It’s Bodin Well For A Title Challenge: Port FC 3-2 Suphanburi FC

Games like that win titles”, Tommie Duncan and I agreed, managing to conduct a relatively calm discourse, panting breath restored, after the absorbing drama we had just witnessed. Port have made a few statements of intent over the past few weeks: 14 goals in 4 consecutive wins, including an assured away victory over bitter, ailing rivals, Muangthong, but perhaps none more so than this: a comeback (twice) victory over a resolute Suphanburi team, won, gloriously, with a thrilling breakaway goal from Boskovic in the 87th minute. It was significant that last year, in a game that Port had dominated for an hour, Supahanburi struck twice to establish a lead that was then never threatened. This Port team is made of sterner stuff.

I have to admit that this game did concern me. Suphanburi, in spite of their lowly position, still carried a threat; their twin, Brazilian strike force of Jonatan Reis (7) and Cleiton Silva (23) one of the best in the League. Goalkeeper and Captain, Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakul (18), who defied Port so frustratingly last season, was restored to the team after injury. The War Elephants would also have been buoyed by their 3-1 win over Nakhon Ratchasima last week. Port, not for the first time, were missing key players, and, once again, this was largely self-inflicted. Pakorn had been injured needlessly in a mid-week friendly while both Nitipong and Go were suspended after receiving 4 yellow cards in 7 matches. 4 in 7 – that is some going and this indiscipline has and could continue to lose Port points. Rochela is still not fully match-fit while Nurul was on the bench.

 

 

This meant, of course, that the mercurial Bodin, quite rightly, kept his place. It will be interesting to see what Jadet’s first XI is when all players are fit but for the moment the ‘Fresh Prince’ is undroppable.  Arthit made his first start of the season, Suarez was restored to the midfield and Adisorn replaced Nitipong. We have a strength in depth this year that I can never previously recall and a team that has grown together with the just the odd tweak or two to strengthen. Certainly, a solid base upon which to build a title challenge, but first Suphanburi had to be swept aside.

Suarez was to be a major influence in this game and, on 7 minutes, taking a lofted cross from Bodin, he cut inside from the left to force a De Gea style, foot-save from Sinthaweechai (Sintha from here on). On 22 minutes, the silky Spaniard set off on a mazy run into the heart of the Suphan defence before setting up Sumanya, whose left foot shot was brilliantly turned around the post by Sintha. With the ex-National keeper in this form, Port fans worst fears were confirmed when, 5 minutes later, Reis worked his way onto the edge of the box following some sloppy defending down the line, and turned inside Kevin to smash an angled drive past a despairing Watchara.  A goal very much against the run of play but the War Elephants were on the rampage now and spurned two golden chances to increase their lead before half-time; Reis firing over the bar from inside the box and Silva shooting wide from an even better angle after slipping between a static Dolah and Todsapol, like a hare, long ears flapping in the wind, dashing for cover between two hesitant hounds. Two goals down at half-time would have left even this Port with a mountain to climb.

It was clear that Port needed an early second half goal and the Lions did not disappoint. After Siwakorn had tried his luck with a speculative long-range lob, fairly comfortably dealt with by Sintha, Port got the break they needed on 48 minutes; Bodin scoring with a towering, powerful header from a measured Suarez cross.

The lead was to be short-lived. In the 56th minute Reis got behind Kevin in the box to put in a driven cross which Watchara could only parry for Silva to smash home. The deadly duo had struck.  Port’s nerve was to be put to the test, or ‘bottle’ as they put it nowadays.

But, bottle they had in crates. Within a minute, Bodin calmly brought down Adisorn’s cross, 10 yards out, only for his carefully aimed, side-foot shot to be headed off the line. In the 63rd minute, another Adisorn cross was headed over by an unmarked Arthit, waiting inside the 6-yard box. He should have done better. It was his final contribution to the action, instantly replaced by Nurul. ‘Pele’ has worked wonders as an impact sub this season when teams are tired and stretched by his energy and tireless running but he maybe lacks the guile to be a starter. This had been the only real chance he had got on the end of.

Ten minutes later came the game-turning goal, setting up the grandstand finish. Suarez, once again cleverly finding space on the right hand side of the box, popped over another delightful, left-footed cross for the imperious Bodin to calmly side-foot into the corner with his left foot. That is three goals in a week from Bodin and a perfect goal-scoring trinity: right foot, left foot, head. There is a kind of mystical serenity around Bodin when he receives the ball, even in a crowded box. He seems to have the ability, that all really good players possess, of ignoring all the distractions around him to calmly deliver, as if he is on his own down a back alley knocking the ball into a circle chalked on the wall, headphones on, listening to Ed Sheeran, while his mum is calling him in for his tea.  His first touch doesn’t just kill the ball, it subjugates it, bending it to his will, before he proceeds to caress, almost fondle it, lavishing the ball with protective devotion, like Gollum and his ‘precious’ ring. At times like this, he is an absolute joy to watch. Oh, and that scoop!

2-2 and the stadium was on the boil, matching the temperatures earlier in the day. On 82 minutes Athibordee replaced Sumanya and five minutes later came the destiny defining (we hope) moment. Suarez, on the half-way line, picked up a loose ball, looked up, before threading a slide-rule pass between two flailing Suphanburi defenders to set an on-side Boskovic free. Bosko advanced into the box while the crowd held its breath; the Montenegrin had not scored a goal from open play all season and had been especially profligate when one-on-one. Sintha advanced, arms and legs spread-eagled to narrow the angle, but Bosko’s aim was unerring, side-footing the ball to nestle just inside the post.  A volcanic roar resounded throughout the stadium as grown men, women and children (we’re a community club) hugged each other in unbridled joy.

There was still enough time for Bosko, Kevin and Bodin to interchange passes by the touchline to the exultant sound of ‘Ole, Ole’ from the crowd before the referee’s whistle brought this compelling football match to a close.

Port still top the League, at present, 4 points clear of Buriram who have a game in hand. It is all building up nicely for an epic encounter at the PAT on June 16th. After the FA Cup tie against Samut Sakhon on Wednesday, there is a break for the Coronation and then we face a tricky away fixture at Chainat on Sunday, May 12th.

 

The Sandpit’s Men Of The Match

 

 

This just has to be shared between 2-goal Bodin and 3-assist Suarez, both at the top of their game. Suarez, at times, was unplayable, while Bodin is confirming every week the originality and drive he brings to the team. A special word also for Siwakorn, who is becoming more and more influential as the season progresses. He truly is back to his best, constantly dropping back, demanding the ball, linking and changing play, whilst offering his trademark ‘challenges’, for which, sadly, he was booked again. Dolah also received a yellow card.

The Future is Orange and Blue.

 

Port Suffering From Yellow Fever: Port FC vs. Suphanburi FC Preview

 

Two teams who recorded impressive victories last week face off in an intriguing encounter this Saturday at PAT Stadium. Looking at the table, top dogs Port are clear favourites to overcome Suphanburi, who were bottom of the table until their victory last week, but with the attacking talents at their disposal and the utter insanity that has been T1 so far this season, absolutely anything is possible. Port are without key central midfielder Go Seul-ki and right back Nitipong who are both suspended, but Suphan will also be without their own Korean midfielder Kim Sung-hwan as he is on loan from Port.

 

Suphanburi FC

Habitual Mediocrity

 

It’s worth mentioning briefly Suphanburi’s decline into mediocrity since 2013. After their promotion in 2012, The War Elephants finished in the top six for three successive seasons, boasting some of the league’s best talent like former Port star Pipat Thonkanya (visit our ‘Port Legends’ page for more on him) and a certain Dragan Boskovic. They were even managed by Mano Polking for a brief stint. The likes of Charyl Chappuis, who gets a lot of stick on here although when he was with Suphanburi he was without a doubt one of the best performing Thai players in the league, Carmelo Gonzalez and Thai league veteran Bjorn Lindemann were also part of a team which appeared to have an exciting future challenging the top teams in T1 for honours, but then something went wrong. It’s hard to pinpoint what, but since their initial success, Suphanburi have finished no higher than tenth, and there’s little in their current form to indicate that they’re ready to break that slump this season. They’ve got a highly rated T1 winning coach in Totchtawan, a group of talented Thai youngsters and two of the top foreign strikers in the league, but they just can’t seem to recapture that winning formula.

 

Players to Watch

 

Another T1 team, another Brazilian strike force. On paper this one ought to be among the very best in the league, but while Jonatan Reis (7) and Cleiton Silva (23) have a respectable 6 goals between them so far in 2019, their team has scored just 8 goals in total, and neither has yet provided an assist for a teammate. For some reason they’re just not quite gelling. While Reis has been spending a lot of time dropping back to pick up the ball and start attacks from midfield, Cleiton has held his position up front, and although this seems like an ideal partnership, it just hasn’t clicked yet. Either Reis has failed to find his teammate in dangerous areas, or Cleiton has missed the chances when they’ve come. I shouldn’t talk the pair down too much, though. They’re both superbly talented, and they both managed to get on the scoresheet last time out against Korat, potentially lifting spirits in Suphanburi and giving them the confidence they need to fulfil the promise their partnership holds.

 

 

Besides the Brazilians, it’s really tough to pick out anyone else on current form. The players I rate at Suphanburi have been spending far too much time on the bench. You’ll have heard me talk up the likes of exciting Thai forwards Thanasit Sriphala (11) and Chananan Pumbuppha (10) in past previews, but these guys have been in and out of the team this season. Even experienced Thai national team legends like defensive midfielder Adul Lahso (19) and goalkeeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool (18) haven’t been playing recently, with former Muangthong coach Totchtawan favouring lesser known players. How’s that been working out?

One of those lesser known players will be known to most Port fans, though. Last time the sides met at the PAT, Meechok Marhasaranukun (20) provided two excellent assists from the right flank, and he will be expected to start at right wing back. Quality defensive duo Anderson (3) and Suphan Thongsong (26) will make up two thirds of their central defence, but surprisingly they’ve conceded 12 goals already in 2018, so clearly there are as many problems at the back as there are going forward.

 

 

Mark Hartmann (9) wouldn’t have merited a mention unless he’d scored an excellent header off the bench last week to spark Suphanburi’s comeback, but the English-born Filipino will almost certainly now make a second half appearance. If you haven’t seen him before, he’s not easy to miss, what with his long flowing locks and the unmistakable aura of a player who couldn’t quite cut it at the Gang Warily Recreation Ground. That’s the home of Blackfield & Langley of the Wessex League, for those of you unfamiliar with English ninth tier football. Shame on you.

 

 

Form

 

Suphanburi have been consistently unpredictable so far this season, but on balance have fallen far short of expectations. It took three draws before they finally recorded a win, but that was followed by three defeats, before they bounced back with a win last time out against Korat. Here are their results in full.

  • Chainat 0-0 Suphanburi
  • Suphanburi 0-0 Buriram
  • Sukhothai 1-1 Suphanburi
  • Suphanburi 3-0 Chonburi
  • Trat 4-0 Suphanburi
  • Suphanburi 1-2 Chiang Mai
  • Bangkok United 4-0 Suphanburi
  • Suphanburi 3-1 Korat

 

Port FC

Yellow Fever

 

Port face yet more challenges to their squad depth this week, with suspensions to key players Go (8) and Nitipong (34). The yellow cards have been coming thick and fast this season, and both have already made it to four. Go will most likely be replaced by Athibordee (35), who has seen a lot of action off the bench so far in 2019, although we are clinging to the hope that one of the breakout stars of last season Anon (20) will be picked instead. Anon performed superbly in some big games for Port last term, and is a player Port should be trying to give as many minutes of T1 action to as possible, but Jadet seems to have promoted Athibordee, so that’s probably that. That is unless Suarez is available for selection after missing out last week. If the Spaniard is fit, Jadet could also ask Siwakorn to play a little deeper, with Sumanya alongside him and Suarez further forward. The spherical supremo has certainly got options in the middle of the park.

Normally Adisorn (13) would also be part of the conversation when the DM spot is up for grabs, but with Nitipong being out, he is sure to deputize at right back instead. With no other options available to Jadet, an out-of-position defensive midfielder will have to do. If only we’d considered our paucity of right backs in the transfer window when we were signing left backs like they were going out of fashion!

The rest of the team could remain unchanged, although with captain Rochela (22) returning to near full fitness it’s a question of when not if Todsapol (6) drops back to the bench. Watchara (1) has surely made the goalkeeping spot his own with an assured performance against Muangthong. I haven’t seen a Port goalkeeper looking as confident as Watchara does in all aspects of his game for quite some time. Bodin (10) and Pakorn (7) are undroppable the way they’re playing, so Nurul (31) is going to have to wait for his chance when he returns from injury, too. What an impact sub to have!

 

Predicted Lineup

 

Please, please, please pick Anon.

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 2 at 20:00 on Saturday 27 April, 2019. 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.

 

Undercover Importz: Bricking It In Legoland

 

So the dust has now settled and bragging rights have been secured for the next few months. It’s a good feeling, right? But there’s a bittersweet taste. There’s no point going through the match highlights; Linny did an excellent job here and in turn got someone’s knickers in a twist (Hi “No Name”!) but the article, along with the build-up, highlights that the fans’ experience left a lot to be desired.

Do I need to remind you of the recent history between the two clubs? Probably not but, in a nutshell, we hate each other. A lot. Port fans’ reputation precedes them, and many try to embellish it, but things came to a head a few years back leading to matches being played behind closed doors, followed by an agreement that away fans should not attend derby matches for their own safety and to minimize the risk of violence. This still persists and was in effect last Saturday much to the annoyance of many fans.

The derby fixtures are the first 2 matches you look for when the season schedule is published, and naturally fans were eager to go up to the SCG Stadium for the first time in a couple of seasons, but the way the build-up played out would leave any football fan exasperated. The ineptitude shown in the week before the game by both clubs, the Thai FA and the ticket company outsourced by Muangthong to handle sales, Ticket Me (more on them later), was once again symptomatic of all that is wrong with Thai football. No clear message was broadcasted and tickets for the away end were sold to Port fans; through a cloud of misinformation hopes were raised then dashed then raised again until ultimately wrecked less than 48 hours before kick-off. It’s obvious that football fans anywhere should not be treated like this but situations like this are sadly par for the course. Rumour has it that Madame Pang made the final decision, possibly worried about a points deduction and its effect on the final table (very presumptuous if true) but you could equally argue that our opponents are in a very precarious position already and wouldn’t want to lose points.

So come the day and a bunch of us decided to make the trip incognito for various reasons; tick the stadium off the list, get behind the team even if we can’t cheer, it’s better to see it live than on a screen and generally fuck the ban. Our hopes of ghosting in unnoticed were immediately ended when, on getting out of our taxi outside the stadium, we bumped into ex-MTU employee and Sandpit contributor Gian, who thankfully didn’t raise the alarm. My first thoughts were that the stadium complex is self-contained, but with large spaces around either side which in theory could keep the fans apart, and the police and security presence was much larger than I’ve ever seen at a Thai football match. Black MTU security stand in huddles like European riot police; imposing, but after the travel ban announcement is it really necessary?

My girlfriend decided to tag along at the last moment (of all the away days to pick it had to be this one) so we had to secure another ticket. We were sent around the houses thanks to 2 Ticket Me stewards and 3 ticket offices only to be told that the stand had sold out (it clearly hadn’t but, you know, Thailand) so we had to purchase new tickets. The only tickets available were in the away end at home fan prices; clearly Ticket Me and MTU used this situation to their advantage but you can’t really blame them when there’s money to be made. After being asked by a bunch of farang MTU fans if I was a Port fan – my Borneo FC shirt with Dolphin emblem on an orange shield wasn’t the smartest fashion choice – we took our seats.

The away end, like the first half, was dull and lacked atmosphere; the ultras behind the north stand spiced things up with a “we hate Thai Port” chant but being around their fair-weather fans made the experience pretty lifeless. Thankfully we sneaked into the main stand with our Ticket Me stamps and enjoyed the second half much more. To their credit the Muangthong fans did wake up in the second half, maybe from going two goals down, and the noise from the Yahama Ultra Stand (nice bikes, lovely synths too) ramped up. As for us, we kept schtum for both the goals but Kevin’s thunderbastard had me out of my seat. I clapped Pakorn’s ridiculous keep ball just before the final whistle just because it took the absolute piss, and the press boxes rightfully applauded the second goal to the annoyance of some but all of the incident was contained on the pitch.

So all that was left was to navigate ourselves back to the Irish pub, past the hordes of young teenage girls waiting for part-time footballer Chappuis, for celebratory beers. Sure, we were buzzing from the result and the experience but football without fans lacks the excitement and atmosphere that makes it entertaining in the first place. News had already reached us that the screen at the futsal was a washout (literally) and everyone was streaming it on their phones there. Honestly, did anyone think the club could put on a successful screening? Last year we were squinting at the scoreboard in the PAT and this year there was a crappy stream in the middle of an EDM songkran party. Fun for some, sure, but enough reason for fans to jump into taxis and make their way to The Sportsman.

Ultimately there was nowhere for a Port fan to 100% enjoy the game and what the club offers us is not good enough. In a society where saving face is paramount, plus organisations and establishments are riddled with ineptitude and corruption, we can never expect common sense and logical thought to come to the rescue. It’s clear there are ways to resolve this; strong messages from clubs and the FA that violence will not be tolerated and harsh penalties will be handed out, ticket and travel for away fans purchased in advance and limited to a certain number so they can be policed correctly and separate fan areas would be a start but unless everyone – the clubs, police and fans – is motivated to start planning in advance and make this work then this is just a pipedream. Also factor in that it only takes one dickhead to throw a punch or a bottle and we’re back to square one again, so it seems that we’ll be sneaking in or at the boozer next season and maybe for a few more after.

 

Know Your Enemy: Dirty Dozen

 

Gameweek 7

Results and Highlights

 

With last week’s Songkran holiday I didn’t have time to keep up with all of the gameweek 7 action, so in the absence of my reports above are the results and highlights of the action. All you really need to know is that due to Port’s resurgence in form and Buriram’s match being postponed, Port went top of the league, while an agonizing late concession from Suphanburi sent them bottom to the fortune of Muangthong, who went in to their gameweek 8 with clash in second bottom on goals scored. Indulge me a second while I bask in the hilarity of Muangthong being lucky to be second bottom.

 

Port 5-0 Prachuap

Bangkok United 4-0 Suphanburi

Trat 1-1 Samut Prakan City

Sukhothai 0-0 Chonburi

Ratchaburi 0-2 Chiang Rai

Korat 3-1 Muangthong

 

Gameweek 8

The Action

 

OK, there we go. Now, on to gameweek 8.

Buriram, as I mentioned, missed their last fixture, meaning that they needed victory over strugglers Trat to replace Port at the top of the league. There have been a lot of personnel changes for the champs throughout this season, with the most notable being the ignominious exit of big summer arrival and former Premier League player Modibo Maiga. Fortunately for Buriram, strike partner Pedro Junior has been picking up the slack in Maiga’s absence, while the gradual introduction of Japanese star midfielder Hajime Hosogai is now complete, with the former Budesliga man now finally fit to start. Fit being the operative word. This guy is an absolute workhorse. For the entire 90 minutes against Trat he never stopped running, harassing, putting his body on the line and providing a platform for his team’s creative talents to build on. I would credit him with most likely having most touches of the ball, most fouls, and most fouled. The Genki Nagasato award for effort can be handed out now. Unfortunately for Buriram, Hosogai’s hard work didn’t lead to much up top. Pedro returned to his early season form, looking anonymous and devoid of ideas, and the same could be said of most of his teammates throughout a poor first half for the favourites.

 

 

Trat stuck to the tactics that have served them well enough so far this season – putting Doumbouya up against physically inferior centre backs and hoping that he eats them alive – and once again he was as voracious as ever. Filipino-Austrian full back Stephan Palla, playing out of position on the left hand side of Buriram’s back 3, was the latest victim. Doumbouya shrugged him off like he wasn’t there just before the hour mark, running on to Chenrop’s hopeful flick and powering his way through before deftly chipping it over Siwarak. 10 minutes later Trat survived one of the most ludicrous goal mouth scrambles I’ve ever seen, but a few minutes later substitutes Sasalak, Supachai and 16 year old Suphanat Muenta, who recently became the AFC Champions League’s youngest ever scorer, eventually combined to draw Buriram level. It wasn’t to be enough for the champs though, who now had to watch and hope that Port wouldn’t extend the lead to 4 points when they faced Muangthong on Saturday.

As we well though know, having faith in Muangthong this season is a losing strategy. The report on a wonderful, mental day for Port fans is here courtesy of Linny Russell, although a sad, salty Muangthong fan in the comments section also plays a starring role.

Buriram, and indeed Port, were given another surprising bonus on Saturday, with underdogs Chainat the latest team to expose Bangkok United’s much discussed poor early season form. This time I can find absolutely no fault with Mano Polking’s team selection – he went with Havenaar and Bonilla up front and picked more or less the team that I would consider is his strongest – but still Bangkok have been unable to string a couple of polished performances together in 2019. The defence was culpable for Chainat’s opener, as Bangkok allowed both of Chainat’s strikers a chance to take a swing at a loose ball in the box. Leandro missed the ball almost completely, but Ricardo Santos eventually connected to send the ball past a wrong-footed Falkesgaard. I have only watched the highlights, but as seems as though Anon Amonlerdsak was a bright spark for Bangkok, hitting the post and drawing a save from Teerath, but it’s all about converting chances, no matter how scrappy, and that’s what Chainat did again in the 53rd minute. Kiatisak Jia-udom (no, me neither) seemed to have been foiled by Falkesgaard, but the ball trickled agonizingly towards goal where a combination of Chainat forward Chatri and Bangkok defender Everton bundled the ball home to extend Chainat’s lead. They all count. Ricardo was fractionally out with a monster volley, and soon after Bangkok spurned a good chance when both Bonilla and Everton went for the same ball, putting each other off. Bonilla did much better on 74 minutes, finding a superb cross just as the ball looked to be going out of play, and Bangkok’s super sub Leesaw was on hand to head home. Two minutes later the assistant ref did a good job spotting Ricardo Santos basically punching Manuel Bihr in the face as Bangkok prepared to take a freekick and the Brazilian was rightfully sent packing, but even the 10 men of Chainat were able to hold on to a precious three points, heaping yet more pressure on Bangkok United. Last season at this stage they put together 11 successive wins, and they’ll need to do something similar if they’re to mount another serious title challenge this season.

PTT Rayong hosted Ratchaburi in another game I didn’t watch, but the highlights show that Yannick Boli, Steeven Langil and Philip Roller starred in a comfortable Ratchaburi win. Boli won and cheekily converted a penalty, then Roller provided one of the assists of the season with a magnificent run down the left, before crossing to Langil who converted smartly. Langil then turned on the style with a magnificent third, making Ariel Rodriguez’ 92nd minute toe-poke nothing more than a consolation. With Boli, Langil, Kang Soo-il and Roller on form, this is a dangerous Ratchaburi side, although they do have their problems at the back, particularly in goal.

 

 

I won’t bother you too much with the details of Chiang Rai’s 1-1 draw against Samut Prakan City as there are much more exciting results to talk about on Sunday. This was a 1-1 draw in which William Henrique scored an excellent equalizer for Chiang Rai.

Bottom club Suphanburi’s clash with surprisingly high-flying Korat was of interest to Port fans, as a draw or better from Suphan would see them lift themselves off the bottom, leaving our darling rivals where they belong. Despite a slow start, Suphanburi’s talented squad eventually found their flow and confidence, making it a comfortable 3-1 win. Bernard Henri did put Korat in the lead, but the chances were almost exclusively being created at the other end. Samuel Cunningham was very busy in the Korat goal, making some superb saves to keep the scores level, but he also had some help from the Suphanburi strike force. Cleiton, looking utterly bereft of confidence, was guilty of a few wild shots, while Jonatan Reis was looking more frustrated by the minute. It took a substitute to snap Suphan out of their slump, and it was English-born Filipino Mark Hartmann who connected with a tricky header to send the home fans wild, and breathe life back in to the slumbering War Elephant. Even Cleiton managed to find the target a few minutes later after a scramble in the box, then Reis rounded things off with a decisive volley in the dying moments. Three goals for three foreign forwards which ought to give their talented squad the confidence to find the form to push them up the table where they belong.

The Prachuap vs. Sukhothai clash escaped my attention, but I’m told it was a riveting end-to-end clash with numerous chances for both sides. Jhon Baggio hit the bar twice with the same shot in the first half, but both sides somehow went in to the break scoreless. 5 minutes in to the second half Baggio once again peppered the woodwork. His shot hit the bar and then the post but this time just about crossed the line, giving Sukhothai a deserved lead. It was Prachuap’s turn to hit the woodwork in a frantic late passage of play which, in injury time, finally resulted in a Prachuap equalizer. It was horribly indecisive defending from Indonesian Yanto Basna which allowed Matheus Alves to sneak in and score, meaning that Sukhothai now have a remarkable 1 win and 7 draws so far this season. Being unbeaten isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

 

 

Last, and most certainly not least, Chonburi vs. Chiang Mai. What a game. There were 12 goals in total, with the Sharks netting an astonishing 7 to Chiang Mai’s 5. I only switched on for the second half, with Chonburi already 4-2 up. Lukian had netted every single goal for the hosts. Bloody hell. Surely the second half can’t be as mental. Wrong. Lukian added another to equal Boskovic’s single game scoring record of 5, then Chonburi actually wasted a few good chances before Sithu Aung scored a worldie and young Thai forward Sittichok Paso also got himself on the scoresheet. Chonburi captain and former Port star Kroekrit Thaweekarn was also involved with many of the goals, despite not scoring himself. Chiang Mai’s front three didn’t do too badly, either. Mustafa Azadzoy scored twice, highly rated young Thai star Eakanit Panya got one and Eliandro poached another. Substitute Wanmai Setthanan got the final goal for Chiang Mai, who must look to their defence to explain how they managed to score 5 goals and lose. It must be said I don’t think I’ve seen a worse defensive display. Ever. They were an absolute shambles. I can’t wait for Port to play this lot!

 

Public Enemy Number One

 

 

From my last recap… “He’s looking like becoming a regular on my shortlist, so I’d better get it out of the way and give the award to Lukian this time.” Well, he’s only gone and equaled the T1 single game scoring record, so I can’t very well give it to anyone else this week either. Lukian is a seriously effective striker and a serious contender for the golden boot this year.

Other shortlisted players are Kroekrit, Azadzoy – the first time three players in one match have made the shortlist – Baggio, Cunningham, Langil and Hosogai. Unsurprisingly, with the exception of Cunningham and Hosogai, it’s mostly attacking players as not a single team managed to keep a clean sheet. Thai League, I love you.

 

Results and Highlights

 

Buriram 1-1 Trat

Chainat 2-1 Bangkok

PTT Rayong 1-3 Ratchaburi

Chiang Rai 1-1 Samut Prakan City

Muangthong 1-2 Port

Suphanburi 3-1 Korat

Prachuap 1-1 Sukhothai

Chonburi 7-5 Chiang Mai

 

League Table

 

 

Football’s Coming Home – to T2: Muangthong Utd 1-2 Port FC

 

 

The most exciting derby game in Thai football came round again, and for another season away fans were banned, rather than the clubs getting together to sort things out. Some fans watched from home, a few sneaked into SCG Stadium undercover, some watched in the pub, and loads of Pot fans went to Go Dang stadium to watch on the big screen. I was thinking about going to the SCG in my Vietnam shirt (to get it signed by Muangthong keeper Dang Van Lam) but decided I was better going somewhere where a hooligan like me could make some noise!

My last visit to Muangthong was a bit of a nightmare as I ran out of the away end in fear of flying beers and ice, later followed by my husband who was soaked in beer and grinning his head off. When we saw guys in black masks trying to get into the home end we realised it was time to get the hell out, leaving a lot of trouble behind us.

 

We got to Go Dang around 6pm – we’re not futsal fans so skipped the game in favour of Pala Pizza before arriving at Port’s ‘other’ home to find a big Songkran party with DJs, foam machine, water cannons, kids’ paddling pools and bikini dancers on the big screen. This is Thailand 🙂 A few people were a bit annoyed with the water and trying to keep their phones dry, but we found a good place near the screen, put our mats down and waited for kick-off/

Unfortunately when it did start we ended up watching a constantly buffering screen from a shitty internet stream with no sound, whilst most of the fans ignored the game to continue celebrating Songkran. After 10 minutes of this we gave up and jumped in a taxi to The Sportsman to join the numerous fans who’d already left. So I missed the first 27 minutes of the game – forgive me for not writing about them, though apparently I didn’t miss much.

 

Port set up with a 4-4-2, with Suarez (presumably injured) replaced by Sumanya (11). In-form Bodin (10) kept his place and there were no other changes. Watchara (1) also started again and made a stunning acrobatic save from a Heberty free-kick on 35 minutes.

The second half started with a nice pass from Sumanya to Bodin and our boy didn’t let us down with an amazing goal past Van Lam. 1-0 to Port and it was pandemonium at The Sportsman as we celebrated a superb goal.

On 55 minutes Boskovic (23) gave the ball away in midfield and a superb pass from Heberty set Theerasil through, but Watchara made a superb save from the La Liga/J-League dropout. Straight after Port went down the other end and a superb pass from Pakorn picked out Sumanya in the box; he calmly sidefooted it to Nitipong (34) who gleefully buried it into an empty net for 2-0, a mere 10 minutes into the second half. An awesome spell of football.

Port were beginning to tire from the intensity of the game so Jadet made a couple of changes: Sumanya with his two assists was replaced by the White Blood Cell himself, Athibordee (35), and the injured Bodin replaced by Pele himself, Arthit (29) to the delight of the Port fans present. MTU also made some changes to try and get back into the game, with Chappuis from those adverts on the BTS coming on in midfield and blasting a shot wide of the goal within minutes of his arrival. But with 10 minutes to go MTU did get back into it with some nice play from Heberty down the right to pick out the unmarked Weerawut in the Port area who stroked the ball into the net to make it 2-1.

Could Port hang on to keep the 3 points? There were near-heart attacks in The Sportsman as MTU continued to attack, and my throat (and middle finger) got sore waiting for the whistle. Finally, after a ridiculous 5 minutes’ injury time, the whistle blew and Port went 4 points clear a the top and, the cherry on the cake, Muangthong went bottom – I couldn’t have been any happier. The game clearly wasn’t over for Boskovic who had to be restrained by his teammates from attacking an MTU player (or players) for as yet unknown reasons – probably just Bosko’s well-known and fully understandable dislike of Muangthong.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Nitipong

Watchara made some great saves, Go Seul-Ki was superb in midfield, and Bodin scored a beautiful goal. But my MOTM is Niti, who not only got a rare goal but was also back to his best in defence.

 

 

Penthouse & Pavement: Muangthong Utd vs Port FC Match Preview

 

UPDATE 18 APRIL – the FAT announced late yesterday that away fans are banned from this fixture and the return fixture at the PAT. A ridiculous face-saving measure which of course saves both clubs from having to put proper security measures in place, particularly Muangthong where the trouble has previously occurred. Jesus it’s hard to defend Thai football sometimes. Anyway, we will now be watching the game at Go Dang Futsal stadium, where the game will be shown on the big screen.

 

The last time Port fans were allowed in to the SCG seems like an entirely different age. Port were in T2 and battling to get back to the top flight, whilst Muangthong were top of T1 and en route to the league title. The occasion was the second leg of the 2016 League Cup semi-final, Port coming away with a creditable 1-1 draw but losing 3-2 on aggregate overall. After which it all kicked off, and we’ve not been allowed back since.

Three years on and, as we prepare to make our long-awaited return to the SCG, things are very different. Port have the most exciting attacking team in the division and sit on top of the league, two points ahead of Buriram, whilst Muangthong are spiralling into decline – after finishing behind Port in 4th last season, this time round they find themselves joint bottom of the table with Suphanburi on 6 points after 5 defeats in their opening 7 games. As the late, great Windsor Davies would’ve said, Oh dear. How sad. Never mind.

So it’s bottom vs top at the SCG this Saturday in what promises to be a thrilling game in a cracking atmosphere, the first time the fixture will play out in front of both sets of supporters since 2016. Let’s hope the atmosphere is as feisty as usual without spilling over into the nonsense we saw last time round – if you’re going to give me a beer, I prefer it passed to me rather than thrown over my head thank you very much.

 

Let Me See That ‘Thong

There’s no getting away from it – the 2018 season has been a disaster for the Kirins so far. After opening their season with defeats to bogey team Prachuap and away at Bangkok Utd, it looked like they’d steadied the ship with wins over the two Chiangs, Rai and Mai. But a run of three consecutive away games ended with three consecutive defeats at Ratchaburi, Chainat and Nakhon Ratchasima, which spelled the end of the always doomed reign of coach Pairoj. The Combover King has been replaced by Korean Yoon Jong-Hwan, so we’ll have to hope there’s no new coach bounce on Saturday.

Whilst MTU were never fancied as title contenders, even the most rabid ABM-er wouldn’t have predicted them finding themselves in a relegation scrap but make no mistake, that’s where they are. The loss of Tristan Do to rivals Bangkok Utd, the injury to Oh Ban Suk, and the returning Theerasil failing to recapture past glories have left them struggling, whilst coach Pairoj clearly didn’t like the look of new star signings Mario Gjurovski and Aung Thu, preferring to have them alongside him on the bench rather than on the pitch.

That isn’t to say Port should take their struggling rivals lightly however, as they still have T1 goal machine Heberty doing the damage up front, and new signing Dang Van Lam, one of the stars of Vietnam’s Suzuki Cup-winning side, between the sticks, and we believe Oh Ban Suk will be fit to play too. Nevertheless on current form it’s hard to see MTU causing Port too many problems – but let’s see what MTU themselves have to say, as we talk to fans Grant Aitken & Stephen Romary…

 

MTU are currently joint bottom of the league – what’s gone wrong?

 

GrantI believe, as with most sports, half the battle is psychological. Few are doubting our players’ overall ability, but we’re playing like a side devoid of any confidence. This isn’t an elite European league, but I’ll bet the players feel the burden of expectation just the same. Whatever managerial processes Muangthong currently has in place to help shoulder the expectations that come with playing for one of the countries bigger teams, it’s not working. The side looks incapable of expressing themselves and individual errors are hurting us. Whatever game plan Pairoj was trying to install, it wasn’t clear and this seems to have led to obvious hesitancies come match day.

Stephen: 1. Lack of a dynamic midfielder

2.  Ban gets injured
3. Needed a coach to lead and inspire the quality they have .. we have players to rival any team.

 

Pairoj was always a strange appointment given his somewhat limited CV – do you think the new coach will be a big step up? What does he need to do to turn things round?

 

Grant: You could argue they also took a gamble with Totchawan, who had success with teams that had limited budgets, and I think they saw similar potential with Pairoj. However, it looks like he baulked at the task. I’d have been willing to give him longer but given how quickly he has run for the nearest exit it’s perhaps a blessing he left the post so early.With Yoon Jong-Hwan now in place there can be little doubting the quality of the head coach. He was named manager of the year in Japan two seasons back, and with so many Thai players aspiring to play in that league, I’m hoping his appointment will inspire some of the younger members of the squad and relieve some of the pressure from our more established players.

Offensively we need to attack as a single unit and not merely pass the ball to our best players at every single opportunity. The full backs need to support at each attack and having two deep lying central midfielders is overkill, one should be looking to press forward every time we’re in possession. The defense is going to take longer to solidify, but with Van Lam and Oh Ban Suk in place there is potential. It’s quite apparent from his training sessions that he will focus on fitness. We struggle to get players back in position quick enough after relinquishing possession so this should help.   

Stephen: The new coach needs to lead and inspire.  Also the team has been very vulnerable on the counter….there is a need to defend from all points on the pitch.

Is relegation a genuine concern or do you expect MTU to begin climbing the table soon?

 

GrantWell, they say nobody is too big to go down, but having a bigger squad and the funds to change things during the transfer window would give is a huge advantage if things haven’t improved after a few months. I fully expect we’ll pick up points eventually, however. It’s just frustrating that we had similar issues at the start of last season and have made little progress in the meantime. If this year is used as a springboard for next season and an opportunity to blood some youth I can still enjoy the campaign, but it really should have happened last year.

 

Stephen: Relegation is not a concern.. it is early.. the team is only a few points away from the top half of the league.  Slumps are just slumps.

 

New star signings Mario & Aung Thu have hardly played – why do you think this is?

 

Grant: Mario has had some injury problems so we just need to be patient with him, he’s back in full training now. Aung Thu came with much hype but he’s not hit the ground running. Despite his breakout season last term, he’s still only 22, so dips in form are to be expected. He looks like a player in need of a confidence boost so hopefully netting at the weekend could be the start of a purple patch for him. We’re not likely to get much joy in the air against Port’s centre backs but I fancy him with the ball at his feet against either Dolah or Tosapol.

 

Stephen: Mario is a strange signing…often injured and not the player he used to be.. but he is a good morale builder and fans like him.

 

Which Port players are you most worried about facing?

 

GrantI’ve stated my admiration for Pakorn a few times and I’m always disappointed when he’s not selected for the national team squad. Even if he’s not a first 11 player, with his quality deliveries, there’s not another option like him in the country. Suarez is another player that has hurt us over the last few seasons. He does the damage that most proficient No10’s apply, but with added aggression in his game to boot. His play acting is irritating but that’s one of the few flaws in his game. I hope Lee Ho is on his game to watch the Spaniard’s late runs in to the box, we’ve been poor defending crosses this season. Those two players working in tandem is my biggest fear.

 

Stephen: Port FC have been scoring, averaging about 3 goals per game, and 9 goals over the past two matches.  Especially worrying are Sergio Suarez and Korean midfielder Sunghwan Kim (given that Kim is now playing for Suphanburi I think you should be OK – Ed).  Muangthong will need to close down these threats, but there are other players such as Thailand international Kevin Deeromram who can also put the ball into the back of the net.

 

Port & MTU games are always a feisty affair – what are you expecting from Saturday’s game? Prediction?

Grant: If we’re going to have any chance in the match we’re going to need to get a foothold in the middle of the pitch. Sumanya, Sivakorn and Seul Ki are a prickly trio. I’d love to see a few imposing challenges to rattle them at the start of the match but It’s more likely to be the other way round.Just as last year, Port look very good going forward.  I’m worried about our full backs, particularly the left hand side, but then again the players Port have in those positions have some chinks in their defensive armor too. I’ve honestly no idea how we’ll shape so I’m just looking for signs of improvement. I’ll back us for a 2-1 win, although that is based more out of optimism than expectation.

Stephen: 2-1 in favour of Muangthong .. players are hungry to prove their worth and new coach will be looking for an impact at home.

 

Lions Purring

Whilst MTU struggle, Jadet has his side purring like a finely tuned engine. After carelessly dropping points against PTT and Sukhothai, Port kickstarted their season by demolishing Trat and Prachuap 4-1 and 5-0 respectively to go top of the table after 7 games. Port have got their attacking swagger back which, combined with a very miserly defence, is making them very difficult to handle and giving us fans considerable optimism that they could be in the mixer for the title come the end of the season, especially given Buriram & Bangkok Utd’s less than impressive start.

Jadet’s only problem is deciding who to pick up front, and given his general reluctance to tinker with a winning side, one would expect him to kick off with the same attacking unit that destroyed Prachuap. But with Sumanya now available after suspension and Arthit ‘Pele’ Boochinda banging in the goals from the bench, and with star striker Boskovic struggling to hit the target (1 goal in 7 starts, and that from a penalty), Sir Det may be tempted to have a fiddle. In my opinion Port look a much more complete side with Sumanya on the pitch, but who do you drop? Siwakorn has been our player of the season so far, Suarez has finally hit form, and Bodin is finally fulfilling his enormous potential, and whilst Bosko isn’t hitting the heights, his workrate and his ability to create space for others have been phenomenal so far. So on that basis I think Jadet will stick rather than twist.

Elsewhere, the team picks itself. Cap’n Rochela returned to training this week after his opening day knee injury, but Saturday will almost certainly be too soon for him return, so Todsapol will carry on partnering Dolah in Port’s defence. Watchara started the game against Prachuap, but I expect Worawut to be back between the posts for this big game.

 

 

Prediction

It’s always hard to predict the outcome of derby games, but on the current form of both teams, I can’t see anything other than another Port win, especially given that we haven’t lost at the SCG since 2015. MTU’s new coach bounce will probably prevent a hammering, so I’m going for a repeat of last season’s 2-0 win.

 

Muangthong Utd vs Port FC, Saturday 20 April, 20:00 at SCG Stadium. If you can’t make it, please support our sponsors at The Sportsman and watch the game there on a big screen with drink discounts for Port fans. 

 

Wasps Extinct: Port FC 5-0 Prachuap FC

 

Challenge accepted.

Port put in the performance of the season so far to denudate 2nd place Prachuap and send Port – for the time being at least – to the top of the T1 table. Port’s play was paradisiac at times, with the all too earthly Prachuap defence unable to keep control of the chimerical Bodin, the domineering Go and the messianic Arthit. It was a display that had it all: prodigious goalkeeping, tenacious defending, sagacious midfield play and implacable finishing. It also capped an anaspectic week for Port, who will now be phrasmotic at the prospect of the upcoming break, after which they will look to cause their compunctuous rivals across town the most severe of pericombobulations.

N.B some of the above words may or may not be real.

Challenge failed.

On to the action though, and despite the eventually decisive scoreline, Port were having a tough time breaking down Prachuap’s defence for the majority of the first half. Bodin (10) wowed the crowd within the first 90 seconds, trapping a long diagonal ball from Dolah (4) with an outrageous one touch control, but his cross could only find the goalkeeper. A Dolah header from a Kevin (97) corner was the next close shave, with Orahovac (22) just about doing enough to put the big man off. In the 40th minute, Port finally broke through. A mazy Pakorn (7) run was halted by the Prachuap rearguard, but Port kept possession before Go (8) found a precise through ball to Bodin who, in a show of confidence we likely would not have seen last season, wasted no time in drilling a low shot in to the bottom corner with his weaker left foot. He’s absolutely on fire this season, playing with a poise and nonchalance that really brings something different to the team.

While the Port faithful, expecting a hard-fought game, would have been happy to go in at half time a goal to the good, the players had different ideas. Their opponents were under the cosh, and now was the time to punish them. Just three minutes later it was another smooth first touch from Bodin which started the attack. The Fresh Prince played in to Boskovic (23) who, with his back to goal, played a perfectly disguised and weighted pass to the marauding Kevin who showed excellent composure to side-foot home from close range. Right, phew. 2-0 at half time it is.

Wrong!

With most of the PAT faithful exhausted from celebrating their quick-fire brace and the clock winding down, bodies started to file out of the stadium and towards the Leo hawkers, but it was the wrong time to Go! Pakorn’s outswinging corner was allowed to bounce in the area, where it fell invitingly to just the right man. Go has shown an eye for goal and, more importantly, a technical ability which is unmatched by Port’s other midfielders. His left-footed volley absolutely flew off his boot, practically decapitating the Prachuap defender who bravely put his head between it and the back of the net, and to just about everyone’s disbelief, it was 3-0 before half time.

Port started to slow things down a little after the break. On the hour mark Bodin and Kevin once again combined down the left to create a chance for Boskovic, but unfortunately the Monenegrin was the only man in Port colours misfiring on the night. His left footed shot was the first of a few which were hopelessly misguided. No matter, we’re up 3-0!

Five minutes later you’d better make that 4-0. Pakorn originally showed little interest in a freekick which looked a little out of his range. He’d walloped on in to the Loxley car park from a similar distance in the first half, but with Suarez having placed the ball and readied himself for the strike, the Midfield Monk trotted over and whispered something to Suarez which I think was something along the lines of “I’m going to whack it really hard. Watch this.” Whack it he did, and Matheus Alves (7) in the Prachuap wall wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. He performed a similar function that Go did last week, blocking the goalie’s view and getting out the way to allow Pakorn’s freekick to sail in to the bottom corner unimpeded. Cheers, fella. Goal of the night, and Pakorn’s third from dead balls in three games. Is it too soon to say I told you so?

You may have noticed my lack of commentary on Prachuap’s chances up until now. Well, it’s not my fault they didn’t create any. Watchara could have put his feet up and finished off Dom’s large coke and it wouldn’t have made the slightest bit of difference. Sandwiched between two more Boskovic mishits they did finally have a chance from a freekick, but Caion (10) headed wide. Relax and pick up your drink Watchara, the excitement’s over.

Jadet wasn’t done with us yet, though. After both Kevin and Pakorn were stretchered off (we would suggest they might be injured, but we all know that’s almost certainly not true) he brought on Panpanpong (19) and Arthit (29), and the two cousins, who combined for Port’s fourth against Trat, soon repeated the trick for Port’s fifth. Panpanpong did his best Kevin impression, galloping down the left flank and sticking his cross right on to the boot of a grateful Pele, who sidefooted home from point blank range. That’s 3 goals now for Port’s only real striker, who still hasn’t started a game yet this season. With Bosko unable to hit a barn door and Pele knocking them in from all over the place, Jadet needs his head examining if he doesn’t give the crowd favourite the chance from the start that he has earned many times over.

 

 

Pele wasn’t done entertaining us yet, though. He burst through the middle, beating the offside trap and with only the goalkeeper in his way he hit a comically poor lob which barely made it to the goalkeeper. Todsapol then outdid his teammate for miss of the game, somehow not finding the target with a free header smack in front of the goal from 8 yards out.

The final whistle soon followed, with Port fans still a little disoriented. Yes, we played well on Wednesday, but that performance was something else. The quality was just oozing from all over the place. I could list the players who had a good game, but here’s the full lineup instead. It’s more or less the same.

 

 

The Sandpit’s Man of the Match

 

 

In a performance like this you’d think there would be some competition, but there isn’t. Bodin has been on another level these last couple of games, with his fluid, serene skills bamboozling opposition defenders, while the fresh prince has also regularly managed to convert his fancy footwork in to goals and assists. Arthit again made my night with his late goal, Pakorn overcame a poor start to once again make a telling contribution or two and Kevin is looking absolutely deadly coming forward at the moment.

 

Know Your Enemy: Chainese Burn

 

I know what the fans want. Let’s give them what they want. First up, the incredible capitulation of Port’s greatest rivals went in to overdrive in a result reminiscent of the 0-6 annihilation by Prachuap. This time Muangthong let even more unfancied opposition have their way with them, with relegation candidates Chainat sticking 3 goals without reply past the fallen giants of Thai football. Whilst the attacking was pitiful from the last team to unseat Buriram as champs, the defending was absolute filth. Chainat’s first came via a header, with neither the crosser nor the striker particularly pressured by Muangthong’s obliging back line. Then, Korean midfielder Lee Ho passed it straight to a Chainat striker from a freekick, allowing a simple second goal. The third was a real screamer from the first ever Laotian T1 goalscorer Soukaphone, as if you needed another reason to watch the highlights. The main point to be made here has to be about Muangthong’s defence, though. At the moment they’re starting with the hilariously overrated short-arse Adisorn Promrak and the inexperienced short-arse Saringkan Promsupa in central defence. They’re both 5 foot 9. Their full backs are also miserably inadequate for a team with even top half ambitions. Yes they’ve been unfortunate with an injury to their new Korean centre half, but as I warned in my recap of Muangthong’s transfer activity, you need more than that in defence if you’re going to challenge for anything other than relegation.

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The Wasp Killer: Port FC vs. Prachuap Preview

 

Having bounced back from the disappointing 1-3 defeat against Sukhothai, Port will try to make it a perfect week by securing their second home win in a row against second placed Prachuap. The relatively straightforward 4-1 victory over Trat will likely not be replicated on Saturday though, with Prachuap (one mental game against Chonburi aside) having one of the stingiest defences in the league thus far, as well as one of the most prolific forward lines.

 

Prachuap FC

Players to Watch

 

Having weathered the African storm against Trat, Port will be back to facing the more familiar sight of a Brazilian duo up top against Prachuap. I’m struggling with which one of the two is more dangerous, as both Caion (10) and Matheus Alves (7) have been superb in their own ways so far this season. Alves is the more creative of the pair, with his jinking forward runs frequently causing mayhem in opposition penalty areas, but he also has a dangerous shot on him, which Port will really have to watch out for when he drops off his striking partner Caion. Caion is the big goal threat though. He’s one of those strikers who isn’t especially big, strong or quick but seems to constantly get himself in the right positions and find a way to score. Dolah (4) and Todsapol (6) must be weary of giving him any room at all in the box, as one way or another he’ll find a way to score.

 

 

Prachuap were underestimated last season because of an assumed reliance on a different but also excellent forward line of Doumbouya and Reis, but this season it’s been clear there’s much more to this squad. New signing Artyom Filiposyan (16) was a very creative signing who has made a huge impact for them. Whereas just about every team in the league has signed a Korean midfielder or centre back this season, Prachuap opted to look to central Asia and sign Filiposyan, who is an absolute man mountain, and stick him in front of the defence. Such was his physical dominance in week 2 of the season that I picked him out as my player of the week, whilst also noticing an uncanny resemblance, both in aesthetics and temperament, to fellow loud-mouth rule-breaker Alex Jones.

 

 

 

Then at the back there’s Montenegrin centre back Adnan Orahovac (22), who has quietly become one of the best centre backs in Thai football in the last two seasons. He’s been partnered with new Buriram loanee Nattapon Malapun (27) who has impressed so much this season that was a surprise pick to start in Thailand’s upset victory over China a few weeks back. Solid.

 

 

The other top Thai threats are Amorn Thammanarn (17) on the left flank, Chitpanya Tisud (11) through the middle, and even two national team strikers Siroch (35) and Supot (9) on the bench. This side has a lot going for it, and Port are going to have to match or surpass their attacking form against Trat to break through this much more stubborn rearguard.

 

 

Form

 

Second in the table. They’ve put Muangthong, PTT Rayong, Chainat and Most recently Korat to the sword, and been beaten by Buriram and Chonburi. The one thing that Port fans can be encouraged by is that in their three away games so far, they’ve lost two and won one, although in fairness their opponents have been Muangthong, Buriram and Chonburi.

 

Port FC

Learning From Mistakes

 

I dished it out to Port’s players after their immature reaction to adversity in the Sukhothai game, but the worst offenders in the team really looked like they’d learned their lesson on Wednesday. The referee was an absolute disaster, particularly when it came to Boskovic (23), but the Montenegrin showed rare restraint, routinely laughing off the ridiculous decisions given against him. The result was relative calm throughout the team, who responded to the comedy refereeing, as well as Trat’s fortunate equalizer, with a collective coolness we haven’t seen from Port so far in 2019. Full marks, boys.

In terms of personnel, we saw Kevin (97) subbed off early with what looked like a niggling muscle injury, so Kevin must be a doubt for Saturday, but Sumanya (11) will return after serving his one game ban for his red card against Sukhothai. Also pushing for a chance in the starting XI is a Sandpit favourite Arthit (29), who once again not only inspired a flood of Port chances after his introduction, but also had the ball in the net twice (one, which would have would have been a goal of the season contender, was ruled out for offside) in yet another fantastic cameo appearance. The only natural striker in Port’s squad is long overdue a real chance in the league. Come on, Jadet, don’t just wait for the cups.

Who to drop in case of the return of Sumanya or the inclusion of Arthit is the real question though. Bodin seems like the obvious answer to accommodate Sumanya, but The Fresh Prince’s performance on Wednesday was among the best in the team. Leaving Siwakorn (16) out is another option, but one which Jadet has showed absolutely no interest in so far this season.

For Arthit there are also several options, but there were also several top performances from starting players, who would be hard done by being left out. I have found a solution, though. Boskovic has started every game and returned one goal (from the spot) and one assist so far this season. Arthit has plundered two goals from a handful of substitute appearances. Port need to reward good performances to maintain a competitive attitude throughout the squad. It has to be possible to play your way in to the team, and picking Pele for his first start of the season would really show that. Do it Jadet, DO IT!

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

As always, those who like to support our sponsor The Sportsman are welcome to watch the game there on Saturday 6th with the usual big screen, sound and 99 baht Tiger pints on tap. There is also a 10% VIP discount on drinks for those who wear a Port short or mention The Sandpit. Kickoff is at 17:45 on True4U.

 

Noone (Should) Like Us, But I Care!

 

I have supported Port since the season of 2010, I watched about half the games that year, some home and some away. I have seen plenty of bizarre, fantastic and unpleasant things occur over the years some of the unpleasant ones have included the farcical floodlights debacle, the Port Authority’s squabble over the ownership of the club, the truly embarrassing “Big Ben” era and various periods of hierarchical apathy and directionlessness in both tactics and player acquisition. But it is the present developing state of affairs that has troubled me most.

 

I realize I may speaking from a position of a minority of one, but I care and think it needs raising. For the first time ever in my footballing experience, I actually wanted the team that I was supporting to lose the game I was watching. While I don’t deny that the quality of some the play at times was excellent and the way we passed the ball around with vim and vigor was fantastic to watch, and that many of our players have their impressive qualities. For me the negative, in my humble opinion, far outweighed the positive.

 

I started the season thinking that the transfer window had been a missed opportunity for us to build on last year. As we seemed no stronger with the new recruits than we were last year. It would seem i disagree with most of what I have read about  Go Seul-Ki and think that actually he isn’t any noticeable upgrade on our previous Korean midfielder we had and we have ever had. He seems to fit the standard average Korean midfielder we always get; plays simple balls but is largely ineffective and (for me) forgettable. Also Sumanya, doesn’t seem an ideal signing at all.

 

So it seems to me we haven’t addressed the inadequacies of the team from last season. And so due to our patchy form this season and our clear refusal to solve those issues, it would appear to me that the club, as a collective, appear to have decided on the narrative that it is all the referee’s fault that results may not go our way. And that explanation of our woes seemed disgustingly apparent in the whining, moaning, bitching, cheating conduct of the team in the Trat game.

 

I do, to a degree, fully agree with many of the dissenting voices that the quality of refereeing in the Thai league structure isn’t ideal, but it seems for the most part to be on par with the quality of the footballers on display. If players struggle and often fail to make easy passes to each other, then it seems logical that maybe referees may also struggle and fail to make the correct decision in 50/50 challenges. This is especially made all the more difficult with all players seemingly absolutely committed to conning the referee into incorrect decisions at every opportunity available. However the way that Port seemed to play in the Trat game was a disgrace, and it left me utterly ashamed and embarrassed that the team I support would choose to conduct themselves in such a manner.

 

Our players seemed far more intent on surrounding the ref and arguing every decision given either against us and bizarrely for us too. Too many times our players imitated the old Man Utd teams, and surrounded, intimidated and abused the ref to simply unacceptable degrees. I remember the bad old days of Mario and Pipipat attempting to ref games but what was done by Siwakorn, Dolah, Boskovic, Suarez, and Todsapol was an absolute disgrace. The only time Siwakorn wasn’t in the ref’s face screaming vitriolic abuse at him was when he was down injured. He appeared to be shadowing the ref rather than focusing on the ball. The patience (or sadly more likely cowardice) of the ref not to send off 2 or 3 Port players appeared endless. Boskovic really should be far more focused on trying to play football and doing what he paid handsomely to do instead of sprinting up to the ref after each and every decision. His form this year, in my opinion has been utterly awful. But as there appears to be little or no option other than him, sadly I doubt he will be dropped anytime soon.

 

Boskovic’s shameful open letter, which lacked all sense of self awareness, slamming referees was totally unwarranted and seems to sum up the developing approach of the whole Port structure to this victim narrative. Watching the coaching staff and Madame Pang herself, throughout the game repeatedly sarcastically clapping most of the official’s decisions, hardly sets a respectful precedence. I really didn’t think that the ref did that badly, he was under extremely and unnecessarily hostile conditions. And don’t get me started on our goalkeeping coach attempting to do tricks and juggling the ball instead of simply returning it to play. I can just imagine the tsunami of rage and abuse of Port’s coaching staff should an opposition coach have tried something similar when we were trying to chase a game. And then his bowing to the crowd just demonstrated even more the disrespectful nature that seems so prevalent in our set-up.

 

Now I realise there will be those fans who will argue it is just a bit of fun, and just a bit of banter, and why do I need to be so serious? But the level of aggression, abuse and spite that was pouring out of the mouths of Port fans around me in zone C, directed at the officials and opposition, was horrendous. And it was all encouraged by the on-field antics of the players and conduct of the staff. For the first time in a Port crowd I found myself truly ashamed and disgusted by the behaviour of the majority of the fans, and not just the smaller lunatic fringe you always get in all crowds.

 

Other incidents also set the unpleasant and poisonous tone of the experience, like Siwakorn ordering stretcher bearers to come on the pitch slower so as to waste more time, and then Port players forcing them to leave the pitch the long way. We were 3-1 up at that point, how embarrassing is it that we, in a winning position, feel we have to waste time with such base tactics like that against the bottom team in the division? It’s shameful. And Worawut’s behaviour in goal was equally juvenile and petty.

 

I doubt there may be many who agree with my analysis of our present situation and the game, but I found the behaviour of our players and coaching staff in the Trat game totally unacceptable and embarrassing, and really for first time made me think about whether watching Port was something I want to do anymore. A 4-1 win should be fun and something that sends me home with a spring in my step, but instead I found myself sickened by the histrionics and gamesmanship we conducted during the game and was willing Trat to stick one up the cheating Port players, and that is a feeling I never thought I would have and one I never want to have again.