TGIF – Port Ponder the Impossible Dream: Port FC 3-0 Nakhon Ratchasima FC

We will open with a Pub Quiz Trivia Question: “When did a professional football match start with a corner?”

Just when you thoughts matters in Thailand couldn’t get any zanier, with the clock starting at 3 minutes, Pakorn (7) was sent to the corner spot in front of Zone B to set the game in motion.

All this, in a week in La-La Land that saw:

  • A serious debate on whether a Minister of Parliament, convicted and sentenced to death for arranging the murder of a rival, should be allowed to retain his MP status
  • Being a ‘Pretty’ deemed a legitimate job title (where I come from, being called a ‘Pretty’ would see you conferred with a National Trust preservation order).
  • A large group of Thai students photographed, sitting an exam, wearing full-face crash helmets.
  • Thailand’s deputy public health minister suggesting a way to alleviate the devastating haze blanketing the south of Thailand is by using shorter or smaller joss-sticks.
  • General Prime Minister Prayut proclaiming that Thailand is a “Fully functioning Democracy”.

This could actually be a first for Thailand. I have googled similar situations with obscure questions such as, “Has a football match ever started with a corner?” or “Does a replayed, abandoned match need to start with the same situation with which it ended?” Games have often been re-started in the exact minute in which they were aborted but I can find no evidence of anything similar to the Port re-start. This is great news for our beleaguered nation; it could become the Regional Hub of Abandoned Football Games. Thailand likes Hubs.

What was evident was that both teams had to start with as close to the original starting eleven as possible, which meant that Dolah (4), although currently suspended, played, as he wasn’t suspended for the original game.

For a Friday night it was a decent crowd that welcomed the clear skies and the start of a run of five games that could make this a truly memorable season in the history of our beloved club. Port started the game reveling in playing on a dry, firm surface while Korat plodded hesitantly as though they were still knee deep in flood water. It should be noted that, from that first corner, Pakorn’s centre/shot had been parried, thereby sadly ending any speculation that this could be the quickest ‘unofficial’ goal in footballing history.

Port totally dominated play in the first half with some standout performances: Suarez was in his, ‘catch me if you can’ mode: twisting, turning, linking play with some delightful, audacious touches; Siwakorn (16) and Go (8) supplying the more functional but equally effective range of passes. Josi (30) led the line superbly, making himself available as a target man, and posing a constant threat to a Korat defence, which was in disarray from the start.  At the back, Dolah and Todsapol (6) looked generally comfortable, apart from one almost costly Dolah pass across the box, while Worawut (36) pulled off key saves at key moments to deny Korat any kind of foothold in the game.

After close efforts from Pakorn and Josimar, Port opened the scoring in the 22nd minute when a deliciously floated cross from Nitipong (34) was met by a header by Josi that defined the word, ‘towering’; the Brazilian somehow almost climbing above the rising ball to power home past the outstretched fingers of the Swat Cats’ Thai-American keeper, Samuel Cunningham (89). More on him later.

Six minutes later, Josimar eluded two dozing Swat Cat defenders to latch on to a Siwakorn through ball to set himself free for a one-on-one with Cunningham, calmly dispatching the ball in front of a rabid Zone B to double Port’s lead. In a frantic, remaining 15 minutes, Pakorn, Bodin (10) and Josimar all went close to extending Port’s lead before Cunningham thwarted two more one-on-ones with Josimar and Bodin, saving from the latter with his legs after a delightful exchange of passes in the box. The Swat Cats slunk off to lick their wounds but Port should really have been out of sight. The only injury scare of any note during the first half was when your correspondent was wrestled to the ground by the over-exuberant celebrations of his fellow Sand-Pitters. Fortunately, his lucky woolly hat softened any contact with the terracing.

 

 

The unfortunate Cunningham had been subjected to a constant tirade of ‘good natured’ abuse from the foreign fans behind the goal (must be some kind of goal-keeper baiting British tradition) so he must have been mightily relieved to take up his spot in front of Zone D, only to find that his fan club had followed him, only now within earshot. You have to admire him though – he took it all (this time) without response, and produced one or two decent saves that kept the score down to a reasonable figure. It was not his fault he had a train-wreck of a defence in front of him.

Port continued to pile on the pressure but without seriously threatening Cunningham’s goal: Go firing wide from outside the box and Suarez tamely lifting the ball into the keeper’s arms from close range after the keeper had parried Bodin’s rasping drive. On 57 minutes, Kevin (97) replaced Pakorn, with Bodin switching to the right wing. Korat were finally making inroads into the heart of Port’s defence, forcing two fine saves from Worawut. Then, in the 73rd minute, Dolah was somewhat harshly adjudged to have brought down Henry (11) in the box and, suddenly, a game that we should have been winning comfortably was under threat. However, this time it was Worawut who emerged as our penalty hero, diving low to his right to keep out Henry’s somewhat under-hit spot-kick. Port were reprieved.

Nurul (31) came on for a largely disappointing Bodin in the 76th minute. He had often over-run the ball and his final pass or shot selection was not always the quality we had seen earlier in the season. He remains, however, a huge talent.  The final change was made after 82 minutes: Rolando Blackburn (99) replacing Steuble (15), the classy Filipino/Swiss player once again demonstrating what a very fine footballer he is.

Two minutes earlier Korat had been reduced to ten men after Kitsada Hempivat’s (33) reckless lunge at Nitipong saw him deservedly receive a second yellow card.

On 84 minutes, Suarez, much to the relief of an increasingly frustrated crowd, put the game beyond reach with an accomplished finish after Cunningham had parried Nitipong’s cross cum shot. It was a victory well earned but one which should have been sealed much earlier. Never mind, it edges Port closer to what could be a climactic finish to the season.

 

 

The Sandpit had been in fine form all night, displaying a heady blend of culture and philistinism, from this writer’s erudite pre-match conversation with Tim on the life of French poet Arthur Rimbaud (see Korat abandoned match report) and his sojourn in the historic Ethiopian city of Harar, to Cunningham’s bear-baiting on the terraces.

Not wishing to be outdone by his Colonial cousins, John Spittal, in a moment of cultural and artistic enlightenment (for a Canadian anyway, it seems) likened the symphonic harmony between Go and Suarez to a violin and a cello, though obviously not in that order. John was later to downgrade from Renaissance Man to Caveman when he promised (or should that be threatened) to streak naked across the pitch should Port secure the T1 title with a victory in their last home game against Samut Prakarn.  This introduced a slightly homo-erotic atmosphere into the Sandpit, further enhanced with Tommy Duncan’s admiring evaluation of Jim’s beautifully shaped nipples.

Friday Night Football – don’t you just f**king love it!

 

Man of the Match

As the report suggests, there were several contenders but I am going to go for Josimar. His early goals put Port on the road to victory and he led the line superbly in the first half, coming so close to a well deserved hat-trick on several occasions.

 

Take Two: Port FC vs Nakhon Ratchasima FC Preview

 

Let’s try this again. It’s Port vs Korat this Saturday Friday. Both teams go into this match with something to play for. At the top of the table, Port have closed the gap to Buriram and Chiang Rai to just 5 points. A win here and Port will be be just 2 points from moving into either of the two top spots. At the bottom, Korat’s late 4 goal blitz last week moves them in a slightly more comfortable position, but they still need a couple of good results to avoid getting sucked back in to a relegation scrap.

With four matches to go it’s definitely time for a(n out of date) graphic showing the run in situation. We’ll start with our visitors.

 

 

Korat are at the top of the pack, but they look to have one of the most difficult run-ins along with Chiang Mai. Korat should be saved by their last two games against Chainat and Sukhothai, but I’m sure they would dearly love to get a point or more at the PAT. One point would mean a lot to them in the chase for safety so we can’t expect too much from them. Korat showed in the home match with Doumbia (11) bombing on and Lee Won-Jae (15) holding it together at the back that they had enough to match Port for 80 minutes with 11 vs 11 before the Adisorn (13) red card. This side might be intimidated by the crowd but they won’t be too scared of their opponents.

 

 

 

Port are back in with a fighting chance in the table. We still need Chiang Rai and Buriram to slip up twice in the run in, and while that’s not impossible, it’s more likely we will slip up ourselves. The Bangkok United away match killed off Port’s chances in the league for me. I would love to be proven wrong, anyway. We will see.

I think Port will be undone by the consistency of others around them at the top as much as Korat will be saved by the inconsistency of others around them at the bottom.

Korat’s terrible recent form has put them in the danger zone. After four losses and one draw, Korat threw out man mountain manager Joksic. Their new manager is Chalermwoot Sa-ngapol. In his playing days he was once described as the “Thai Glen Hoddle”, a great player with crisp passing and a pristine mullet.

 

 

He is now a solid journeyman manager. He has not made any comments about the previous lives of disabled people thus far. In the last three years he’s gone from Sisaket, to Thailand’s Under 19 team, to Super Power, to Sisaket, to Udon Thai, to Sukothai, to Ayutthaya, and now to Korat. Port will be wary of the new manager bounce after Korat stuck four late goals past Samut Prakan City last week. Celebrations were wild, and much of the confidence that had been lost in their recent run of poor form will have been restored in the comeback victory.

 

 

 

Doumbia “Henri”(11) is always going to be dangerous and if given enough room he could snatch a goal. They also have the very impressive attacking midfielder Amadou Ouattara (81), another Ivorian and formerly of PTT Rayong and Navy who has picked up a couple of goals lately. Together with Leandro Assumpcao (7) Korat have enough attacking quality to create chances. Why are they in such a state? Amadou and Doumbia “Henri” are solid choices along with the two centre backs: captain Chalermpong (4) and Lee Won-Jae, but apart from that the team has been mixed and matched in an attempt to find a winning formula that just hasn’t materialised . Port are clear favourites but we have to be clinical, we can’t afford to go a goal down to a team that would love an opportunity to park the bus.

 

Port Side

Tanaboon (71) will not be joining us on Friday, as his first haul of four yellows sees him suspended. We were a little unsure about whether this suspension would hold after the postponed game, but the Thai League website confirms that it does. This finally provides us with a look at who Choke’s second choice is in the league squad. Todsapol (6) should surely get the nod here, but I would’ve played Todsapol over Tanaboon anyway. Suspension may just lead us into improving our starting 11. Although Todsapol is a quality player it’s been so long since he has had a full competitive match so there has to be a worry about his match fitness.

Suarez (5) is match fit having sat out the victory over Chiang Mai with a swollen ankle, and Sumanya (11) has also been pictured in training, although he does have some strapping on his leg which could indicate that he isn’t quite 100% yet.

Despite picking up his 8th yellow card last week, Dolah (4) will be playing. His second suspension will kick in for the Chainat game on Wednesday. Alongside him at the back, Kevin (97) appears to have played his way back in to the starting XI with two magnificent performances. The youngster needed to raise his game with Steuble (15) providing stiff competition, and he has done just that.

 

Tom’s Predicted Line-up

Our revised preview is a team effort, so here’s my predicted line-up. Choke may well have an entire squad to choose from. Intriguing.

I don’t think Choke has much love for Pakorn (7). He has been forced to start with him a couple of times, but Pakorn hasn’t been at his best, and has been subbed off early. This could mean a return to the kind of system Choke favoured in his first few games with Josimar (30) on the right. If Sumanya is fit, he may will put him in attacking midfield with Suarez up top and Blackburn (99) missing out.

 

 

Prediction

Port should be good enough to take advantage of a team in a downward spiral. Port to win 3-1.

 

A Final Note

 

The last match took place in the long shadow cast by the tragic minibus crash, involving Korat native Spider Ming. Free food was laid on at the away end of Korat’s stadium and during the mid game rain delay there was a random Home vs Away fan group football song sing off. In the first attempt at this fixture, Port put on some food at the away end to return Korat’s kindness. There will be a friendly atmosphere for this one this week folks. Enjoy the festival of football.

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 2 and True Sports HD2  at 18:00 on Friday 27 September, 2019. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

The Hard Way: Port’s Route to the FA Cup Final

 

Yes, we’re still pinching ourselves, but after last Wednesday’s epic, exhausting FA Cup semi final against Bangkok Utd, Port are in the 2019 Chang FA Cup Final! Port’s last FA Cup win was a decade ago, since when silverware has been conspicuous by its absence, with only the 2010 League Cup being added to the trophy cabinet. In fact Port haven’t reached a cup final of any kind since 2011, so this is a pretty big deal.

But, you may ask yourself, how did we get here? Well, as is customary with Port, it certainly hasn’t been easy or straightforward with Port having to get past three of Thai football’s giants en route to Wembley. I mean Army. Here’s a look back at Port’s 2019 cup run…

 

Round of 64

1 May 2019 – Port FC 6-0 Samut Sakhon FC

Port’s cup campaign began with a walkover against regular friendly opponents Samut Sakhon FC, aka The Proud Junk Ship, who were more Junk than Pride on this particular occasion. Two goals each from Boskovic (remember him?) and Sumanya, along with goals from Bodin and Suarez saw Port into the last 32 without breaking a sweat. A game apparently so unremarkable that we didn’t even bother doing a match report.

 

Round of 32

19 June 2019 – Port FC 4-1 Sukhothai FC

From now on there would be no more gimmes for Port, as they would face T1 opposition for the rest of the tournament. And whilst the Firebats are struggling against relegation this season, they were the first team to beat Port in 2019 and in John Baggio they have a player who simply loves playing against Port, so this would likely be no easy task. Thankfully for Port, on the night the Firebats decided that fighting relegation took precedence over the FA Cup and put out a second string side, and Port were 3-0 up by half-time with goals from Pakorn (2) and Bodin, with Rochela adding a penalty early in the second half.  A late Sukhothai penalty was small consolation on a night that saw Port through to the last 16, to face familiar opposition…

Match Report

 

Round of 16

17 July 2019 – Muangthong Utd 0-2 Port FC

Many teams might have balked at having to visit Muangthong in the cup, especially with them newly reinvigorated by the arrival of coach Alexandre Gama. But the SCG has been Port’s playground for the last 3 years and so it was no surprise that they came away with a very comfortable win. It wasn’t a classic game by any means, played in a quiet stadium with Port fans banned as usual, and it took Port until the last 20 minutes to take the lead, with MTU ‘striker’ Theerasil getting the final touch on a peach of a Pakorn cross for the best own goal of the season; then minutes later debut boy Rolando ‘Tony’ Blackburn took advantage of some defensive confusion to round the keeper and fire Port into the quarter-finals. Not a classic then, but every win against MTU is memorable and this was no different, especially given the importance of the game.

Match Report

 

 

 

Quarter Finals

7 August – Port FC 3-2 Chiang Rai Utd

After that grim game at the SCG, Port fans were served up an absolute classic in the QFs, two of T1’s top clubs going head-to-head and producing one of the greatest games the PAT has seen in years. Port tore into the Beetles from the whistle and went a goal up after 15 minutes when a Sumanya corner was deflected in; the same player then doubled the lead in the 20th minute, racing through the Chiang Rai defence and firing home from the edge of the box for one of the goals of the season. Suarez made it 3-0 early in the second half before the Beetles scored twice, but just as fears of Operation Fuckup were growing, some excellent midfield dark arts from Go got Thin Bill a second yellow, and the game was put to bed, with Port taking their place in the semis against the biggest bogey since Winston Churchill.

Match Report

 

Semi Finals

17 September – Bangkok Utd 0-0 Port FC (4-5 on penalties)

I’m sure we don’t need a recap on this one. 120 minutes of grim, attritional, rain-soaked football, with Port reduced to 10 men for the last half an hour, followed by THAT penalty shootout. Football, bloody hell.

Match Report

 

Final

2 November – Port FC v Ratchaburi FC

More T1 opposition for Port, but by this point surely we fear noone. It won’t be easy, but my prediction is a 3-1 win for Port.

 

Thanks to Allie Suwanrumpha for the header photo

 

Double Dreaming: Chiang Mai 0-2 Port FC

Port travelled up to Chiang Mai’s adopted home ground in Chiang Rai after Port’s incredible penalty shootout win over long time bogey team Bangkok United in the FA cup semi-final on Wednesday. This game was never going to live up to that dramatic spectacle, but a win was needed to try and keep Port within touching distance of the top of the table. Most Port fans were expecting a win against arguably the poorest side in the league in bottom of the table Chiang Mai, also known as Chiang Rai reserves. However, we all knew that Port could experience a Chiang over and needed to avoid ruining our title hopes by failing to win here. This one will not go down as a classic, but at the end of the day we got the much-needed win. Now, I don’t want to get your hopes up too much and I’ll whisper it quietly but, Port are still in with a chance of doing the FA cup/league double this season.

Avoiding some of the busier bars in Bangkok due to the rugby, I joined a few of the Port faithful and settled down with a Leo to watch the evening’s entertainment. Port started with a pretty strong line up, the only two changes from midweek being Josimar (30) and Blackburn (99) starting for an injured Suarez and an ineligible Rochela. A surprise inclusion was Kevin (97), who after being injured for so long and playing in the midweek fixture I assumed would be given a rest. The biggest shock came from Chiang Mai who decided to drop their three foreign forwards: Caique (7), Eliandro (9) and Azadzoy (10). This one seemed like it should be a walkover.

 

 

However, the first half left a lot to be desired. The main talking points were how it seemed like Blackburn was born offside and how strange it looked to see Chiang Rai’s stadium so empty. Port had more of the possession and were arguably the better side, but it was overall a pretty drab first half. The aforementioned Blackburn did have the ball in the back of the net early on in the first half. A great cross in behind the defenders from Pakorn (7) found a free Blackburn to head it past the Chiang Mai keeper Narit (1). Our celebrations were short lived however, as it was correctly ruled offside.

A few minutes later Kevin put a lovely ball into the box that was cushioned down into Blackburn’s path by Josimar, only for it to be smashed into the side of the net and once again ruled offside. I’ll let Blackburn off for his offsides due to his cheeky penalty on Wednesday. Chiang Mai were limited to long range shots that never really threatened Worawut (36). 0-0 at the break and not many chances created. We couldn’t help wondering if Port were going to throw away a golden opportunity to close the gap at the top.

The second half started much the same as the first and after 58 minutes Port made their first change, bringing on Steuble (15) for a very quiet Pakorn (7), meaning that Kevin was pushed forward. This move surprised me as it seemed like a defensive change, but I was soon made to eat my own words as Port’s football seemed to greatly improve. The first chance of the half came after Josimar had a decent effort from distance well saved by Narit. Eventually the deadlock was broken after a good bit of football. After a few passes that started at the back with Tanaboon (71), Go (8) fed the ball into Blackburn in the middle of the box and after a nice little turn, he laid it off to Josimar. At this point you’d expect me to say he slotted it home, but instead he smashed it against a Chiang Mai defender’s hand and it deflected into the net. It doesn’t matter how they go in. 1-0 to Port.

 

 

By this point the whole team seemed lifted and it didn’t take long for Port to get another. A few minutes after the first goal, Bodin (10) played a ball into the box that really should have been dealt with by the Chiang Mai defence. It wasn’t and the ball fell kindly to Kevin on the edge of the box who was able to slot it into the bottom right corner. Great finish. 2-0 to Port.

Chiang Mai’s best effort came in the dying moments of the game as Worawut made a fine save to deny Chiang Mai’s Chotipat (21), but in general this was a poor performance from the hosts (if you can really call them hosts). Based on this display they’ll do well to stay up.

Overall, this wasn’t a vintage performance from Port, far from it, but at this stage of the campaign a win is a win, it doesn’t matter how we get them. Port have a game in hand and a win on Friday against Korat will see us just two points behind the league leaders. As I’m sure you’re very well aware, we also have the small matter of the FA cup final on the 2nd November. I had to put a bit a sensationalism in the headline, but if you ask me if I really think we’ll do the double, the answer is a definite ‘no’. But is it possible? We can dream.

 

The Sandpit’s Man of the Match: Kevin Deeromram

 

 

It’s easy to pick a goalscorer for man of the match, but I genuinely feel he was the best player on the pitch for us today. Kevin didn’t have much to worry about defensively but looked great going forward particularly in the second half. He put in some decent crosses and it was an excellent finish for his goal. Great to see him playing well after so long on the side lines. Long may it continue!

 

FA Cup Chiang-Over? Chiang Mai FC vs. Port FC Preview

 

Port’s scarcely believable penalty shootout victory over Bangkok United may have put Port fans’ heads in the clouds, but both fans and players are going to have to have to come back down to earth and adjust to a very different reality for Sunday’s away clash against Chiang Mai.

Wednesday’s victory, against a team most fancied to overcome Port, was a victory against the odds, not to mention against a team who we hadn’t beaten in… well, forever pretty much. It was also in front of thousands of vocal Port fans cheering their team come rain or… well, just rain really. The Lanna Tigers are bottom of the table, playing in a stadium which may as well be empty, and there is unlikely to be much of a traveling contingent in the stands. We’ve all seen Port defy the odds against superior opposition before crashing and burning against teams we should be beating comfortably. Overconfidence seems to be as much part of our DNA as Leo and shit strikers.

Having said that, Chiang Mai are well and truly there for the taking. Let’s see why.

 

Chiang Mai FC

Players to Watch

 

Top of my list has to be Brazilian striker Eliandro (9). This monster of a forward is practically bursting out of Chiang Mai’s very attractive shirts, and doesn’t mind throwing his weight around. After an electric start to the season though, Eliandro has slowed down considerably, and isn’t playing with the same free-scoring confidence we saw from him when he burst on to the T1 scene. I could say the same about Mustafa Azadzoy (10), the Afghan forward who usually plays as a no.10 has similarly slowed down after an excellent start. Rounding out the front three is one of the nine (yes, 9) loanees from sister club Chiang Rai: Caique (7). Signed by Chiang Rai, presumably just so he could be loaned to Chiang Mai, Caique has netted 3 times in 8 games since his arrival. I haven’t seen enough of him to give much of a judgment, but just looking at the numbers it’s a respectable return for a struggling team.

 

 

When I saw that Chiang Mai had signed Nattawut Sombatyotha (11) from Ratchaburi in mid-season I thought he’d do an excellent job for them. He’s probably not playing as far forward as he’d like, but he’s still nailed down a first team place and scored twice since his arrival. He’s also rid himself of that horrible blonde mop and looks normal again, which helps. Nattawut is best deployed as an attacking midfielder, but with Chiang Mai basically already having three up top he’s had to fulfil a role with more defensive responsibility.

 

 

Speaking of defensive responsibility, most of that falls on Brazilian centre half Evson Patricio (30). He’s one of those defenders who it’s quite hard to judge based on the fact that he’s playing with a load of dross at the back. The most recent of that dross is actually former Port squad player Worawut Namvech (34), who has started the last few games at centre back, but may not be fit having been withdrawn before the half hour mark last time out. Well, I say he may not be fit, just look at him…

 

 

In goal, Nont (20) has fallen out of favour after failing to perform consistently, so the more experienced Narit (1) has stepped in.

 

 

Form

 

The last 6 games look like this for Chiang Mai. They’ve taken two massive wins from 4 home games, but having failed to get on the score sheet in the last 2 games, they are still big favourites for the drop. The real worry is their failure to score, which has not really been a problem for them all season until now. They’ve got plenty of attacking talent, but have been conceding goals for fun all season, as they have done in each of their last 6.

  • Prachuap 2-0 Chiang Mai
  • Chiang Mai 0-1 Suphanburi
  • Chiang Mai 5-1 Korat
  • Chiang Mai 1-3 Trat
  • Chiang Mai 2-1 Chonburi
  • Chainat 2-2 Chiang Mai

 

Port FC

Feet on the Ground

 

Port need to approach this game with as much professionalism as they can muster. Changes should be made from the side who triumphed in the cup, both to make sure the XI who take the field are fit and raring to go, and to make sure players are fresh to face tougher opposition in Port’s tricky run-in.

Suarez (5) is likely to be an enforced change, with the Spaniard sporting an extremely swollen ankle after an extremely dirty tackle from Peerapat on Wednesday. Josimar (30) and Rolando (99) are both available to lead the line, with Josi raring to go after being cup-tied, and Rolando still grinning like a Cheshire cat after making a mug of Falkesgaard in the penalty shootout. What. A. Finish.

One of Go (8) or Siwakorn (16) should probably be due a rest, but Choke may be nervous removing either of the two, who are among the most consistent players in the team.

Likewise at the back, sitting out Dolah (4) seems unthinkable, and Choke doesn’t seem to be able to bring himself not to start Tanaboon (17). I’m sure we could get away with giving Nitipong (34), who put in an astonishingly hard-working performance, a well-deserved breather. Steuble (15) could cover at right back, with Kevin (97) or Panpanpong (19) stepping in on the left hand side.

In goal, Worawut (36) got a nasty cut on his back making an incredible save from Jaycee John, but we’re not sure if he’ll have recovered in time for this one. Rattanai (17) put in an assured performance in his absence, keeping out his second and third penalties of the season in the shoot-out, and as we don’t tire of saying, Port have three no1’s at our disposal anyway. Worawut can take as much time to recover as he likes with both Rattanai and Watchara ready and able to step in.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True4U and True Sports HD at 18:00 on Sunday 22 September, 2019. For those who can’t make it to Chiang Mai, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. We’re expecting a big crowd (in the pub, not the stadium) so get there early to bag the best seats. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

Rat Saves Port’s Ship From Sinking: Bangkok Utd 0-0 Port FC (4-5 on Penalties) – Chang FA Cup Semi-Final

 

 

Port made it to their first FA Cup final in ten years at the expense of perennial bogey team Bangkok United, but as always with Port, things were not easy, on what had been a surprisingly clean run through to the semis.

The decision to move the match from Police Tero’s tiny 4,500 stadium to Army’s more capable 20,000 one was a rare move of common sense from the Thai FA, one they had threatened to then derail by allegedly toying with moving it back to Tero again following complaints about loss of ticket revenue, this was sometime after more than 4,500 tickets had already been sold by ThaiTicket Major for the Army stadium. Luckily common sense had continued to prevail and the Home of Gentlemen continued in its role as hosts.

 

“You’re Rangsit, and you know you are” (thanks Jim Clarke)

 

Arriving at the Army Stadium last night, there were already streams of orange and blue shirts making the “Wembley walk” into the complex. Just as I neared the entrance, Del was kind enough to point out that I should buy a beer on this side of the fence (Leo for sale) before I crossed into devout Chang territory.

Taking my spot in Zone S behind the goal, I could see each Port area filling up. This continued to the point where security were kind enough to open up fences to allow the overspill into the no-mans land between East and South blocks, this meant Port fans had nearly filled the whole of the U-shape going from East to West stand. If one visual could summarise the potential of this club when the fans have something to get behind such as a league or cup run, then this was it. Meanwhile, Bangkok United’s support looked only slightly better than their average home gates. Were they lost in transit from Rangsit?

 

Kevin kept his place from Saturdays washout against Korat although technically, that 3 minutes may not count as his first appearance since returning from injury. Rochela returned to defence to partner Dolah with Tanaboom being moved into midfield at the expense of a recognised striker. Suarez again being deployed as a “False Nine”….or should that be a “False Five”.

The Match

The first half was pretty drab, in the first few minutes Pakorn had a corner flicked on by Sergio at the near post, Go attempted to karate kick it in at the back post but it was an easy take for Michael Falkesgaard.

A few minutes later, Dolahs misplaced clearance landed at the feet of Tristan Do on the edge of the box but his volley flashed wide.

The rest of the first half carried on in this frankly dull vein, with shooting boots being left at home from both teams. Efforts from Pakorn, Bordin and Go were either high wide or hopeless.

The early part of the second half didn’t really improve in terms of excitement. Thossawat had a free kick for BU which curled over. On the hour mark, Pakorn had a low cross that was heading for Go on the edge of the box but Suarez managed to nip in and steal it from him, ending up with a weak sidefooted effort at Falkesgaard. I think at this point Pakorn had decided to keep his crosses low on purpose because his previous “crosses” were never going to beat the first man, unless Bangkok United suddenly fielded their Under-9’s

65 minutes in, and the best chance of the match fell to Jaycee John of Bangkok United. Vander Luiz put in a great cross to “JJ” at the far post, his point blank range header had Worawut channelling his inner Gordon Banks as he managed to keep it out with a trailing leg, while at the same time diving into the back of the net himself, catching the post on the way through. While Worawut received some medical attention, the heavens had finally opened. Hot on the heels of the Korat washout from Saturday, Bangkok’s weather had continued like this in the subsequent days. My weather app had predicted a 90% chance of rain for the evening and here it was.

The game continued for a few more minutes until visibility finally reached zero and the referee pulled both teams off the pitch as the full wrath of the thunderstorm descended above the Army Stadium.

As the fans continued to spread out and find shelter outside, I managed to find a free spot relatively close to the roofed West stand. After wandering in to use the toilet I was surprisingly able to wander up into the main VIP stand unchallenged where I found a few of the regular Sandpit crew sitting near the back. The stand was relatively well lit, something magnified by the fact that the floodlights were now turned off around the rest of the stadium. This may have given the impression to fans that the plug had already been pulled completely and some fans who had barely dried out from Korat on Saturday, decided to leave at this point.

 

 

However, a few minutes later and the lights were turned on and teams of ground staff were deployed to the pitch to sweep off the surface water as the rains subsided. It was sad detriment to the previous 70 minutes of football that the sight of the ground staff’s synchronised sweeping was the most entertaining thing the fans had seen all night.

 

 

After the efforts to clear the top water off, we were soon back in action, about 45 minutes from when we’d last seen a ball kicked. Port made a couple of changes at this point, Nurul replacing the hapless Pakorn and more notably, Rattanai being bought on for Worawut, who it was assumed must have done some damage making that save.

Although clear cut chances and quality balls in the final third were still lacking, the match that followed the restart was a massive improvement on what had gone down before. As an Englishman, it felt a lot more akin to a winter FA Cup tie in the UK. Suddenly both teams were playing with a lot more urgency, mostly bypassing the midfields and hitting balls over the top for attackers to chase. It was now an unpredictable surface where passes and tackles were much harder to get right. Sadly a victim of making such a mistimed tackle was Siwakorn a few minutes before the 90 was up. He was already on a yellow and sliding in on Vander Luiz was unnecessary given that Nitipong was also in very close quarters.

Bordin had been sacrificed for Rolando during normal time, and due to new laws, extra time opened up the option of a 4th substitution. This meant Steuble was introduced in place of Suarez, who hobbled off.

The huge Port banner dominating the S curve of the stadium read “NO ONE ESCAPED THE LIONS CLAW”. Heading in to extra time, through injuries and tactical reasons, Choke had declawed us already, without Suarez, Pakorn, or Bordin. Kevin was now being deployed further forward in an attempt to support Rolando, who was not having much fun as a lone target man.

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Port managed to hold on through extra time and here we were at penalties, some three and a half hours after the game had initially kicked off. The discussion amongst the fans now was who was going to take penalties outside of Rochela who was our only recognised penalty taker. There was also the concern we were now up against Michael Falkesgaard, a much bigger and more capable keeper than our very own Mr Porcelain, Rattanai. Rattanais attempts to make himself look big on a penalty kick only seem to further exaggerate his lack of size.

Penalties

 

I assume we won the toss as David motioned to have the shoot-out in front of the Port end, as opposed to doing it in front of the one man and his dog in the Bangkok United end. Rolando was up first and his cheeky jump ‘n’ shuffle in the run up managed to totally outfox Falkesgaard and send him the wrong way. 1-0

Wander Luiz equalled things up for Bangkok United, sending Rattanai the wrong way. 1-1

Next up was El Capitan, who calmly sidefooted into the corner. Although this time Falkesgaard did guess correctly, he was still nowhere near it. 2-1

Everton was next up for BU, but the tofeemans spot kick was picked off by Rattanai much to the joy of the Port fans assembled near(ish) to the goal where the shootout was being contested.  2-1

 

 

Before the shootout Tim had earmarked Dolah as a penalty taker, expecting him to give the ball some Julian Dicks style welly if asked (Yeah sorry about that – Ed). Give it some welly he did, but more akin to Chris Waddle than the Irons’ left-back. Insert punchline here about where his penalty landed …. 2-1

After two misses on the trot, Manuel made no mistake with the next spot kick for BU and we were level again, 2-2

Go certainly got Port fans’ nerves racing with the next effort, it looked like it was had missed but ended up being a low-key thunderbastard, bouncing off the underside of the bar and into the net. Again, Falkesgaard had already been sent the wrong way, it was beginning to look like spot kicks were his Achilles heel. 3-2

Anon’s next penalty for BU was very similar to Go’s, except it went into the top corner without needing the bar for help. 3-3

If my nerves were freyed from Dolah and Go’s last two efforts, seeing Tanaboom stepping up as the next taker didn’t help my condition, but I needn’t have worried, his penalty was placed to Falkesgaard’s bottom right, just evading his glove. 4-3

Sanrawats next penalty for BU was again, copy and paste of what Port had just done, Rat guessed correctly but was lacking a few inches to keep it out. 4-4

We were now into sudden death, Sandpit favourite Nitipong made no mistake with his spot kick. Again, Falkesgaard went the wrong way. 5-4

BU sub Guntapon stepped up next, Rattanai did guess correctly again, but this time it was the woodwork that kept his kick out as it thudded back off of the post, the BU no.97 dropped to his knees as the remaining Port players, subs and staff streamed onto the pitch. Against all odds, Port had done it! The cheer was one of the loudest I’d heard at a Port game, the roof nearly blew off the sole covered part of the stadium that I was now housed in.

Including rain delays, it had been nearly four hours of football I’d just witnessed, it wasn’t pretty and Port had to hang on with ten men but none of that mattered now. We now had a cup final to look forward to. More importantly, in the absence of Chas and/or Dave, who is going to record our cup final song?

What’s Next

In the context of this FA Cup, Port will face Ratchaburi in the final. On paper this looks a much more winnable game than facing Buriram, but the Sugar Boys will be feeling confident themselves after disposing of Buriram within 90 minutes in the other semi-final.

At the time of writing the final is still scheduled to be played at Suphanburi, but being Thailand, there could yet be another twist in the tail….

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Worawut

It was hard to pick out an individual performance in what was a pretty dogged and turgid game of football. Worawut himself was one of two Port keepers that got an hour’s football on the night. Rattanai may have made an impressive, and more headline grabbing save from 12 yards in the shootout, but Wozza’s save from 2 yards in normal time was much more impressive, and ultimately put his own body on the line to preserve the clean sheet.

 

Army Stadium Ready For Battle: Bangkok Utd vs. Port FC, FA Cup Semi Final Preview

 

Port march to Army this Wednesday in what is sure to be a decisive battle. This is a cup tie with everything riding on it for both sides. The Angels have come close to lifting cups in recent seasons, before being vanquished at the death. Their widely acclaimed manager Mano Polking has announced his imminent departure, although we’re not yet sure if a cup success would reverse his decision or encourage the club to go all out to reenlist him. They’re out of touch in the league, meaning it’s do or die in the cup. Meanwhile, Port are considerably closer but still look to be just out of range for an assault on the league title, and after being denied an AFC qualifying berth by a shock FA Cup result last season, have their sights set on redemption.

So, who are the favourites? The league table suggests that Port are the team to beat, having accumulated an extra point in one fewer game than Bangkok. The head-to-head results tell a different story, with this season’s clashes swinging in The Angels’ favor. The historical record is even grimmer reading for Port. Recent form too tells two opposing stories. Port’s form is better over the last 6 games, although our only defeat in the last 6 came against… you guessed it, Bangkok. Player availability is another area throwing us curve balls. The injury lottery has given Port a massive boost with Bonilla being stretchered off after just 8 minutes in the Angels’ 1-1 draw on the weekend. His leg is in a cast, so unless there is an elaborate hoax at hand, he won’t be starting. Meanwhile, Pakorn and Kevin have just returned to fitness for Port. On the flip side, Port will be without two forwards who are ineligible to represent Port in the FA Cup, leaving Rolando as the only recognized striker in the squad.

Enough with the imponderables and maddening speculation, though. Let’s meet the players.

 

Bangkok United

Players to Watch

 

He was man of the match in their last outing, and with Bonilla being unavailable, Michael Falkesgaard (1) could once again be the key figure for the opposition. I tire of singing his praises, but what else can you do when you see the annoyingly handsome stopper get in the way of everything Port send towards his goal? There were a few moments in the last meeting between the two sides where he took risks with the ball at his feet, which is the only thing I can point to as a potential vulnerability. Come on, pull an Enckelman!

 

 

I’m not as much of a fanboy of Vander Luiz (8) as many Thai football observers seem to be. He doesn’t produce enough (5 goals and 1 assist in T1 in 2019), and although he does bring a lot of creativity to the team, if you want to win the league I’m not quite sure that Van is the man to fire you there. Having said that, this is the cup and he won a couple of them with Chiang Rai in 2017. And he was man of the match last time we played Bangkok. So, my opinion that he’s a bit overrated means nothing, and he’ll probably play a blinder.

 

 

As we well know, the star boys have plenty of depth behind then at Bangkok, too. Chananan (20) is cup-tied but Jaycee John (22) is the most natural like-for-like replacement for Bonilla, while young speedster Anon Amornlerdsak (27) is an option in a different system. He’s dangerous on his day. In midfield there’s the likes of Pokklaw (10), Anthony (6) and everyone’s favourite ref-puncher Sanrawat (29). The perennial big game bottler was an unused sub on the weekend, which makes me think Mano is saving him up for this one. Everton (3) and Manuel Bihr (4) are a solid pairing at centre half, and I haven’t even mentioned some other top tier T1 stalwarts like Tristan Do (7) and Mika Chunuonsee (16).

Regardless of which XI takes the pitch, we always know that Mano comes in to matches against Port with a plan, and that usually puts his side a step ahead of us. One thing he apparently can’t plan for is his own team’s ill-discipline, though. Red cards in big games have plagued Bangkok in recent years, so Port’s best shot could be to really take the game to their opponents physically, and see if they have the mental fortitude to keep their cool in the heat of battle.

 

Port FC

El Capitán Regresa

 

As I alluded to earlier, there are a few differences between Port’s squad in the league and cup. The big boon for Port is that El Capitan Rochela (22) will once again take to the field in what could potentially be his last game in Port colours. Whilst Tanaboon (71) has conned most of T1 in to thinking he’s a decent defender, anyone who has watched Dolah (4) make 10 times as many tackles and win 10 times as many headers over the last couple of months knows otherwise. Rochela is available, he will start and Tanaboon will hopefully drop to the bench. We’ll take that. The risk is that Choke tries to crowbar him in at DM, meaning that Go (8), Siwakorn (16) and Suarez (5) are all shunted forward a place with Rolando missing out. I’m not the Panamanian goal-hanger’s biggest fan, but I’m picking him for this one and hoping for the best.

There are also a couple of forwards who aren’t available, and one who is. Josimar (30) and Chenrop (39) are cup-tied after representing Police Tero and Trat respectively earlier this season. With Pakorn (7) back on the right flank, Choke will be able to choose between Suarez and Rolando up top. The Spaniard has played OK, although he hasn’t reached the prolific heights of last season, whereas Rolando has been largely rubbish but has popped up with a couple of big goals, most notably in the FA Cup win over Muangthong. The Panamanian may not be much use in the build-up, but get the defender to pass the ball to him or give him a sniff of goal in the 6 yard box and you see a striker’s instinct that Port don’t otherwise possess.

Kevin (97) approaching full fitness will also give Choke a tricky decision to make at some point, but I think we can all agree that throwing Kevin in for a match of this magnitude after a lengthy lay-off would be a bit mental. Steuble (15) keeps his place for the moment, and we look set to have very healthy competition at left back going forward.

 


 

This may not be one many fans are feeling optimistic about, but remember we went in to the last two rounds against Muangthong and Chiang Rai nervous as anything, yet overcame poor form and ascendant opponents to advance. This team has heart, and we’d be mad to think we don’t have a decent shot of overcoming Bangkok.

 

Predicted lineup

 

 

You’ll notice Rolando’s rather unconventional positioning inside the six yard box. Damn the offside rule Rolando, you’re standing there until the ball magically appears in front of you and that’s that.

 


 

The match will probably be shown live on True Sport 2 or True4U (still awaiting confirmation of the channel) at 19.00 p.m. on Wednesday 18 September, 2019. For those who can’t make it to Army Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

Apres le deluge: Port FC v Nakhon Ratchasima FC (Match Abandoned)

 

 

Gush, pond; —Foam, roll on the bridge and over the woods; —black palls and organs, lightning and thunder, rise and roll; —waters and sorrows, rise and unleash the Floods.

The young, bohemian French poet Arthur Rimbaud probably didn’t have a sodden night at the PAT Stadium in mind when he wrote those words in 1873 but he could have delivered them last night whilst standing in Zone B without anybody batting an eyelid. Being more prosaic, it was a washout; just what is it with the weather and this fixture? A similar storm subjected the reverse game to a long delay, the match probably finishing four hours after kick-off. 

Thankfully, commonsense prevailed on this occasion and a game that really shouldn’t have started at all was finally abandoned after another considerable, pointless wait. Not that I was aware at the time as myself and a few others had decamped to a bar to be dazzled by Bobby Firmino’s audacious skillset. 

For three farcical minutes players splashed and skidded, in pursuit of a ball that seemed to be having more fun than its pursuers. A skewed shot from Josimar was the only recognizable piece of football action in a period when serious injuries could have been sustained. The oles and mock cheers which accompanied every attempt at a pass or tackle only enhanced the pantomime atmosphere.  

The game will be rearranged for a future evening when the Rain Gods are sleeping.

As there is no match report to pore over I have unearthed this article from The Guardian on famous football abandonments. Enjoy while you dry out. 

https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2014/nov/07/joy-of-six-football-abandonments