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Nitipong Selan-OFF: Air Force Central FC 3-2 Port FC

 

 

Brevity isn’t in my wheelhouse at the best of times, but today, with Super Sunday’s Double Header on the agenda, I’m going to have to give it my best shot. Sunday’s bumper ticket saw not only Port’s away trip to Air Force, but also Port Futsal Club’s trip to Kasem Bundit University scheduled one after another. The famous Port fan bus, with its’ superhero captain at the helm, was taking in both games, and despite the hefty 80 baht price tag, I thought I’d dip in to my savings for the experience. You know the bus I’m talking about: the one that could probably have solved the Waco stand-off in a couple of hours flat just by pointing its’ speakers at the Branch Davidians and hitting shuffle. Let me sum up the experience as concisely as I can.

 

Godang Stadium, greetings, ball-grabbing, music, beer, selfies, unidentifiable food, dancing, Facebook live, beer, dancing, random plane, whiskey, Kasem Bundit University.

 

 

The Futsal

And just like that we’re at Kasem Bundit University a full hour before kickoff. No sooner had we chosen a patch of grass to colonize with beer, snacks and gratuitous whistling, free tickets from the Birthday Boy Mr. Chairman were being gratefully accepted by the Port traveling faithful. Then it was up to the 12th floor and the University gymnasium where Port’s Futsal Professors wasted no time teaching the Kasem Bundit Younglings a thing or two about how top-class futsal is played.

Within a minute Port were two goals to the good, with classy Brazilian Marcos (10) and Thai national team defender Chaivat (7) pinging two long-range efforts past a pretty useless Kasem ‘keeper. Port continued controlling the game without threatening a great deal before a comedy third goal was gifted to the impressive Anukul (22). The hapless Kasem stopper came at Anukul with something more akin to airborne attempted murder than a tackle, but the Thai forward calmly evaded the pilot-in-training and passed the ball in to an empty net.

A few Kasem players and the linesman provided most of the entertainment to the traveling fans in the second half, as several pairs of glasses were routinely offered to the linesman whenever he passed the Port fans. There were a couple of good old-fashioned pantomime villains in there too, including the dangerous heavy-set Kasem number 8 and his buddy Jahja (Binks), a pasty, gangly looking fella with a shit moustache. Number 8 scored a walloping freekick, Port replied with a couple more goals and Jahja got mercilessly abused for the rest of the game. With Port 5-1 winners however, the home players were warmly welcomed by the traveling support, and Jahja even made his peace with the black-clad Port ultras. Kasem Bundit University 1-5 Port Futsal Club. Easy!

 

 

Happy Birthday was sung to Port’s generous chairman and sweaty shirts were handed out by veteran midfielder Thananchai (17) and exquisitely named new striker Keerati (9), who looks and celebrates just like former Thai national team star Leesaw. With the organizational skills of the one and only Spiderming we were quickly back on the bus and on our way to Air Force. There was more…

 

Beer, shirtlessness, music, videos, dancing, beer, karaoke, pole-dancing, u-turns, Isaan music, whiskey, selfies, Thupatemi Stadium.

 

The Football

And just like that, we arrive at Air Force with barely a couple of minutes to go before kickoff. A traveling car-boot Leo saleswoman provides the only humane alternative to the Chang piss-water favoured by the official sellers, and as beer is allowed inside, we’re straight in just as the action is getting going. It’s an even more makeshift Port XI than expected on display, with Siwakorn (16) – presumably injured – absent from the match day squad altogether. That means a long-overdue first start for Indonesian starlet Terens Puhiri (28) on the right wing, with Bodin (10) and Pakorn (7) rotating between midfield and the left wing. There was also a first league start for on-loan Thai under 23 centre half Worawut Namvech (24), and a number of new faces on the bench. Sammy Slot (11) and Somprasong (14) have made a couple of match-day squads in recent weeks without making it on to the pitch, but Anon (20), Chanayut (99) and Sarawin (48) were all included in a first team squad for the first time.

 

 

Port started pretty sluggishly, unable to impose themselves on an Air Force team short on quality but armed to the teeth with energy. Nevertheless, the opening goal did come as a shock, with a nicely crafted passing move finding diminutive Thai forward Yodsak (9) in space on the edge of the area. I’m sure even Yodsak’s biggest fan wouldn’t have expected what happened next. The forward without a goal in 20 games in 2018 cut in, looked up and bent a sublime, unstoppable finish in to the top right-hand corner. As much as anyone has to justify why they’re being picked ahead of Kayne Vincent, Yodsak most certainly did with that finish. Questions must be asked of Nitipong (34) who was MIA, and Worawut, who was too slow to close down the forward. Wait, what just happened? Air Force 1-0 Port. Bugger.

Things quickly went from bad to worse, too. Boskovic fired wide after Pakorn put a chance on a plate for him, although he was then flagged offside, but Air Force looked the more dangerous side. Speaking of danger, Nitipong then broke forward down the right, and was absolutely annihilated from behind by a savage challenge from midfielder Phichit (28). Both feet were off the ground as Phichit scissored Nitipong like a randy lesbian porn star, but the Air Enforcer was lucky to only see yellow, although clips of his ‘tackle’ could well end up on redtube. The referee somehow got it into his head that someone had to see red though, and if not the assaulter, then why not the assaulted? As Nitipong landed, legs understandably flailing, his left boot caught Phichit in the face, and the ref, making his first but certainly not his last ridiculous decision of the day, gave Port’s mild-mannered right back his marching orders, despite the protests (and by protests I mean abuse) meted out by Boskovic.

With 10 men and down a goal, things could only get better. Oh no, wait, they could definitely get worse. Former Port winger Pinyo (44) played the lead role in the next chapter in Port’s tragic tale, with his weak shot bouncing awkwardly off Rochela (22) and spinning up and over a wrong-footed Rattanai (17) and in off the post. Air Force 2-0 Port. Bastard.

Then somehow, Port started to play. Poor old Terens (28) was stuck playing 2 positions on the right hand side, with Jadet loathe to remove an attacking player and shore up the defence. He stuck to his task admirably though, and although it limited his attacking opportunities Terens did a surprisingly good job at right wing back. It was Kim with the breakthrough, though. Having stormed out of the stadium in search of beer after the second goal went in, I was just passing by a gap in the stadium as The Korean stooped to meet Pakorn’s out-swinging corner and direct it in to the bottom left corner. It wasn’t quite Southgate’s conga line, but it did the job, and Port were back in the game at the half way point. Air Force 2-1 Port. Get in!

A reinvigorated Port took just 3 minutes after the restart to draw level. What?! Don’t we have 10 men? Boskovic put 21 year old Air Force captain Sarayut (23) under pressure with some high pressing and the Buriram loanee panicked, gifting the ball to Boskovic, who showed just how he scored 38 goals last season, lofting the cheekiest of finishes over the keeper and in to the net. Air Force 2-2 Port. Class.

What happened between Port’s equalizer and the outrageous conclusion can basically be summed up like this: Great save, Rattanai! Port’s young ‘keeper has been much less busy this season than in previous years, where he would routinely make match-altering contributions, but with Port down to 10 and both sides going hell for leather, his interventions were required on several occasions. Whether it was because of the linesman failing to flag clear offsides, the referee awarding soft free kicks or Air Force actually mounting an attack on their own merit, Rattanai stood alone a couple of times to keep Port level, with the 10 men really starting to tire.

That tiredness showed in the 86th minute when Pakorn poleaxed a marauding Air Force winger on the edge of the box. You’ll notice that I said on the edge of the box, rather than in it; a detail that the referee and linesman with the help of video technology somehow still managed to miss. Air Force forward Greg Houla (19) vociferously made the completely redundant point that Pakorn’s standing leg had kicked up some turf in the area, but the leg he tackled with looked outside the box. Still, as True’s presumably poorly placed cameras couldn’t definitively overrule the referee’s decision, it stood and Houla stepped up to take the penalty.

Rattanai, not yet done with the heroics, dived to his left and sent the admittedly poor penalty back where it came from, but Houla, struggling to regain control of the ball, hacked it back towards goal. Rattanai might still have saved his second attempt was there not a flailing Kim in front of him, but his brave resistance was finally breached and Port’s unlikely comeback attempt was shot down. Air Force 3-2 Port. Done.

After the final whistle the Air Force team was booed and shooed away from the Port end with chants of “Cheat” and “You’re going down” ringing in their ears. Opposition transgressions and refereeing incompetence are much easier to forgive after a 5-1 win than a 2-3 loss. Port’s players, and Madame Pang in particular, were given a rousing sing-song and a hearty post-game cheer. It may have taken them until they were two goals and a man down, but they mounted a gutsy comeback which could easily earned them all three points on another day. With a different referee. Madame Pang also had one her finest moments on the Port bench when she came storming out of the technical area with a face like thunder looking like she wanted to scratch the linesman’s eyes out. It could have made him any less blind, that’s for sure. Ultimately she was restrained by the best-paid bodyguard in Thailand Boskovic, and was given a soothing lullaby by the Port faithful.

Yet another chance to close the gap on second placed Bangkok United squandered. You wouldn’t have guessed it from the bus ride back, though!

 

Disco lights, karaoke, beer, shirtlessness, celebration, inappropriate touching, song requests, dancing, whiskey, lap-dancing, hastily-improvised earplugs, Godang Stadium, awesomeness.

 

The Sandpit’s Man of the Match

It could only be Rattanai, really. Terens put in a good shift, although his final ball was pretty poor when he got the chance to go forward, Boskovic worked hard and scored an excellent goal, Adisorn (13) ran himself silly, although in one sequence of play he lost the ball and won it back on two consecutive occasions. Muppet.

 

Worrying News Update

Apparently Pakorn collapsed after the game and was taken to the hospital from what may have been exhaustion. We’re hearing that on top of Port’s already packed schedule Pakorn played some kind of match for the police between Wednesday and Sunday. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope that this kind of absurd unprofessionalism isn’t allowed to happen again. Apparently his decision making is as bad off the pitch as it is on it.

 

‘Mare Force: Air Force Central FC vs. Port FC, 15 July 2018

 

Port will look to bounce back in the league after Air Force ended their 7 game unbeaten run with a shocking upset in the League Cup on Wednesday. Whether you look at league position, squad strength or form, Port are massive favourites to take 3 points home from Thupatemi Stadium, although a much improved performance from a squad really starting to struggle with injuries and suspensions will be needed.

 

Air Force Central FC

Players to Watch

 

We all know how these Croats love to overachieve. Aleksandar Kapisoda (5) is your prototypical T1 foreign defender and the leader of the Air Force back line. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that, with the exception of a couple of loanees, he’s the only player in their entire squad who deserves to be starting for a T1 team. He’s 6 foot 3, dangerous coming forward from set pieces and ought to be well acquainted with Elias Dolah by the end of the evening.

Speaking of those loanees, the headline names are Ernesto Amantegui (13) and Sarayut Sompim (23). Ernesto surprisingly lost his place in Bangkok United’s back line this season after excelling for them in 2017, but has played every minute for which he’s been available since joining Air Force mid-season. He’s a Thai-Spanish left sided player who can play at full back or on the wing, and has experience in Spain’s third tier. 21 year old Sarayut is on loan from Buriram, who he has yet to make his debut for, has also been ever-present since joining in June. The youngster has even impressed enough to be made Air Force captain in recent games. Expect stiff resistance at the back from Sarayut and Kapisoda.

 

Kapisoda, Ernesto and Sarayut

 

There will also be quite a few familiar faces in Air Force shirts this Sunday. Expect to see Kayne Vincent (10), re-signed from T2 after Air Force’s big-name signings flopped, lumber around up front looking disinterested. At least one of former Port stars Ekkapoom Potharungroj (36), Pinyo Inpinit (44) and Jirawat Makarom (7) should also get a run-out off the bench. Pace and unpredictability are the name of the game for Ekkapoom and Pinyo, whereas Jirawat is an expert from dead-ball situations.

 

Vincent, Ekkapoom, Pinyo and Jirawat

 

Finally, Frenchman Greg Houla (19) is a bit of a wildcard. The attacking midfielder is just a few games in to his first spell outside Europe. He has played for a load of teams that I haven’t heard of, including a few, like Les Herbiers VF, that I suspect might be made up. He’s scored once in 5 games since joining last month.

 

Greg Houla

 

Form

 

Awful. Just awful. Many (myself included) picked Air Force to stay out of trouble this year after signing Leandro Assumpcao, Jaycee John and Renan Marques, but things have gone worse than anyone could have imagined. All three have left and 5 points have been accrued all season, making Air Force unlikely but legitimate contenders to ‘beat’ Super Power’s record low 6 points in 2017. They’ve lost 11 on the bounce, too. Ouch.

 

Port FC

Injuries and Suspensions

 

The one thing undoubtedly in Air Force’s favour is that they’re playing Port at the ideal time. Not only have they just enjoyed that morale-boosting success in the League Cup, but Port are reeling from injuries and suspensions too.

Todsapol (6) misses out having picked up his fourth yellow cards against Sukhothai, which wouldn’t ordinarily be a big deal, except that Dolah (4) will also miss out through injury. Another big name also joining Suarez (5) and Dolah on the sidelines is Nurul (31), who is expected to be out for around 2 months with a knee injury. Bugger. Arthit (29) was also withdrawn having picked up a knock on Wednesday, but we have no idea how serious his injury is.

 

No-Brainer

 

Rather than creating a dilemma for Jadet, though, this might just make things a bit simpler. He doesn’t have a lot of options at his disposal, so experimenting with Rochela (22) or Bodin (10) in midfield this week is pretty much off the table.

Expect Worawut Namvech (24) to make his fist league start of the season, having played 45 minutes in the cup on Wednesday. The youngster on loan from Chiang Rai is a great prospect, although his two appearances so far this season have consisted of a mistake leading to a goal away against Ratchaburi, and being withdrawn at half time on Wednesday. I have faith that the sturdy centre half will find his feet given time, but he’s got to take chances like this when they present themselves. Playing alongside El Capitan rather than Todsapol this time out might just help him out a bit.

In midfield, the trio of Adisorn (13), Siwakorn (16) and Kim (8) picks itself. With the shortage of defenders meaning Rochela must move back in to defence, Nurul’s absence meaning that Bodin is a shoo-in on the left wing, and Arthit likely being injured, moving Kim in to an advanced role would seem to be the only viable solution.

Pakorn (7), Bodin and Boskovic (23) will be tasked with making things happen going forward, something which they have struggled with in the absence of key man Sergio Suarez.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport HD2 at 19:00 on Sunday 15 July, 2018. For those who can’t make it to Thupatemi Stadium, 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.

 

Port Air Forced Out of the Cup: Air Force FC 1-0 Port FC

Port traveled to Air Force looking for a comfortable route to the quarter-finals, but it was not to be. Air Force had more chances on the night. Port looked like 3 different teams in an oddly disjointed match.

Start as we mean to go on

Air Force started brightly and looked more likely to score early on. They scared Port’s defence with a decent cross into the six yard box. Thankfully turned wide by Panpanpong (19), Air force failed to capitalise on the following corner. Port finally got a potentially dangerous free kick, but Nurul (31) put it a little too close to the keeper. And the only danger was to Air Force’s Alex (5) who collided with  his own keeper and went down needing treatment, he didn’t look 100%  for a while after that.

Stuck in the middle

Port set up with Rochela (22) in front of the back four in a 4-1-4-1 formation.

Nittipong(34), Todsapol(6), Worawut (24) and Panpanpong(19).

Rochela(22)

Nurul(31) Siwkorn(16) Kim(8) Bodin(10)

Boskovic(23)

Possibly this was looking to free up Panpanpong(19) and Nittipong (34). Unfortunately it didn’t create anything, it tied up players in the centre of the pitch, with Boskovic(23) tracking back into midfield trying to pick up the ball.

Port had Worawut Srisupha (36) in goal and Worawut Namvech (on loan from Chiang Rai)  (24) in front of him in the centre of the defence. Worawut’s debut as a central defender was up and down. He started off with a completely needless yellow for clipping a player he had no right to challenge. Later he snuffed out one of Air Force’s best chances with a strong, but fair tackle taking the ball off the attacking player’s foot. Right after that it was the other Worawut (34) popping up to save Port in goal turning away a shot from Greg Houla(19) who was looking the most threatening player on the pitch.

A pedestrian Port team didn’t see many chances a difficult header for Siwkorn (16) with the ball going away from him and a skied speculative shot from Boskovic(23). It says a lot that his first genuine shot came in the 39th minute.

 A New Half, A New Hope?

The second half saw Bodin (10) off for Bunyinda (29). You could see the need for another striker but Bunyinda has not inspired much confidence in 2018. After I finished tutting at this selection Bunyinda made a decent run a won a corner for Port. Prove me wrong number 29 please prove me wrong. Along with him Pakorn was on for Worawut the 4-1-4-1 experiment is over and it’s now a 4-4-2 with Pakorn back on the wing and Bunyinda partnering Boskovic so it’s more a 4-4-1 and a half. Port definitely looked better with this change, but better is a relative term. Port’s best spell of the match encouraged some louder cheering from those fans who braved the cross town traffic jams to get to the Air Force Stadium. Along come a couple of Pakorn (7) free kicks only one of which the keeper needs to move for.

But the brief period of decent play is undercut as Bunyinda hobbles off, then hobbles back on trying to play through the pain. Now yet again it’s Air Force in the ascendancy with Port getting out of jail after a mix up in the box. Breaking up this dangerous phase of play Port create their own chance with Boskovic starting the move on the edge of the box, Nurul and Kim trade one-twos to set up Boskovic, but his shot is stopped by the keepers outstretched legs. This first 20 minutes of the second half is some rest bite on a poor night. In the 65th  Bunyinda finally limps off. Port’s third sub of the night is midfielder Chakrit (9). Now Port look to be back to 4-5-1 with Boskovic yet again tracking back trying to bring the ball out of midfield to create something.

A Port free kick and Pakorn curls it,… the keeper staggers, … I think it’s gone in,… but it goes wide. On other nights this has been exactly the sort of thing that’s saved a poor Port performance, but not tonight. This game drifts back to it’s first half tempo, poor passing letting down both teams and it looks like it’s going to need extra time.

Late on in the match after what looked like an innocuous foul Nurul goes down, the Air Force player kicked his heel, but Nurul is on the ground holding his thigh. Could have been the way he fell or an old injury. Port players nervously look to keep the ball and a sense of impending doom spreads as they see Nurul being helped to the dressing room, with all subs used, Port are now down to 10 men.

Air Force press up with 11 and another searching long ball beats the Port defence and finds Greg Houla (19). He knocks it in and Rochela is stuck trying to mark two players, Nittipong is coming back to help but he’s far too late. Yodsak (9) leaves it for Wisarut (13) to smash it into the net.

Out of Time

The game gets a meagre 3 minutes of extra time in a second half that saw a lot of stoppages.  In minute one of the three a strapped up Nurul re-enters the fray, fair play to him for attempting to return, but he is just one of the walking wounded hanging around the centre of the pitch adding moral support. In the last minute Boskovic has a volley in the box, but the defender gets close to him and it smashes into his back. Shoulders go down everyone is thinking that was Port’s last chance and seconds later the game is finally put to bed, or indeed put down.

Cup News

Elsewhere in the cup the only good news of the night is Chonburi thrashing Muangthong 5-1. Ranong beat Bangkok United in a game played on a water logged pitch which ended with the 10 players of Ranong vs the 9 of Bangkok. They only had nine for the last ten minutes, but it was a decidedly dodgy pitch and a dodgy result. Buriram won 1-0, but they waited a while to do it, the goal coming in the second half of extra time at Trang.

The last 8 of the League Cup are,

Buriram, Chiang Rai, Chonburi, Bangkok Glass,

Ubon UMT, Ranong, Air Force and Korat.

The draw for the FA Cup is on Friday 13th, Air Force are already out of the FA Cup so at least we only face them in the league on Sunday. We won’t have another Air Force Cup nightmare this year.

Top Guns! Port Cruise to Another Win: Port FC 3-1 Air Force Central Utd

 

 

Air Force flew into Khlong Thoey last night, and with the visitors glued to the bottom of the table and Port riding high in second, it looked like mission impossible for the boys from Don Muaeng. But it turned out to be a very competitive and highly entertaining game, and whilst the scoreline may make the result seem cut & dried, in reality Air Force could easily have sneaked a win.

Eyebrows were raised before kickoff with the news that Jadet had decided to drop top scorer Sergio Suarez (5), and replace him with DM Adisorn (13). A tactical masterstroke, or was the big fella losin’ it? It was a risky business for sure, but as it turned out it was just what Port needed. Suarez thrives on the edge and in the usual midfield chaos of Thai football, and whilst that’s fine when you’re battling against the likes of Muangthong, it can be a liability when you’re expected to boss the game against inferior opposition – so Jadet put SS on the bench, replaced him with Adisorn, and moved the calmer, unflappable Kim (8) into the AM position, and the result was the best 45 minutes of football Port have played all season.

Air Force started without Port legend Ekkapoom, and whilst they may have a few good men up front with the likes of Assumpcao, Marques and Jaycee John, their midfield and defence were the poorest I’ve seen all season and Port set about them with relish, aided somewhat by the visitors’ inability to hold onto the ball for longer than a few seconds. I don’t know what the possession stats were but it must’ve been at least 70:30 in Port’s favour in the first half.

 

 

Port’s new midfield cocktail was fizzing from the off, with Pakorn (7) firing an early warning shot just wide of Air Force’s post, and Nurul (31) blazing a volley over the bar after being set up by Kevin (97). Pakorn, who was making all the right moves all evening, came close with a couple of free kicks before Kim took over free kick duty and brought a terrific save from the Air Force keeper, and Kim was unlucky to have his attempt blocked when set up by Nurul. Port were far and away the better side and playing some champagne football, and finally got the breakthrough they deserved on 38 minutes – Air Force’s keeper threw the ball out pretty lazily and Siwakorn (16) nipped in to steal it and passed it to Pakorn, whose pinpoint cross landed right on the head of Boskovic (23), and the big Montenegrin nodded it into the net.

If that was champagne football, what came next was vintage Dom Perignon, as on 43 minutes that man Pakorn picked up the ball a few yards outside Air Force’s area. There appeared to be nothing on, but a quick drop of the shoulder put the winger into space and he absolutely blasted a shot into the back of the net. One of the finest goals I’ve ever seen at the PAT, and even the usually placid gold members in Zone A were on their feet.

So 2-0 at half time, and it looked like Air Force were headed for oblivion. Fortunately for them, Port’s defence came out for the second half with their eyes wide shut and just 8 minutes into the half, Marques blasted home from 20 yards to put them back in the game. Their joy, however was very short-lived – around 90 seconds – as Port hit back with yet another goal of the finest quality. Some lovely interplay on the edge of the Air Force box ended in a delightful chip from Nurul straight onto the toe of Pakorn, who buried it into the roof of the net to restore Port’s two-goal advantage and send those of us who’d moved over to Zone D at half-time into ecstasy.

 

 

This was the cue for Air Force to send on former Bangkok Utd striker Jaycee John, and with all their big three strikers now on the pitch, the visitors were suddenly a different proposition and set about causing chaos in Port’s defence which, with Rochela (22) having picked up a silly booking earlier in the game, Athibordee (35) playing out of position at CB, and Kim playing in a more advanced role, was starting to bear a worrying resemblance to the shambles of 2017. The difference from the first half was like knight & day. Fortunately Worawut (36), who has come on leaps & bounds this season, was equal to everything the Air Force strikers could throw at him, and Port made it to the whistle with their lead intact to maintain their 100% home record.

So a real game of two halves then. Port totally dominated the first half but were on the back foot for much of the second against a team who have bags of quality up front, but nothing in midfield or defence. Jadet’s tactical tinkering worked a treat, and whilst Port’s defence was at times shambolic in the second half, they were unstoppable coming forward. Pakorn, Kevin and Nurul are starting to gel nicely and create havoc in opposition defences, whilst Boskovic seems to have found his goal form and, whilst at times he doesn’t look like much of an upgrade on Josi, his hard work & selflessness create acres of space for his teammates. The win puts Port second behind Buriram and with a bit of daylight between them and a clutch of teams on 13 points. The next game is a winnable away trip to struggling Police Tero this Sunday, but what comes next – games against Bangkok Utd & Buriram – will tell us if this is a real title challenge or just early season high spirits.

 

Sandpit Man of the Match – Pakorn

It was one of those nights where you couldn’t have thrown a dodgy half-time sausage on the pitch without hitting a Port MOTM contender. Kevin was absolutely phenomenal down the left, Siwakorn had by far his best game of the season, Adisorn was the usual bundle of energy, and Nurul had Air Force’s defenders crying for their mummy every time he had the ball.

But with an assist and two of the best goals ever scored at the PAT, it simply has to be the Midfield Monk himself Pakorn. After La Pang showed the colour of money and splashed the cash on Nurul we didn’t think we’d be seeing much of Pakorn this season, but he’s risen to the challenge and reached a new level and is now Port’s first choice on the right. If he carries on like this, a national team call-up surely has to come soon.

 

Air Farce: Port FC vs. Air Force Central FC, 28 March 2018

 

Port welcome Air Force to Klongtoey on Wednesday with some popular old faces set to make well-received returns to PAT Stadium. Of course it makes it easier to applaud opposition players and managers when they’re clear underdogs; indeed, despite possessing some enviable foreign-made offensive weaponry, Air Force have completely failed to get off the runway in 2018. Having sat forlornly at gate 18 for the first 5 weeks of the season, Air Force finally started taxiing in the right direction in week 6, but Port will be trying to make sure that their first flight is postponed for a few more days while Klongtoey’s finest sweep pig’s blood and pungent fish water from the runway. But enough about the walk home through the market, let’s talk football.

 

Air Force Central FC

Players to Watch

 

At the start of the season, many were speculating that Air Force would have one of the most fearsome forward lines in T1, and why not? With Renan Marques (14) fresh off a 27-goal season for Chonburi, Leandro Assumpcao (10) a 26-goal season for Sisaket and Muangthong and Jaycee John (22) scoring 10 in just 12 appearances for Bangkok United as he returned from injury, there was certainly reason for optimism. This bunch aren’t exactly spring chickens, though. At a combined 99 years old, this forward line has seen better days, but Port should certainly be weary of players with as much ability as this bunch. If and when they do fire up the jet engines, they will take some stopping.

 

Renan Marques and Leandro Assumpcao

 

It’s also worth mentioning that all three have seldom been used simultaneously. Manager Sasom has made like Ranieri and tinkered unyieldingly with his squad in an attempt to find the perfect formula, and it’s fair to say that his experimental alchemy has, so far, blown up in his face. Marques, Assumpcao and John have started together on just one occasion – a 2-0 loss against Pattaya – and between the three of them, they have managed just three goals in 2018. If I had to guess, I would say that after securing a 2-2 draw in their last outing, Sasom will stick with Marques and Assumpcao, with John being brought off the bench in the second half.

 

 

Then there are Port’s old flames. Manager Sasom is still a well-liked figure in Klongtoey, and he has called on his Port connections to bring in the likes of former Port captains Kiatjaroern Ruangparn (now retired) and Jirawat Makarom (7), as well as the most recent arrival: legendary winger Ekkapoom Potharungroj (36). Jirawat has been in and out of the team in central midfield, but Ekkapoom has played a part in every game to date, starting three and coming off the bench in the other three. Both players are largely as we remember them: polar opposites of eachother. Jirawat often struggles for pace in midfield but is capable of excellent quality given the opportunity, whereas Ekkapoom is a hard-working speedster who creates great opportunities for himself which he almost always squanders. Both are 32 years of age. I’m noticing a pattern here…

 

Jirawat and Ekkapoom

 

And right on cue to upset the narrative is Montenegrin centre half Aleksandar Kapisoda (5). Air Force captain and a reliable, physical presence at the back, Kapisoda has played every minute of the campaign so far, and is a relative spring chicken at the age of 28. It’s not every day, or indeed possibly ever before, that T1 has seen two Montenegrins face off, but Boskovic (23) vs. Kapisoda should be a key battle on Sunday.

 

Aleksandar Kapisoda

 

Form

 

There isn’t much to say that I haven’t said already on the form front. Air Force have scored just three times, making them by some distance the least potent attacking team in the league. They have lost to Sukhothai (1-2), Ratchaburi (0-1), Muangthong (0-1), Ubon (0-1) and Pattaya (0-2), before finally taking a point at home against fellow strugglers Chainat (2-2) in their last outing. So much for all those 4-3s we were expecting from the Eagles this term!

 

Port FC

Stick or Twist?

 

Jadet, me old mucker. Listen, big fella. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to give the Fresh Prince a start. Fresh off an international break where Bodin (15) showed that he’s not only ahead of Pakorn (7) in the Thai pecking order, but was even brought on before Nurul (31) in the final, it’s got to be about time to give the guy a chance. Fair enough, last season there was very little depth in Port’s squad, and it made a lot of sense to stick with the same XI whenever possible, but money has been spent, the squad drastically improved and there are now legitimate attacking options that are worth being tried for 90 minutes, not just 25. And don’t even get me started on The Flash (28)!

The only other potential change to Jadet’s XI is once again at the back. I expect that when Todsapol (6) returns to fitness he will return to the centre of Port’s defence, but as always with Todsapol, that could be next week or next year. Athibordee (35) hasn’t done a lot wrong since he’s been brought in, but I’m not going to be persuaded that a 5 foot 10 midfielder is anything other than an emergency stop-gap.

The rest of the side should remain as-is, with Port looking to bounce back after letting a 2-1 lead slip away to the ten men of Sukhothai a week and a half ago. They would do well to follow the lead of their B Team, who got back to winning ways in T4 by overcoming Airforce Robinson FC 1-0, with young superstar Chaowala Sriarwut (57) scoring in the first half to take his tally for the season to four. Time to mend some fences, fellas!

 

Predicted XI

 

I’m feeling brave. When I feel brave, I’m almost always wrong. Unfortunately, when it comes to predicting lineups, fortune decidedly does not favour the brave.

As we’ve seen a tactical innovation or two in recent games, with Port adopting distinctly different formations with and without the ball, you get two lineups for the price of one today. Firstly, here’s Port without the ball…

 

 

And when Port win the ball and Kim has waved his arms about a bit and shouted at a couple of people…

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 2 at 20:00 on Wednesday 28 March, 2018. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match with sound if you ask them nicely. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

And the Band Played On… True Devotion or Blind Faith? Air Force 2-1 Port FC (AET)

 

 

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

Michael Corleone – The Godfather, Part 3.

 

I think this was the feeling most of us had after the heroic and totally unexpected 5-2 victory at Pattaya, after a run of games that highlighted just how frustrating being a Port supporter can be. I don’t think any of us in the crowd at Pattaya had contemplated switching allegiances, but we may have been thinking there were more pleasant ways of spending an evening in the company of highly passionate Thais, than watching Port let us down again. After Pattaya, there was a reason to believe once more.

Now, seven days and two, totally contrasting but still abject defeats later, I feel like Basil Fawlty about to take a large branch to his maddeningly unreliable 1967 Austin 1100 Countryman. For the car, substitute Tana (99), who I would willingly give a damn good thrashing with a large Cedar, or indeed, the sorry lot of them. It wasn’t as if we played that badly in conditions entirely unconducive to decent football, but this was Classic Port, albeit far less palatable than a vintage Ferreira, Duque de Bragança.

I really do not wish to say too much about the match; it is too depressing and mirrors a wash, rinse, repeat cycle. I don’t know if there is a collective name for the recently referenced furry rodent, but a ‘repetition of groundhogs’ sounds just about apt. Furthermore, we have pulled the trigger so often we no longer have a foot left to shoot, apart perhaps, from Tana’s. I really am not the best observer either to report on a match played in a stadium where the far goal seems to be in the next province; at my recent, annual medical check-up, my response to the instruction, “Please say the letters on the board on the wall,” was, “What wall?”

 

Pictures finally confirm that Tana plays for the opposition

 

However, if you must know, the flow of the game was interrupted by a rain-sodden pitch, with the ball difficult to move through the surface water and rapidly accumulating mud. Air Force sensibly made better use of the wings, as airmen should, and that is the only pun you are going to get, as this defeat is no laughing matter.  As a result of the conditions, chances were few and far between and it was felt that it would need a defensive slip to decide the game. As it was, when our goal came, it was the result of a rare, slick move down the left, which ended up with Panpanpong (19) setting up Suarez (5) for a simple tap-in. And that, my dear friends, should have been it, especially if Josimar (30) had not delayed his shot when bursting into the box minutes later. Air Force had really produced no threat of note and all Port had to do was use their T1 know-how (cough, splutter) to outwit their strictly second tier opponents.

 

 

All was going swimmingly, as it were, until Worawut (36), who had had a decent game, was too slow off his line, as a cross from the left caught both him and Jetjinn (51) napping. Air Force winger Yodsak (32) made them pay for their indecision as he darted between the defender and the goalkeeper to slot home the simplest of equalizers. And all this, in the 95th and final minute of the game. Bad luck, some might say. Luck has nothing to do with it – it is just shockingly bad game management and we have seen it on endless re-run from Port. Some of the fans around me were berating the Blue Eagles’ players for their time-wasting tactics at the end of extra time but this is exactly what we should have been doing near the end of the 90, not to mention lofting every clearance into row Z or amongst the watching Air Force cadets who looked more like a flutter of settled butterflies than blue eagles. They did a pretty mean Mexican wave though.

Extra-time, with Air Force rejuvenated, saw Port’s goal leading a charmed life, only protected by Worawut producing a thrilling Gordon Banks’ moment (Mexico 1970, for you juveniles) to keep Port in the game. At times Port’s defending was shambolic, with even Rochela (22) being caught in possession in the box before passing it to the nearest opponent.

Then, in the 109th minute, with Port recklessly committed to attack, Air Force broke free; Port were outnumbered at the back and despite further heroics from Worawut or the Post, insult was added to injury by Kayne Vincent (11) scuffing home what would turn out to be the winner. To be fair, Port launched a concentrated assault on the Eagles’ goal in the dying minutes only for Tana, Todsapol (6) and others to find only the goal-keeper’s flailing arms from point blank range; Tana, as usual, feigning injury to somehow excuse his miss. [Ed – Replays suggest he actually took a stray boot to the goolies. After missing, of course…] I can see the point of a left-handed screwdriver but what is the point of Tana?

Which brings me on to the main point in my piece, as suggested in the banner heading. As you may know from my previous articles, I am pretty loyal to Port and will stay loyal, but how much of this shit should we, all fans, put up with before showing some kind of displeasure? I didn’t stay after the game; I was very angry and had no desire to linger on and pay tribute to a team that should have been crawling on it’s hands and knees to the long-suffering crowd amassed behind the goal (and it’s a long way) to beg forgiveness, preferably with their faces plastered in mud to heighten their sense of subjugation.

I have followed Port now for over seven years and have the utmost respect for the loyalty and passion of their wonderful fans; they are to me the best in the country. But, sometimes lads, be a bit more critical. You deserve better than this. When you are in full war-drum mode, I often wonder whether you actually see some of the dross being played out in your name? On Sunday, just as on Wednesday, when your players surrendered meekly to, okay, a very good Bangkok Utd side, you were badly let down. The players need to know this. Don’t stand and applaud, don’t sing to them, tell them in no uncertain terms it is simply not good enough. And then come back and hope it will be better next time, just as I will.

Have a good day y’all.

 

Man of the Match

Worawut, because he was the only one I could recognize without a pair of binoculars. And he pulled off some decent saves.

 

Port Set Up Anti Air Force Battery in the League Cup

 

Sunday 1st October League Cup last 16

Kick off 6.00 p.m. shown live on True Sports HD 1 and True Sports 6

Air Force vs Thai Port, it’s Lions vs Eagles in a match up which always sees Andy Griffin a bit torn about who to support.

Lion vs Bald Eagle, they live on different continents it’s a big away game.

Port jet off to Thupatemi Stadium this Sunday. The dark blue side of the Force are flying high in T2, but have stalled a bit lately, so Port have every chance to make it into the quarter finals.

 

Air Force’s Form

After an average start to the 2017 season Air Force went on an 11 game winning streak. A recent loss to Chainat and two away draws in the league have halted their rapid ascent into the top flight of Thai Football. The second of their away draws saw them splutter into promotion. Their resident RAFa Benitez is Port’s very own former ace Sasom Pobprasert who led Port to the FA Cup 2009 and the League Cup 2010. Yes, there were ancient days of yaw when Port won things. He’s had a good 3 year run with Air Force, landing them in 9th and 4th along with promotion this year.

 

Players to Watch or Make Weak Puns About

“Valdomiro Soares Eggres” “Valdo” (33) was Air Force’s top goal scorer with 12 last year and is currently second best with 10 this year. Let’s hope he’s not the one who Soars on Sunday and it’s Air force who Egress out of the Cup.

So who is Air Force’s danger man? Who’s the player we will all have to look out for? Step forward 2017’s 12 goal hero… Kayne Vincent (11)… Wait, what ? I’ve checked it a few times, then I checked my glasses. Yes, it’s true! Our old friend Kayne has hit the target for Air Force twelve times in 2017. Let’s just say this is the least Scary Foreign Striker of any Sandpit preview to date. Maybe he’s found some form and is on the up, but either way he’s as scary as Hello Kitty holding a butter knife.

Sasom eyeing Port’s Panic on the streets of Rangsit

Air Force are a solid crew normally winning games by the odd goal. They have only lost once at home this year and that was to the T2 Champions elect Chainat. They will be confident as they roll out on to the pitch this Sunday. In two online articles Sasom had mentioned playing a younger squad in the cups, but with promotion now sorted I can’t see him doing that.

 

Jadet: Magician or Monster? Top Gun or Top Yourself ?

From the heady heights of winning 5-2 away to the 5-1 crash and burn that was Wednesday night. What can we make of “Sir Det”? Better teams than Port have been obliterated by the bombarding attacks of Bangkok United. It’s not time to abandon the 4-1-4-1 formation that gave us great win away (a win away, a win away, ooooh  aaa win awaaaaay). I think managers get too much praise when they win, and too much criticism when they lose. Jadet’s trying something a little different with the team and against mid-range opposition it worked well. I think he should stick with it.

Panpanpong wasn’t available on Wednesday as he’s on loan from Bangkok United. I’m not a big fan of his wandering up front recklessly, but if we start with Rochela (22) Dolah (4) and Todsapol (6) he can get up the pitch without leaving too many gaping holes at the back.

Jetjin (51) might get a chance to jump start his Port career, but it’s unlikely. He will probably just be good for another idle pun in the preview. If we are desperate for goals it would be good to see Tana (99) brought on as a feckless goal hanger rather than a left winger. He’s definitely more suited to that role and as he seems to be contractually guaranteed to get time on the pitch, better have him doing that. I’m tired of seeing him wander aimlessly as a cloud on for Genki (18), even when Genki’s doing a perfectly good job on the left. Let’s hope Genki can zero in on the target like he did on Wednesday and justify a full 90 minutes. If Worawut (36-24-36) doesn’t flap about too much we should be OK at the back.

I think Jadet will stick to the formation that blew away Pattaya United. Here it’s 5-4-1 as Rochela is the very defensive midfielder the formation sometimes looks like that. And Eurosport’s Best XI doesn’t have a 4-1-4-1 option. 4-1-4-1 does sound more like a chant than a team formation.

Match-Ups

I rarely spot any great match up over and above our striker v their central defender or vice versa, Josimat (30) v Aleksandar Kapisoda (5) should be a good clash.

But Sunday has fascinating yellow card specialist match up. They won’t be facing each other that much as they are both attacking midfielders, but I get the feeling they will spot each other and a dog fight will ensue. Noppon Polkum (7) (or just “poll cum” to his friends) has managed to rack up 12 yellow cards and will serve his Siwakornesque 3rd suspension for Air Force during the next league game. I expect Siwakorn will get a yellow for shooting him down in the first half, then Noppon will come back with two yellows in the second and will be promptly ejected. Siwakorn’s calmed down a bit now, and he has a mere 10 yellows in the league this season; most of them tactical strikes to bring down dangerous attacking players. So expect some surprise attacks on both sides in the middle of the pitch if the game is close. Remember, always come out of the sun, they never see you till it’s too late.

 

History

This fixture saw highs and lows in 2013, with anger following a tense away loss. Then  a momentous late winner to secure promotion on the last day of the season. Last year there was an epic away battle that saw Port go up 1-0, then down 2-1, only to pull it back to win 3-2, this was followed by a close fought 2-0 home win for Port. Whatever happens Sunday it should be a riveting match, both sides are pretty much settled in the league looking to launch a cup run.

 

My Prediction: 6-4 Away Win

With 13 goals in the last 2 games it could happen. I see Dolah and Nitipong (34) conspiring to give away four first half penalties between them, then Rochela and Josi both getting second half hat-tricks to air lift Port out of trouble.

 

Thupatemi Stadium

The Stadium is just past Don Muang Airport, for anyone taxiing to the ground here’s a link to the ground on google maps.  Thupatemi Stadium

A bad view, but a good atmosphere in the way away end.

The Away end is Zone C unfortunately it’s another running track stadium but we should be able to fill it out and make some noise. It’s 120 baht for away fans.

 

The League Cup Last 16

There are some decent ties to look out for this Sunday. Here’s the full line up for the last 16, which is the 2nd round. There are 3 stages of qualifying rounds before that, but they don’t count. It’s simple it’s the 2nd round and after that it’ll be the quarter finals or the 3rd round if you like.

wiki leaked fixtures

See you Sunday.