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.

 

Kenny Goodbourn

Kenny Goodbourn

Kenny moved from the Essex Riviera to Thailand in 2013 and lives in Bangkok. He started following Port in 2016. He has a YouTube channel "Straight Outta Bangkok" in which he follows Port around the country and also features other teams from Thailand and beyond.

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