A Bogey the Size of The Titanic: Bangkok Utd 2-0 Port FC

 

 

For once, prior to an encounter with Bangkok Utd, the stars seemed aligned. The Angels were on a wretched run of form, whilst Port had been reinvigorated by new coach Choketawee. Factor in Buriram dropping points at home to Sukhothai in the early game, and you had a golden opportunity for Port to dispose of the biggest bogey since Winston Churchill’s whilst simultaneously reigniting a title challenge. So it will come as no surprise to seasoned Port-watchers that that’s exactly what didn’t happen.


 

On the face of it, Dudley Moore had nothing, apart from his height, to feel inferior about. A very funny comedian, a phenomenally talented musician/composer, and a successful Hollywood actor, he should’ve been brimming with confidence. Yet every time he found himself next to longtime partner Peter Cook, he wilted before Cook’s savage, rapier-like humour, and was frequently reduced to a giggling mess. Listen to Derek & Clive’s classic 1977 Come Again album, and again & again Moore finds himself simply out-joked, out-sworn and out-insulted by Cook’s evil genius. I mention this because it was the first relationship that sprang to mind whilst watching Port crumble yet again to a solid but workmanlike Bangkok Utd team last night. Port are every bit as talented, yet when it comes to BU they have a Dudley-sized inferiority complex.

Whilst I’m not a fan of Thammasat Stadium – I don’t like watching the game from a different time zone to the pitch – my confidence that Port could finally pluck out this bogey and wipe it on the curtain of history saw me join the Keith Bus and make the long journey out to Rangsit. Sadly our choice of pre-match drinking venue was closed for some strange reason so we were left with no choice but to pitch up at Thammasat and leave things in the hands of the Leo Fairy, and as usual she delivered – as we entered the away end car park a burly man in a Port shirt approached me and said “YOU DRINK”. I wasn’t sure if this was a question, an order, or an all-too-true statement of fact (thankfully missing out the words “…TOO MUCH”), but it turned out to be a sales pitch, and he guided us to a car boot full of bottles, laid out a straw mat for us, and invited us to suckle at the divine teats of the Leo Fairy herself. A warm summer evening, form on our side, and a cold Leo in hand – the stars were aligning indeed.

With Pakorn still injured after miraculously tracking back against Muangthong, and Sumanya also out, Port started with both Josimar (30) and Blackburn (99) in the team, but rather than a 442, Choke stuck with Josi on the right where he’s played most of the last few games to generally positive effect. Port played an extremely risky high line – one fan asked me if Steuble was playing as a midfielder – and hit BU’s defence with a Klopp-esque attacking press which had the Angels rattled from the start. Yet Port were struggling to create chances, with Blackburn so immobile and invisible he rarely provided an outlet for Josi, Suarez (5), Bodin (10) and co. Port were reduced to taking long shots, with Suarez, Go (8) and, most closely, Nitipong (34) all having a pop but not forcing BU’s excellent keeper Falkesgaard into action.

The only real action of note came just before half-time when Chananan broke into the box and was scythed down by a ridiculously mistimed challenge from Tanaboon (71). We waited for the ref to point to the spot but amazingly he waved play on, much to the outrage of Mano Polking and his team. It sadly wasn’t the last time Port’s ludicrously overrated defender would be outpaced.

At half-time, we observed the lengthy toilet queues and wondered just why Thammasat had removed all the urinals and replaced them with showers. I always need a slash at half-time but have never needed a shower (even when watching Chiang Rai), and these bizarre bathroom arrangements made it seem even more ridiculous that this stadium is considered fit for World Cup qualifiers. But apart from the risk and unpleasantness of having to piss in a pitch-black construction site under the stand, the mood was optimistic and there was still belief that, given Port’s first half dominance, this would be our night.

 

Away end toilets at Thammasat. WHY?!?!?

 

That optimism was slightly tempered when the second half resumed with Nelson Bonilla on the pitch. Bonilla may be a shithouse of Thiago Cunha proportions but he’s also arguably the best striker in the league and is as inspired by the words “PORT FC” as the rest of us are by the words “FREE-FLOW BEER” (well, apart from Dom) – he simply loves playing against Port and right from the off he set about making life difficult for Dolah (4), who, I can confirm, is not a card-carrying member of the Bonilla fan club. And whilst he wasn’t directly involved, the Bonilla Effect clearly contributed to what happened 5 minutes into the half as Port’s high press was finally punished. With Steuble way out of position, Vander Luiz found himself up against Tanaboon, and there was only ever going to be one winner there, with the Brazilian outpacing the Port defender and serving up a cross on a plate for an unmarked Chanananananananananananananan who put the home side 1-0 up, to groans of inevitability from the crowded away end, and cheers from the distant and sparse home crowd.

That same combination nearly doubled the lead on the hour mark when Vander Luiz again picked out an unmarked Chanananananananananananananananan in the six-yard box, but with Worawut (36) missing the ball, the BU striker somehow managed to miss when a goal looked certain. And a minute later Vander Luiz once again left Tanaboon for dead but this time took a shot himself, which was spectacularly saved by Worawut.

The clunking Blackburn gave way to the more mobile Chenrop (39), and the young striker’s energy sparked Port into life somewhat, but they found themselves up against a referee who was obviously eager to make up for that first half penalty decision. First he let Everton off the hook with a yellow card when he fouled Josimar as the last man, and then when Suarez was hauled down in the box following a Nitipong cross for the second clearest penalty of the night, he remained unmoved.

And on 86 minutes, Port’s inability to hit the target was punished when, following a clumsy challenge by Chenrop which sparked a brief bout of handbags (and let’s face it, BU love handbags even more than Madame Pang), another sublime cross from Vander Luiz found Everton unchallenged in the box, and his diving header gave Worawut no chance. 2-0, and time for an early beer exit, which meant I missed Falkesgaard making the save of the night from a Suarez header that just might’ve given Port some late hope of a comeback.

Not a bad performance from Port then, and not a great one from BU, but Port’s failure to create clear-cut chances and BU’s opportunism and superior mastery of the dark arts saw the hoodoo continue. Port have played worse than this and still won games and, despite it probably putting an end to our title hopes, there is little reason to be too despondent about the performance. Port now have a two-week break before facing them there Swatcats at home on 14 September.

 

The Coach’s View

I had a quick post-match chat with BU coach Mano Polking to get his thoughts on the game…

I agree that Port play very well and cause us some problems in the first half when we are building up. But it was very important for us to keep the plan and keep trying and attracting your strikers and midfield. Would be difficult for you to keep that intensity for 90 minutes. And we also were not conceding clear chances. So a good tactical battle and a good first half from both teams. With the goal we scored the game changed and we decide to not risk anymore and are ready to what I like to call “be able to suffer a bit” staying compact and waiting for the counter. The set piece is then a lucky second goal and made us more comfortable to believe that we will get the three points. I’m happy but as I told you the cup game is more important and I hope we can do it again, especially cause we will have all the important players back. Thanks and keep fighting!

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Siwakorn

MOTM-worthy performances were pretty thin on the ground. Nitipong was his usual lively and efficient self and Steuble attacked incisively but was out of position for both goals. So the award goes to the Marlboro Man himself who put in a huge performance which deserved much greater reward. The wee fella is having one hell of a season.

 

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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