sidelined for about a month with the injury he picked up while getting his second yellow card. Rattanai is also expected to miss out after picking up a foot injury. I was already expecting a goal fest this coming Sunday, with Kevin and Nurul on Port’s left hand size squaring up with Roller and Langil on Ratchaburi’s right, and with Port missing our goalie, our captain and Todsapol’s fitness as usual unknown, we could be in for some absolute mayhem.

 

Public Enemy Number One

 

 

Every week I will also be choosing a Public Enemy Number One, who is the star non-Port performer of the week. Yannick Boli will be most people’s choice after his hattrick, but I’m going for Lonsana Doumbouya who was the focal point for Trat, a team who really don’t have a lot going for them besides the big Guinean. Scoring a brace is one thing, but doing so while enduring the utterly useless Chenrop Samphaodi as a strike partner is what pushes him over the line. Honourable mentions also go to Supachok and Baggio for excellent performances. Not really a week for defenders, this one!

 

Results and Highlights

 

Click on the results to see the official True Visions highlights package.

 

Ratchaburi 3-2 Trat

Chainat 0-0 Suphanburi

Buriram 2-2 Suphanburi

PTT Rayong 0-1 Nakhon Ratchasima

Samut Prakan City 3-2 Chiang Mai

Sukhothai 1-1 Bangkok United

Muangthong 0-1 Prachuap

Chiang Rai 0-0 Port

 

Plus Ca Chiang: Chiang Rai Utd 0-0 Port FC

 

 

With Gama & Victor having left during the close season, talk before the game was of Chiang Rai possibly playing better, less cynical football this year. Sadly The Sandpit can confirm that such hope is sorely misplaced, and the Beetles remain T1’s finest exponents of shithousery. In a game where there was clearly no love lost between the two sets of players following this same fixture last season, the home side’s ugly anti-football came up against Port’s tactical predictability, with a draw the logical outcome.

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Curtain Rai-ser: Chiang Rai United vs. Port FC Preview

 

It’s time. After a tortuously long off-season, T1 football finally returns this weekend, with Port facing a tricky away tie in Chiang Rai on Sunday. Events seem to be conspiring in Port’s favour though, with last season’s fifth place finishers facing numerous challenges in the run-up to Sunday’s curtain-raiser. First, The Beetles sacked their manager the week before the opening game, then they went on to endure an exhausting midweek defeat, after extra time and penalties, to Japanese side Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the ACL qualifiers. Port, on the other hand, have been finding their form in some improved friendly performances, putting five past Chonburi, three past Prachuap and two past Chinese side Changchun Yatai in the last few weeks.

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Crystal Balls 2019: Chonburi FC

 

Time for our final 2019 Crystal Ball, and this time we look at Chonburi FC. After a couple of mediocre seasons, things seem to be stirring down by the sea and after an impressive transfer window, The Sharks look like they could be top 6 contenders once again. Here’s longtime Chonburi fan and editor of the Screaming from Beneath the Waves blog Dale Farrington with his thoughts…

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Crystal Balls 2019: Bangkok Utd

 

After finishing second last season, and having probably the most impressive transfer window of any T1 club, hopes are high that Mano Polking can finally guide Bangkok Utd to silverware this season. We spoke to not one but TWO Angels fans – Matt Jenkins and Svein Falk Lorentzen – to get their thoughts on what should be an exciting season for the Rangsit-based club…

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Season of the ‘Vic? The Sandpit’s Big 2019 Preview

At last, the new season kicks off this weekend, with Port likely to play an active role in the T1 title race. Here are the Sandpit team’s thoughts on what the new season holds…

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Yatai-Port: Changchun Visit PAT for Friendly

 

Port take on Chinese League One side Changchun Yatai tomorrow (16 Feb) in a pre-season friendly at the PAT. The match, which we expect to be Port’s last warmup before T1 hostilities begin at Chiang Rai next Sunday, pits Jadet’s boys against a side who were relegated from the CSL last season after a 12-year stay during which they were winners in 2007 and runners-up in 2009. They’ve just lost star player, ex-Watford striker Odion Ighalo, and are currently without a permanent coach, so these are clearly troubled times at Changchun. Let’s hope Port can make them even worse tomorrow and wind up their 2019 season preparations with a win.

The game kicks off at 18:00, admission is free, and beers are allowed inside. See you there!

 

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Crystal Balls 2019: Chiang Mai FC

 

In our latest Crystal Balls piece, we welcome new boys Chiang Mai FC to the wonderful world of T1. Yes, Thailand’s second city finally has a team in the top flight, so we asked Chiang Mai fan Richard Keyworth (who runs Chiang Mai FC English Fanzine) for his thoughts on their debut season…

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Sandpit Away Days 2019: Chonburi

 

Port travel down the eastern seaboard to Chonburi on Friday 8 May, and The Sandpit is, as usual, organising a fleet (one or two) of minivans for the occasion. We’ve already filled one van so if we get a few more signups we’ll be able to take two.

Vans will leave from Pattana School (Sukhumvit 105) at 17:00 on 8 May, and return after the game. Cost should be around 300-400BHT. If you’d like to join, please email us or leave a comment on this post.