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.


After an enjoyable afternoon by the Best Western pool, we arrived at the Chang Arena in search of Leo and it didn’t take us long to find it, thanks to the usual Port beer sellers. Wandering around the stadium, through the turnstiles and into the packed stadium, you could almost feel that you were at a big game in Europe…until the expected refereeing debacle began, and you realised you were very much in Thailand.

 

Port, deprived of the services of Buriram loanee Go Seul-Ki, set up in a very attack-minded formation with Siwakorn (16) dropping back to DM and Suarez (5) & Sumanya (11) pushing forward from midfield. Otherwise it was the classic 2019 Port lineup.

 

 

Buriram started the brighter, pegging Port back deep in their own half and winning a succession of early corners, but failing to trouble Worawut (36). And it was Port who had the first real chance when a Pakorn (7) cross/shot clipped the Buriram crossbar. 

 

And it was indeed Port who took the lead when, in the 20th minute, Suarez, looking like a man on a mission all evening, picked up the ball in midfield, pushed forward, and hit what initially looked like a speculative 20-yarder but which somehow went in off the post, sparking scenes of utter delirium in the away end. I don’t think any of us has ever celebrated a Port goal with such hysteria and whatever would happen later, it was a moment that made the whole trip worthwhile. 

 

The goal was the signal for Operation 12th Man, as the referee realised that the game wasn’t going according to plan and set about making sure normal order was restored. First Suarez was booked, presumably for having the temerity to score a goal against Buriram as I didn’t see him commit a foul of any kind. Then on 33 minutes Buriram equalised with a player in a clear offside position. And then Suarez was elbowed in the back in the area for what would, on most days, be a clear penalty, but the ref simply wasn’t interested. 

 

 

With Port pushing high up the pitch in search of a second goal, Buriram caught them short in the 36th minute and added a second to further inflame the Khlong Toey Army, many of whom were by now waving banknotes at the home fans across the fence, with the Port fan leaders doing their best to keep a lid on the developing tensions.

 

1-2 at HT which was harsh on Port who’d battled well and brought several saves from the Buriram keeper, only to have their work undone by refereeing that was going way beyond the usual home bias and approaching the kind of nonsense we saw at Port v Chonburi in 2015. 

The second half was somewhat less eventful, with the ref continuing to penalise Port for every single physical contact with a home player, and Port trying – and failing – to get the best of an admittedly very impressive Buriram defence. Josimar (30) who has been tormenting T1 defences for fun in recent weeks was marked out of the game by Tunez, and the substitute Blackburn (99) had little more joy. 

 

 

The ref had the final say in the 70th minute. A Buriram forward dived for a free-kick on the edge of the box but with the ball breaking to a teammate the ref waved play on but, after the player shot narrowly over the bar, then pulled play back for a free-kick. Simply ludicrous refereeing and by now the away end was a sea of waving banknotes, and insult was added to injury when the ensuing free-kick went straight into the Port net for 3-1. 

 

In the remaining 20 minutes Port tried their hardest to get a goal or two back but Buriram held firm for a win that pretty much guarantees them yet another title. 

 

So a disappointing night in many ways – particularly the manner of defeat, as whilst Port weren’t at their best, at 11 v 11 they might have stood a chance. But this was nevertheless an unforgettable occasion, 25,000 fans in a packed stadium all making a hell of a racket and creating the kind of night Thai football needs more of. Massive respect to the near-2000 Port fans who made the long journey from Bangkok for the occasion and never stopped cheering their team.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: the referee

 

Only one match-winning performance tonight and that was the man in green. Despite being weighed down by the contents of his pockets, he put in a fine performance for Buriram and more than earned his post-match dressing-room champers. 

 

 

Tim Russell

Tim Russell

The founder and editor of The Sandpit, Tim has been in SE Asia since 2003 and in Bangkok since 2012, where he runs a travel tech business. Tim has followed Port FC since 2014, and is also a fan of his hometown club Coventry City, and French club AS St-Etienne. He has written for the likes of Football365, ITV.com, NME and The Quietus, and is a regular contributor to God Is In the TV. He's a keen photographer and his work can be seen on his website.

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2replies
  1. Joe says:

    Well written article. There were a few angry Port fans in the Sportsman.
    How the ref can get away with a performance like that and cost Port the title really winds most genuine fans up.
    A fantastic season either way and good to finish above MUUTD!

    Reply
  2. Craig Henry says:

    Having watched the game on a tv in Pattaya and read some of the quotes on a Port facebook page, I was looking forward to this review. I would have to agree that the referee was awful, but it was to be expected. Port played really well and their fans made a lot of noise. I do believe there was a clear shot of Tim or somebody similar around the 76th minute, but luckily I can’t lip read.

    Reply

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