Lions Beat Off Feisty Cocks; Nongbua Pitchaya 0-1 Port.

 

 

This weekend gave me a chance to see my first Port away game of the season, and also see the brand new Nong Bua Pitchaya stadium. My friend Gary had driven up from Roi Et, and with Udon Thani being the nearest big city with an airport, I opted to fly up and stay there for the weekend, we made the 1 hour drive from Udon for the match itself.

I’ve been keeping an eye on Nong Bua’s progress since they entered T2 in 2017. “The Project” has become one of those awful buzzwords in football, but in this instance, there has been steady progress on first keeping the team in T2, with a big push made for promotion last season to coincide with the opening of the new stadium.

We arrived there about half an hour before kick-off. We were initially misdirected to the big main stand to buy tickets, only to find out we had to go to the other side if we wanted tickets in the Port end. After going through the “show vaccine” protocols, which did seem a bit better organised than at the PAT, we had to do the same again over at the away side, where the Port Party Bus ™ was parked up on the grass. Luckily, we’re now into dry season as I wouldn’t have fancied their chances getting out of there if the rain had come.

Our tickets were the standard 200 baht for away fans, the away stand was probably about the size, and similar build to Zone D at the PAT, next to us was an uncovered Nong Bua fan section which was also some temporary looking terracing. At least we were on the side of the pitch, and not way out past a running track. The main stand itself though is huge, and wouldn’t look out of place at a European stadium. I’m told the plan is to fill in the rest of the stadium should the club maintain this success. There also appears to be youth pitches over the back so they can hopefully nurture some of their own talents in the future. The club academy is apparently one of the best in Isaan, aside from Buriram. Due to the club being sponsored by Leo, it was also quite easy to score beers of the non-Chang variety, and they could also be taken in inside, which can have its pitfalls, more on that later…

 

 

 

TEAM NEWS

Only one change for Port with Nitipong coming in at right-back, Phil Roller has returned to Germany to hopefully get his knee sorted out during the extended season break.

Notably for Nong Bua, their main goal threat Hamilton Soares would be starting on the bench. He was already on 9 goals going into this game and the player I expected to be the one David and Dolah would have to be most wary of.  Nong Bua were coming in to the match comfortably mid-table. Of the 3 teams promoted this year, they’ve had by far the best start including a home win against BG 3-1 in a midweek game the previous week.

THE MATCH

Port started brightly and Suarez forced their keeper into a slightly “Hollywood” save on 8 minutes with a dipping 30-yard drive. Port continued to look the better of the two sides in the first half, while Nong Bua were definitely lacking a focal point without Hamilton on there to lump the ball up to. Finally on 37 minutes, Port broke the deadlock after Kevin’s corner found Suarez near the back post to nod in and give Port a deserved lead.

Port went in at half time with the match well under control. The only downer had been Pakorn being stretchered off.

Just after half time, Worawut was finally awoken after being a spectator in the first half and scrambled to claw away a cross-come-shot that almost dipped in. Near the hour mark, the home fans suddenly started to come alive as it looked like Hamilton Soares was doing a few stretches. I guess he must have picked up a knock in the previous game because there was surely no reason that he wouldn’t have started otherwise. With his introduction, the mood in the stadium was shifting and there was definitely more noise coming from their main stand (which definitely seemed more than 50% full!). It seemed to filter on to the pitch as Nong Bua began to get their tails up, looking to launch balls in the general direction of the big Brazilian, who Gary quickly dubbed “The Brazilian Andy Carroll” due to similar build and ponytail. It seems they even share the same goal celebration.

 

 

 

Port were still looking dangerous on the break though, on 68 minutes Bonilla broke through in to the box and unleashed a shot that rifled off the underside of the crossbar. No Kazak linesman or VAR needed here though, the ball bounced back into the 6-yard box, a few yards clear of the goal line. Other counter attacks that followed and preceded this usually ended in keystone cops style goalmouth scrambles where nobody seemed to want to have a shot. Nong Bua were continuing to knock on the door with their unashamed Route One tactic of “pump it up to Hamilton”. On 76 minutes, a whipped cross in to the box met the head of Hamilton, his downward header bounced upwards and Wozza channelled his inner Gordon Banks to jump up and tip it over the bar.

On 87 minutes there was a break in play after Siwakorn had committed one of his standard tactical fouls on the halfway line. However, there seemed to be some handbags going on further up the pitch between Suarez and Nong Bua’s defender Airton Tirabassi, and a red card was waved in the direction of the lumbering Brazilian. To the fans in the stadium, we had no idea why, but now I have seen the TV Replays, Airton had decided to recreate Frank Rijkaard and Rudi Voller’s incident from Italia ’90.

 

 

 

With Nong Bua down to 10 men it allowed Port to counter attack more, although it kept falling to pieces once we got into the box. In the 94th minute, Nong Bua had one last chance at an equaliser with a free kick just inside the Port half. Their keeper had also trotted forward to join the melee, although the obvious target was again, Hamilton Soares. The free kick was defended quite easily, allowing Bordin to break free and feed Bonilla in space on the halfway line with only a couple of Nong Bua defenders to beat and the keeper still trying to rush back. Bonilla was able to see off the two defenders as the keeper desperately lunged and missed him to slot in to the empty net from just outside the box. Cue scenes of joy in the Port end as the players ran over to celebrate in front of us,

BUT…..

everybody’s old friend VAR had other ideas, penalising Bordin for pushing over their keeper while he was trying to join the attack for the free kick.

Instead of 2-0 to Port and 3 points in the bag, play had been pulled all the way back so Nong Bua had a free kick on the edge of the Port area with 97 minutes on the clock. This was thankfully deflected just over the bar and the referee decided to blow full-time on that note. Another win for Coach Oud.

 

 

 

On full time, the Nong Bua players were still angry and surrounding the referee, the end result was the referee having beer cups launched in his direction from up high as he made his way back to the tunnel in the aforementioned main stand. While Airton will face further ramifications for spitting, I wonder if Nong Bua will have to reconsider having beers in to the stadium. Something that has not been allowed at the PAT for over 5 years now.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Sergio Suarez – Chipped in with a goal and had one of his better games, I give extra credit for not play acting. The thing I was most surprised about was that Sergio stayed on his feet after the ball of spit hit his shoulder and he didn’t go down like he’d been taken out a water cannon.

 

 

 

Up NEXT

This stop-start Thai season is now on a break for 7 weeks. Port’s next game is vs. Bangkok United at the PAT on 8th January, although kick-off time still unknown and the date will also probably change once AIS Play decide the TV schedules for the second leg. Fingers crossed that more fans will be allowed to attend during games during the 2nd leg.

Kenny Goodbourn

Kenny Goodbourn

Kenny moved from the Essex Riviera to Thailand in 2013 and lives in Bangkok. He started following Port in 2016. He has a YouTube channel "Straight Outta Bangkok" in which he follows Port around the country and also features other teams from Thailand and beyond.

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