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My Favourite Game: Port Blitz Sinks Navy (2010)

 

After listening to Tim and Tom’s excellent audio-visual podcast featuring a decade of highlights and currently having plenty of time on my hands, I started to think of games that would fit their criteria. One match from the 2010 season immediately came to mind and would have been a great way to kick off the episode…if any highlights of the classic Toyota League Cup semi-final second leg vs Raj Navy Rayong existed. Sadly, they don’t, so Thai Port’s equivalent of ‘that night in Istanbul’ is consigned to the memory banks of the few who witnessed it. Whilst Liverpool had overcome a three-goal half time deficit within 15 minutes of the restart, Port were 4-1 behind on aggregate at that point in the game. We did, however, produce our own brilliant comeback – with the added jeopardy of the away goals rule looming large and without the need for a penalty shootout. Granted, Liverpool had to overhaul the mighty AC Milan whilst Port had the less imposing task of beating a well-drilled Navy side but, as an Everton/Port supporter, that’s a detail I’m more than willing to overlook.

 

Port went into the second leg at a disadvantage for two reasons. Firstly, we’d put in a dreadful performance at the Rayong Provincial Stadium in the first leg, losing 3-1. Wuttichai Assuweewa opened the scoring early on but Sarayoot Chaikamdee quickly equalised for Port. That was as good as it got. Moudourou Swa-Moise’s own goal restored the hosts lead and Brazilian midfielder Ratinho completed a comfortable win for Navy from the penalty spot after the referee had blown for a foul that was clearly committed outside the 18-yard box. Secondly, the tie would be played in a practically empty PAT Stadium because Port fans were banned from attending following the recent crowd trouble at LEO Stadium after a bad-tempered 0-0 draw with Bangkok Glass. That meant only a couple of hundred Navy fans – along with a few Port infiltrators – witnessed the evening’s unforgettable events. That said, there were a few thousand Port fans outside Zone C watching on a big screen, drinking beer and helping to create an atmosphere.

 

Sasom made four changes to the side that lost in Rayong. Mario, Jakkrit Bunkham, Worawut Wangsawad and Issarapong Lilakorn replaced Yoshiaki Maruyama, Yai Nilwong, Kiatjareon Ruangparn and Jacob Aikhionbare. Given the 3-1 first leg deficit, the pre-match team talk would surely have mentioned the importance of starting well and getting a confidence boosting early goal. Expectations that Port would come flying out of the blocks, however, were quickly dashed. Navy were more than happy to get men behind the ball, kill time and frustrate the home side at every opportunity. The visitors game plan worked well and the drab first half ended goalless, with Port heading out of the tournament as things stood. The uphill task grew even steeper on 51 minutes when Ivorian striker Didier Gnapka opened the scoring on the night and extended the visitors overall lead to 4-1 – whilst simultaneously wiping out Port’s away goal from the first leg. The jubilant Navy celebrations suggested they thought the tie was done and dusted; how wrong they were.

 

 

As Gnapka celebrated his goal, Port’s inconsistent but occasionally brilliant Nigerian striker Jacob Aikhionbare was on the touchline waiting to replace the ineffective Issarapong Lilakorn. It wasn’t long before the “bow legged goal-poacher” (The Lagos Daily News, 2009) took centre stage and equalised just after the hour mark, reducing the overall deficit to 4-2. At this point Sasom decided to go for broke and commit players forward in search of the two further goals needed to level the tie, fully aware of our vulnerability to a sucker punch Navy goal that would effectively end Port’s challenge. On this occasion fortune favoured the brave as Jacob went from goal scorer to provider to set-up skipper Sarayoot Chaikamdee who netted from close-range with 20 minutes remaining. By the 80-minute mark Port were 3-1 up on the night as super-sub Jacob produced a great run and finish to level the tie – cue pandemonium on the pitch and outside the stadium. Port pushed for a late winner but couldn’t finish the tie inside 90 minutes. With the aggregate score level at 4-4 and both teams with one away goal apiece, extra time beckoned.

Port, having scraped past Bangkok United in the previous round via the away goals rule, were well aware of the implications of another Navy goal and had rejigged their tactics accordingly. The visitors were content to try and regain a foothold in the game after Port’s three goals blitz and it was no surprise that the first half of extra time was both cagey and goalless. The second half of extra time, though, started with a bang. Sarayoot had received a yellow card earlier in the match – meaning he’d be suspended for the final – but put that personal disappointment behind him and gave Port the lead for the first time in the tie as he unleashed a powerful shot into the roof of the net. Cue more joyous celebrations on and off the pitch.

 

From 4-1 down on aggregate to 5-4 up, the tide had clearly turned our way and continued to do so when Navy’s playmaker Ratinho was shown a red card for a mistimed challenge. The visitors couldn’t produce any late heroics of their own and – despite being absolutely garbage for 150 of the 210 minutes over the two legs – Port were victorious, booking their place in the Cup Final. After the full-time whistle was blown, many of the Port players wearily climbed up the steps to the top tier of Zone C and leaned over the railings to salute the fans who had cheered them on from outside the Stadium. It was one of those games that had to be seen to be believed. It’s hard to do justice, in written form, to the pendulum swing of emotion from despair to elation – culminating in 4 goals in 44 minutes. You also have to consider the pre-match context of the woeful first leg performance, the crowd trouble at BG and the subsequent supporter ban to fully appreciate the tension that had accumulated in the days leading up to the match.

 

 

The win over Navy paved the way for the fantastic Toyota League Cup Final win over Buriram PEA at Supachalasai Stadium. Despite Sarayoot (pictured above) being suspended for that game, he was named player of the tournament and received a Toyota Camry Hybrid plus prize money. Well-deserved for his semi-final exploits alone. Sadly, the second leg vs Navy proved to be his last game in a Port shirt. He left PAT Stadium after a prolific season, scoring 26 goals all in all competitions, and signed for Bangkok Glass – a move that hastened his decline. History repeated itself a few years later when one of his successors to the Port number 10 shirt, Leandro, made the move from Khlong Toei to Pathum Thani and looked a shadow of the player idolised at PAT Stadium.

Lineups:

Thai Port: 1. Pattarakorn Thanganurat, 26. Alef Poh-Ji, 17. Pongpipat Kamnuan, 22. Mario Cesar Da Silva (3. Todsapol Lated), 36. Moudourou Swa-Moise, 4. Worawut Wangsawad, 8. Jakkrit Bunkham (27. Kiatjareon Ruangparn), 11. Jirawat Makarom, 13. Issarapong Lilakorn (14. Jacob Aikhionbare), 24. Sompong Soleb, 10. Sarayoot Chaikamdee (c)

Goals: Jacob Aikhionbare (62, 80), Sarayoot Chaikamdee (70, 106)

Raj Navy Rayong: 30. Kosin Hembut, 2. Rattapon Saetan (19. Wuttichai Asuweewa), 6. Chantawat Srisook, 9. Somjet Sattabud (c), 10. Ratinho, 13. Panuwat Konchan, 14. Yannick Georges, 15. Seksan Chaothonglang, 22. Komsan Muendee (5. Suradet Saotaisong), 28. Didier Gnapka, 35. Jang Gil-Hyeok (11. Suttinan Nontee)

Goal: Didier Gnapka (51)

 

Marcus T

Marcus T

'Marco' has supported Port since 2009 and ran a (now defunct) website documenting the clubs fortunes from 2009-2013. His time following the club certainly hasn't been dull; 3 trophies and a cup final defeat - plus 2 relegations and 2 promotions in 9 eventful seasons.

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  1. […] Note: This started off as, ‘My Favourite Game’, in response to Marco’s excellent recent article, but the more I researched through print and video, the more the memories came flooding back until […]

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