No More Years of Hurt: Port FC 1-0 Ratchaburi FC (Chang FA Cup Final 2019)

 

 

We did it. We bloody did it. After 90 exciting minutes with chances galore for both teams, two red cards and the unwelcome return of VAR, Port lifted their first trophy for 10 years and deservedly so. The Khlong Toey Army got their big night out and we certainly made the most of it. I am typing this with a sore head – sore everything in fact – and I’m certainly not the only one.


 

Upon arrival at BG Stadium it was definitely a case of spot the Ratchaburi fan, with Port outnumbering their country bumpkin rivals by some margin. There were also plenty of tickets available, both legally and on the black market, so it’s a shame that many didn’t bother to make the trip as they didn’t think they’d get in. But the atmosphere was electric, with Port fans filling the ever-excellent Rabbit Bar and knocking back the Leo like sailors on shore leave.

Port lined up fairly predictably – Rochela (22) too his place next to Dolah (4) in the heart of defence, with both Tanaboon (71) and Go (8) for once starting in their preferred positions at DM & CM respectively, Sumanya (11) replacing the injured Siwakorn, and Suarez (5) up front. And after some early possession from Ratchaburi, it didn’t take long for Port to impose themselves on a game they were clearly very, very serious about winning. On 6 minutes, a Pakorn (7) cross was flicked onto the far post by Suarez, where Bodin (10) sent it goalwards, only for Philip ‘Flock of Seagulls’ Roller to clear the ball off the line. Ratchaburi had been warned, and they were warned again just a couple of minutes later when a rasper of a shot from Pakorn forced a spectacular save from their keeper.

 

 

On 25 minutes, Port finally had the ball in the net – a superb pass from Go picked out Suarez, who cut the ball back for Sumanya to fire home and spark scenes of joy in zone S; yet our joy was short-lived, with VAR deciding that Suarez was offside when he received the ball. Video footage suggests it was very close but his right leg is indeed just ahead of the last defender. But VAR taketh away, and VAR giveth, and just before half-time the hated technology did Port a very big – and utterly ridiculous – favour. A Langil shot/cross was fumbled by Worawut (36) into the path of Roger Boli, who fired home to give Ratchaburi the lead, at which point many of us made the long trek down the Himalayan slopes of zone S to procure half-time beverages. Several minutes later, whilst we were still in the queue, a loud cheer went up from the Port fans as the goal was ruled out after possibly the longest VAR consultation in history. Watching it later on video, it seems the only possible reason is Boli’s accidental collision with Worawut earlier in the move. An absurd decision – as dodgy as anything we saw at Buriram two weeks previously to be honest. This situation with fans celebrating goals only to see them ruled out minutes later is destroying football and for the good of the game it simply cannot be allowed to continue.

So a big helping of relief to go with those half-time Changs, and we were still in Toby Time (and, on this occasion, Timmy Time) when the officials finally actually let a goal stand, when a sublime long pass from Go picked out Suarez on the edge of the box, and following a first touch that is the filthiest thing you’ll see on video outside of Pornhub, the Spaniard fired it into the back of the net to finally give Port the lead they deserved.

 

 

It almost got better for Port 10 minutes later when a speculative 20-yarder from Bodin slipped through the keeper’s hands, only to trickle wide of the post. Then it was Worawut’s turn to get involved, palming away a fierce volley from Komboure. It was thrilling stuff by now and Ratchaburi went close again when a Flock of Seagulls free-kick picked out a teammate on the far post, who fortunately headed over the bar from a yard out.

The game swung further in Port’s favour a couple of minutes later when Ratchaburi midfielder Pawee ended a goalward run by Kevin (97) via an elbow in the back, & was awarded a second yellow as a result. Port almost inflicted immediate punishment when a delightful cross from Nitipong (34) was headed narrowly over by Pakorn; and again 4 minutes later when Nurul (31) sprung the offside trap, but fell over in comedy fashion whilst trying to square the ball to the unmarked Blackburn (99). Given his form this season and the arrival of Tanasith, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this proved to be his last act in a Port shirt.

 

There was still time for one last bit of VAR drama 4 minutes into injury time. Flock of Seagulls went down under a challenge from Pakorn and, clearly not realising his team were a goal down in injury time in a cup final, decided to milk it like Dutch Lady – Roller by name, roller by nature, he rolled around as if he’d been shot, when video evidence later showed what was a clumsy but not particularly malicious step on the ankle by Pakorn. Nevertheless the ref decided that this merited a straight red, and once the card was produced, the ludicrous Roller was straight up on his feet in Pakorn’s face and some handbags briefly ensued. The resulting free-kick was repelled by the Port defence, the ref blew, and euphoria reigned in zone S and beyond. Port had finally won the FA Cup.

And deservedly so, for whilst this wasn’t the swaggering, balls-out football we know this team can deliver, it was a solid, composed, dominant performance with the mark of Choke all over it. The restored Rochela was immense in defence; Nitipong was Nitipong; Suarez was simply too much for Ratchaburi to handle; and the superb performances of Tanaboon and Go show just what can be achieved when you play players in their natural positions. A natural striker up front could have seen the game won by half-time, but at the end of the day, who gives a shit – we won the cup, and that’s all that matters.

 

 

Said cup was presented by visiting FIFA president Gianni Infantino, was soundly booed when introduced and booed even further when he congratulated Thailand on being the first ASEAN league to introduce VAR – rather like me congratulating my neighbour after my dog shits on his front doorstep. Rochela (and, for some reason, the chairwoman) lifted the trophy, a moment many of us have dreamed of for years, grown men hugged, and all the frustrations of the unsuccessful title challenge were forgotten.

After an ecstatic pyro party outside the stadium – swiftly extinguished by Rangsit’s finest – the Sandpit crew jumped back in the vans and headed to The Sportsman for a post-match party (via a brief toilet stop in Game – sorry Game), with free shots from Joe and more celebrations from the Liverpool fans in our number with their late win at Villa Park. I have vague memories of returning home around 2.30am for reasons we won’t go into here, and a sore head this morning. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Go Seul-Ki

Several contenders here. Rochela’s performance showed just how stupid the decision to drop him mid-season was; Tanaboon proved his doubters – even Tom – wrong with a superb performance at DM; Nitipong did what Nitipong always does; and Suarez got the goal his performance deserved. But the standout was Go, for once playing in his best position at CM – he was everywhere, both destructive and creative as required, and provided the assist that won Port the trophy. Let’s hope we see more of this kind of form next season.

 

 

 

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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