The Chiangover: Port FC 1-4 Chiang Rai FC

 

 

Port’s traditional mid-season slump continued with a home thumping by a solid if unspectacular Chiang Rai side. This wasn’t a bad performance per se – indeed Port were better here than they were at Samut Prakan last week – but Jadet’s dogmatism/favouritism in team selection and the usual clueless substitution, along with some simply terrible defending, handed the Beetles a much easier win than they would’ve been expecting.


Following Port’s bruising 0-0 draw in Chiang Rai on the opening day of the season, one Port player after the game said to me ‘We will KILL THEM when they come to Bangkok!!!’ However at the moment Port are generally more inclined to roll out the red carpet for opponents than inflict fatal wounds on them, and so it was last night when, after a promising start for Port, the returning Josimar (30) firing narrowly wide when put through by Suarez (5), they let in a soft early goal for the third time in three games, when, on 14 minutes, Fat Bill was allowed to control and pass the ball unchallenged in the area for our old friend Chaiyatwat to drive home. It was pitifully weak defending that set the tone for what would follow later in the game.

Port nearly bounced right back when some lovely work on the edge of the box by Josi teed up Go (8), but his strike from the edge of the box went narrowly wide. But on 24 minutes Port were deservedly back in the game, when an absolutely sublime long ball from Pakorn (7) found Bodin (10) in the box, who took the ball down with one touch and slotted it past the keeper for one of the goals of the season so far.

After signalling to the bench for the previous 10 yes, 10 – minutes that he wasn’t fit to continue, Kevin (97), who clearly wasn’t fit to start, came off right after the goal. Quite why Port substitutions take so long is a mystery, as is why an obviously unfit player started such an important game. And things nearly got worse for Port in the 28th minute when a cross from the right found Sarawut unmarked in the box, his header luckily going just wide of Watchara (1)’s post. But it was Port who had the best of the rest of the half, Panpanpong (19) shaving the post with a 30-yard thunderbastard, and Pakorn (7) forcing a brilliant save from the Chiang Rai keeper Apirak on the stroke of half-time with a delicious free-kick.

The relentless pace of the game didn’t let up after the restart. A Chiang Rai free-kick from the right caused more chaos in Port’s Keystone Cops defence with Watchara (1) coming to the rescue, whilst at the other end, a Pakorn cross somehow evaded the opposition defence and found its way to Josimar on the far post; the Brazilian was clearly surprised that it had reached him and could only head over, almost making amends a couple of minutes later when his 25-yard THRIKER just shaved the crossbar.

But you got the impression Chiang Rai were happy just to sit back and wait for Port to press the Operation Fuckup button, and on 63 minutes they obliged, William skipping past Rochela (22) on the right and running into the box unchallenged to set up similarly unmarked substitute Lee Yong-Rae, who could hardly miss. It was a bit harsh on Port but when you defend like that, you can’t really expect anything more.

Then came two game-changing moments. Firstly Jadet brought on Nurul (31), but instead of the misfiring Pakorn or Suarez who, after a superb first 20 minutes had gone MIA, he took off Siwakorn (16), leaving noone in the midfield to put the tackles in and win the ball. And secondly, Chiang Rai’s keeper pulled off a miraculous save from a Go header which we were already celebrating as a goal. At 2-2, things may well have been very different.

But on 82 minutes, Port’s fate was sealed due to more dreadful defending. A Chiang Rai free kick from the right was met by captain Piyaphon, who, as Port’s defenders mostly stood around watching and then appealing for who knows what, nodded it calmly past Watchara into the net. At which point I decided a cold Leo was a better option that watching Port self-destruct, and made my way outside, pausing briefly to offer Pakorn my opinion when he skied another cross into Zone B. I was just savouring that first drop of the amber nectar when I heard the horrible and unmistakeable sound of away fans celebrating – yes, Chiang Rai had scored a fourth, Port’s defence by now having totally given up any pretence of shape or coherence and allowing Fat Bill to prod home for a goal I have to grudgingly admit his performance deserved.

So once again Port came up short when faced with a disciplined, organised team who sat back and waited for them to make mistakes. Starting with two players – Kevin and Rochela – who don’t look fully fit is simply not acceptable in big games like this; Pakorn was in I-know-I’m-undroppable mode; and taking off the only midfielder (Siwakorn) prepared to put his foot in and do the nasty stuff pretty much handed CR the game on a plate. On a positive note, this wasn’t a terrib;e Port performance as such; they created far more chances than they did against Samut Prakan and Josimar had more shots in the first 15 minutes than Boskovic had in the previous two games, suggesting he’ll find the net once he’s up to speed, and until the third goal they always looked like getting something out of the game – 4-1 certainly flattered Chiang Rai.

But to finish, a couple of pretty damning statistics. Firstly, after Rochela’s injury in the opening game, Dolah and Todsapol played together for 11 games – Port won 8 of these, only losing once and conceding just 11 goals. Since Rochela’s return, Port have played 3, lost 3 and conceded 9. A more pragmatic manager than Jadet would’ve figured the Dolah-Todsapol partnership was working and left it intact; but at Port, reputation always trumps form and so as soon as he was deemed match-fit, Rochela came straight back in and the unfortunate Todsapol wasn’t even on the bench last night.

Secondly, so far this season Port, now 5th, have played 5 games against the current top 4, taking just 2 points out of a possible 15. That right there tells you why Port won’t be champions this year.

After the game, the usual fan meet & greet/selfie-fest outside the dressing rooms was cancelled by Pang, with security moving fans away whilst, presumably, serious words were exchanged behind closed doors. Jadet survived last season’s mid-point collapse; he may be lucky to escape the axe this time round.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Bodin

Obviously not too many contenders this time round but what a joy it’s been to watch this young man flower as a footballer this season. His goal was absolutely divine but there was more to his performance than that – he was a constant threat down the left and was also tracking back and putting in tackles like a man possessed.

 

 

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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