Game of Thrones: Port FC vs Buriram Utd Preview

 

 

Well, just the one throne actually; the one that has been comfortably occupied by Buriram bums (no offence intended), in their, ‘United’ form, 5 times in the last six years. In that, ‘air of inevitability’, period they have added a footrest, cup holder, Sensurround video system and a fold-out bed. Are they about to have those trimmings stripped bare for a more utilitarian Klongtoey model?

In his Chiang Mai match report, Brian Blanchfield brilliantly summed up all long-term Port fans’ feelings when he spoke of that largely comfortable victory as a, ‘new ordinary’, at PAT Stadium. The table doesn’t lie. Eight victories, 28 goals for, a goal difference of 15, only one, ten-man defeat, and depending on Buriram’s midweek match v PTT Rayong, at least two points ahead of the perennial Champions. And yet, somehow, we are not surprised. And, why should we be? We have kept a strong nucleus of players since our last promotion in 2016 and artfully built upon it, improving incrementally during that period. Our challenge is real. And, what better time or opponent to prove it?

Buriram go into their game on Wednesday not in the best of health, picking up just a single point from their previous matches at Chainat and Sukothai. John Baggio ran their defence ragged at times in the latter game and Port might think of unleashing Bodin down the middle early doors to test the waters. Brazilian striker Pedro Junior (77) seems to share only nationality with the departed Diogo, managing a paltry 4 goals in 12 games. But, apart from when Baggio-bothered, the Thunder Castle pull up the drawbridge with the meanest defence in the League, just 9 conceded. Top Scorers v Top Defenders – something has to give.

 

Supachok

 

Pedro Junior

 

Twenty-one year old Supachok Sarachat (19) has impressed this season, an attacking midfielder with an eye for goal, just one behind Pedro, although admittedly that is not saying much. At centre back, veteran Andres Tunez (5), comes with great pedigree, playing nearly 100 games for Celta Vigo in La Liga and boasting 16 Venezuelan caps. His experience will be needed to thwart Port’s often, rapidly interchanging forward play.

 

Andres Tunez

 

Port will be missing Buriram loanee Go Seul-Ki and a yet to be fully-fit Kevin. With rumours of Rochela making way for a Josimar return, and Todsapol in outstanding form this season, it is unlikely Jadet will go down the sentimental route and play our club captain for a final farewell to the Port faithful, but, if he is to leave, an appearance at some point should be on the cards. An un-named source has claimed that Suarez is not best pleased at the prospect of losing his compatriot but he should be professional enough to put that aside for the greater good. This will hurt Rochela more than anyone though.

The debate will no doubt rage on whether or not we need Josimar; could it be our Faustino Asprilla moment, although to be fair the flamboyant Columbian didn’t so much scupper Newcastle’s title challenge in 1996 as the Geordie’s own defensive frailties, not to mention Kevin Keegan’s, ‘I would just love it’ rant. Personally, I do not think it is the brightest idea to lose your club captain and long-time inspiration in the middle of our best season ever. With 28 goals in 13 matches, we don’t seem to have suffered from a lack of a true target man and our counter-attacking play recently, speed of movement combined with accurate one touch passing, has created chances for a number of outfield players. If it is a knee-jerk reaction to Arthit’s dreadful miss on a rain-sodden Korat pitch, it could be an ill-judged one. Only time will tell but we had thought Port’s propensity for flirting with pedicide (shooting in the foot) was done with and I hope I am proved wrong. However, if this is to be Rochela’s last home game for the club, we should mark it with the tribute he deserves.

Selection-wise, Watchara should line up behind the ever dependable Nitipong, Dolah, Todsaporn and either Pinkong or Adisorn, depending on whether Jadet opts for a natural left footer or someone with some kind of positional sense. With Go missing, Siwakorn should continue to dominate proceedings alongside Sumanya with Suarez sitting deep. Boskovic, in a run of form, will support Bodin and one of Nurul or Pakorn, take your pick. This would be an extremely attacking line-up but Buriram have been fragile recently and we should just go for it. It will be expected.

Lineup

Watchara: Nitipong, Dolah, Todsaporn, Adisorn; Sumanya, Siwakorn, Suarez; Pakorn, Boskovic, Bodin

What else will be expected? I have been lucky enough to witness every home game against Buriram since they became a ‘Big Thing’ and they have been very special, atmospheric occasions. Our recent record, apart from a 5-1 drubbing in our 2015 relegation year, is good: two draws and a momentous 1-0 win against the reigning champions in 2014; Koerkrit’s drive from outside the box just enough, with goalkeeper Chanin retying his shoelaces before every goal-kick, the capacity crowd, some hanging perilously from the floodlights, with others cramming overlooking balconies, baying for the final whistle that would send us for a glorious, fleeting moment, to the top of the League.

The two draws epitomised the competitive fervour of this fixture; Buriram playing precise, methodical football, while Port, responding to the increasing, riotous volume of the crowd, adding a grit and a physicality to their own neat passing game, to unsettle their opponents. In the 2017 0-0 draw, one of the best stalemates I have ever seen, it riled Diogo enough to be sent off, to the almost admiring derision of the crowd, if that is not an oxymoron, in a, ‘we don’t like you but we respect and fear you,’ kind of way. I, for one, will miss him this year. His two goals last season were pure artistry; no back-lift, the ball dispatched in a twinkling, like an assassin with a poison-tip umbrella, before defenders or goalkeeper knew what was happening. He could summon up the dark arts too; he is South American, but you couldn’t take yours eyes off him. I have not seen a better player in this League and that includes my own iconic hero, Leandro.

This Sunday, expectations will be high, the relative League positions making this game a mouthwatering prospect. There is always a kind of respectful malice from the crowd, yet not the toxic kind directed at Muang Thong, and a brand of grown-up, adults in the room, absorbing football that is not often seen in this League. We can also expect a pulsating, heaving PAT, emotions on the boil with, hopefully, no heavy, pitch-saturating rain to dampen the spirits and ruin the spectacle.

My one fear is that the magnitude of the game will get to the players and the indiscipline that has plagued us so much this season will bite us again. Buriram will have done their homework and noted our 5 red cards and the fact that we have got through more Yellows than a Coldplay tribute band. The need for a strong, unbiased, calm and cool-headed ‘professional’ referee has never been more clear. Do we have any?

This will be a game for the ages. Is our age now upon us?

Port to win 2-1

 

Port FC vs Buriram Utd. Sunday 16 June, 19:00

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Tim’s Transfer Talk: Send for Josi!

 

Following last week’s double-signing, the Port transfer window rumour mill went into overdrive yesterday with a story that threatened to shake T1 to its very foundations. Port’s fragrant chairwoman and her no doubt equally fragrant entourage were seen getting on a plane to some unspecified destination. At roughly the same time, former Buriram goal machine Diogo was ALSO seen on a plane to the Philippines, and thence onto Thailand. Several publications jumped to some rather bizarre conclusions and assumed all this air travel added up to one thing: Port were about to announce the signing of Diogo.

After a brief period of excitement during which we planned the Sandpit’s T1 Champions party, it appeared the story was, as we all suspected deep down, groundless. But hours later another equally surprising story emerged, but one that, it seems, is actually true – 2017 top scorer & Sandpit favourite Josimar Rodrigues is coming back to the club!

Since leaving Port, Josi has won a trophy in Brazil and helped PTT Rayong get promoted, and has spent the 2019 season absolutely banging in the goals for T2 side Police Tero. His 11 goals in 15 games have kept Tero in sight of the promotion places and, clearly, impressed his former employers who are sorely lacking in backup forwards, especially since Arthit’s costly miss at Nakhon Ratchasima probably scuppered his chances of regular action this season.

Obviously The Sandpit are big fans of Josi, having interviewed him not long after his arrival at Port & had a very enjoyable couple of hours in his company. He was also a participant in the first ever Sandpit podcast, though such was our inexperience at such things that the results were barely audible. He’s clearly in the form of his life and, unusually, is getting a lot of goals from headers, so will be an excellent addition to a squad still lacking a target man. He also knows how Jadet plays and will be a very good fit if he does join.

Of course if Josi arrives, then one of Port’s current foreign contingent has to make way, and rumours suggest that, sadly, that man could be captain David Rochela. We won’t speculate more on this right now as nothing has been made official, but with Todsapol having played superbly well this season, and Port having already reinforced the defence with Tanaboon and Piyachanok, it might just appear that a foreign CB is something of a luxury at Port 2019…