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.

 

Tom Earls

Tom Earls

Having moved to Thailand aged 10, Tom has been playing or watching football in Thailand for more than 18 years. A keen follower of the Thai National Team and an avid fan of Port FC, he is a regular contributor to The Sandpit.

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