BG’s Saturday Night Fever: Port FC vs. Ratchaburi (FA Cup Final Preview)

 

It has been a season of thirds. A triple layer hamburger, topped and bottomed by a light and fluffy, expertly toasted bap, laced with a tasty, tangy sauce and garnished with an innovative leafy salad, seasoned with a hint of balsamic. In the middle, though, an unappealing, flavourless patty, stodgy in places and miserably failing to satisfy that initial promise. This has been Port’s season in a cardboard box. An explosive start, a laboured, clueless middle, redeemed by a late, often thrilling bid for a first League title. And now comes the dessert, a dish to sweeten the Port season and one which they must devour with gusto.

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Tom’s Transfer Talk: Tanasith Lord

 

One of Thailand’s best foreign players will be available on a free transfer this year as PTT Rayong’s dissolution means that formidable central defender Victor Cardozo is now without a club.

 

 

Having dropped David Rochela for the second half of 2019, Port chose to prioritize attack and sign an extra foreign striker, but it would be no great surprise if that policy was reversed in 2020, with either Rochela restored to the squad or an established star like Victor filling the role.

Of course there will be competition for his signature, and some of the biggest names in Thai football could well be interested. Buriram will doubtless respond to their failure to lift a trophy this season with some eye-catching transfers, and Muangthong manager Alexandre Gama could be in the mix too, having coached Victor in his double cup winning Chiang Rai side in 2018.

At this stage it’s still speculation, but we’d be mad not to be thinking about signing one of the best defenders in the Thai game. Then again, would he even get in to our starting XI ahead of Tanaboon?

 


 

We don’t just have to pre-empt rumours though, we have a real one to talk about. The subject of an apparent tug-of-war between Port and Samut Prakan, Tanasith Siripala is a player I’ve written about quite a bit in the past, as he was one of Thailand’s hottest prospects a few years back. Playing alongside a certain Bodin Phala for Bangkok Glass, who by the way was considered an inferior talent at the time, Tanasith tormented Port’s defence and scored the game’s only goal when BG defeated Port in 2016, and he was a worry for Port’s full-backs whenever he faced us.

 

 

His form has dropped off quite a bit in recent seasons, though. The reliable end product that you always hope will develop in young players has never quite materialized for Tanasith, and during his time with Suphanburi he’s been in and out of the starting XI. There’s still undoubted potential there though, and as with the signing of Bodin, things could turn out very well indeed.

Known to some as ‘Taodinho’ for his nickname Tao and his physical resemblance to Ronaldinho, Tanasith can play on either flank, although he saw most of his action on Suphanburi’s right wing this season. Whether or not Tanasith would add firepower to our squad is a no-brainer – of course he would – but is it really necessary for Port to sign another winger? With Bodin, Pakorn and Nurul already on the books we have more than enough options in those positions. Career-wise it’s probably a no-brainer for Tanasith NOT to join Port, as he would be much more likely to see significant game time elsewhere.

The state of the deal is unknown at the time of writing, with some saying the move to Port is confirmed, and others saying it is close. We’ll let you know if he pops up on Madame Pang’s Instagram feed!

 


 

As we have known for some weeks now, Port have secured the services of Go Seul-ki on a permanent deal, while Martin Stueble has also told us he will be staying with Port in 2020. Both made important contributions in 2019, and will surely play important roles once again next season. First though, there’s the small matter of a cup final…

 

2020 Thai League Lineup Announced… For Now

 

The 16 teams who will be competing in next season’s T1 have been finalized after PTT Rayong’s rumoured collapse was announced on Monday. To account for the dissolution of the unfortunately named ‘Oil Millionaires’, the FAT have confirmed that only two teams will be relegated, with Suphanburi receiving a dramatic late reprieve. Despite finishing 14th after losing 2-5 to eventual champions Chiang Rai, who they led for a time on a dramatic final day at both ends of the table, Suphanburi have been given a lifeline and will compete in T1 for the 8th consecutive season in 2020.

Coming up from T2 are BG Pathum United, who predictably swept aside all of the competition with ease and took the Championship by a 13 point margin. Police Tero will be joining them, having secured second place on the final day by absolutely obliterating third placed Rayong FC 7-0. Remarkably that 7 goal drubbing was enough to see Rayong faceplant in to the last promotion place as in-form Sisaket were run over 0-3 by Thai Honda.

 

 

But wait, this is the Thai League, and just because the season is over, a team has been dissolved, another un-relegated and the promotion places confirmed, that doesn’t mean the drama is over. Sisaket, who finished just 2 points behind third placed Rayong FC, have been embroiled in investigations throughout the season, resulting in in two separate 6 point penalties by FIFA. The Dangerous Koupreys will apparently find out the result of their appeal to the second of those 6 point deductions this week. If successful they would shoot up to second place, and the FAT would have a tricky decision on their hands. Could they un-promote Rayong FC, or un-unrelegate Suphanburi? Who knows?

They’re already in an unusual situation, having reduced the number of T2 teams for next season to 17 by un-relegating Suphanburi. Should they also un-relegate Navy, who currently join Ubon United and Ayutthaya United in dropping down to T3? Navy finished 14th in T2, and by un-relegating them the FAT could restore the number of T2 clubs to 18 and pass the issue down to the regional T3 leagues.

Of course, whatever decision the FAT come to would be fine if it was done in an above-board manner, with the results of their decisions being based on an unambiguous set of rules provided before the start of the season. Unclear rules can potentially leave wiggle room for Thai football’s governing body to play favourites when things, as they do pretty much every year, get complicated. We’ve seen it time and time again, so don’t be surprised if some unimagined scenario ends up on the table in a few days, and we’re all left confounded when Army are announced T1 winners and Port are relegated to T3 North. You heard it here first.

 

Port Draw Comfort as Thunder Castle Falls: Port FC 2-2 Samut Prakan FC

 

 

With Port’s League season effectively ending last Sunday, in acrimonious circumstances at the Thunder Castle, yesterday’s match had somewhat of a pre-season friendly atmosphere. I can’t ever recall entering Zone B feeling so relaxed or, so late, missing the national anthem and finding my usual spot, about ten steps up and directly in line with the left hand post, already taken. After a polite bit of shuffling along, normal service was resumed and the match was underway.

 

Port, third place secured for the second successive season, rested nine of their most likely starting eleven for next Saturday; Dolah being the only ‘cert’ to take the field. The mellow atmosphere on the terraces, most of Zone B was actually sitting down throughout the first half, was reflected on the pitch and apart from the goals, I cannot recall too many moments of excitement. 

 

Even with a severely weakened team, Port fans must have been anticipating a goal fest after Blackburn neatly converted a pinpoint Steuble cross with a firm header across the keeper and into the corner on six minutes. Steuble has performed consistently well for Port this season since his arrival and must be pushing Kevin for a place in the Cup Final line-up. Samut Prakan were neat and tidy without really threatening Port at the back, although Watchara had to be alert on a few occasions when Port’s high line was breached; Dolah being booked on 26 minutes to prevent another break. It was not to last; in the 32nd minute, a delightful move from the away team set Milo (71) free in the box to pull the ball out of the air with a neat piece of control before planting it beyond a despairing Watchara. 1-1, but there was scarcely a groan to be heard at Port’s setback. Josimar came close with a header before half time and that was the end of the first half ‘action’. 

 

The snooze fest continued in the second half with most interest centred around a potential upset at Chiang Mai with Buriram holding a slender lead while Chiang Rai were gradually wearing down a possibly, relegation bound Suphanburi. Blackburn came close early on but it was no real surprise when, on the hour, the Samut Dons franchise took the lead through Teeraphol (19). In retaliation, Blackburn and Nurul, hitting the post with a header, both came close. Go, Kevin and Chanayat (?) all came on during the course of the half and Port subsequently were able to exert a bit more pressure, leading, eventually, to another headed equalizer from Blackburn in the 87th minute. This sparked a flurry of action from Port during the final minutes but the visitors were well worth their point and, to be honest, no-one really cared, because news was coming through of Chiang Mai miraculously holding villainous Buriram to a draw, handing the title to the equally despicable Chiang Rai. 

 

Thank you Chiang Mai!

 

Last week’s defeat at the Thunder Castle by a referee assisted Buriram had left a sour taste in the mouths of most Port fans. Personally, I have rarely felt so dispirited after watching a top-tier Thai football match, even to extent of questioning the point of following it any more, if, at the end of a momentous season, the result of your most important game is almost pre-determined. Apparently, the referee’s performance caused a shit-storm on Thai media and it was largely disappointing that the club did not lodge an official complaint, if only to highlight an aspect of Thai football that, although we are certainly aware of, is entirely unacceptable. Not that Port themselves have not benefited from ‘homer’ referees, a notorious game against Chonburi in recent years the most obvious. 

 

The celebrations in the Sandpit at Buriram’s downfall were heartfelt and genuine and reflected the pain of a wrong done. Over 1,500 fans made the trip to Buriram last week and were fantastic in their support of the club, as always, but they were badly let down by Thai officialdom and, in Port’s refusal to even lodge some kind of protest or ask for certain decisions of the referee to be closely scrutinized, they were further let down by the club. 

 

Now, we must put this behind us. Although this season promised so much more, maintaining third place and reaching our first Cup Final in eight years is progress maintained. With Chiang Rai showing there is life beyond Buriram, it will be interesting to see what moves Port make during the close season to go that two steps further. 

 

Coiffure by Le Sandpit

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Rolando Blackburn

I cannot recall anyone being particularly outstanding so I would have to go for Rolando Blackburn, whose two headers were expertly placed and at least put him the running for the FA Cup Final squad.  It’s what strikers should do. 

 

Melo Mood: Port FC vs. Samut Prakan City Preview

 

 

 

 

When the dust settles in a few weeks and we take stock of this season, matches like our quick capitulation to Samut Prakan City in June will be the real reason why we didn’t pull off the impossible title dream, not the inept/corrupt referring that marred the championship shoot out last weekend, which made me into a Thai meme and the target of conservative Thai internet warriors (fun times). So this weekend’s final league match of the season at The PAT might be a bit if a dead rubber to some but it’s also the chance to get sweet revenge, consolidate 3rd place and more importantly a chance for players to stake a claim for their cup final place.

 

Samut Prakan City

 

Samut Prakan, formerly known as Pattaya United, have surprised many on their debut season. At times jockeying for position at the top of the table playing stylish, counter attacking football under Japanese coach Tetsuya Murayama, their form fell off a cliff after beating Port, losing 8 out of their 15 league games since then. Interestingly, they have only had one 0-0 all season so chances are there will be goals in this one. Let’s meet the star players shall we?

 

Players to Watch

 

 

Wonderfully named Brazilian attacker Ibson Melo (71) has been their best performer since his arrival from the Portuguese league. I like the cut of his jib; he is adept playing up front but seems better as a second striker, linking up counter attacks or providing the finish himself. 14 goals in his 24 game career at SPC is a decent return and he’ll surely give our defenders something to think about, especially with his positioning. Our back line has been consistently punished by attacking players drifting between the midfield and defensive lines so he will be a threat.

 

 

Just behind Melo will be the energetic Teeraphol Yoryei (19); a young central midfielder with natural attacking instincts and a bright future ahead of him. His form this season has been one of his side’s plus points; not only does he contribute with goals (8 so far this season) he has also weighed in with several assists and highlights Murayama’s high-tempo tactics when transitioning rapidly from defensive positions.

 

The Home Team

 

With one eye on November 2nd Choke will probably hope to give several players a rest and others a run out to see who’s up for the final. Bodin (10) has been very flat in recent matches when compared with his outrageous early season form, Pakorn (7) has been, well, ‘Pakorn’, and Nurul (31) has barely had a sniff this season. Kevin (97) has shown good form since his return from injury but Choke might want to keep him under wraps and give the very dependable Steuble (15) a chance at left back. Siwakorn (16) is suspended after picking up his 8th yellow card of the season against Buriram. Up front, Josimar (30) is cup-tied so he might get a chance to finish his season with a goal or 2, alternatively that spot might go to the pedestrian, lethal from half a yard ‘Tony’ Blackburn (99). Who knows? Who cares? It doesn’t really matter who gets selected for this match; as long as they all get through the match injury and suspension free that’s all that matters.

 

Prediction

 

Going out on a limb on this one. 5-2 Port. I’ll probably miss most of the goals boozing outside anyway.

 


 

The match will be shown on True Sports 2 at 18:00 on Saturday 26 October, 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.

 

Pretenders vs Brass in Pocket: Buriram Utd 3-1 Port FC

 

 

 

Port’s recently revived title bid finally came to an end last night as the title pretenders bravely went down 3-1 to defending champions – and now likely 2019 winners – Buriram, who benefitted from some decidedly generous refereeing. We expected that this might be the case, but not that it would be quite so blatant. But Port will now have to settle for third and, hopefully, an FA Cup win to reward them for what has been another excellent season.

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‘We’re Going to Win! We HAVE to Win!’: The Sandpit Meets Martin Steuble

 

He’s been here already. He’s gone to get some food.

Mark from Phu Chai Coffee tells us as we arrive fully 20 minutes early for our interview with Port left back Martin Steuble. We should have known the hard-working Swiss-Filipino would beat us to the punch. Very much as you see on the pitch, he’s a dedicated professional who can’t help but make a good impression. 

We grab a table in the back of Khlongtoei’s best coffee joint, and within a few minutes Martin is back and ready to get chatting. First things first…

How on earth do we actually say your name, Martin?

“It’s pronounced Shtoybler

We all decide it’s best that we stick with Martin, and before we know it we’re talking football.

 

 

How did you first get in to playing football?

Well, growing up in Europe football is so prevalent, you played at school, you played basically since you can walk. My father got me involved. He wasn’t a professional player, but he obviously loved sport and he got me in to it. That’s how I started.

When you started playing did you play as a defender?

No, no, no. I was always a striker or a midfielder. I was always scoring goals, that’s what you enjoy doing. Nobody starts off and wants to be a defender!

And how many positions do you play now?

 I just played right back for the national team. I can play left back, right back, holding midfield…

What do you think is your best position?

The one I like to play most is actually holding midfield.

Who were your role models as a young player?

I’m not very big on role models. I grew up at a time when Zidane was very good, Ronaldinho… those were the players I looked up to. But then when you’re in the youth team you always pick role models from the first team playing in your position. Most of my youth I was with Grasshoppers Zurich, so they had players like Giovanni Elber, Ricardo Cabanas, and then they had a few foreigners like Richard Nunez, a Uruguayan player. Those are the players you cross in the dressing room so you look up to them and try to learn from them.

 

 

Were there any other players from your youth team that made it big?

Switzerland is very small. From my team and my age there are only one or two who made it really, really big, but those who are a few years younger actually won the under 19 World Cup with Charyl Chappuis, Haris Seferovic, Ricardo Rodriguez who is playing for Milan… These players maybe didn’t have it easier to make it, but we were slowly shifting from buying foreign players to developing youth players and trying to sell them, so I think from my year there were not many. I struggled myself turning pro and trying to make it in Europe. It was very hard, but I think now honestly I would say it’s easier. The numbers of young players who come up and make that step up is so much higher, but also you have to say the young players nowadays are so much more developed than we were. 

Did you support a team in Switzerland?

Yeah, Grasshoppers. I’m from Zurich myself, so it’s my home town club. 

Why did you make the decision to leave Switzerland and move to the US?

I was playing in Switzerland for a few years and I found myself in the second division. Not too much money involved, not too many supporters, but you train daily, it’s professional. Football is the same everywhere, you have a green-keeper who gets mad at you when you go on the field, you have a kit man who gets mad if you don’t turn the socks around, so football is the same everywhere, but anyway I found myself in the Challenge League, and then this thing came up with the national team. I started playing for the Philippines, and my coach back then was Thomas Dooley, he’s a big name in German football, and also in the US he captained the national team in ’94. So he was the one who got me a trial at Sporting Kansas with Peter Vermes who is the head coach now, and I just gave it a shot. I went there on a two week trial, it was during the World Cup 2014 so the national team players from this club weren’t there, I trained for two weeks and they signed me so I ended up there.

How did you like the MLS? It must have been very different from Switzerland!

In many ways it’s better and bigger. They love big entertainment, so that’s what it is. I joined Sporting Kansas the year before they were champions, so it was actually the champions’ team. I didn’t have many appearances, I was fielded maybe 3 times in my 5 month stay, but it was OK for me because I saw that the players were good, they came back from the World Cup and I was trying to fight for my spot, but it didn’t work out.

The MLS is very special because you sign a contract with the league, not with the team, so they can just say “Martin, tomorrow you’re going to Chicago” and you have no say. Also, another mistake people make is they think soccer in the US is very small, but that’s only because they compare it to other sports like American football or basketball. But soccer in the US is not small. Every single game we would have 25,000 fans, and they’re crazy! National anthem, fireworks, every time. Crazy! I loved it!

 

 

Were you playing alongside any famous players?

Yeah, we had Matt Besler, national team captain for the US, Graham Zusi, who was also at the World Cup and Benny Feilhaber who was at Hamburg a few years back. Those were the big names.

And after the US it was on to the Philippines. How did that move happen?

Well, representing the national team you’re on the radar, and then there was this big project coming up in Bacolod – Ceres Negros. To be honest they’re the only team. There are some other teams that are professional, or they’re trying to be, but the difference is huge. Philippines is still a developing country, and it’s not a football country at all. We have other sports that dominate like basketball, boxing, even volleyball is bigger. Even college football is bigger than the professional league. It’s really not a football country. 

Is that why there are so many overseas Filipinos in the national team?

Yeah, to be frank there’s very little grassroots football. We just don’t have much of it. I imagine if I had a 4, 5, 6 year old kid and try to get him in to soccer in the Philippines. Who’s going to coach him? Someone who hasn’t played much football. Who coached me? Players who played, coached… So it’s completely different, and that’s the thing about the Philippines, they don’t realize that the time is now for us. It’s now or never with this generation. You won’t find another Stephan Schrock, who played so many Bundesliga games. You won’t find players like Neil Etheridge who’s playing in the Premier League. It’s not going to happen in the next 100 years, so we have to put everything in to this generation.

I noticed the attendance for the last national team was about two or three thousand.

Yeah, 2 or 3 thousand Chinese. 

Great result by the way, drawing with China!

Thank you. This is another thing, though. The federation took a bet with the tickets in this match. I guess they thought that Chinese people are rich, so we can make the tickets expensive. But then normal people can’t afford it. The Chinese bought it. People asked how many they sold and they were never frank about it. “Oh, like five thousand” and then you turn up at the stadium and everything is red. It’s your home stadium and everything is red. With my old club Ceres, it’s privately owned by a guy who runs a Public Transport bus company, and we sold out our stadium every single time when we had an AFC Cup game. Why? Because he made it free for everyone. “Come and support us” you know? “Wear yellow and come!” And everyone is happy.

We have similar issues here in Thailand where if teams reached out to their fans they could really increase their attendances. 

But this is the thing. You complain about how things work in Thailand. I joined my team and everyone was complaining about the referees. You don’t know what’s going on in the Philippines! So, yeah…

 

 

OK, the less said about referees the better! And after the Philippines it was on to Port FC. How did that happen?

What happened is that the club Ceres is privately owned and the board members all started to sue each other about shares and everything. The owner said frankly “I’m going to finish this season until December but I can’t guarantee what’s going to happen after that.” He even asked the players to leave if we can. I was very happy in the Philippines with my club and everything, I would never have moved. My family is from Bacolod. But I had to make a move, and my agent Benni came up with the idea of moving to Port, and everything happened very quickly. Within two days I was here doing a medical.

Did you talk to any other Filipino players in the Thai League about the move?

No, but I spoke to Charyl Chappuis from Muangthong. With the guys like Falkesgaard we’re constantly in contact, but it happened so quickly!

What were your first impressions of Port?

I was in the Philippines for five years, so the Thai League is a huge step up. It’s so much bigger, so much better organised. The refereeing is so much better.

Myself and Tim burst in to laughter, but Martin isn’t kidding.

After I arrived I spoke to former Port player Patrick Reichelt, he told me about the atmosphere and this kind of thing, but you have to see it for yourself. I’m not a guy who expects too much, I just wanted to come here and do my best and try to deliver regardless of the circumstances. I wasn’t trying to take in too much, I was just trying to focus on trying to do my job. 

How long was it until you made your debut?

I was here 2 or 3 days and then I got subbed on in the away match against Ratchaburi. We drew 1-1, I got subbed in the last 10 minutes. A week later I made my home debut.

Which Port players have impressed you most since you’ve arrived?

I was impressed by many players, but I would say I was most impressed by the Thai culture. They don’t seem to try that hard but they’re amazing! They’re good, and they know they’re good, you know what I mean? I have to learn from that because I’m the complete opposite. I know I’m not the best football player, I know I’m not the most skillful so I really have to work hard. That’s what really impressed me with a lot of players.

Of course Sergio Suarez. We have many, though.

Who’s the hardest to play against in training?

Maybe Nurul. You can’t catch him, you can’t push him down because he’s down already. He’s hard to stop. 

And who trains the hardest? We usually ask this question and people usually say…

Go.

We were going to say Nitipong, but we haven’t interviewed anyone since Go arrived.

He’s 33 years old but he says he wants to play for 5 more years. Nitipong is a hard worker too, but I would say Go. 

Who do you think is the most talented player?

Bodin’s good, Sumanya’s good. They would be my choices. 

What has been your best moment since arriving at Port?

I remember the atmosphere against Chiang Rai. I’m really impressed with the whole stadium, how it’s set up, how it is and how it feels, so that really impresses me. Coming from the Philippines, knowing all that, I don’t take it for granted. For me it’s amazing to see. Every single game there’s so many people, and they cheer loud. It’s just great. This is really something. Every single game is special.

We were talking earlier about when the Philippines played China this week. More than half of Philippines starting XI are playing in Thailand now. Are you surprised about that?

No. The quota change and the state of the Philippines’ league are the main reasons.

 

 

Are there any more players in the Philippines who you think could make an impact at Port or anywhere else in the Thai league?

Yeah, there’s still a few players. You’ve got to think that Michael Falkesgaard and Stephan Palla joined from European teams, so those two were the door-openers for the rest of us Filipinos. They really performed well and we still have a few more back in Europe that are at about the right age where either they’re going to have a breakthrough season in Europe or they’re going to consider Asia. There’s still a few of these players out there. In Switzerland we have one young player, Michael Kempter, who plays in Zurich. There’s another goalkeeper, also half Danish like Falkesgaard. Then there are also a few players at Ceres who could definitely play in the Thai league.

Are there any positions in Port’s squad you think we could strengthen?

That’s tough. I think Port’s squad is pretty balanced, it’s a well-functioning team. We have all different kinds of players. Maybe strikers, but besides that, I think we have a solid defence. With Elias being called up to the national team, Selanon making his debut against UAE and getting an assist, and Tanaboon. This is 3 out of 4 already from the national team, and Kevin has also been a national team player. So I think we have a pretty stable defence, and I think with Go as a holding midfielder we have one of the best holding midfielders in the league. The captain Siwakorn is also for me one of the most underrated players in the league. He’s incredibly gifted, he works hard, and he’s a very important player for us. We spoke about our wingers already, and it’s hard to find players with this quality.

What’s your prediction for Sunday’s big match against Buriram?

We’re going to win.

Is everyone confident?

Yeah. We’ve got to win something. We’ve got to make it count. 

Are you worried about facing in particular players?

Nobody, no. We’re going to win. We have to win. Our team has come up from T2 together, you know? You play football to win trophies. Like me, I’m from a million miles away, but I’m here. Now I’m in Thailand I want to win something. I don’t want to say I was in Thailand and I finished second.  

 

Big thanks to Martin for giving up his afternoon to talk to us; to Mark at Phu Chai Coffee for hosting us; and to Tim Russell for the photos.

 

FA Cup Final Ticket Info Released

 

The long, arduous wait for FA Cup Final tickets to go on sale is apparently nearly over, with a combination of information from the Thai FA and Thai Ticket Major suggesting that tickets will be on sale starting from 10:00 on Monday 21st October.

9,000 capacity all-seated Leo stadium was announced as the venue a few days ago, before a brief panic ensued when Thai Ticket Major pulled the event info and we all thought ‘here we go again.’ Now with all signs pointing towards Pathum Thani and the information online showing the zones and prices of tickets, we’re pretty sure that we’re all set.

 

 

Tickets are evenly split between Port and Ratchaburi fans, with Port fans occupying zones W3 (150 baht), W6 (100 baht) and S (80 baht).

Follow this link to buy tickets online, or alternatively buy directly from a Major outlet near you. You’ll probably need to be pretty quick, with far more Port fans expected to turn up than there are tickets available in the Port zones.

 

 

Happy hunting, and we’ll see you in Pathum Thani!

 

Storm the Castle: Buriram Utd vs. Port FC Preview

 

Port have had some rotten results against the T1 title chasers this season, but in a league that no one seems to want to win, we’re somehow still in with an outside chance of glory. Two wins for Port, against the champions on Sunday and Samut Prakan the following week, will mean that Chiang Rai can clinch the title if they win their last two games, but if they slip up in either – the second being a tricky trip to Suphanburi – the title will be Port’s. On the other hand, a Buriram win more or less secures them the title, with their final day trip being a dream match-up with Chiang Mai, who will most likely already be down. All three teams have a route to ultimate victory, and all three depend on whether or not Port can storm the Thunder Castle and leave with the only plunder that matters: three priceless points.

 

 

Buriram United

Players to Watch

 

Let’s start with some of the stalwarts. Siwarak Tedsungnoen (1) is in his ninth year between the Buriram sticks, and this year has been rewarded for his longevity by being chosen as captain for both club and country. I remember one stunning performance at PAT Stadium featuring a point blank save from a Genki header that secured a 0-0 draw for The Thunder Castle, but more often than not what you get from Siwarak is consistent, mistake-free goalkeeping. He may be 35, but he’s still one of the top stoppers in T1.

 

 

In defence, Buriram will be led by one of T1’s best and least popular defenders. Andres Tunez (5) is everything that is wrong with Thai football. He turns his size and strength towards aggressive, hateful abuse of officials, before meekly surrendering to any pressure from attackers with pathetic playacting. Think of him as a cross between the physique of Dolah, the temperament of Boskovic and the balance of Nurul. Unfortunately, due in large part to weak Thai refereeing, he is an effective operative, leading the stingiest defence in the league. Buriram have conceded just 23 goals; 8 fewer than Port.

 

 

In midfield, the main man for Buriram has been Hajime Hosogai (7). I’ve been mightily impressed with his work rate, although the Japanese star also shown his creative limitations going forward. He’s just so good at what he does though: harrying, harassing and dispossessing opposition midfielders. In a game where Port’s midfield will be without our leader, expect Hosogai to exert plenty of influence, and make it difficult for the likes of Suarez and Siwakorn to find space in front of the back 3.

 

 

Buriram have shown a lot of faith in youth this season, with the likes of Ratthanakorn (26), Supachai (9) and Suphanat (54) racking up plenty of minutes, but the pick of the young guns has undoubtedly been attacking midfielder Supachok Sarachart (19). He’s netted 10 goals in all competitions, and has made himself an indispensable member of the national team to boot. Supachok can play through the middle or out wide, and has been particularly dangerous cutting in from the left and firing in shots and crosses with his trusty right boot. Perhaps the silver lining for Port could be that Supachok’s exertions across multiple fronts this season really looked to have taken a toll on the young star in the latter stages of the UAE game on Tuesday. He had been kicked all day long, and barely looked to have any gas left in the tank as the game came to a close.

 

 

Supachok’s even younger brother could be leading the line for Buriram against Port, but honestly I have absolutely no idea what Buriram think their best options are up top. They spent massively on Nacer Barazite (39) and Rasmus Jonsson (20), but in the League Cup final it was 17 year old Suphanat Muenta (54) who got the nod, with both foreigners sitting out. In the last 3 T1 games Buriram have gone with three different combinations of the three, with no player starting every game. They may have the element of surprise on their side, but there’s a decent chance they’re the ones who end up being punished for their inconsistency up top. I can just picture Diogo smirking smugly, Malaysian Super League medal in hand, as Jonsson fluffs another shot hopelessly wide.

 

 

Form

 

  • Trat 0-1 Buriram
  • Buriram 6-0 Ratchaburi
  • Buriram 1-1 Sukhothai
  • Muangthong 3-2 Buriram
  • Buriram 1-0 Chainat
  • Korat 2-3 Buriram

 

If ever a set of league results didn’t tell the full story. Their league form may look decent, but add in the stunning FA Cup semi-final defeat to Ratchaburi, who they had just spanked 6-0 in the league, and the League Cup final loss to Prachuap, and you start to see that Buriram just can’t win the big games anymore. Their biggest rivals turned them over in the league, they got dumped out of both cups and now an in-form Port, who haven’t conceded a goal since August, would love nothing better than to snatch the league title from them too. Can they stop the rot?

 

Port FC

No Go Zone

 

Port will be without key midfield man Go (8). The Korean is ineligible as he’s contracted to Buriram, but is also suspended after picking up his eighth yellow card. Besides this though, Port are at full strength. Kevin (97) defied a reported hamstring injury with a lively performance in the 5-1 friendly win against Honda last week, while Todsapol (6) was also fit enough to make an appearance, although he looked a little less comfortable. Todsapol has had plenty of time since then to recover though, and I expect him to start on Sunday, as his inclusion is key to Port’s likely game plan.

It’s a very similar game plan to the one Port employed in the 3-1 defeat to Buriram in the first half of the season to be fair, but with some key changes of personnel. Todsapol and Dolah (4) started in central defence that day, with Rochela (22) deployed out of position in defensive midfield. Port will likely once again shift a central defender in to defensive midfield, but this time we will be moving Tanaboon (71) in to his more natural position, while replacing him with a better centre back. Is it ideal? No, but at least it’s not Rochela in midfield again!

Alternatively, Port could leave Tanaboon in place at the back and try any number of options in midfield. It’s unlikely we’ll see any of Anon (20), Adisorn (13) or Athibordee (35) brought in from the cold, but Sumanya (11) could be given a start with Siwakorn (16) shifted back to a position with more defensive responsibility. This would be a very bold move from Port, especially with Supachok likely occupying the space between defence and midfield. I think we should really have a dedicated defensive player in place there, but going for the throat with an all-out attacking system is another way to go. A draw won’t be enough for Port, so there is something to be said for going all out for the win.

Another sub-plot will be yellow card suspensions, which could mean players missing out on the final day. Siwakorn sits ominously on 7, just one away from his second suspension, whilst Bodin (10) has accrued 3, one away from his first. A yellow for Siwakorn would mean he’s finished for the season, missing both the potentially decisive league game and the FA Cup final, while Bodin – one of Port’s players of the season – would be a massive loss for the visit of Samut Prakan.

 

Form

 

  • Port 2-0 Muangthong
  • Suphanburi 1-3 Port
  • Bangkok Utd 2-0 Port
  • Chiang Mai 0-2 Port
  • Port 3-0 Korat
  • Port 4-0 Chainat

 

Oh, and we won that cup semi-final. Looking good.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

The match will be shown on True 4U at 18:00 on Sunday 20 October, 2019. For those who can’t make it to The Chang Arena in Buriram, 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.

 

FA Cup Final Moved to Leo Stadium

 

The Thai FA have upped the stakes in their quest to make as much of a mess as possible of the FA Cup Final, today announcing that the game will be moved from Army Stadium to BG Pathum Thani’s Leo Stadium. Yes, the Chang FA Cup Final will be held at Leo Stadium. Whatever will we drink?

If you’ve been frantically searching Wikipedia for details on the new location, don’t believe your lying eyes. Leo Stadium did used to have a capacity of roughly 16,000, but since renovations changed it to an all-seater stadium that capacity is now just 9,000. There’s no word on exactly how much the allocations will be, but you can be sure that with such a small capacity, a big chunk of Port fans will not be sitting in the Port ends.

The one thing the Thai FA haven’t yet managed to muck up is Port’s opponents, though. We’re still playing Ratchaburi, and that means we’re still big old favourites to lift the cup, and playing in front of 3 stands and a small forest in Pathum Thani doesn’t change that.

The relocation gives us a chance to revisit a watering hole we haven’t seen in more than a year; The Rabbit Bar had better stock up, because Port fans are coming and we’re thirsty.

Now that we’ve had our stadium moved, we can expect tickets to be on sale any day now. although of course there’s still no official word on when. We’re keeping our ears to the ground, and we advise you to do the same. See you in Pathum Thani on November 2nd!