Bricking It at Legoland: Port FC 0-2 Chiang Rai Utd (Champions’ Cup 2020)

 

 

Port fans turned out in force for their first legally approved visit to the SCG since 2016, as Port faced 2019 T1 winners Chiang Rai in Thailand’s equivalent of the Charity Shield. Sadly Port were far too charitable themselves, handing the northerners yet another trophy during a second-half implosion that raised huge questions about their readiness for the 2020 season.


 

Ah, Muangthong Thani in the smog – what more idyllic setting for Thai football’s pre-season showpiece? The air was so bad you could literally see the dust particles, and it must’ve been awful to play in. It was certainly awful to watch, and if these two teams are Thailand’s ‘champions’, it really doesn’t say much about current Thai football standards.

Port, missing the injured Tanaboon, and the presumably injured Kevin, lined up as expected, with Rochela (22) and Dolah (4) at CB, Steuble (15) at LB and Adisak (9) continuing to ‘lead the line’ in his own inimitable fashion. Chiang Rai lined up with our old friends Fat Bill and Chaiyawat up front, the latter starting as he meant to go on by leaving the boot in on Worawut in the first minute and then rolling around playing the victim card. He would spend the next hour diving and waving imaginary cards at the ref, before getting subbed and doing a long walk of shame in front of the Port fans in Zone N, who made their feelings about one of the most obnoxious players in Thai football perfectly clear.

But after a typically robust opening 20 minutes in which they rolled out their full, extensive repertoire of shithousery, Chiang Rai realised they really didn’t need to try that hard, as Port were, frankly, a mess – with CR’s midfielders pressing Go Seul-Ki (8) whenever the ball came near him, Port had no plan B and, overrun in midfield, disorganised at the back and totally out of shape up front, barely troubled the Beetles’ net. Heberty (37) is clearly a marquee signing with no thought given into how he actually fits into the team (answer: he doesn’t); Pakorn (7) hates playing on the left and made his feelings clear throughout by putting in as little effort as possible; and Adisak simply isn’t good enough for this level.

Somehow, despite some Keystone Cops defending and a few Worawut (36) near-howlers, and thanks to Fat Bill missing an open goal, Port made it to half-time on level terms, but that didn’t last long, and in the 51st minute a cross from the right found everyone’s favourite Korean grandpa Lee Yong Rae unmarked in the box to nod easily past Worawut to give Chiang Rai a fully deserved lead; and then 4 minutes later Fat Bill oozed through the entire Port defence to square the ball for Chaiyawat to fire home to double the lead.

This thankfully sparked a brief Port revival, thanks mainly to the removal of the dreadful Adisak and the lacklustre Pakorn and the arrival of spunky young guns Tanasith (11) and Bodin (10), who injected both pace and passion into Port’s attack. But without a focal point, they failed to create much in the way of chances and the game eventually fizzled out, Chiang Rai adding yet another trophy to their bulging cabinet.

A bad night for Port then, and clearly there is still considerable work to be done to get the team ready for 2020. There are still two glaring holes in the team: a genuine T1 quality goalkeeper, and a proper striker. As with Tanaboon last season, Heberty has been signed with no thought given to how he fits and his presence is destabilising Port’s attack (he’s this year’s Sumanya basically), whilst his fellow ex-Kirin Adisak is simply not good enough. Port either need to sign a new striker, or bring Josimar back into the fold pretty damn quick, at the expense of either Rochela or Heberty. We may give Fat Bill some grief but his bustling forward play is exactly what Port were missing last night. Yes, it’s only pre-season, but the performances in big games against Ceres Negros and now Chiang Rai are very worrying and if this is how Port are going to perform in 2020, it’s going to be a long old season…

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Tanasith

The young fella only came on at half-time but his skill, pace and sheer enthusiasm were a joy to behold and sparked a bit of life into a previously moribund attack. Sadly Port don’t pick players on form/merit but on reputation, so unless Heberty or Pakorn get injured, he’s doomed to a supersub role this 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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