Kicking Off With a Leo: Port FC vs. Nakhon Ratchasima FC Preview

 

I’m still reeling from Port’s disappointing AFC Champions League exit at the hands of Ceres Negros on Tuesday, so you’ll excuse me if I let a particularly virulent strand of pessimism colour this preview. Whisperings from the Port camp had already set alarm bells ringing in my head, and now having had a chance to look at Choke’s boys in action I’m exponentially more concerned.

I’m previewing the Leo Cup Clash with Korat here, but I’m also talking about the trajectory Port are taking with 2020 in mind.

Before I lose my mind and let loose though, here’s a brief (I promise) look at the opposition.

 

Nakhon Ratchasima FC

Players to watch

 

Not too much has changed for Korat in 2020. Key attacking duo Leandro Assumpcao (7) and Amadou Outtara (81) have remained. Leandro is a dead ball specialist and a deadly finisher in and around the box. Port defenders will want to keep the ball away from his left boot when he’s within striking range. Amadou Outtara is a winger with devastating pace who has always impressed me when I’ve seen him, although he’s hasn’t quite managed to deliver as many goals as one might expect given how dangerous he looks. He’s good, but perhaps his end product could be better.

 

 

They will likely be joined in the attack by Chitchanok Xaysensourinthone (10), a Thai-Laotian winger born in Switzerland, who has been kicking around Thailand for a few years but never quite nailed down a starting spot and been able to make his mark at a T1 club. He’s one of those who has always had potential, but as yet hasn’t quite delivered as much as he could. He’s a strong, physical presence in the forward line though, and shouldn’t be underestimated.

Straight in to Korat’s XI in their Leo Cup opener was a little-known midfielder who has been kicking his heels at one of Thailand’s top clubs for a couple of years now. The short-sighted assessment of the aforementioned club meant that the player received far less playing time than his early contributions warranted, but now the shackles are off and he’s straight in to a T1 side’s prospective XI for the coming season. Well done Anon Samakorn (99), us Port fans hope you get a real go at it this year with the Swatcats.

 

 

Then there’s Samuel Cunningham (88). A player Port fans love to wind up, he can expect his devoted followers to say hello from Zones B and D in a quiet PAT Stadium this Thursday. We’ve missed you, Sam.

 

Form

 

They drew their first round match with T2 side Khon Kaen FC, before edging the tie on penalties.

 

Port FC

Ajax My Ass

 

Right, I’m done delaying the inevitable. It’s colonoscopy time, boys, and this one is not going to be brief.

Let’s start from the back. We’ve always said that Worawut (36) is too flappy and punchy from crosses, so his blunder against Ceres wasn’t a surprise. It shouldn’t really effect our judgment of Port’s first choice between the sticks, as everyone makes mistakes, so we’re left saying once again that Port have three decent ‘keepers by T1 standards, but none quite feel like T1 winners. I’ve advocated in the past for Port to spend big and bring in one of these 5 ASEAN goalkeepers, who would all represent an improvement on Port’s stoppers, and that message hasn’t changed. Either that or a really top Thai goalkeeper.

Then there’s the defence. Nitipong’s (34) end product was poor, and Kevin (23) didn’t seem to be on it at all on Tuesday, but we know they’ll be back as Port’s first choice full backs in 2020, and rightly so. In central defence is where I have issues. The Rochela (22) question is back once again. He looked sluggish to say the least against Police, and Choke chose to drop him altogether against Ceres, opting for Dolah (4) and Tanaboon (71) in the middle. For the most part (I missed the first 10 minutes of the second half) they did well, but I’ve had the chance to watch the highlights now, and it’s a terrible error from Tanaboon that led to the corner from which Ceres got the decisive goal. Dolah’s solid performance only served to further underline that the only question should be who partners him at the back.

 

 

My thoughts on this: if your foreign centre back isn’t even getting in the XI, you need a different foreign centre back. Simple as that. On Tanaboon, I thought he looked good in general, but the mistake was typical of a player for whom decisiveness has never been a strong point. A couple of decent performances – one at DM in the FA Cup Final – are not going to assuage my doubts. Same old problems here.

In midfield, Port didn’t do anything ostensibly wrong. Go (8) moved the ball around beautifully as usual, but we were outmatched for intensity. Schrock (12) and his boys wanted it more than us, and that’s a shame to see in such a big game. Still, losing this battle isn’t the end of the world, and we know Go and Siwakorn (16) will be back stronger.

I would normally differentiate between players who played different positions across the forward line at this point, but since Choke has decided Port will be T1’s Ajax there’s really no knowing who is supposed to be playing where. Pakorn (7), Bordin (10), Heberty (37) and Suarez (5) were the forwards, but none seemed to have much idea where they should be or what they should do.

 

 

Pakorn was spotted at right back, right wing, left wing and even centre forward. Pakorn. You know, the chunky lad whose only skills are freekicks, corners and playing right wing. Pakorn was probably the most threatening of the front line, so obviously he was the first to be substituted. Bordin looked like he’d had a lobotomy gone wrong over the break, in which both his brain and hair were accidentally swapped with the least talented member of a Korean boy band. His decline since the mid-way point of 2019 is ever more concerning. Heberty had a shocker, looking far too concerned with doing everything himself, despite being unable to actually do anything himself. His freekicks were shocking, his shooting was shocking, and his selfishness was the cherry on top. He has to fit in to this team, rather than bend it to his will. Suarez played pretty well in all, trying to stick to the task he has once again been stuck with, despite the fact that playing up front is nowhere near his best position. He did miss a headed chance you’d expect him to stick away, but he was far from the only one guilty of that.

 

 

The substitutes did improve Port going forward, but not enough to make the breakthrough. Adisak (9) gave the attack a focal point when he came on, but his finishing was predictably lackluster. He had two chances, with a tricky headed opportunity which went narrowly wide and a big chance clear through on the ‘keeper which he wasted through being painfully indecisive.

 

 

Tanasith (11) was a breath of fresh air on the left, hugging the touchline and making darting runs in behind, but his finishing was also found wanting at the crucial moment, when he shot through a crowd of bodies, only to pick out the man on the line.

 


 

So, the areas that we are really going to learn something from in this Leo Cup tie are the centre of defence and the attack. A decision must be made on whether Rochela or Tanaboon is going to partner Dolah. If it’s Rochela then hopefuly he’s still up to the task, but if it’s Tanaboon, then a new defender must be signed. A foreign centre back would be preferable, but Port could also opt to bring in a top Thai centre back and use their foreign player elsewhere.

Speaking of which, the one thing this team needs, and indeed has needed for a very long time, is a striker. A foreign striker. Josimar (30) is still on the books. Injured, but on the books. Maybe bringing him at Rochela’s expense in is once again an option worth considering. As long as we don’t play him out wide again. Looking further afield is another option, but at this point in the transfer window we’d likely be looking at another risky signing, which could easily go the way of Rolando Blackburn, and no one wants to see that again. Adisak could make a case for himself if he bangs in a few goals today, but let’s face it, that’s not a likely scenario. Does anyone know if Pele has gone to Police yet?

 


 

Kickoff is at 18:00 at PAT Stadium, and the game will also be broadcast live on True4U.

 

Tom Earls

Tom Earls

Having moved to Thailand aged 10, Tom has been playing or watching football in Thailand for more than 18 years. A keen follower of the Thai National Team and an avid fan of Port FC, he is a regular contributor to The Sandpit.

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