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.


 

Chiang Rai may be 800km away, but plentiful and cheap Air Asia flights and the stadium’s proximity to the airport make it an easier game to get to than Bangkok Utd or Muangthong, and so a mere two hours after leaving Bangkok, we arrived at the excellently appointed Singha Stadium and set about invading the unguarded pitch and giving the beer sellers their first custom of the new season. Chiang Rai already have their shirts on sale (including, somewhat optimistically, a special AFC shirt) and had set up several pop-up stalls around the ground to sell them. THAT’S how you do it Port!

 

 

Walker’s Wanking Glove

With the Disco Bus having travelled overnight and various other Port fans having made the journey, the away end was buzzing, though our first task was to procure wet wipes & clean the seats which were absolutely filthy. Clearly the new season preparations didn’t involve cleaning the stadium, and outside we even found a discarded worker’s glove by the away end bar – “That looks like a wanking glove” observed Tim Walker, providing a terrifying insight into his private life.

By KO time the home stands had filled up too and the game kicked off under the floodlights in a very lively, noisy atmosphere. Chiang Rai fluffed a couple of early shots before the best chance fell to Siwakorn (16) in the 9th minute, with his low shot hitting the side netting. The Marlboro Man is clearly intent on fighting for his place this season and he had his best game in a Port shirt for a long long time. Pakorn (7) was next to tighten Beetle sphincters when his 15th minute free-kick went narrowly wide of the post. It was fairly cagey, uneventful stuff, but in the last 5 minutes of the half the game burst into life and set the tone for what was to follow.

Firstly, and entirely unsurprisingly, Rattanai (17) went down after catching a cross and required several minutes of treatment, and when play restarted he was clearly still disorientated as he tried to dribble the ball in his own area & was dispossessed by Fat Bill, who really should have scored but for some heroic defending from Dolah (4), who hardly put a foot wrong all night. Poor Bill spent so long in Dolah’s pocket he started to resemble a BTS card. This near-miss got the Beetles fired up and on the stroke of half-time, Fat Bill broke into the box, nipped the ball past Dolah and then dramatically threw his sizeable frame down onto the turf, causing earth tremors as far away as the Burmese border. A few minutes of mayhem ensued with Chiang Rai shamelessly claiming a penalty, and Port claiming a yellow card. As the ref grabbed his earpiece we feared the worst, knowing that refs at Chiang Rai tend to be, shall we say, under the influence of Singha; but thankfully common sense prevailed and he awarded Port a free-kick though failed to give Fat Bill the booking his outrageous cheating deserved, and indeed CR seemed to have a yellow card amnesty throughout the game.

 

 

The second half began in predictable fashion for Port when Rattanai went down in the 46th minute with a hamstring injury, ending his involvement in the game. His fitness issues are beyond a joke and Port’s refusal to sign a proper first choice goalkeeper during the transfer window looks even more shortsighted now. On came Worawut (36), and for the next 30 minutes or so Port bossed the game without really creating any clear-cut chances, other than Suarez (5) heading over from a corner. The Spaniard looked very lively – like Siwakorn, he’s possibly playing for his place with the arrival of Sumanya – but was a marked man from the start and Chiang Rai’s defenders did a very good job of keeping him quiet.

A game that had been simmering with needle ever since Bill’s theatrics exploded on the 75 minute mark, when the otherwise excellent Rochela (22) miscontrolled an interception and, as he battled to win the ball back, made a clumsy challenge on Beetles winger William. The rangy Brazilian is clearly made of more honest stuff than his teammates and, rather than rolling around and making the most of it, stayed on his feet and continued his run, but the ref, who needed little incentive to book Port players all evening, blew the whistle and gave the Port skipper, who’d injured his knee making the challenge, his second yellow of the night. David later admitted to me that the second yellow was fair, but that the first one was non-existent, and limping his way onto the plane was clearly unhappy about the behaviour of Port’s opponents. His knee looked pretty swollen and today he’s heading to hospital for a scan.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, it was Port who came closest to scoring next when a cross from Pakorn picked out an unmarked Sumanya (11), who looked nailed on to score until an heroic block from a CR defender intervened. But worse was to come in the 88th minute when a through ball evaded Siwakorn leaving debutant Go Seul-Ki (8) exposed, and he took one for the team pulling down his opponent on the edge of the box. It’s debatable whether or not he was the last man but this is Chiang Rai and so the Korean, who had made an otherwise excellent debut, was shown a straight red, leaving Port with just 9 men. From the ensuing free kick, Worawut made a dramatic save from Brinner’s header, and was again in the thick of the action on 96 minutes when an almighty goalmouth scramble almost saw CR take the lead. But Port clung on and, given the obstacles they faced all evening, a point at Chiang Rai has to be seen as a positive result.

 

 

 

Whilst much of the post-match focus will be on Chiang Rai’s cheating and some poor refereeing, it has to be said that this wasn’t a great Port performance. Chiang Rai did a very good job nullifying Boskovic & Suarez; Port’s wingers, particularly Pakorn, had an off night; and Kevin looked a shadow of the player he was last season. Luckily Dolah, Rochela & Nitipong all put in superb shifts at the back, Siwakorn was back to his best, and newcomer Go was an oasis of calm and vision in a crowded and chaotic midfield. You just worry that Jadet’s predictable approach has been found out, and with the lack of a plan B, Port were always going to struggle to score. But the energy and defiance they showed when down to 10 – then 9 – men told us a lot about their character, and they will certainly play worse than this and win in the season to come. Bring on Ratchaburi!

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Elias Dolah

Absolutely no contest here. The big Swede was Port’s most improved player in 2018, and in 2019 he looks even better. Nothing was ever likely to get past him last night and he told me after the game that he did such a job on Chaiyawat in the first half that the Chiang Rai striker actually apologised to him for getting him sent off last season. There was a wonderful moment in the second half when he calmly plucked the ball off Fat Bill’s foot & sprayed a wonderful long pass out to Kevin on the left wing with all the calm and ease of Franco Baresi at his best. Another season of improvement beckons, along with, surely, that long-awaited Thailand cap.

 

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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  1. […] 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 […]

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