Bulls in a Chainat Shop: Chainat Hornbill 0-3 Port FC

 

With Chainat already having defeated Bangkok Utd and Muangthong this season (not that the latter is much of an achievement these days), and with referees often being very accommodating to the Hornbills on their home turf, this was a potential banana skin for table-toppers Port. Despite the Hornbills being in the relegation zone most of last season, Port only took a point from them and turned in their worst performance of the season on their last visit to Khaophlong Stadium. And with title rivals Buriram and Chiang Rai both winning the night before, the pressure was on Port to restore their 4-point lead.


 

On our 2018 visit to Chainat the one positive was the excellent meal we had at a restaurant 10 minutes from the stadium, and so we made a beeline for the same place and within minutes cold Leos, crispy fish and fried frog were being shovelled down orange & blue-clad gullets by an unusually sober Sandpit crew, this being a Sunday & most of us having to work tomorrow. Mike Strunk was, as ever, the exception to this rule, though he managed to refrain from fouling the carpark on this occasion.

We arrived at the stadium just in time for KO to find a gratifyingly large away crowd had turned out, a crowd that may even have outnumbered the home support who, with the usual exception of the tireless Pink Rangers cheerleaders, were their usual sparse and quiet selves.

 

 

For Port, Rochela’s knee injury seems to have got worse and he remains on the treatment table, so Todsapol (6) continued in central defence. Up front Pakorn was again injured & was curiously replaced by Sumanya (11), who is no winger and whose continued insistence on playing in Suarez’ (8) space left the Spaniard looking out of sorts and required Nitipong (34) to double up down the right. You can get away with such tactical cluelessness against the likes of Chainat but hopefully this bizarre experiment won’t be repeated against Bangkok Utd next week and either Nurul or Pakorn will start on the right with Sumanya or Suarez on the bench. Otherwise it was the standard Port lineup with Nitipong & Go (8) back from their suspensions and Watchara (1) continuing in goal.

Chainat had the best of the opening 15 minutes or so but they were utterly lacking any guile or goal threat up front, with production line Brazilian striker Santos lumbering around the Port box and appealing for penalties with little effect. But whilst they were limp up front, the Hornbills were well-organised at the back and it took Port 24 minutes to carve out their first real opportunity, a nice knock down in the area from Sumanya finding Go whose thunderbastard of a shot was spectacularly turned over the bar by Chainat keeper Teerath.

But 4 minutes later the league leaders broke the deadlock when a sublime first-time cross from Kevin (97) landed plum on the head of Boskovic (23), who calmly nodded it in off the post past a despairing Teerath. 1-0 to Port, but it was almost a short-lived lead when, on 32 minutes, a Chainat free-kick from the left eluded Watchara and bounced back off the post into the six-yard box, where thankfully Cap’n Siwakorn (16) was there to clear the ball from danger. Port almost doubled their lead a couple of minutes later when a Sumanya free-kick found the head of Todsapol (6) and, with the keeper coming out waving to his mother (c Big Ron), the ball looked goalbound, only to be headed clear by a defender.

1-0 at half-time then, and time to check out the rumours that had been filtering through during the first half about the away end toilets. They were truly a sight to behold, with a couple of inches of rusty brown water greeting visitors. Where said water was coming from remains a mystery given that all the plumbing was turned off. Seriously Chainat, is it too much to ask that you actually clean your toilets, as well as the rest of your shithole of a stadium, before supporters arrive? I’m not expecting Wembley or even the PAT but walking through a pond of shitty water shouldn’t be a part of the matchday experience anywhere.

 

Shit Creek, Chainat

 

As Sandpitter Toby Knight will attest, Port have a habit of scoring early second-half goals and tonight was no exception. Just 30 seconds into the half, Boskovic set Sumanya free inside the box (though he was clearly offside), and whilst the no11’s cross was poor, it bounced off a Chainat defender and, with both Bosko and the Chainat keeper temporarily disorientated, the big Montenegrin was the first to recover his bearings and knock the ball into an unguarded net to double the lead. That’s 5 goals in 3 games now for Dragan, whose season has finally kicked into gear.

Given Chainat’s lack of threat up front, a long League Cup trip on Wednesday and the visit of Bangkok Utd next Saturday, it was understandable that Port went into energy-saving mode and sat back, letting Chainat have most of the possession in the knowledge that nothing would come of it. It’s this ability to boss games when not on top form that is the hallmark of champions and midway through the second half the penny dropped that this Port team are the real deal – Chainat are no worldbeaters but they’re no mugs either, and they simply couldn’t get near Port for most of the game.

On 70 minutes, Nurul (31) replaced Sumanya and 8 minutes later the little winger raised the roof with one of the goals of the season. Picking up a pass from Boskovic some 20 yards out, he feigned a pass to Suarez, looked up, and then deliciously chipped the keeper from outside the box to spark mayhem in the away end. A truly sublime goal and a reminder to Jadet of the folly of replacing Pakorn with an AM when you’ve got this kind of talent on the bench.

 

 

Game over then, after a different kind of performance from Port , a kind we’ve not seen this season – rather than the attacking swagger of the wins over Trat and Prachuap, or the never-say-die comebacks against Chonburi and Suphanburi, this was a team in effortless control, bossing the game, conserving energy when required, and easing to a comfortable win without ever really getting out of first gear. If there were any doubts about Port’s title credentials before the game, this performance well & truly banished them and on the way back the talk was of how we now all believe the dream is actually possible. But next up in the league are Bangkok Utd, who may be misfiring but who are Port’s perennial bogeymen – a win next Saturday and it is well & truly on!

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match – Nitipong

You know when that avatar of reliability Big Ben goes ‘bong’? It’s actually going ‘Pong’, in tribute to the only comparable example of reliability on the planet, the one & only Mr Nitipong Selanon. With Pakorn missing and replaced by a player who had no intention of playing on the wing, Niti had two jobs to do last night and he did them both with his usual quiet effectiveness, even almost scoring again at one point. Surely the most underrated player in T1.

 

 

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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