It’s Grim Up North: Sukhothai FC 1-2 Port FC

 

Port made it three wins out of three in their first away game of the season, but where wins one and two featured goals galore and champagne football, win three was gritty, ugly and somewhat fortunate. What with Sukhothai on a Wednesday being one of the least accessible fixtures on the calendar, the Sandpit crew watched the game from the comfort of The Sportsman, accompanied by the dulcet tones of a loud American (a tautology I know) relating the plot of long-forgotten 1980s Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor comedy See No Evil, Hear No Evil to an audience of baffled Thai girls. Thanks for that.


 

Unsurprisingly, Port kept the same starting XI for the third consecutive game, despite pre-match fears that the newly fit Tanaboon might be shoehorned in somewhere. He was on the bench though, along with (SCREEAAAMMM!!!) dreamboat Charyl Chappuis. And untypically for Port, who tend to approach away games the way I approach the PAT sausage stalls – with considerable trepidation – they tore into the Fire Bats from the whistle, clearly intent on showing just who was top of the table, without really creating any chances, and were a goal down within 10 minutes when a delightful through ball set that man John Baggio, who loves Port even more than we do, free for a one-on-one with Rattanai (18). Had the Port keeper come for the ball straight away he’d almost certainly have got to it first, but he hesitated, clearly expecting – despite masses of historical evidence to the contrary – one of his centre-backs to keep pace with Baggio and clear the ball; obviously this bizarre fantasy did not become reality and the Malagasy Maestro chipped the ball over the Rat to put the Fire Bats ahead against the run of play, followed by the usual pointless and time-wasting VAR investigation. Yet more evidence that Port need to SIGN A DECENT KEEPER.

So Port were behind in a league game for the first time this season, but it didn’t take them long to show that they’re made of sterner stuff than last season’s Sukhothai meltdown, and on 17 minutes some lovely work from Kevin (23) down the left saw the ball fall right at the feet of Suarez (5) on the edge of the six-yard box. His shot was brilliantly parried by the keeper but he recovered the ball and his attempted pass to Heberty (37) was, as VAR later showed, blocked by the trailing hand of a defender – PENALTY. A bit harsh in that it was hardly hand-to-ball, but sadly in the current nitpicking climate them’s the rules. Despite Heberty taking possibly the best penalty ever taken by a Port player last Saturday, cap’n Rochela (22) stepped up and slotted it to the keeper’s right to bring Port level.

It almost got better for Port ten minutes later when Suarez burst through the Sukhothai midfield and unleashed an absolute thriker of a shot from just outside the box, which was brilliantly parried by the Sukhothai keeper. Supersave, oh-hoooohhh. And the same keeper made a similarly impressive stop from a Heberty free-kick on the stroke of half-time.

The two teams continued to trade blows early in the second half, with both Bodin (10) and that man Baggio going close, and Heberty firing wide when teed up in the box by Go Seul-Ki (8) following a nice cross from (SCREEAAMMM!!!) Chappuis (17), who made a lively debut as a sub. But finally, on 75 minutes, Port got their chance to go ahead when a speculative 30-yarder from Bodin was fumbled by the keeper into the path of substitute Adisak (9), who was fouled by that same keeper as he attempted to win the ball. As clear a penalty as you’ll see all season, so absolutely no reason why VAR had to poke its fucking nose in, but it most assuredly did, to merely confirm what even Ray Charles, had he been a) still alive and b) at Thalay Luang Stadium for some reason, could’ve seen was a penalty. This time it was the turn of Suarez, whose Port penalty record is somewhat less than stellar, to step up, and the Spaniard sent the keeper the wrong way to give Port a lead they just about deserved. And so, despite a few nervy late moments, it stayed, after we endured a very tense six minutes of added time.

We all said before the game kicked off that we’d take a draw, so to come away with a win, having defended poorly and ridden our luck at times, is a very satisfying result indeed, and in its way more impressive than those turkey shoots against Korat and Pattaya. It wasn’t pretty to watch, and the swagger of those opening games was mostly missing, but titles are won as much by grinding out ugly wins on sweaty Wednesday nights in Sukhothai as they are by showboating at the PAT, and so this performance bodes well for the rest of the season. Next up, however, is Buriram away, and there will be psychological as well as footballing barriers to overcome…

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: David Rochela

Trying to find a man of the match in this game was like trying to find someone on the BTS reading a book; but I clearly remember El Capitan digging his defence out of the shit on several occasions, as well as scoring his first goal of the season, so he gets the nod this week.

 

 

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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