It’s the hope that kills you isn’t it? I mean I’m a simple man with simple, everyday hopes; I hope the weather’s decent today, I hope there isn’t a hair in my takeaway, I hope they have proper toilets and not one of those squat jobs… But when it comes to football those hopes are elevated to something much, much bigger; glory and the sweet taste of victory against all comers. Maybe it’s the adrenaline mixed with testosterone and alcohol but pragmatism and rationality are quickly discarded when it comes to footy.
Last Sunday the Spider Ming Express, sponsored by Blend 285, zipped up to The Thammasat University Stadium with a group of supporters buoyant that maybe, just maybe, we can get a result against our bogey team which would take us level on points and keep the impossible dream alive. Jadet shuffled the pack and went for a back 3 with Adisorn (13) at RB, kept new boy Anon (20) in the XI and dropped the seemingly undroppable Pakorn (7); clearly he had a game plan in mind.
The game plan worked a charm in the first half and in the opening minutes Port took the lead; a well worked corner was flicked on by Suarez (5) and found Boskovic (23) unmarked at the far post for a simple header. Cue pandemonium in the away end followed by a nerve-shredding, backs-to-the-wall 40 minutes with Port continually on the defensive and rarely pressing forward. Things got better as we purchased cans of Leo in the car park when Bangkok were reduced to 10 men with Wanchai (24) receiving his marching orders for bringing down Kim (8). The Leo tasted even sweeter now so surely this was our time?
WRONG. Port held on like a boxer taking a Tyson-level beating against the ropes until the 82nd minute when Sumanya (11) drove into the box and his shot got a slight deflection off Rochela (2). Then, as the minutes ran down, we had a rare attack and worked the ball well into the box for Kim to lay the ball off to Chakrit (9). The ball was asking to be spanked into the net but what followed was the turning point of everything; a shot so woeful you would pull clumps of hair out of your head and smash your pint glass on the floor (don’t worry, it’s plastic and only backwash left). Then the gut punch; United snatched a winner with the final kick of the game; a screamer from Pokklaw (10). It’s a rare moment when the Port faithful are silenced but as I watched the players lie dejected on the ground there was no sound from the away end, just the distant cheering of United supporters, then out poured the screaming and frustration and finally the final whistle. There is no feeling quite like it as you walk out of the stadium covered in drizzle and disappointment.
Although it felt sickening I personally couldn’t complain that much about the performance; Jadet gave them a game plan that they stuck to for 80 minutes but then the substitutions altered the team shape and fatigue really set in while chasing a winner. The better team won with their quality and perseverance, and anyway we’ve got a cup tie against the champions on Wednesday and we’re going to give them hell and propel ourselves into the semi-finals right?
WRONG. DEAD WRONG. The first half at The PAT was Chainat, Air Force and Police all rolled into one at home. It was the constant errors and mistakes we talk about in The Sandpit and on Facebook week in week out. It was the fucking pits so let’s get this over with. After the opening exchanges Buriram won a corner in the 15th minute and their tactic was to crowd the goal line to cause confusion amongst our defenders. The corner was whipped in and Rattanai (17) scrambled to push it against the crossbar for another. The second was deadly; Pansa (3) darted off the line to steer a header into the far side of the goal unmarked. Less than a minute later Buriram had doubled their led; Todsapol (6) was robbed by the Brazilian Osvaldo (17) who sprinted into the box and squared it to Supachai (9) for an easy tap in. 2 minutes and 2 goals but worse was to come before half time; a long ball from Tunez (5) reached Diogo (40) with Dolah (4) struggling to keep up. Rochela came across to clear but inexplicably sent the ball into his own net. I really don’t want to write any more about this.
There was a brief fightback in the second half and Port grabbed a goal back by playing some decent football, ending with Nitipong (34) playing a great through ball to Pakorn who finished past Siwarak (1). Port then had a sustained 10 minute period of attacking pressure with the substitute Artit (29) showing some endeavour and Boskovic continually testing the Buriram defense, as well as geeing up the crowd, but there was no end product and our opponents regained control and closed out the game. Let’s face facts; we were never really in the game and we shot ourselves in the foot. Twice.
So now there needs to be questions asked. Why did this go so badly wrong? What exactly were the tactics and were the players aware of their roles? Why didn’t some of you turn up (Siwakorn (16), Rochela, Kevin (97) – I’m looking at you)? An hour after the match I had already received my first “Jadet out” text but looking at the squad it’s clear some of the players aren’t good enough and there is no strength in depth. Training, fitness and tactics certainly need to improve as well. Buriram set a very high standard and we are currently a distant 3rd from them in the league but will Madame Pang and her underlings execute a real plan for next season and just carry on as we are?
Yes, it sucks to be a Port fan today and maybe as fans we have been too naive about the real prospects of our team but guess what? There’s another game against the champions on Sunday and mathematically we can still win the league (stop sniggering at the back) or at least affect the championship race. There’s also pride to play for and the chance to finish above The Scum so I guess there’s always hope right?
Man of the Matches – Kim Sung-Hwan
Not many candidates here so I’m giving it to someone whose form has improved, gave maximum effort in both games and, most importantly, cared. Dolah and Bosko showed signs as well but Kim was the one who showed it most. This photo of him after the United game speaks volumes about what it meant to him, If only he spoke Thai; he would be handing out a few red hot bollockings right now.