Port to Maintain the New Normal? Port FC vs. Muangthong Utd Preview

 

No, this is not a Covid-19 reference, nor some pessimistic speculation on Port’s relatively indifferent form since the re-start continuing, but, rather, a welcome nod to the Lions’ satisfying habit of regularly beating their much-loathed rivals in recent seasons. Resounding home and away victories have brought unbridled joy to the Klongtoey faithful, and some eagerly taken dressing-room photographic opportunities for the players. This happy sequence has only been marred by a 3-2, 2018 home loss in a game notable for four goals in seven minutes of Toby time after the interval and a cruelly ruled out, ‘offside’ equalizer.

As with all games between Port and the Kirins, this one will be eagerly anticipated, but the absence of a rabid, baying Port crowd thirsting for blood (metaphorically of course, as away fans have not been admitted in recent years) definitely dampens the enthusiasm. Games between these teams have led to heated debates amongst the fans, to say the least, and this rivalry has given the games a certain edge, with success often measured in the emergency room as much as the goalmouth.

With football in the UK played against an uninspiring soundtrack of canned cheering and audible player cursing, we should really be grateful that at least we can get to see live football again and have a few beers with our mates. All that is missing are the Korean sex-dolls. I will bring some along next time.

 

 

To be truthful, the atmosphere has been rather sterile in the first two home matches with somewhat muted cheers greeting the goals and occasional moments of artistry. In fact, the loudest outburst of meaningful noise was when the floodlights failed, plus the raucous howls of derision when Tunez tried to pick a fight with Heberty. It just showed what sort of delicious malice might be generated by a real crowd. To be fair, it is hard to get excited sitting down and with the luxurious space afforded by Port’s social distance seating (we knew they would come in handy some time) plus the uninterrupted views, it does seem rather a waste of energy getting to your feet, except at Zone B corners and then it’s often just to stretch the legs.

Then there is the lengthy wait while, it seems, every goal, yes, every goal, is subject to VAR regardless of its obvious validity. I am waiting for someone to score direct from a rolled-back kick-off only for the referee to check if the player had put his shin-pads in correctly.

Port’s re-start has been riddled with a predictable mixture of farce and folly: the floodlight fiasco, yet another Jadet sacking and the Bonilla injury saga, not to mention Madame Pang’s ostentatious footwear. It has been commented by some Sand-Pitters that this is not a club you can fully love at the moment and the back room in The Sportsman on Saturday night was a Viper’s pit of vitriol, most of the venom directed at Heberty, who is clearly this season’s pantomime villain. I am certainly irritated by his selfishness and wayward shooting but he’s no Pol Pot.

So, I’m going to look on the bright side. While it has not been the re-start we might have craved, a quick look at the table today shows us just three points behind leaders Bangkok Glass, to whom we lost narrowly, with only one ‘actual’ defeat, the same as Bangkok Utd. Last week’s win was decidedly un-pretty and somewhat desperate, like a closing time carry-out from Thermae, but the pitch looked like a rice paddy and it was our 4th different starting eleven in four games.

We have been hit by injuries and suspensions as well as haunted by missed chances. We now have a run of 3 ‘winnable’ game, which should maintain our strong position. This, I believe, will be a season where the top six teams take points off each other and it is likely to be a much more competitive title race than in previous campaigns. It used to be that you had to beat Buriram twice to even stand a chance of winning the League, as they would invariably mop up everyone else. Buriram will no doubt re-enter the fray at some point, which will make for a fascinating season. We have a squad able to compete at this level; it just needs a bit of inspired direction. Rumour has it that Madame Pang is lining up more foreign coaches than the harbour-master at Calais so maybe, just maybe. I prefer my glass half-full.

Our opponents this week had a decent win against 5th place Ratchaburi in their last run-out, which, unfortunately, might give them some renewed confidence. They have a number of foreign players in their ranks with an interesting pedigree. Brazilian, Vanderley Dias Marinho (87), or Derley for short, once had a spell with Benfica, signed after a 16-goal breakthrough season with Maritimo in 2014. One of his earliest moments after joining was to score a goal against Valencia in the Emirates Cup that season. He was only to score once more in 15 appearances with The Eagles. He has 11 goals in 20 appearances for Muang Thong, so is likely be a threat.

 

 

Russian born, Vietnamese national goalkeeper, Dang Van Lam (1) was signed from Haiphong, Leandro’s former club. A giant of a keeper with an arm span of two metres, we will need to keep it low. His Russian name, Lev, is contributed to his mother’s (a former ballet dancer) passionate admiration for the legendary Soviet goalkeeper Lev Yashin.

Daisuke Caumanday Sato (66) has an exotic name to match the other two and is one of more than a dozen Filipino players to be playing in the Thai League at the moment, although many, like Sato, are of dual nationality. His one claim to fame is being the first Filipino footballer to play in Romania, for Politehnica against Dinamo Bucharest in 2016. Something to boast about in the watering holes on P. Burgos.

 

 

It has been three years since MTU last won a trophy and four since they won the League; long may that continue. It seems that their only recent, notable statistic is the number of players they have out on loan: 37 at the last count, most of them at Udon Thani and Bang Pa-In Ayuthaya.

With a victory under their belt, Port need a settled spell so, if everyone is fit, I wouldn’t activate many changes unless it would be to bring back Siwakorn to accompany Go and Heberty/Suarez in midfield.

 

Possible Team

 

 

Prediction

Port to win 3-1.

 


 

The match will be shown on True4U and True Sports HD1 at 18:00 on Sunday 4th September, 2020. For the many of you who won’t be able to get your hands on tickets, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

Peter Hockley

Peter Hockley

Peter 'Hockers' Hockley is currently the School Librarian at St Andrews International School, Sathorn and has lived in Thailand since 1992. He has followed Port home and away since 2010, with unbridled devotion and his famous woolly hat. He is a co-founder member of the Sivakorn (is a football genius) Appreciation Society (SAS). At present, the Society boasts a membership of, well, two. Peter has written travel articles for The Nation and Sawaddi magazine, and once had a letter published in Charles Buchan's Football Monthly which won him 5 guineas.

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