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Ports Route to ACL Knockout Qualification

There was a spell last night with BG Pathum a goal down to Viettel, added to Ratchaburi’s hard faught 0-0 draw with Korean’s Pohang Steelers and Chiangrai’s back to back 1-1 draws with J League’s Gamba Osaka, that the recent results of the three other Thai teams looked like getting Port chances of reaching the knock out stages of the ACL champions league back into a favourable position. As it would turn out the Thai champions would show their superior class in the second half and secure a 3-1 win over the Vietnamese champions. Great for them and Thai football but what does it mean for Ports chances?

 

Why it Matters? 

With 5 groups and 8 spots in the knock out stage for each half of the AFC Champions league, not every 2nd place team advances, think of it as the Euros evil twin. As such only the three best  second places teams go though. With the Western half of the competition having completed their group stage, we can see that 10 points was enough to advance (although Al-Sadd were left erm sadd as they failed to advance despite achieving 10 points and equal goal difference with Al- Hilal who had scored more goals and advance in hilal-rious fashion).

If Port win their remaining two fixtures v Kitchee and Guangzhou they can achieve 10 points, will it be enough? The West side featured a lot more draws than the East has so far, finishing with 18 draws from the 60 games (30%) played while the East has seen just 6 from 42 games (14.28%), so plenty more points taken out of the equation. Conversely there were less teams at the bottom of the Western groups who would fail to take points off the teams at the top. Its perhaps better to look at each group in the East and try and second guess what will happen. No easy task as those at the top have shown themselves happy to rotate their squads and with qualification assured its only more likely that some decide to give lesser squad members a run out.

 

Group F 

With 4 games played Ulsan top the group already on 12 points that will surely see them advance. While second place BG have 9 points with fixtures against the Korean serial ACL participants and K League bridesmaids, along with a very winnable fixture with Filipino runners up Kaya, that should see them to 12 points and advancement regardless of the outcome when the groups top two meet on Sunday.

 

 

Group G  

One of the groups with a second place team Port can hope to surpass. There’s one game left to play, Nagoya have 15 points and have advanced to the knock outs, second place Pohang Steelers have 10 points and a goal difference of +4 going into a final game v Nagoya tomorrow. Nagoya’s Yuki Soma is part of the Japanese Olympic squad and may have left to quarantine and maximise his involvement in build up games for that squad, for the rest of the team there is no fixture for 10 days, will they rotate and what will their level of motivation be? We have to hope for a Nagoya win and if they were to throw in a few goals to help close the Koreans advantage of six in goal difference over Port that would be great. A result for Pohang and they can’t be surpassed.

 

 

Group H 

With 4 games played this group remains wide open. Jeonbuk are top with 10 points, with Gamba Osaka second on 6 and Chiangrai third on 5. The second and third place teams have Tampines Rovers of Singapour to play and should collect wins. While the remaining fixtures see Jeonbuk play Chiangrai then Gamba in the last round of games. This is a poorly performing Gamba side, who have flopped in this seasons J league, compared to preseason expectations and find themselves 18th, just one place above relegation, although they have played less games than their rivals due to games cancelled due to covid cases in the squad earlier in the season and their ACL participation. Chiangrai as ever have been hard to beat and were the better team by some distance v Gamba last time out. Its not beyond the realms of possibility they can win both their remaining games to finish on 11 points. However Jeonbuk will be favourites to win both their remaining games, a situation to Ports advantage as should that happen the second place team from this group is almost certain to be eliminated.

 

Group I 

How do you stop one team out of their depth being cut a drift at the bottom of a group? Simple, have two teams well below the normal standard of ACL group stage participants, mix in the best team in the region in Kawasaki and in Daegu a decent Korean team and you have nothing to see here relative to the qualification situation.  The top two are yet to concede to United City or Beijing Guoan, whilst averaging more than 6 goals per game against them. There’s more chance of Muangthong making next years ACL than top two not collecting 12 points and an insurmountable goal difference from their games v the bottom two and both advancing (regardless of the result when they meet on Thursday).

 

Group J

Our group, we need to win both our remaining fixtures starting today against Kitchee and see a swing of 6 goals v Pohang on goal difference.

The final round of games see us face Guangzhou and Kitchee face Cerezo Osaka. The possibility of Kitchee being beaten today and then taking 3 points from a Cerezo team of squad players, fading pops stars, kit men and the bus driver* would see us consigned to 3rd place. Even a draw could be enough for the team from Hong Kong as the final standings are determined by head to head record and then head to head goal difference. So a single goal win for Port today, would see Kitchee finish second with a draw against Cerezo. Quite simply we need two big wins and to hope for a few results to go our way.

*some of these people aren’t registered and can’t play.

Big Time Selection Actuality

 

With the return of Thai football still a few days away, the Asian Champions League (ACL) draw, looks even more exciting than your average opportunity to watch a few suited ex pro struggle to read the names of teams they’ve just drawn.

 

Thailand has surpassed Australia in the rankings and now sit proudly as the fourth best performing East Asian League. Which results in a jump from one direct entry to the Group Stage and two places in the Preliminary Round to a somewhat preferable TWO direct entries to the Group Stage and two in the Playoff Round. Preferable because it means Port’s second place finish in the first leg, of this much extended season, gets the club a direct entrance to the group stage. And more importantly, none of that messing about like last year, facing some team from the Philippines before heading to Japan……..(which you’ll recall all went exactly to plan).

 

Sadly, this year also won’t allow us to see Port take on some of Asia’s finest in person (no offence Phillippines football) as the group stage will take place at centralized locations, as yet there has been no word as to if that will be one location for the entire competition, per region or per group. However, the dates were recently confirmed.

 

Clear the diary its Port in the Champions League

 

The format of the draw seems standard, 10 groups, 5 in West Asia and 5 in East Asia. Each group made up of 4 teams drawn from seeded pots. With teams from the same nation kept apart. Port will be a pot 2 team, alongside 2020 ACL champions Ulsan Hyudai, that’s how big time we are seen down AFC HQ (yeah l’m not sure either). Pot 1 options for Port feature the Champions of China (Jiangsu), Japan (Kawasaki Frontale), Korea (Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors) and Shangdong Taishan who merely won the Chinese FA Cup and finished 3rd in the Chinese Super League (and potentially offer a midfield battle between two kings of the sly foul, Marouane Fellaini and Siwakorn). Pot 3’s main point of interest is United City of the Philippines, one to avoid or a chance to put right the wrongs of last season, as they are Ceres-Negros rebranded. With ChiangRai and Ratchaburi in Pot 4 there are only 3 options, Sydney FC, the winner of the Beijing (China) v Brisbane Roar (Australia) play off or whoever makes it from Kaya (Philippines), Cerezo Osaka (Japan) and Melbourne City (Australia).

 

Live streaming of the AFC Champions League 2021 Group Stage draw will be available on AFC’s YouTube channel – The AFC Hub – at 1530 tomorrow (January 27th) watch it here

On The (ACL) Road Again: Port FC 3-1 Ratchaburi

 

The billing had this as a Champions League decider, second vs. third in a slugfest, as the division’s two most prolific sides met to decide who would bag a place in the group stage. Except it didn’t work out that way, if the expectations were for Hagler v Hearns, what we got was something closer to Floyd Mayweather Jr. Port out thought Ratchaburi, with the Dragons barely able to land a blow of note over the course of the contest. Admittedly the opposition was greatly weakened as an attacking force, due to the suspension of winger Steeven Langil (11) and leading scorer Yannick Boli (10) being benched. With Boli’s transfer to Port supposedly already a done deal, there had been much discussion regarding what role, if any, he’d take against his future employers. Yet, even with an injury to striker Patino (20) forcing their final substitution after 65 minutes and the game drifting away from them, the Ratchaburi bench turned to local striker Sittichok (24) rather than Boli. Statement made, l guess.

Port themselves made a number of changes, with Kevin (23) suspended Steuble (15) came in. While an injury to Bordin (10) meant that Adisak (9) would start wide on the left. Also out was Dolah (4), replaced by Sandpit favourite (and surely soon to lose that tag) Tanaboon (71), who was actually rather good.

 

Tanaboon, back from injury and looking sharp. pic Allie Suwanrumpha

 

To continue the boxing analogy, Port in recent years have tactically been a slugger happy to simply stand toe to toe with the opposition and trade blows, in the knowledge that more often than not their attacking prowess would deliver a knockout. However, since Oud took over, slowly a new Port has emerged; one with tactics and a game plan seemingly designed for each opponent’s style and key men. No longer a collection of individuals lacking a system to excel, slowly they’ve morphed into a team, more about the system and collective hard work than individual flair. It’s all very strange and most unPorty.

 

Port finally a team with a system pic Allie Suwanrumpha

 

The rhythm of the match was soon established, Port would dominate possession, happy to probe at the opposition (who seemed equally happy to risk little and try and hit on the break). There were long periods of both teams feeling each other out before occasional the game would spring to life, typified by Port’s two first half goals. Firstly Nitipong (34) played a ball to Pakorn (7) and there’s a quick one-two with Suarez (5) that leaves Roller (33) and Yeo (5) out of position. Pakorn beats a defender creating an area of space for Adisak, who gets a couple of yards on Pawee (39) and with the goal machine bearing down on the keeper, there is only one outcome. 1-0 Port. The second comes at the conclusion of a spell of Port possession as the ball was moved repeatedly across the backline. Throughout the match Suarez, Go (8) and Siwakorn (16) would drop back to play as a libero, attempting to draw an extra opposition player out and allow the quick break. Here over more than twenty passes each of the three would at different points be the deepest and most advanced midfielder. With Suarez deepest, and after a minute of possession,  the break out occurs quickly down the left, leading to a ball infield to Adisak, who exchanges touches with Bonilla, after 27 passes a Ratchaburi player finally gets to the ball but only succeeds in returning it to Bonilla and Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeee of his marker the El Salvadorian makes it 2-0 with a smart finish.

The second half continues in the same vein as the first, Port have more of the ball but aren’t creating more than the odd long shot. For Ratchaburi Karaboue (18) is busy, but without Boli and Langil there is seldom an outlet for him, as the away team struggle to create an opening of note, reduced to their own hopeful long shots and crosses to a striker stuck on the bench. Adisak and Steuble have the better of Roller and Nurul (35), who’s return to Port was pretty uneventful and saw him subbed off inside the hour.

 

 

Go advances with the ball pic Allie Suwanrumpha

 

The comfortable mood however is broken after 73 mins. Karaboue plays in Eakkaluck (17) who attempts to cut the ball back from the touchline 10 yards wide of goal. Worawut/Baresi (24) makes a sliding block and seemingly puts the ball out for a corner. However, in so doing the ball has bounced off his leg and into his arm. There’s zero intent but its undeniably a penalty under the current laws. A terrible rule, enforced by an even worse system of investigation. However, right now we are stuck with both. What we shouldn’t be stuck with is a process that takes over 3 minutes to award the penalty. One view of the incident is all it should have taken, 15 seconds to make the decision and be done with VAR. Instead some 4 ½ minutes after the incident, Roller finally stepped up to send Worawut/keeper (36) the wrong way and bring the game back to life. In days past this would be the moment Port’s self-sabotaging tendencies came to the fore and we’d be lucky to escape with a draw. Ratchaburi ears pricked, did they up their game or was it the lingering fear of times past, tricking us that every Ratchaburi touch was about to lead to the equalizer. Murmers of worry could be heard from the terraces “operation…… something?” But Oud’s Port is made of stronger stuff and rode out the temporary storm and set about finding a third.

Substitutes Tanasith (11) and Nattawut (45) came close before in the last minute Siwakorn’s shot across goal received the merest of touches from Nattawut to send the ball past the keeper and though Yeo’s legs to seal the win against his former club. There was still time for Ratchaburi to create a great chance for Karaboue but Worawut/keeper was able to pull off a wonder save. That it was their first major chance from open play, sums up Port’s efforts. A 3-1 win against a team that is a worthy third. Who given the chance plays some of the nicest attacking football in the league but here were made to look ordinary. The defence was again solid, the run of clean sheets is over but they haven’t conceded a goal from open play since just after half time in the game at Rayong, nearly 600 minutes of league football has pasted since. Playing against several teams in and around the champions leagues places and a derby, to have won them all has been a fantastic effort.


Man of the Match

 

Always dependable and always puts a shift in MOTM Steuble

 

This was the epitome of a team performance, the system and tactics were a 10, individually nobody really excelled, and nobody had a poor game, 7s and 8s across the board. So, the award goes to Steuble, not often a fullback gets the award but off the back next to no game time, he came in shut down Roller, did everything that was asked of him and contributed going forward and had a hand in the second goal.

 

WE ARE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE (group stage)

 

Back for the Biggie.

 

If you’re going to come out of hibernation, it might as well be for a good reason and they don’t come much bigger in Thai football than the slum v scum derby. Just shy of eight months after it was originally scheduled to take place (thanks in part to a further delay beyond COVID, due to the PAT floodlight issues back in October), it’s the big one.
Port go into the game having claimed a champions league place at the weekend and can tonight enhance their chances of going directly into the group stage and extinguish the last lingering hopes Muangthong have of involvement (they need to win all their remaining games and still get a little help with results in other matches).

The Good Guys

Port come into the game in fine form with six wins in a row, with clean sheets in their last three games. The defence seems to have tightened up in recent weeks, two of those clean sheets have come away at Bangkok United (finally breaking that jinx) and last time out against a decent Chonburi team. Whilst neither saw the sparkling football going forward of the home win v Suphanburi they sandwiched, maybe the new management has installed some defensive steel and tactical pragmatism so often lacking at Port. Add to the mix that Bonilla(99) looks like the striker with killer instinct we’ve waited for the entire Pang era and there much to be hopeful about. I doubt we’ll see a winning line up changed.

 

The Baddies

This season has been somewhat of a turning point for everyone’s least favorite team as the continued attempts to cut costs have really bitten and where once you had as close as the Thai league gets to glitz and glamour. The squad is now made up mainly of players rolling off their youth academy production line.
However, we were told that would be plenty as they started the season with Gama at the helm. Give the Brazilian tactician, the lads from your local moto taxi stand, enough Carlos kickaballs to fill the overseas quota and a mid table finish was assured, seemed to be the theory in Nonthaburi. However there was just one problem with this, Gama wasn’t happy babysitting the latest batch to come off the academy line, despite the protests of some that nobody could want to leave a club treading water and get back to competing for silverware. Gama was of to Isan at the first opportunity.
He was replaced by former playing legend and current sock dodger Mario Gjurosvki. Who previous management experience amounts to a bit of youth coaching for them, during the COVID break when there wasn’t much coaching done. If nothing else he gets hyped up for every game, so expect him to get involved in a bit of back and forth at some point tonight.

An insult to style and Messi in a pink Barca shirt

 

Form

This season the numbers back up what we already knew, watching Muangthong at home really is the last thing you should choose to do, as games at Legoland have seen the least goals of any stadium in the division. Away from home things are nearly twice as goal friendly (19 v 10) but given that 3 of those came away v Rayong, with some assistance from a home goalkeeping performance, right up there with a certain ex Coronation Street star’s efforts for/against Port a few years ago, even that is a little questionable. Their away record stands at 3-0-3, with the victories being against (kinda) Rayong, Police Tero, and in the battle of the has-beens, up at Buriram. While the defeats have come at BG, Sukhothai and Chiangrai, so basically anyone decent.
The form in the four games under Mario Gjurosvki is also mixed, they opened with a 3-1 win at Police Tero. A match that saw the visitors hyped up like this was a cup final, struggle to pull clear of Police, who the last couple of months looks destined for a relegation battle, until two late screamers. Next up was the aforementioned battle of the has-beens in Buriram, entertaining stuff as the two traded blows to remain relevant. Starting with some calamity defending as a miskick from little center back Promsupa (15) allowed Buriram’s Scepovic to open the scoring. Something the little fella has form for as it was his blunder that lead to Port’s late late winner in the Leo Cup final preseason. Before Muangthong pulled clear with three unanswered goals. There was still time for Van Lam (1) to get all flappy about a header than was a routine save and make it a tight finish. Before Mario started running around like a pound shop Jose in front of the away end.
After opening with two wins things haven’t gone so well. Firstly they headed up to Chiangrai, where the only running we saw post-game from Mario was to break out the crayons and write a strongly worded letter to the league about how unfair it is that the officials no longer give all the dodgy decisions to Muangthong. The match ended in a 2-1 defeat. Then last time out they managed a 1-1 draw with Korat. Now everyone in the Sandpit loves Korat, however, they’re down there battling relegation year on year for a simple reason, they never put together a decent team. You want to be a big team you should be beating them at home. So to see the once-mighty Muangthong needing all the misfortune they felt they suffered at Chiangrai reversed in the next match, as they got two penalties the game would be better without, didn’t exactly scream form team. That one was twice taken and twice missed by Derley(87) only made it all more comic. They did go one up thanks to Popp(19) showing some competence from the spot. However up stepped Van Lam to again allow a header a mere matter of inches from his starting position to beat him.
As it’s probably clear I’m far from a fan of Van Lam, he came into the league hyped as one of the best keepers in Asia. Whilst his highlights reel, even from just this season, will feature some great saves, he’s also terrible at far too many of the basic elements of his job and always prone to letting a howler in. He was dropped by Gama for a couple of games and replaced by Somporn (29) a keeper who won’t hit the same peaks but offers a far more consistent and reliable alternative. Let’s hope we see some classic flapping from the Vietnamese number one.
At right back they should have Jesse Curran, who impressed in preseason and could be in on a Phillipino passport except it seems they haven’t sorted that yet so he’s stuck at Udon Thani playing in the second tier (all very Porty).
Derley, at 6ft might not be as big and scary as some but he’s a decent T1 striker, he’s scored five times this season. It’s just that over the period I’ve watched football in Thailand the guy leading the line for Muangthong has tended to be right there in the conversation about the best striker in the league not called Diogo. Derley is a decent middle of the range Thai league striker but then Muangthong has become more of a middle of the range Thai league operation.
Willian Popp (19) arrived at the start of the year and spent preseason and the pre shut down period, looking like a long lost South American cousin of George Weah, or a social experiment to see if you really could take any physically fit Brazilian to a footballing backwater and they’d cut it in the local league. There was a lot of huff and puff but very little end product. He looked improved when the league returned but has really kicked on since the change of manager, scoring 4 goals, two absolute screamers, and two penalties.
I could go into the details of their Thai players but let’s face it they generally all fit the same mould, hyped products of their academy who all go on to get a few caps because that’s what you do when you play for them before drifting off to have reasonable careers elsewhere. They also have Chatmongkol (14) on loan from Port, any logical club would have it in the loan he can’t play against them. So we all know who’s scoring the injury time winner.

Prediction

This is in many ways a free shot at 3 points for Port. When the game in October was canceled, it appeared that we would again be fined and the game awarded to the visitors 2-0. Maybe it would be fairer if it had been.
Having watched their recent games l think they’d currently get wound up for a game against the local under 7’s, in a game they’ll come to slightly aggrieved that they have to play rather than having nicked 3 points after the floodlight failure, with the added factor that it’s a derby, maybe they’ll be overhyped.
I certainly suspect they could boil over if the stadium was packed and away fans allowed in, creating a heated atmosphere, sadly the two clubs continue to ban away fans from these matches. Throw in the post covid new normal of only 50% attendance and the ban on drums etc and l fear it could be generally a bit flatter than a normal derby in the ground.
However, you don’t conclude Port v Scum previews predicting anything other than a win, 3-0 Bonilla hattrick.
The game kicks off at 1800 this evening.If you can’t get along the match will shown on AISplay.

Thailand Gain Extra Champions League Spot in 2021

 

The Asian Champions League, which Port crashed out of in the qualifying stages this year, is expanding from 32 to 40 teams from the 2021 season. This, along with the fact that Thailand moved past Australia to in the AFC’s club rankings, means that Thailand will go from 1 automatic spot in the group stages and 2 in the qualifiers to 2 automatic spots in the group stages and 2 in the qualifiers.

Therefore, in 2021, the T1 Champions and the FA Cup winners will go straight in to the AFC Champions League group stages, while 2nd and 3rd place in T1 will go in to the qualifiers.

This is obviously good news for Port, although it has come a year too late, as our FA Cup win in 2019 would have meant automatic ACL qualification had it come a year later. Still, with high hopes of finishing towards the top of T1, Port will most likely have a shot at Asia’s premier club competition once again, whether through automatic qualification or qualifiers.

 

 

In related news, the team who shocked Port in ACL Qualification earlier this year, Ceres Negros, will reportedly not be competing when their domestic league restarts. After a few seasons of uncertainty following boardroom legal disputes and financial difficulty, the erstwhile Filipino champions are releasing all their players and will cease to exist. Their last stand in defeating Port and putting up impressive resistance against FC Tokyo was to be their ACL swan song.

 

‘Wut a Mess: Port FC 0-1 Ceres Negros FC (ACL Qualifying Round 2)

 

“They already booked their tickets to Japan? This is Port! You can’t rely on them!” So said a highly amused French Port fan friend of mine after last night’s game when I pointed out a few of our fellow farangs who were due to be jetting off to Tokyo on Sunday. And they weren’t alone in their overconfidence – before the game the club was selling limited edition gold away shirts, specially designed for Tuesday’s anticipated clash against FC Tokyo. The absolute epitome of hubris from a club for whom such arrogance really doesn’t sit well. As it is, those gold shirts will no doubt be on sale at half price before long; the first team will be playing in the Leo Cup instead of the ACL; and several friends of mine will currently be Googling “what to do in tokyo on a freezing cold tuesday night.” Read more

Lions Roar Behind Enemy Lines: Muangthong Utd vs. Brisbane Roar

 

It’s the most natural of alliances. Two teams whose colours have historically been orange and blue, whose club crests feature roaring lions and who most importantly shared a common enemy on Wednesday.

 

 

Fans of the Twin Lions – Port and Brisbane – make the trip to the home of the Twin Qilins: Thai Champions and all-around baddies Muangthong United. Brisbane’s experience with Muangthong may only go as far back as a couple of months ago when the two sides drew 0-0 in their Asian Champions League (ACL) clash in Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, but us Port fans have a longer and more complicated history with the second most decorated side in Thai football history.

Various scraps between the fans of Thailand’s greatest rivals have resulted in fines, points deductions and stadium bans, most recently when fans of both sides were banned for the final 5 games of 2016, as well as the clashes between the two sides in 2017. With this in mind, we didn’t expect to be visiting the SCG this season. Then came Port and Brisbane fans Costa and John. When we saw pictures of these two at the aforementioned ACL clash between Brisbane and Muangthong, we knew what we had to do!

 

Costa and John representing Klongtoey in The Lion’s Den

 

After last season’s ban-defying undercover mission to Nakhon Pathom, we had a taste for the subterfuge and excitement that comes with visiting an opposition stadium under false pretenses. What was to follow meandered from tense stand-offs with security to a chance meeting with a celebrity reader of The Sandpit, with lots of drinking and singing between!

But let’s start from the beginning. When I meet my fellow infiltrators Dom and Dave at Mo Chit, we compare our Port regalia. On one end of the spectrum, Dave has gone full-on brazen. His Klongtoey t-shirt is about as subtle as a brick, although to be fair he hasn’t put it on yet. I’ve played it a little safer, with a Port scarf tucked surreptitiously into my back pocket; visible but hopefully unidentifiable. Dom is in squeaky-clean stealth mode, with no identifiable Port items at all; the perfect cover.

Our first stop is Flann O’Brien’s in Impact Arena, where we’re scheduled to meet up with the Aussies, as well a fellow Port fans Eddie and Jesse. We’re warmly received and, after our first drink, pictures are soon being taken. My plan of not revealing my Port scarf until we’re safely ensconced in the away end goes straight out the window, but at least I’m not having my picture taken by one Muangthong fan, whilst being stood next to another. Ah, oops!

 

Fans of Port, Brisbane and Kung Fu Panda in Flann O’Brien’s

 

Next stop is the SCG, where large Leos are the order of the day. Within minutes, Dave has stripped off and put on his Klongtoey t-shirt, after which he nonchalantly cruises past a few hundred Muangthong fans on the way to the away end. A last-minute search for tickets proves successful, and we are sent up, beer in hand, to WW7 – a small area of the upper tier just above the normal away section. There’s a pretty impressive turn out from The Roar. Whereas Ulsan Hyundai turned up with 5 away fans, there are a few dozen there supporting Brisbane, including a group of fans who have made the long trek from Eastern Australia, complete with purpose-made caps to mark the occasion. Good effort, lads!

There’s a good view from our outpost, and soon enough the game is underway. Brisbane have apparently put out a combination of youth team and squad players, whereas Muangthong are at full strength. It shows straight away as Muangthong seize the initiative and lay siege to the Brisbane goal. Muangthong look composed and threatening, whereas Brisbane look panicky. Brisbane manage to create a couple of chances, but just as it looks as if they’re poised to start asserting themselves on the game, Muangthong take the lead. A pinpoint cross from Thai national team wing-back  Tristan Do (19) is met by Spanish striker Xisco (9), who finds the corner of the net with a powerful header. Brisbane make it to half time a single goal in arrears, but they’ve got it all to do in the second half.

The same could be said for us away fans, who filter out to stock up on beer and snacks oblivious to the shower of shit the mad-cap SCG stewards have in store for us. Dave gets an early taste, when a security guard notices his Klongtoey shirt and decides to start sticking to him like a limpet. I’m the first to try my luck re-entering the stadium with a large beer, just as I had before the game. The stewards smugly inform me that – as of now – only small beers are allowed inside. Just as I’m pointing out the absurdity of making up a new rule halfway through the game, a Muangthong fan walks past me with two small beers grinning like a Cheshire cat. Cheeky git. I try to explain the irony of allowing two full small beers in, while rejecting a half-full large beer. It falls on deaf ears. Admitting defeat, I find myself a small cup, inform the rest of the fans outside what’s going on and head up for the second half.

If only that was the end of the story. By the time the rest of the Brisbane fans try to make they way up the rules have changed again. Now it’s only a very specific kind of cup with a certain logo on it that’s allowed in. Unfortunately for the stewards, Dom falls victim to the latest rule change, and he’s less forgiving than I am. Seeing the opportunity for a lively discussion, Dom decides against watching the rest of the game and spends the next 20 minutes informing the stewards in minute detail exactly how deficient they are. I didn’t see this first hand, but have full confidence that Dom didn’t leave out the words “useless” and “cretins”. Whilst I’m light-heartedly poking fun at the absurdity of the situation, the bone-headedness of denying entry to fans who have traveled over 7,000 km to be there just because of the size of cup they’re carrying is seriously wrong, and further evidence – as if it were needed – that the SCG is a world-class joke of a stadium.

It wasn’t just the fans who came away appalled by the SCG, though. As The Courier Mail reported, Brisbane ‘keeper Jamie Young was injured by a damaged net hook and had to be substituted then taken to hospital (pictures here), where he had 26 stitches in his arm. Brisbane Director of Football Craig Moore commented “The goalposts cannot be of danger to any player and clearly they were.” Stay Classy, Muangthong.

“I’m not holding that scarf, mate!” says Brisbane Roar legend and Bangkok Glass captain Matt Smith

Meanwhile, the second half is in full-swing, with play mostly following the same pattern as the first half. I look around for a distraction from the depressing inevitability of a Muangthong win, and spot Brisbane Roar legend and current Bangkok Glass captain Matt Smith. After I introduce myself, talk soon turns to The Sandpit. Matt tells me he knows all about the website and is a regular reader. Good stuff, Matt! After I finish blushing, I castigate him for being injured for Port’s clash with The Glass Rabbits a couple of weeks ago, as I talked up the importance of the clash between him and Josimar in my preview. Matt tells me that despite my abjectly inadequate research he enjoyed reading the article, and will try his best to be fit next time!

Meanwhile, Brisbane struggle on, creating chances but not looking composed enough to take advantage of them. Then, in the 83rd minute, superstar playmaker Chanathip (18) makes them pay by scoring a goal befitting a player of his outrageous talent. Chanathip takes it past 2 defenders before selling the goalkeeper a dummy and walking the ball in to an empty net. Five minutes later Thai national team captain Teerasil (10) seals the win for Muangthong by adding a third goal, sliding in to apply the finishing touch to Peerapat’s (2) inviting cross-cum-shot.

Brisbane didn’t exactly cover themselves with glory in terms of their performance, but for a young group of players up against half of the Thai national team, it was always going to be a struggle. The traveling fans knew what to expect, and stayed out to applaud their players after the final whistle, but in a quite shocking display of what could generously be described as inexperience, all they got in return was a halfhearted clap from a handful of players, whilst the rest turned around to start warming down. At least a gesture to the loyal fans who had flown the 9 hours out to Bangkok to watch a weakened team get schooled and unceremoniously dumped out of the ACL would have been nice.

With the game over and Dom now back from his discussion with security, attention turns to a mysterious set of Klongtoey stickers, which have appeared from nowhere and distributed themselves around the stadium. How did that happen?! Regardless, we all take the opportunity to snap some choice pictures, before heading back down past the beer police and outside.

More beers are ordered, and Dave’s friend the security guard starts asking personal questions. “You have car? Or you go taxi?” Unsure of whether the security guard is angling for a phone number or just wants to get rid of him, Dave plays it cool and tries to wait him out. Unmoved, the security guard stands within a meter of him at all times. His body language says he’s going nowhere. His worst suspicions are confirmed when a Muangthong fan asks to see my scarf, which isn’t buried quite deep enough in my back pocket. I try my best to politely decline, but he’s straight in the ear of the security guard, and after photos start being taken and the walkie-talkie comes out, it seems like drastic measures are definitely in order. The scarf is stashed in Dom’s bag, and shortly after we scarper in the direction of Flann O’Brien’s, and part ways with our new friends, the Brisbane Roar fans.

These guys are a top bunch, and we hope to see them again before long, either if The Roar get drawn with another Thai team in the ACL, or if they fancy a trip to PAT Stadium. Despite the result, and the inevitable hardships any visitors to the SCG endure, this was a night where two sets of fans came together to watch football, have a few beers, share stories and enjoy themselves. In that respect, our mission behind enemy lines was most definitely a rip-roaring success!