Mai Pen Rai: Port FC 2-2 Chiang Rai Utd (Port win 12-11 on penalties)

Port scraped through a bruising encounter with Chiang Rai to book their place in the Leo Cup Final, which will be played on Tuesday. Chiang Rai were moments away from progressing until Port converted a late penalty, after which we went on to tuck away an astonishing 12 more in a marathon penalty shootout. Chiang Rai’s new Brazilian Mailson (11) was the fall guy. Not picked in the starting XI, Mailson looked poor after coming on, before missing the target entirely with two woeful spot-kick attempts. Not a good start for Thin Bill’s replacement.

 

 

The game started as you would expect any tie involving Chiang Rai to start. Both sides kicked eachother. A lot. Dolah (4) opened his account early, accidentally stepping on Chaiyawat Buran (26), who you may remember (Dolah certainly does) got the big man sent off a couple of years back with some particularly egregious foul play. Chiang Rai had their sights set on Port’s creative talents, with both Bordin (10) and Suarez (5) appearing to be targeted with persistent kicks and tugs.

In between the kicking, diving, pushing and foul language some football did eventually break out. Adisak (9) blazed wide from a tricky angle early on, then headed over from close range after a dangerous corner from the left, before grazing the post after the ball was gifted to him with the defence and goalkeeper out of position. It was not looking like his day, once again.

Despite Port looking like marginally the better side though, all it took was one lapse to turn the tables. Rochela (22) committed himself and was beaten far too easily, allowing Bill (9) a clear waddle at Worawut (36). Even as slow and rotund as he is, he had the time and space to pick his spot, and Worawut’s finger tips weren’t quite strong enough to keep his composed finish out.

 

 

Port responded with a substitution. Suarez (5), after picking up a knock in the last round, was withdrawn, hopefully as a precautionary measure. In his place, Tanasith (11) was given the chance to impress with the first team. He added an urgency and attacking endeavor to Port’s game that was lacking with Heberty (37) slowing the game down on the right. The Brazilian was once again looking lethargic and, frankly, continued the trend of being one of Port’s worst players throughout pre-season.

After half time, Port continued to press with Tanasith providing the spark, and the little man soon provided Adisak with a chance that surely even he couldn’t botch. Tanasith danced on to Heberty’s pass down the right, removed the ‘keeper from the equation with a deft chip and presented Adisak with an open goal from a couple of yards out. Port’s oft wayward striker finally put to bed his run of missed chances, getting above his marker and finding the back of the net. Hopefully that will have done his confidence some good!

 

 

Port failed to maintain concentration and kick on, though, immediately allowing Chiang Rai to re-establish their lead. Nitipong (34) and Dolah allowed Chaiyawat a little too much time after a well-weighted ball down the left, and the forward struck a vicious left footed effort towards goal. He hit it well, but Worawut won’t be happy to have been beaten by his effort, which went straight over his head and in to the back of the net.

Port didn’t look particularly likely to level the game, with multiple substitutions from both sides breaking up the flow of the game, but a stroke of fortune did eventually lead to a very late equalizer. Heberty’s freekick was cleared to Chenrop (39), and his attempted cross struck the arm of Chiang Rai forward Somkid (17). The referee didn’t see it initially, awarding a corner, but after receiving word from his linesman a penalty was correctly given. Brinner (5) and several other players harangued the referee and delayed the taking of the penalty for several minutes, and Chiang Rai even brought on apparent ‘specialist’ penalty stopper Saranon Anuin (1) to up the ante. Heberty, entirely nonplussed by the nonsense going on around him, coolly converted, and the tie went straight to a shootout.

 

 

Port immediately set about trying to lose, naming their entire back 4 among the first 5 takers. Todsapol (6) and Dolah (4) both missed the target, but Brazilian winger Mailson followed suit before former Port midfielder Tatchanon (7) slipped and saw his effort saved by Worawut. A remarkable succession of successful penalties followed, with all of the sudden death takers converting without much hassle. Goalkeeper Worawut’s penalty was arguably the pick of the bunch, finding the bottom corner with unerring accuracy.

 

 

With one round completed, the teams were allowed to reorganize, and Heberty was first up for Port to convert his third penalty of the evening, then Athibordee entertained the crowd, pointing to his spot before duly dispatching his effort exactly where he had pointed to. Eventually, after a few more successful efforts from both sides Mailson stepped up to settle the tie in Port’s favour, hitting the worst penalty of the night miles over the bar. In an entertaining subplot, last-minute Tim Krul wannabe Saranon failed to lay a glove on any of Port’s 14 penalties, proving unsurprisingly that tactically changing your ‘keeper at the last minute only works if said goalkeeper actually knows how to save penalties.

All in all, an enjoyable finish to a pretty poor game for Port. We didn’t really deserve to win, the likes of Bordin, Heberty, Adisak and Rochela continued to struggle for form, but at least Port will have another competitive game before the start of the season. Our opponents will be none other than Muangthong, who overcame Prachuap in another shootout in yesterday’s late kick off.

First of course is the Thailand Champions Cup tie with Chiang Rai at the SCG this Sunday, with the Leo Cup game to follow at Leo Stadium on Tuesday.

 

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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