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.

 

Peter Hockley

Peter Hockley

Peter 'Hockers' Hockley is currently the School Librarian at St Andrews International School, Sathorn and has lived in Thailand since 1992. He has followed Port home and away since 2010, with unbridled devotion and his famous woolly hat. He is a co-founder member of the Sivakorn (is a football genius) Appreciation Society (SAS). At present, the Society boasts a membership of, well, two. Peter has written travel articles for The Nation and Sawaddi magazine, and once had a letter published in Charles Buchan's Football Monthly which won him 5 guineas.

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