Time to Climb the Table – The World Is Not Enough: Chiangmai Utd 0-2 Port FC

 

After a ‘Slum vs Scum’ derby, you could almost excuse the few people who found our round 6 fixture against new boys Chiangmai United a bit anti-climactic. Not much is known about the team from up north, but what’s been shown so far this season: it’s been up and down. You’ve got to give them credit for the way that they’ve recruited for their first season in T1, and although they haven’t picked up as many points as they might’ve hoped, it hasn’t been catastrophic from them either.

If there’s something that I can compliment all of the teams that were promoted from T2 for, it’s that they’ve not gone down the path that Rayong took: they’ve gone out and signed some good players. Almost every foreign player on the books of the promoted clubs MOONWALKS into the Rayong side from last season, so at least there’s been a jump in the quality of the promoted sides. It’s almost as if they’re learning from the mistakes others have made: who’d have thought that!

For Port, we came into the game having to make [at least] two changes to the squad, due to the injuries sustained by Tanaboon and Kannarin in the derby. I wish the both of them a speedy recovery, and it was nice to see the starting 11 make the following gesture to Kannarin in the picture below. Coming into the starting-11 were Worawut Baresi [#24] and Jaturapat [#15], with Tanaboon [#17] going out of the squad altogether, and Nitipong [#34] dropping to the bench. Taking Kannarin’s place on the bench was Elias Dolah [#4], who hadn’t been a part of the past two matchday squads. It was a welcome return in one way, but it’s now up to the Thai international to force his way back into the starting-11, and show the ability that made him a much loved figure on the terraces, and go on to earn a place in the national team set-up. Simply put: his performances haven’t been up to scratch for a while.

 

 

Fast Starts: A View to Kill

We’ve shown time and time again this season that we’re able to hit the ground running from the offset, though the fact is that our opposition [typically] get the first opportunity of the match. That wasn’t the case today, and with just 2:02 on the clock we nearly took the lead. What a start that would’ve been!

A long, diagonal ball was [inexplicably] allowed to bounce by the Chiangmai United defender, with Roller [#33] getting onto the ball, and breezing by the fullback. I have a feeling that it was Muangthong loanee Saharat that was out there on the wing with him, though the available camera angles couldn’t confirm whether it was or wasn’t him. If it wasn’t: my apologies, Saharat. Regardless, Roller had breezed by, and his delivery into the 18-yard box was pretty damn good. Suarez was rushing into the ball to attack it, and usually when he’s left unmarked to attack the ball the ball is in the back of the net moments later.

It wasn’t to be this time around for the Spaniard, but it was a great bit of play from all of the Port players involved. I’ve no doubt that the next time things play out in the same way: Suarez will be running off to celebrate with his teammates.

 

 

The next goalscoring opportunity for us came after a horrible collision between former Port stalwart Tossapol [#6] and Brazilian defender Evson [#30], with Nelson Bonilla [#9] attempting to latch onto the loose ball and go one-on-one with the Chiangmai United goalkeeper. To his credit, Nont Muangngam [#20] got off his line quickly, and got the ball away from danger. The whistle was quickly blown so that both Tossapol and Evson could receive medical treatment, with the Brazilian definitely the player that came out of the collision worse off. If either player is reading this: best wishes in your recovery. It’s never a nice sight to see someone suffer a serious head injury, and if I don’t see another one this season I’d be quite a lot happier. Tossapol was [somehow] able to continue playing on, but Evson was replaced by Sirisak Faidong [#15] on the 22-minute mark.

The next effort [and I’m not sure you can call it that!] that we had on goal was with 25:00 on the clock, with Pakorn taking a set-piece that certainly wasn’t a cross, but it wasn’t much of a shot either. Some… “interesting”… goalkeeping from Nont saw the ball go out for a corner, though we weren’t able to do anything from the resulting corner. We were [clearly] in the ascendancy, though at the same time we really didn’t look like scoring either. It was quite weird to watch if I’m honest, but I still had faith that we’d find a breakthrough. The lads were cutting through the Chiangmai United players like they weren’t even there at times, but at the end of the day you have to put your chances away to get the 3-points.

With 29:26 played, we did have an effort on goal, though the linesman flagged a bit too quickly in my opinion. There’s no doubt that Bonilla was offside in the lead-up play; he was, by at least 2-3 yards. The thing is, by the time the cross was played in, it looked like he MIGHT have gotten himself back onside, and had a headed attempt cleared off the line. Imagine if we had technology, like VAR for instance, that could go back and disallow the goal if he was actually offside!? The goal-line clearance had only gotten as far as Go [#8], only for the whistle to be blown due to the linesman’s flag. It was all a bit of a mess to be honest, and this was a case where VAR might’ve been useful.

Having said that: the implementation of VAR in Thailand has been a catastrophe, and it probably would’ve taken them 8-10 minutes to come to a decision… but only after watching 329 replays. For what it’s worth, having watched it a few times, I think the right decision was made, I just think the decision was made somewhat prematurely due to the fact that Bonilla had been in an offside position in the lead-up play.

Regardless, the clearance from Tossapol had been a good bit of play from him, and if he could save good performances for anyone but us, that’d be much appreciated!

 

 

It took until the 31-minute mark for our hosts to get a strike off on goal, with Saharat having an effort that would’ve earned applause in a rugby game as a successful conversion attempt. Minutes later, Chiangmai United were back at it, with a through ball from Escudero [#26] giving Melvin de Leeuw [#9] an opportunity. He did quite well to hit the target with his half volley, and even though it was fairly straightforward for Worawut [#36] to save: he still made a bit of a meal of it. Worawut seemed to have something to say to the match officials, but I’m not quite sure why.

The game had lacked controversy, much like the derby had, but that all changed just before the 37-minute mark, when an out-swinging corner from Pakorn [#7] made its way into the box. The ball had glanced off the head of either Suarez or a defender, with it then making its way towards Baresi. It’s pretty damn obvious that the Chiangmai United defender has a handful of Baresi’s jersey, and anywhere else on the pitch, it’s a freekick. So why isn’t it a penalty? What makes it worse [for me] is the fact that he’s not even trying to track the player he’s supposed to be marking, he’s just holding on for dear life instead. Minutes later we had yet another VARcical decision from a T1 match official.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the match officials just aren’t up to standard in Thailand, and it had [yet again] been shown a night earlier in the Khonkaen United-Nakhon Ratchasima game. VAR had been correctly used to give a red card against a Khonkaen United player, but it had made a mistake in disallowing a goal from Ibson Melo in the first-half. If anyone knows the reason that goal was disallowed, please drop a comment on The Sandpit tweet where this is published.

The shirt pull in this game should’ve been a penalty, and was yet another example of why VAR is a pointless tool to have when the people tasked with using it don’t know how to use it properly.

 

 

There’d been 6-minutes in added time for the first-half, due to the injury to Evson, and the VAR farce, with it allowing us a final effort on goal. Jaturapat had received the ball from Go, crossed from deep, with Suarez attacking it. He got a bit fortunate with the ‘pinball’ that went on, which saw him receive the ball in a great position. Korrakot [#77] did a magnificent job to deflect the Spanish maestros effort for a corner, and he’d certainly atoned for his mistake in the seconds leading up to the half volley. Suarez was frustrated to have not scored: Korrakot looked like he’d just found a new source of energy!

It meant we went into the half-time interval at nil-all, and I was certainly intrigued by what our second-half game plan would be.

 

 

An Attacking Second-Half? Die Another Day!

I’ve commented a few times in previous reports that I’ve felt a little underwhelmed by our second-half performances in the attacking-third so far this season, so the one benefit of going into the interval at nil-all was that we’d HAVE to attack in the second-half. A point away to Chiangmai United wouldn’t be an acceptable result in the slightest, but it’d be such a Port thing to do: a great result against the Scum, followed by dropping points to the league new boys.

The first attack of the second-half belonged to our hosts, with them breaking forward whilst the referee waved for an advantage, due to their being a shirt pull. I thought pulling your opponents shirt was okay!? Anyway, the ball ended up at the feet of Jaturapat, who had an absolute ‘mare with his clearance, with the ball finding itself at the feet of Saharat. The effort from the man on-loan from Muangthong was pretty damn awful, and I’ll admit that it made me chuckle for a bit. I think it ended up halfway between the post and the corner flag, and he won’t be watching the replay too fondly in the match review meeting with his teammates.

Our hosts were most certainly in the ascendancy during the start of the second-half, and they had a few good moments in the 10-minutes after the second-half had kicked off. Ultimately: their efforts were for nothing. There was plenty of effort and energy, but without Yannick Boli in the line-up: they looked a bit lost. From what I watched, a simple 4-4-2 would be perfect for Chiangmai United, because a duo of Yannick Boli and Melvin de Leeuw is going to find you the goals to win games. They had 3 or 4 chances to take the lead against us in the opening 15-minutes of the second-half, and if you don’t take your chances, picking up points becomes a hell of a lot harder.

 

 

Whilst I wasn’t too pleased that it took us over 15-minutes to carve out our first proper attack of the second-half, I was quite pleased with the way that we’d handled the pressure that Chiangmai United had been putting on us, and you could sense that we were picking our moment to land the first blow.

An outside of the right-foot pass from Suarez had found Bonilla, and my goodness was his first touch horrendous! He burned his defender for pace quite easily, but the odds were heavily stacked in Nont’s favour to make the save, and although Bonilla got to the ball first, he was never looking likely to score this time around. It was a missed opportunity, and it was a truly poor first-touch from our star striker.

It was the final warning that we would give our hosts.

Just minutes later we took the lead. A cross-field pass from Bordin was expertly controlled by Pakorn [that’s how you do it Nelson!], with the midfield monk in acres of space. The Chiangmai defender [Sirisak] moved across to close him down, but he was nowhere near tight enough to be effective in killing off the danger. Pakorn played a lovely low cross in, and Nelson ran straight onto it: unmarked! He had no qualms in smashing the ball into the back of the net, before making his way towards Pakorn, who’d made yet another magnificent assist. It was a great piece of play from Bordin, Pakorn, and Bonilla, and I couldn’t help but think “I hope we push on for a few more!” to myself.

 

 

The goal had sparked us into life, and a few minutes later we were back at it. Bonilla got his first touch right this time around, after receiving a lovely ball from Siwakorn [#16], and went through towards goal. The defender marking him forced him a bit wide, and rather than being selfish he laid the ball off for Jaturapat to run onto. Jaturapat took a shot, rather than taking another touch, with Nont getting quite a strong palm to it. I thought Pakorn did quite well to get the ball under control again, with him laying it off for Go to have a strike on goal. There was plenty of power on the strike, but it lacked direction, and rocketed towards the running track.

We were well and truly in the mood now, and minutes later: we scored one of the best goals scored in the league so far this season. If any other club had scored it, it’d be all over social media, and people would be losing their minds. It was a thing of absolute beauty!

Bordin picked up the ball in his half [around the left-wingback area of the pitch], and played the ball forward to Suarez. Suarez, sensing that there was an over-zealous fullback headed his way, played a first-time ball to Bonilla, who completed the ‘one-two’ to Suarez: who’d continued his progress forward. This is the part of the pitch where the Spanish maestro is so damn good, because he sucked in another Chiangmai United defender, before playing a perfectly weighted ball for Bordin to run onto. Bordin was gliding down the left-side of the pitch, and rather than trying to do too much: he played a first-time cutback towards the penalty spot.

Who was there? Go! The Korean central-midfielder kept his composure, and thrashed the ball into the back of the net, to double our lead. I could watch this goal on a continuous loop; it was fantastic. It’s the kind of goal that you show a young kid when you’re talking about how important off-the-ball movement is, and every Port player involved in this sequence of play should take a bow.

 

 

After the goal had gone in, our hosts used their second substitution window, with Surawich Logarwit [#16] replacing Khapfa Boonmatoon [#54], who’d been booked in the first-half, and Kittipat Wongsombat [#8] replacing Boworn Tapla [#32]. A minute later: Saharat was booked, in what had been quite a miserable night for him. Things just hadn’t clicked for him, and he doesn’t look anything like the player that had been so dangerous for PTT Rayong. Maybe a move to Korat to reunite with Teerasak Po-on might do him some good?

We were dealt an injury scare around the 77-minute mark, with Baresi having to be withdrawn, with the towering Elias Dolah [#4] taking his place on the pitch. Since the mess that occurred on the opening day of the season, our defensive unit has looked quite good, and it’s of little surprise that we’ve not been coughing up too many goals. I’ll admit to being a bit nervous about Dolah coming on, but I was hopeful that he’d be the Dolah that we all know and love.

Minutes later we had another dangerous attack! I was loving that we were attacking so much in the second-half, and a pass down the line from Roller to Pakorn had the midfield monk weighing up his options. He played a smart pass inside to Bordin, who took a touch, and lashed an effort at goal. Nont parried the shot quite well, and having both scored already: both Bonilla and Go got in each others way! Bonilla took control of the ball, played a pass to Bordin, who did a bit of a song and dance: trying to get himself in enough space for another effort on goal. He played the ball back out to Pakorn, who seemed a bit indecisive this time around, with his cross not dangerous at all.

A minute later our hosts nearly halved the deficit! My god it was heart in mouth stuff. A corner that wasn’t defended well saw a header from Tossapol [I think] hit the post, Sirisak Faidong then hitting the crossbar with his rebound. It was a complete lapse of concentration from the lads, and we very nearly made the final few minutes of the game an end-to-end battle. Thankfully we cleared the ball, and preserved our cleansheet. A ‘get out of jail free’ card had been used by us, and it was now up to Dusit to reorganize the troops, and make sure that it didn’t happen again.

Both teams then made their final substitutions for the night, with Chiangmai United bringing on Phongsakon Seerot [#14] and Kantapong Bandasak [#11] on for Sergio Escudero [#26] and Saharat Kanyarot [#18]. I honestly don’t think much of Escudero: he gives off Gorka vibes for me. That being said: Gorka produced a hell of a lot more during his time in Thai football, and I can’t see Escudero being able to get the same amount of goals or assists as the lumpy Spaniard.

Meanwhile, the substitutions we made were: Charyl Chappuis [#6] and Tanasith Siripala [#11] replacing Siwakorn [#16] and Bordin [#10]. Both Siwakorn and Bordin had played well, and could take their place on the bench knowing that they’d both played a strong part in us getting the 3-points.

There was still enough time for a bit of “controversy” to take place, with an incisive breakaway from Bonilla, Chappuis, and Tanasith seeing us have a potentially dangerous moment in front of goal. It was a perfectly weighted ball from Bonilla to Chappuis, with the midfielder having a… not so good first-touch. It almost killed the odds of him having an effort on goal, and with him trying to make up for his mistake: he somewhat launched himself at the ball. He kept a hold of it, before having a strike on goal that was deflected out for a corner by a defender.

Next minute: VAR check! What I’ll say on it is this: it was touch and go. Could he have been given a red card? Possibly. Do I think he should’ve? No. The problem for Artit Daosawang [#92] wasn’t the contact from Chappuis, it was the way that he’d launched himself to try and make the defensive block. He was trying to contort his body in multiple different directions, and it’s no wonder he came out of it feeling worse for wear! There was definitely contact, and it’s a moment that Chappuis will learn from no doubt. With that being said, and how awful VAR is in the Thai League, I wouldn’t have been surprised at all if they’d sent him off.

Thankfully, common sense prevailed. The full-time whistle was blown not long after, and the lads could begin their trek back to Khlong Toei with the 3-points in the bag! Well done!

 

 

My Thoughts – Chiangmai United

Chiangmai United tried hard, and they’re not exactly a bad side, but they’re not a good side either. We haven’t played Nongbua Pitchaya just yet, but of the 3 sides that have come up this season this is the side that I’m least impressed by so far this season. Whilst I understand that they were missing Boli, who’d destroyed Samut Prakan City just 5-days earlier, the defensive unit wasn’t quite the same once Evson went off, whilst their midfield undoubtedly lacks any real quality. Escudero isn’t good enough to be able to drag them out of a mess; I’ve seen tumbleweeds move faster than him, and that’s without any wind. This side appears to be destined to go back down, and what did they do when they were promoted? They hired a coach that seems to specialize in getting teams relegated!

They’ve got big decisions to make in the next transfer window, and I’d be very surprised to see either the head coach or Escudero last the whole season at the club. I hope that Evson isn’t seriously injured, and wish him a speedy recovery, as the longer he’s out: the more trouble his club is in.

 

My Thoughts – Port FC

This was our first proper 90-minute performance of the season. In the 5 games prior, we seemed to have been good in the first-half, only to be a lot more cautious/reserved in the second-half. That certainly wasn’t the case tonight, and it was extremely pleasing to watch.

The lads that had come into the starting-11 had justified their selection, and I thought that Jaturapat was fantastic in his return. He was someone that I considered for the ‘Man of the Match’ award below, and he was quite unlucky to miss out in my opinion. I thought this was quite possibly our best defensive performance of the season, albeit we were up against a newly promoted side, but it was pleasing that we didn’t allow complacency to creep in, like it might’ve in seasons gone by. Defensively, we looked quite well organized, bar the blip late in the game from that corner. I hope that Baresi’s injury isn’t serious, because if we can have the same back-4 start for the next game against Buriram: I’d be very happy with that.

Our midfield was quite tremendous too, as was the attacking trio of Pakorn-Bonilla-Bordin, and if it’s possible to name an unchanged line-up next time out, we should do it. It appears that certain players have shaken off any rust that was in their games, and I thought that Go had his best game for the club in a long while. He ran the show at times, which was great to see considering he’s been quite lacklustre at times in the games previous. There was a bit more urgency to his game, and I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to this standard of performance from now on. There’s no doubting that when he’s on-form he’s one of the best AFC quota players in the league. The big question is: at 35-years old, can he do it frequently?

Buriram United is our next game, with it to be played at PAT Stadium on Sunday at 7pm. Will fans be allowed? Your guess is as good as mine. I’m hopeful that they will be, and if we can try to create a bit of a raucous atmosphere for them to come into I think we stand a chance. On our day, we’re just as good as anyone in this league, and with Bonilla regularly finding the back of the net, we’ve currently got the ‘Golden Boot’ capable striker that we thought we were getting when we first brought him to the club.

There’s a lot to be pleased with at the moment, and don’t forget, if you’re not able to watch the game at PAT Stadium on Sunday, you can always watch the game at The Sportsman!

 

Man of the Match – David Rochela

 

 

I think that I’ve made my opinion on Rochela quite clear since I began writing for the site, but the one thing that I’ve always said is that he’s a proper professional, and I have a lot of respect him for everything that he’s done for the club. Do I think that he’s the type of defender that will help us challenge for a top-2 finish? No, I don’t. But there’s no way that you can’t admire him for the way that he’s navigated through his 6-season spell at the club. There are plenty of players/agents that would’ve thrown their toys out of the pram in some of the instances, but Rochela just knuckled down and kept going about his business. He’s a great ambassador for the club, and although I do think that we will need to move on from him in the near future, I’m quite content to have him remain for the time being.

Getting back to his actual performance now, he didn’t put a foot wrong in the game. He’s been very consistent so far this season, and although he’s had a few ‘iffy’ moments: they’ve been a bit less frequent too. I think that he must be such a calming influence for his defensive partner, and I actually think that Baresi and Tanaboon are much more suited to playing alongside him than Dolah is. Only Buriram United, BG Pathum United [both 4], Nongbua Pitchaya, and Ratchaburi [both 5] have conceded less goals than us so far this season, though BG Pathum United have the benefit of having played 2 less games at the moment, whilst Nongbua and Ratchaburi have both only played 5 fixtures.

Dusit appears to have sorted our defensive frailties that we seem to show every season, and Rochela has shown fine form during the start of the reign of his new manager. Keep it up!

 

UnTacticalTimes

UnTacticalTimes

The Sandpits grumpy little thundercloud. You suspect he hates Christmas and doesn't leave the house over Songkran for fear of seeing people enjoy themselves. The author of this one decided to use a nom de plume of their choosing.

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