Farewell to the Fallen: Port FC 1-1 Bangkok Utd

 

This is a report you would never wish to write. Yesterday, we came to mourn the fallen five; Thai and foreigner alike, heads bowed, black-bedecked, unified in a singular outpouring of grief for lost members of our footballing family. Whether it is one game or a hundred, we, strangers in a foreign land, have been touched by the warmth and humanity of this wonderful club and its supporters, its most stellar members no longer with us. And, today, the Port family did not let them down.

 

 

From the flower-strewn, memento-laden shrine outside the stadium, to the heartfelt, sometimes choked, renderings of our tribal anthems; from the moving, tear-jerking, tribute videos to Madame Pang’s emotional, gut-wrenching speech, lovingly rescued by the crowd when it seemed the occasion had overcome even her. The two minutes silence was impeccably observed, the only sound the muted rustling of the Thai Port flags in the breeze, and then, there was a game to be played. It seemed almost an irrelevance but our sadly departed heroes would have demanded nothing less.

In keeping with the occasion, Mano and some Bangkok Utd officials and players presented bunches of flowers to fan representatives in Zone C before the game. Bangkok Utd was, in many ways, the perfect opponent for this day. Mano Polking, their Brazilian/German manager, had expressed enormous admiration for the club and its fans earlier in the week; one gets the feeling that Mano, the Jurgen Klopp of the Thai League, would love to manage here. They would be respectful but resilient opponents, prompting Port to be at their very best to get anything out of the game. Some of that respect went a little wayward in the final ten minutes but this was a truly fitting, marvelous contest to match the heavy weight of the day.

 

 

Port’s only major changes was Adisorn replacing the injured Kevin at left back while Sumanya continued on the right wing, much to the consternation of the Sandpit faithful. The ground was almost full to capacity with many still outside, queuing to get in. The atmosphere was tense and, for a while, strangely subdued, the drums silenced for the first 12 minutes as a mark of respect. After that point, bedlam reigned, as events on the pitch took a dramatic turn.

Port went on the offensive from the off, Bodin found by Go’s exquisite through pass, but his shot on the turn lacked the power to trouble Utd’s Danish-Filipino goal-keeper, Michael Falkesgaard (1) who was to have another inspired afternoon between the sticks. Two minutes later, Nitipong’s arrowed long-distance strike was spectacularly turned over the bar by the keeper. A minute later, Utd’s Salvadorean striker, Nelson Bonilla (11), was put through by Sanrawat (29) to be thwarted first by an onrushing Watchara and then a recovering Dolah.
On 11 minutes Dolah was to have a massive impact at the other end, his glancing header from Sumanya’s corner, perfectly placed to elude even Falkesgaard’s outstretched fingers. A minute later the drums opened up and we had a tumultuous, fevered contest on our hands.

Sadly, for Port, the contest was evened almost immediately by, who else, Bonilla, set through, by Sanrawat again, between a static Todsaporn and Adisorn to beat Watchara with a chipped finish. That is 5 goals in 3 games for Bonilla at the Port. The boy is a bit special. A clumsy goal all round for the Port defence; Todsaporn again caught ball-watching and Watchara possibly too eager to come off his line. But, Bonilla is a class finisher and you would bank on him to score in those situations. Honours even.

In the 24th minute Bonilla caught Port napping again from a Sanrawat pass but his lob cleared the onrushing Watchara and, thankfully, the crossbar. A few minutes later Port had their best chance of the half. Nitipong won a challenge on the right wing and, storming forward, found Suarez, unmarked and onside in the middle. He brought the ball down superbly but elected to shoot high rather than low, giving the athletic Falkesgaard the opportunity to bring off another finger-tip save. We were really not to have another chance like that again. Suarez may not have been aware but he had the time to take another touch and a step to pick his spot, perhaps low rather than high. But the moment had gone.

The start of the second half was what one might call ‘cagey’, both sides testing each other out, probing for an opening. They were to be few and far between. After a sliced clearance, Boskovic laid the ball off for Suarez to fire wide with the outside of his boot – the Spanish striker was a few shrimps short of a paella today.

As the game reached its closing stages, Nurul replaced Sumanya (finally) and Bodin gave way for Pakorn and the hope of a free-kick redemption.

 

Pic by Nig Dammusig

 

The time of madness began in the 82nd minute. Suarez took a pass from Adisorn, headed into the box, only to be clipped by Wisarut (37). In live time from Zone D, it looked like Suarez had taken a dive but replays clearly show the trip took place, although Suarez’s fall was a tad exaggerated. The referee, possibly thinking he had awarded a foul in error, gave a free kick outside the box when it was clear to anybody in the immediate vicinity, not to mention a few casual passers-by, that it was a yard inside. In the unseemly melee that followed (Thai fans love a good melee), Suarez gently lobbed the ball into the back of Peerapat’s (31) head, who went down as if he had been hit by a sledgehammer, which, at that point, would have been Zone D’s weapon of choice to deal with the insidious, cheating bastard. The inevitable red card was issued to Suarez and from that point what had been a wonderful game of jolly hockey-sticks got rather toxic.

Boskovic started picking fights with anybody in a white (or lime green) shirt, more melees ensued, while, almost as an after-thought, there was actually some football played, including an incredible Schmeichel-like point-blank save by Watchara from Peerapat’s header (which he wouldn’t have been able to attempt had there been a sledge-hammer handy).

The Bangkok Angels, halos rapidly slipping, seemed determined to join in with the red-card fun and after a slalom run of Bonilla’s, leaping over several desperate Port challenges (with no foul given), Utd felt aggrieved enough, after a foul given against them, to mount another final melee, during which any number of players could have been sent off for bodily assault on the hapless referee. In the end, only Sanrawat walked, seemingly for a spot of verbals (video clearly shows him punching the ref in the stomach – Ed).

A minute later, whether for his own safety or sanity, the referee blew the whistle to end what was, the Sandpit agreed, one of the finest games ever seen at Port. Bangkok Utd were forgiven and their players, along with Port’s, given a rousing and much deserved ovation.

It had been a match of the highest class and drama and a fitting end to this most difficult of days.

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Elias Dolah

This is a tight one but as I can’t really have another shared accolade, I will go for the resolute Dolah over the imperious Go. Dolah held it all together at the back during Utd’s spells of control and his goal brought the game to life. His celebration, heading straight to kneel in front of Zone C, was pure class.

Can I also give a special, slightly begrudging mention to Michael Falkesgaard, another brilliant display of goalkeeping – surely, the best in the League.

 

Peter Hockley

Peter Hockley

Peter 'Hockers' Hockley is currently the School Librarian at St Andrews International School, Sathorn and has lived in Thailand since 1992. He has followed Port home and away since 2010, with unbridled devotion and his famous woolly hat. He is a co-founder member of the Sivakorn (is a football genius) Appreciation Society (SAS). At present, the Society boasts a membership of, well, two. Peter has written travel articles for The Nation and Sawaddi magazine, and once had a letter published in Charles Buchan's Football Monthly which won him 5 guineas.

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