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Ayu the Win That I’ve Been Waiting For: Port FC 2-0 Ayutthaya Utd

 

As expected, Port dispatched T3 high-flyers Ayutthaya Utd at the PAT last night to take their place in the last 16 of the Chang FA Cup, with a dynamic attacking performance which, had the finishing been more clinical, could and should have produced a hatful of goals.

 


 

August 2nd is my dad’s birthday and were he still with us, he would’ve been 77 yesterday. So what better way to celebrate the birthday of the man responsible for so many of my formative footballing – and drinking – experiences by having a few beers and watching Port? It might’ve lacked the glamour and significance of our most memorable game together – Coventry v Spurs in the 1987 FA Cup Final – but as a man who played and refereed Coventry Sunday league football for over 30 years, I’m sure he’d have appreciated the earthiness of the surroundings, and the coldness of the Leo. I know I did.

Anyway onto the football. Zico once again showed that he’s up for the cups by picking a full-strength team, the only change from Sunday’s lineup v Chiang Rai being the return of Adisorn (13) for Ittipol (7). Ayutthaya, on the other hand, seem to be more focused on their T3 promotion battle so whilst star player Noah Chivuta started – and put in a performance that showed he truly belongs at the top level – last weeks MOTMs Jirawat and Kendall were rested. The sight of Ayutthaya’s team sheet led to excited predictions of 4-0 and 5-0 amongst the farang faithful, and in the first half Port did their best to make those dreams reality.

Because for the first 45 minutes, Port absolutely battered their opponents, with Suarez (5) and Siwakorn (16) bossing the midfield, Genki (18) charging down the left with his socks down a la Peter Barnes, and Pakorn (9) & Nitipong (34) rampaging down the right. Chance after chance was created, with pretty much every outfield player having a shot at some point without a single one hitting the target. Josi (30) in particular was having a right mare, missing an open goal midway through the first half and generally still looking out of sorts since his return from injury.

Ayutthaya did have a few chances, normally due to Panpanpong (19) once again not bothering to do his defensive duties and leaving acres of space down Port’s left. When will Zico realise that he simply isn’t good enough to play as a wing-back and replace him with Yossawat? With Chivuta pulling the strings in midfield and lively Brazilian forward Maraba keeping Port’s defenders on their toes, they frequently threatened an opening goal which, given Port’s wastefulness, could’ve been fatal to the home side.

 

 

Thankfully, 13 minutes into the second half Port got the goal their sparkling attacking play deserved. Nitipong fed Pakorn with a somewhat overhit pass down the right – a pass which, pre-monastery, the no9 might well have given up on. But the Midfield Monk is a player reborn and he kept the ball in, steamed down the right, and pinged in an inch-perfect cross right onto the head of Josi, who showed he can head the ball after all and buried it into the Ayutthaya onion bag for 1-0.

But any thoughts that this might open the floodgates were somewhat misplaced, as Port, seemingly torn as to whether to park the bus or go for a second, found themselves on the back foot for much of the last 20 minutes, with Worawut making a couple of smart saves and Ayutthaya grazing the crossbar on a couple of occasions.

On 90 minutes however, Ayutthaya, as they did last week, found themselves down to 10 men when one of their midfielders put the boot in on Prawinwat long after the ball had gone and was given his marching orders. A couple of minutes later, in the last meaningful action of the game, that man Pakorn skipped past two defenders and once again found Josi in the box, and the Brazilian had time to round the keeper and a defender before sticking it in the net for 2-0.

So, as with the Chiang Rai game on Sunday, Port looked very lively and played some wonderful attacking football, only to be let down by poor finishing. You can get away with that against T3 teams, but we’ll need to take any chances we get against Glass on Saturday. Still, we’re now into the last 16 of the FA Cup and have as good a chance as anyone of going further. With the team looking faster, fitter and more motivated under Zico, Josi finding his scoring boots again, and players like Pakorn and Suarez finally finding some consistency, the rest of the season should be a lot of fun to watch.

 

Man of the Match – Pakorn

There were a few contenders for the coveted Sandpit MOTM award last night. Suarez managed his third impressive performance in a row – a record for him; Genki put in one of those balls-out left wing shifts that made us all love him in the first place; Nitipong complemented Pakorn beautifully down the right; and Adisorn was the usual Tasmanian Devil-esque whirlwind of energy and tackling in midfield.

 

 

But once again, and for the third game in a row, the award goes to Pakorn. Whether it’s the influence of Zico or some higher power, the right-winger is finally fulfilling his potential and becoming the star player he’s always hinted he could be. Once again he provided both assists, and at one point he even got straight up after being tackled and carried on running, and you’d have got pretty long odds on that earlier in the season. The big question is – can he do it at Bangkok Glass on Saturday? He’ll need to if Port are to stand any chance of getting something out of the game.

 

Photos by Tim Russell

 
 


 

Return of the Chedi: Port FC vs Ayutthaya Utd Match Preview

 

Following last week’s rain-soaked squeaky bum League Cup win, Port have the chance to knock the Warriors out of another cup competition when the two sides meet in the Chang FA Cup R2 at PAT Stadium on Wednesday (2 August, 19:00). Whilst the T3 side put up a very impressive performance on Wednesday, Port will be overwhelming favourites to proceed into the last 16.

 

FORM

After successive home defeats to Udon and Port, Ayutthaya got back to winning ways at the weekend with a 1-0 away win at Lamphun Warrior to stay in the thick of the T3 promotion battle. Port may have lost 2-1 at home to Chiang Rai, but they put in arguably their best performance of the season and were only denied a win by some out-of-this-world goalkeeping by the Beetles’ new Thai-French goalkeeper Nont. The bastard. If Port play anything like as well as that, they should win fairly comfortably.

 

THE OPPOSITION

For a T3 side, Ayutthaya put up a damn good fight last week and looked a lot better than many of the teams Port faced in T2 last year. That said, they did tire noticeably towards the end and with this being their 3rd game in 8 days, stamina could well be an issue. They’re also right in the middle of a very tight promotion battle and may decide that the FA Cup is worth sacrificing. So will coach Narongthanaporn Choeithaisongchodok (try getting that on a shirt) put out a full-strength team, or will he save his star players for the promotion race?

One thing we’re pretty sure of is that star striker Noah Chivuta will probably miss out, having received a somewhat harsh red card last Wednesday, which means his strike partner Kendall Jagdeosingh, who scored against Port, is almost certain to start. The big Trinidadian caused Port’s defence considerable anxiety last week and, whilst not quite SFS level, is the kind of big, physical, bullying forward Port continually fail to sign.

Other players to look out for are classy defender Jirawat, who was their MOTM last week, and goalkeeper Kerdklung, who made some stunning saves to keep Ayutthaya in the game.

 

PORT LINEUP

If last week’s side is anything to go by, Zico is taking the cups seriously this season. With Port almost certainly safe from relegation but too far off the top to challenge for the AFC, the cups are our last hope of something to get excited about and with the big clubs falling like skittles in the early rounds, there’s a good chance of reaching another semi-final at least.

With another 5-week break coming up after the weekend, there’s little need to rest players at this stage and so I expect Port to line up with their best XI tomorrow night. Possible changes from the Chiang Rai game? I’d like to see Panpanpong (19) make way for one of his understudies, ideally young Yossawat (28). Panpanpong is A) on loan only and B) far too focused on the “wing” part of his wing-back designation, once again being caught out of position on numerous occasions on Sunday. Yossawat is the future, and if he’s played 5 times for Buriram this season he’s more than good enough for Port. Get him in the team for god’s sake. Otherwise I expect the defence to line up as per usual.

In midfield, the only choice is likely to be between Ittipol (7) and Adisorn (13) for the DM role – I expect Adisorn to get the nod with the more physical (as Tanaboon will attest) Ittipol saved for the more difficult game at Bangkok Glass on Saturday. I’d also like to see Ekkapoom (8) given a runout on the left, but inexplicably he seems to have fallen down the pecking order even behind Tana (99), who is a much better singer than he is a winger. So expect Genki (18) to start.

Up front, Josimar (30) hasn’t looked so sharp since returning from his Evil Knievel escapades, but given that the alternatives are Kaludjerovic (hmmmm…), Tana (no) or Wuttichai (GOD no), he’ll almost certainly start in the hope he can get some morale-boosting goals to bring his goal drought to an end. I also expect Zico to go 4-4-2 again, which means Josi will likely be partnered by Kalu (10), with Suarez (5) given a break after his impressive exertions on Sunday.

 

 

THE SANDPIT PREDICTS…

Port have far more quality than their lowly opponents and, coupled with home advantage, should run out comfortable winners. But our inability to keep a clean sheet means Ayutthaya will almost certainly sneak a goal at some point. I’m going for a fairly big win – let’s say 4-1.

 

Ayutthaya Take Port to the Wire: Ayutthaya Utd 1-2 Port FC (AET)

 

Port got their 2017 League Cup campaign off to a winning start at T3 Ayutthaya but made hard work of it, winning 2-1 after being taken to extra time.

Running Thailand’s finest English language football website isn’t all cocktail parties, adoring groupies and VIP boxes, and your correspondent had to cancel his trip to Ayutthaya at the very last minute after his big toenail got infected & had to be somewhat painfully removed on the morning of the game, so this brief report is based on watching the match on a dodgy (is there any other kind?) internet stream.

As is so often the case in away games, despite Zico signalling his intent to have a real go in the cups Port started rather limply and it was Ayutthaya who made the early running – having knocked Chonburi out of the FA Cup they clearly fancied their chances of taking another T1 scalp. On 16 minutes a giant-killing became even more likely when a cross from the right found big striker Kendall on the edge of the box, who steered his header past a somewhat static Worawut (36) into the top corner.

The shock of going a goal down sparked Port into life but as usual passes were going astray in the final third, with Kalu (10) putting in another lacklustre performance which had many of us watching pining for Maranhao. Nevertheless, the Serb is lethal in front of goal and had a header acrobatically turned round the post by Ayutthaya’s excellent keeper who made a number of superb saves – just before that he managed to fingertip a deflected Siwakorn (16) shot away from goal. Just before HT, a thunderous Pakorn (9) free kick cannoned off the post. The Midfield Monk didn’t have one of his better games with numerous crosses, free kicks and corners flying over the bar, but he was still at the heart of most of the good things Port did.

In the second half Port laid siege to the Ayutthaya goal only to be continually denied by that goalkeeper and some desperate goalline defending. Kalu was replaced by the Moustachioed Assassin Tana (99) with predictable results (ie an utter lack thereof), whilst Suarez (5) came on for Genki (18), somewhat more successfully, and it was the rangy Spaniard’s presence that led to Port’s equaliser, after a Pakorn free-kick was saved and Ayutthaya’s defenders got in a bit of a flap trying to clear it. I don’t think Suarez got the last touch as the ball flopped over the line – it was an OG in my opinion – but any 92nd minute equaliser is a thing of beauty, and it took Port into extra time. And there was another bonus in store when, after a tangle with Siwakorn, Ayutthaya forward Noel Chivuta complained to the referee that he’d been elbowed and was bafflingly given a red card.

The break saw some entertaining shenanigans with Ayutthaya’s coach and Port’s goalkeeping coach both having an attack of the Cunhas and walking around pointing at people, before play resumed, at which point it was clear that Ayutthaya were knackered and the game was Port’s for the taking. Pakorn came closest in the first half with an absolute thunderbastard of a shot against the crossbar, though Ayutthaya almost caught Port on the break a couple of times.

Just when it looked as if the second half was going to be equally goalless and penalties loomed, Pakorn skinned the home left-back and chipped in a lovely cross right onto the head of Suarez, who buried it into the net. 2-1 to Port, and into R2 after a bit of a scare.

Whilst this wasn’t Port’s best performance of the season, they just about did the job against a lively Ayutthaya team who deserve a lot of praise for their performance. It’s good to see Zico taking the cups seriously and fielding a full-strength team (if any team with Tana in it can be described as full-strength), and Port should dispatch the same opposition in the FA Cup next week with hopefully a bit less huffing & puffing.

 

Man of the Match – Pakorn

The mercurial no9 was at his most frustrating last night. On the one hand he continually misplaced passes, crosses & corners; on the other, he hit the bar twice and notched up assists for both goals, and it’s that that wins him the coveted MOTM award, on a night when it has to be said there weren’t too many contenders.

 

Wats Goin’ On: Ayutthaya v Port FC Match Preview

 

Next Wednesday (26 July, 18:30) Port make the short trip north to face Ayutthaya Utd in R1 of the Toyota League Cup. Now I’m firmly of the view that this competition should, as happens in England, take place during the first half of the season. It would avoid fixture congestion during the second leg, and the final would be a nice way to go into the mid-season break. Obviously as it’s a fairly sensible idea designed to make Thai football more attractive to fans it will never happen, and so after a 3-week break, Port find themselves playing 4 games in 11 days, before a 5-week break.

 

The Opposition

Given that Ayutthaya (aka Ayutthaya Warrior) ply their trade in T3, they may as well be the fucking Illuminati as far as finding out factual information online is concerned. What we do know is that, until 2016, they went under the somewhat less catchy name of Sena Municipality FC before becoming Ayutthaya Utd in 2016, and later merging with the already existent Ayutthaya Warrior FC to form a united Ayutthaya team, hence, one presumes, the name; although there is also an Ayutthaya FC who, to make matters even more confusing, sit one place behind Utd in T3 Upper.

Alan Partridge models the 2017 Ayutthaya shirt

They play in dark blue shirts with a sky blue chevron action flash a la Alan Partridge, play at the Ayutthaya Province Stadium, and were promoted from Central Division last season to take their place in Thai T3 Upper (AKA Euro Cake League Pro). Their star player is former Swatcat striker and Zambian international Noel Chivuta (read an interview with Noel here). They’re currently 4th, 2 pts off promotion, and recently beat Chonburi 3-2 in R1 of the FA Cup, so will fancy their chances of causing an upset against a Port team who aren’t exactly pulling up any trees at the moment.

 

Port Lineup

Since taking over from Jadet towards the end of the last break, Zico has shown little desire to tinker with a generally successful formula and has stuck with the 4-5-1 that has, on the whole, served Port well this season. Cup games, however, offer coaches the opportunity to have a fiddle with the players, as it were, and give a runout to some of those who aren’t otherwise getting much action. So it’s somewhat hard to predict what the lineup will be.

What we do know is that young keeper Rattanai (17) is out after picking up a nasty looking shoulder injury against Ubon, and will likely miss the next 4 games, so we probably won’t see him until after the next break. Worawut (36) would seem the logical replacement, but I suspect Zico will give loyal backup keeper and part-time rapper Watchara (clickety-click 66) a game to get him up to speed should he be needed in the upcoming league games.

Defensively, I fancy Meechok (20) to get the nod at RB ahead of Nitipong, with any 2 of 3 from Dolah (4), Rochela (22) and Pravinwat (55) starting in central defence. I also hope promising new boy Yossawat (28) finally gets a start at LB – it’s probably between him and Jetjinn (51).

Midfield is harder to call – will Zico use the game to get his first choice midfielders back into action after the layoff, or will he give them a break? Your guess is as good as mine but given the opposition I expect him to play a 4-4-2 which could see Siwakorn (16), Pakorn (9), Genki (18) and possibly Ittipol (7) starting; new boys Pummared (41) and Jadue (32) may also feature.

Up front Josimar (30), was pictured back in training at the club’s recent camp in Nakhon Ratchasima after his motorbike injury and will no doubt be in contention for a place. Will Zico use the game to ease the Brazilian gently back into action, will he stick with Kaludjerovic (10) who is starting to find his shooting boots, will he give starts to Wuttichai (14) and Tana (99) OH NO PLEASE GOD NO, or will we see a first official appearance for Palestinian forward Jadue? As I said, I think it will be a 4-4-2 and Zico may use the occasion to see if Josi & Kalu can play together, which I believe they can. Kalu isn’t a lone striker but will surely thrive on the service he’ll get from Josi and goals will inevitably flow like the Leo which I hope we will be allowed to drink on the terraces whilst watching.

 

 

Getting There

The game takes place at Ayutthaya Province Stadium which, if Google Maps is to be believed, is only a 5-minute drive from Ayutthaya railway station. So we’ll be letting the train take the strain. There’s a 15:20 Rapid (it’s all relative) train from Hualamphong which arrives in Ayutthaya at 16:56 and costs a bargain 65BHT, then coming back the only option is the 21:42 DRC service which gets back to Bangkok at 22:55 and costs a somewhat pricier 345BHT.

If you want to join us, we’ll be meeting at Hualamphong at about 3pm.

 

 

Ayu Again! Port Face Ayutthaya in FA Cup 2nd Round

 

Last year, Port beat BEC Tero twice in 7 days in the two different cup competitions, and this season they’ve been handed the chance of doing a similar double.

On 26 July Port travel to Ayutthaya Utd in the League Cup 2nd round, and in today’s Chang FA Cup 2nd round draw they were drawn against the Warriors again, this time at home. A chance for one of the teams to either do the double or get quick revenge.

The game takes place at the PAT on Wednesday 2nd August (my late dad’s birthday – an excuse for a few pre – and post – match Leos if ever there was one), with the time TBC.