Trat-gedy Avoided: Trat FC 2-3 Port FC

 

 

Seven months. That’s the amount of time since I’ve last taken any football photos as I was in Hong Kong for Port’s last game (away at Buriram, and watched online from there) before Covid threw a spanner into the new Thai League season as well as the rest of the world. The September restart back then seemed like an eternity away, so when it did eventually roll around suffice to say things have not gone to plan so far. Having frustratingly been denied access to the PAT pitch two weeks in a row due to reduced capacity – and therefore reduced (well, zero) atmosphere – in line with social distancing overkill guidelines along with below-par performances from the team and general drama (because it wouldn’t be Thai football without some), apathy was setting in going into the game against Trat FC, a good 6 hour drive away from the capital. Yet one of the best things about being a football fan is the opportunity to engage in some groundhopping and visit places around the country that you have yet been/rarely go to – and of course any excuse to get out of the Bangkok bubble every now and again, even if it’s a bit of a trek across the eastern seaboard just to fundamentally watch 22 guys kick a ball for 90 minutes. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that nothing should be taken for granted, including the freedom to travel, and with knowing friends around the world are currently under lockdown where they are would absolutely jump at the chance of a road trip right now, I eventually decided to rock up to Ekkamai Bus Station at the crack of dawn. Carpe diem and all of that.

 

 

With the appointment of the affable Coach Oud as the new Team Manager, the prospect of the players bouncing back against a Trat side yet to register any points after 6 rounds appealed to the hundred-or-so other Tarua faithful that also made the long early-morning journey on the disco fan bus. After confirming a place (so I thought) in the media quota for this match with Trat FC’s media team earlier, when I arrived at the stadium all the extremely limited pitchside slots were already filled up (and they were super apologetic about it and tried to find a solution for me and another regular Port photographer, which was appreciated) so decided to go into the away end and try to make the most of it.

 

 

The game itself ended up being quite the rollercoaster with all its dips, peaks, and twists. Adding to the dazy feel was the extremely muggy air that weighed down around the stadium, in which the high humidity levels kept fogging up the camera lenses. After a cagey first half an hour in which both sides had several pops at goal each, Port made the breakthrough with Heberty (37), having already had a couple of attempts, in the 34th minute as he slid in on a cross from Kevin (23) on the left. Trat however quickly hit back minutes later, as they took control of the midfield with Paso (44) latching on to a defense-splitting through ball from Jarunai (29) and emphatically lobbing the ball over Rattanai (18). The fact that he looked substantially offside only further deflated the mood in the away stand.

 

 

Nevertheless, the Klong Toey Army were boisterous again right after the break as Nitipong (34) put Port back in front while they were still re-entering the terraces with their halftime beers. He combined well with Heberty from the halfway line, as they quickly shifted the ball down the pitch before unleashing a right-footer from the penalty arc. Afterwards Trat continued to cause problems for our central defenders, while at the other end Go (8), Adisak (9), and Suarez (5) – wearing the captain’s armband tonight – found themselves thwarted by theirs. Those missed opportunities were rued in the 68th minute when Trat equalised again through a corner, as Rattanai – who was having a solid game with several top saves – lost out in the air to the head of Azadzoy (7). Cue much cursing. Tanasith (11) was subbed on to inject more pace and creativity while Rattanai redeemed himself by denying Azadzoy a second goal with a flying save.

It was a nervy final 10 minutes as both the crowd and the players were getting increasingly agitated, with Go picking up a yellow for kicking the ball away. It was the proverbial kitchen sink time trying to find that elusive winner as the minutes ticked away. Suarez, in true El Mago style as we often see him do so many times, managed to conjure up the goods when it mattered most as he nodded in Tanasith’s whipped cross from close range half a minute before the end of normal time. Cue pandemonium (after a VAR check).

Performance wise it was a very mixed bag overall with plenty to work on in training, but when your team scores a winner right at the very end of an oscillating scoreline and after such a long day, all is well in the moment. And of course, in true Port style, the booming sound system of the disco fan bus filled the night sky immediately afterwards.

 


 

Man of the Match: Heberty Fernandes

A tricky choice as no one really stood out in particular, though Heberty applied himself more effectively this week after much criticism not so much for his ability but his dedication to the cause. Can’t really argue with a goal and an assist, though I know some may disagree. Special mention to Rattanai for pulling off some superb saves yet again.

 

Allie Suwanrumpha

Allie Suwanrumpha

From a Bangkokian family albeit born in the US, Allie returned to the Big Mango in 2013 via north London and started supporting Port, in addition to Arsenal FC. After graduating with a sports science degree (BSc Science & Football) in the UK, photography took over her life and she is currently a freelance photographer/photojournalist. Her work can be found on her website and FB/IG page End Result (@endresultphoto).

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