‘Wut a Mess: Port FC 0-1 Ceres Negros FC (ACL Qualifying Round 2)

 

“They already booked their tickets to Japan? This is Port! You can’t rely on them!” So said a highly amused French Port fan friend of mine after last night’s game when I pointed out a few of our fellow farangs who were due to be jetting off to Tokyo on Sunday. And they weren’t alone in their overconfidence – before the game the club was selling limited edition gold away shirts, specially designed for Tuesday’s anticipated clash against FC Tokyo. The absolute epitome of hubris from a club for whom such arrogance really doesn’t sit well. As it is, those gold shirts will no doubt be on sale at half price before long; the first team will be playing in the Leo Cup instead of the ACL; and several friends of mine will currently be Googling “what to do in tokyo on a freezing cold tuesday night.”


 

Port’s first ever ACL tie was pretty much a sellout, though we found to our surprise that we were still able to wander into our usual spot in zone B just before kickoff despite the introduction of seating. And the Port fans had arranged a tifo with thousands of blue & orange flags, though as these were made entirely of plastic and were subsequently dumped on the ground, it wasn’t a particularly ‘woke’ way to welcome the ACL to Khlong Toey – Greta Thunberg, no doubt watching on a live stream at home in Sweden, would’ve been appalled.

Port lined up largely as expected, with Dolah (4) & Tanaboon (71) forming the central defence, and Heberty (37) & Suarez (5) spearheading Port’s attack. New boys Adisak (9) and Tanasith (11) started on the bench. Ceres had the best of the first half, with former Bundesliga star Stephan Schrock bossing the midfield and winger OJ “Orange Juice” (I made that up) Porteria giving Kevin (23) a torrid time down Port’s left. Worawut (36) made a couple of smart saves to keep Port in it.

At the other end, the Curse of Brent McGrath – that foul malediction that afflicts any previously prolific striker who puts on a Port shirt – seemed to affect Heberty from the off, as he fluffed a couple of free kicks before missing an open goal from six yards out after a sublime cross from Pakorn (7). Bodin (10), who had an absolute stinker, blazed over the bar when put through by Suarez, the latter rather ambitiously claiming a penalty shortly after.

The stalemate was finally broken early in the first half, in truly pitiful fashion. A short corner from Ceres found Schrock whose shot/cross should have been easily dealt with by Worawut. But the Port keeper, who never catches when he can punch (never, ever play Pass the Parcel with him), punched the ball straight into his own net to give the Filipino champions the lead.

Cue an absolute onslaught from Port, who bombarded the Ceres goal in their desperation to get back on terms. Heberty saw a sublime free-kick trickle just wide; Tanasith, on for the hapless Bodin, saw a shot cleared off the line; Suarez somehow missed a header from point blank range; and Adisak, through on goal with only the keeper to beat, took so long over his shot – he could’ve brewed and consumed a cup of PG Tips in the time it took him to make his mind up – was dispossessed by a Ceres defender. Ceres almost caught Port on the break towards the end to double their lead but in the end one goal was enough, and it’s the Filipinos who’ll be playing in Tokyo on Tuesday night.

It’s hard to be too harsh on Port after this performance. They created chance after chance and if they play like this in T1 they’ll beat most teams. But they were profligate up front and are in dire need of an out & out striker (and Adisak certainly doesn’t look like player they’re missing), and as we say every season, they need to sign a top quality keeper – or accept that Watchara is comfortably the best of the three we currently have. I should also say hats off to Ceres who came with a game plan, were well organised, had a bit of luck, and had the best player on the pitch by far. But Port really should have put this game to bed long before full time.

And talking of full time, let’s hope Port’s short-lived ACL experience sees the end of those ridiculous seats – getting out of zone B after the game was both difficult and potentially dangerous.

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

Honourable mentions to Nitipong (as per usual) and Dolah (who spent the first half roughing up Ceres’ striker Robert Mendy, before realising he really didn’t need to bother), but this was one of those nights when SS tried to drag Port to a win almost singlehandedly, & was at the heart of pretty much everything they created. With his position potentially under threat from new signing Heberty, by the end of the game any such concerns were put to bed.

 

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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