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Time to Climb the Table – The World Is Not Enough: Chiangmai Utd 0-2 Port FC

 

After a ‘Slum vs Scum’ derby, you could almost excuse the few people who found our round 6 fixture against new boys Chiangmai United a bit anti-climactic. Not much is known about the team from up north, but what’s been shown so far this season: it’s been up and down. You’ve got to give them credit for the way that they’ve recruited for their first season in T1, and although they haven’t picked up as many points as they might’ve hoped, it hasn’t been catastrophic from them either.

If there’s something that I can compliment all of the teams that were promoted from T2 for, it’s that they’ve not gone down the path that Rayong took: they’ve gone out and signed some good players. Almost every foreign player on the books of the promoted clubs MOONWALKS into the Rayong side from last season, so at least there’s been a jump in the quality of the promoted sides. It’s almost as if they’re learning from the mistakes others have made: who’d have thought that!

For Port, we came into the game having to make [at least] two changes to the squad, due to the injuries sustained by Tanaboon and Kannarin in the derby. I wish the both of them a speedy recovery, and it was nice to see the starting 11 make the following gesture to Kannarin in the picture below. Coming into the starting-11 were Worawut Baresi [#24] and Jaturapat [#15], with Tanaboon [#17] going out of the squad altogether, and Nitipong [#34] dropping to the bench. Taking Kannarin’s place on the bench was Elias Dolah [#4], who hadn’t been a part of the past two matchday squads. It was a welcome return in one way, but it’s now up to the Thai international to force his way back into the starting-11, and show the ability that made him a much loved figure on the terraces, and go on to earn a place in the national team set-up. Simply put: his performances haven’t been up to scratch for a while.

 

 

Fast Starts: A View to Kill

We’ve shown time and time again this season that we’re able to hit the ground running from the offset, though the fact is that our opposition [typically] get the first opportunity of the match. That wasn’t the case today, and with just 2:02 on the clock we nearly took the lead. What a start that would’ve been!

A long, diagonal ball was [inexplicably] allowed to bounce by the Chiangmai United defender, with Roller [#33] getting onto the ball, and breezing by the fullback. I have a feeling that it was Muangthong loanee Saharat that was out there on the wing with him, though the available camera angles couldn’t confirm whether it was or wasn’t him. If it wasn’t: my apologies, Saharat. Regardless, Roller had breezed by, and his delivery into the 18-yard box was pretty damn good. Suarez was rushing into the ball to attack it, and usually when he’s left unmarked to attack the ball the ball is in the back of the net moments later.

It wasn’t to be this time around for the Spaniard, but it was a great bit of play from all of the Port players involved. I’ve no doubt that the next time things play out in the same way: Suarez will be running off to celebrate with his teammates.

 

 

The next goalscoring opportunity for us came after a horrible collision between former Port stalwart Tossapol [#6] and Brazilian defender Evson [#30], with Nelson Bonilla [#9] attempting to latch onto the loose ball and go one-on-one with the Chiangmai United goalkeeper. To his credit, Nont Muangngam [#20] got off his line quickly, and got the ball away from danger. The whistle was quickly blown so that both Tossapol and Evson could receive medical treatment, with the Brazilian definitely the player that came out of the collision worse off. If either player is reading this: best wishes in your recovery. It’s never a nice sight to see someone suffer a serious head injury, and if I don’t see another one this season I’d be quite a lot happier. Tossapol was [somehow] able to continue playing on, but Evson was replaced by Sirisak Faidong [#15] on the 22-minute mark.

The next effort [and I’m not sure you can call it that!] that we had on goal was with 25:00 on the clock, with Pakorn taking a set-piece that certainly wasn’t a cross, but it wasn’t much of a shot either. Some… “interesting”… goalkeeping from Nont saw the ball go out for a corner, though we weren’t able to do anything from the resulting corner. We were [clearly] in the ascendancy, though at the same time we really didn’t look like scoring either. It was quite weird to watch if I’m honest, but I still had faith that we’d find a breakthrough. The lads were cutting through the Chiangmai United players like they weren’t even there at times, but at the end of the day you have to put your chances away to get the 3-points.

With 29:26 played, we did have an effort on goal, though the linesman flagged a bit too quickly in my opinion. There’s no doubt that Bonilla was offside in the lead-up play; he was, by at least 2-3 yards. The thing is, by the time the cross was played in, it looked like he MIGHT have gotten himself back onside, and had a headed attempt cleared off the line. Imagine if we had technology, like VAR for instance, that could go back and disallow the goal if he was actually offside!? The goal-line clearance had only gotten as far as Go [#8], only for the whistle to be blown due to the linesman’s flag. It was all a bit of a mess to be honest, and this was a case where VAR might’ve been useful.

Having said that: the implementation of VAR in Thailand has been a catastrophe, and it probably would’ve taken them 8-10 minutes to come to a decision… but only after watching 329 replays. For what it’s worth, having watched it a few times, I think the right decision was made, I just think the decision was made somewhat prematurely due to the fact that Bonilla had been in an offside position in the lead-up play.

Regardless, the clearance from Tossapol had been a good bit of play from him, and if he could save good performances for anyone but us, that’d be much appreciated!

 

 

It took until the 31-minute mark for our hosts to get a strike off on goal, with Saharat having an effort that would’ve earned applause in a rugby game as a successful conversion attempt. Minutes later, Chiangmai United were back at it, with a through ball from Escudero [#26] giving Melvin de Leeuw [#9] an opportunity. He did quite well to hit the target with his half volley, and even though it was fairly straightforward for Worawut [#36] to save: he still made a bit of a meal of it. Worawut seemed to have something to say to the match officials, but I’m not quite sure why.

The game had lacked controversy, much like the derby had, but that all changed just before the 37-minute mark, when an out-swinging corner from Pakorn [#7] made its way into the box. The ball had glanced off the head of either Suarez or a defender, with it then making its way towards Baresi. It’s pretty damn obvious that the Chiangmai United defender has a handful of Baresi’s jersey, and anywhere else on the pitch, it’s a freekick. So why isn’t it a penalty? What makes it worse [for me] is the fact that he’s not even trying to track the player he’s supposed to be marking, he’s just holding on for dear life instead. Minutes later we had yet another VARcical decision from a T1 match official.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the match officials just aren’t up to standard in Thailand, and it had [yet again] been shown a night earlier in the Khonkaen United-Nakhon Ratchasima game. VAR had been correctly used to give a red card against a Khonkaen United player, but it had made a mistake in disallowing a goal from Ibson Melo in the first-half. If anyone knows the reason that goal was disallowed, please drop a comment on The Sandpit tweet where this is published.

The shirt pull in this game should’ve been a penalty, and was yet another example of why VAR is a pointless tool to have when the people tasked with using it don’t know how to use it properly.

 

 

There’d been 6-minutes in added time for the first-half, due to the injury to Evson, and the VAR farce, with it allowing us a final effort on goal. Jaturapat had received the ball from Go, crossed from deep, with Suarez attacking it. He got a bit fortunate with the ‘pinball’ that went on, which saw him receive the ball in a great position. Korrakot [#77] did a magnificent job to deflect the Spanish maestros effort for a corner, and he’d certainly atoned for his mistake in the seconds leading up to the half volley. Suarez was frustrated to have not scored: Korrakot looked like he’d just found a new source of energy!

It meant we went into the half-time interval at nil-all, and I was certainly intrigued by what our second-half game plan would be.

 

 

An Attacking Second-Half? Die Another Day!

I’ve commented a few times in previous reports that I’ve felt a little underwhelmed by our second-half performances in the attacking-third so far this season, so the one benefit of going into the interval at nil-all was that we’d HAVE to attack in the second-half. A point away to Chiangmai United wouldn’t be an acceptable result in the slightest, but it’d be such a Port thing to do: a great result against the Scum, followed by dropping points to the league new boys.

The first attack of the second-half belonged to our hosts, with them breaking forward whilst the referee waved for an advantage, due to their being a shirt pull. I thought pulling your opponents shirt was okay!? Anyway, the ball ended up at the feet of Jaturapat, who had an absolute ‘mare with his clearance, with the ball finding itself at the feet of Saharat. The effort from the man on-loan from Muangthong was pretty damn awful, and I’ll admit that it made me chuckle for a bit. I think it ended up halfway between the post and the corner flag, and he won’t be watching the replay too fondly in the match review meeting with his teammates.

Our hosts were most certainly in the ascendancy during the start of the second-half, and they had a few good moments in the 10-minutes after the second-half had kicked off. Ultimately: their efforts were for nothing. There was plenty of effort and energy, but without Yannick Boli in the line-up: they looked a bit lost. From what I watched, a simple 4-4-2 would be perfect for Chiangmai United, because a duo of Yannick Boli and Melvin de Leeuw is going to find you the goals to win games. They had 3 or 4 chances to take the lead against us in the opening 15-minutes of the second-half, and if you don’t take your chances, picking up points becomes a hell of a lot harder.

 

 

Whilst I wasn’t too pleased that it took us over 15-minutes to carve out our first proper attack of the second-half, I was quite pleased with the way that we’d handled the pressure that Chiangmai United had been putting on us, and you could sense that we were picking our moment to land the first blow.

An outside of the right-foot pass from Suarez had found Bonilla, and my goodness was his first touch horrendous! He burned his defender for pace quite easily, but the odds were heavily stacked in Nont’s favour to make the save, and although Bonilla got to the ball first, he was never looking likely to score this time around. It was a missed opportunity, and it was a truly poor first-touch from our star striker.

It was the final warning that we would give our hosts.

Just minutes later we took the lead. A cross-field pass from Bordin was expertly controlled by Pakorn [that’s how you do it Nelson!], with the midfield monk in acres of space. The Chiangmai defender [Sirisak] moved across to close him down, but he was nowhere near tight enough to be effective in killing off the danger. Pakorn played a lovely low cross in, and Nelson ran straight onto it: unmarked! He had no qualms in smashing the ball into the back of the net, before making his way towards Pakorn, who’d made yet another magnificent assist. It was a great piece of play from Bordin, Pakorn, and Bonilla, and I couldn’t help but think “I hope we push on for a few more!” to myself.

 

 

The goal had sparked us into life, and a few minutes later we were back at it. Bonilla got his first touch right this time around, after receiving a lovely ball from Siwakorn [#16], and went through towards goal. The defender marking him forced him a bit wide, and rather than being selfish he laid the ball off for Jaturapat to run onto. Jaturapat took a shot, rather than taking another touch, with Nont getting quite a strong palm to it. I thought Pakorn did quite well to get the ball under control again, with him laying it off for Go to have a strike on goal. There was plenty of power on the strike, but it lacked direction, and rocketed towards the running track.

We were well and truly in the mood now, and minutes later: we scored one of the best goals scored in the league so far this season. If any other club had scored it, it’d be all over social media, and people would be losing their minds. It was a thing of absolute beauty!

Bordin picked up the ball in his half [around the left-wingback area of the pitch], and played the ball forward to Suarez. Suarez, sensing that there was an over-zealous fullback headed his way, played a first-time ball to Bonilla, who completed the ‘one-two’ to Suarez: who’d continued his progress forward. This is the part of the pitch where the Spanish maestro is so damn good, because he sucked in another Chiangmai United defender, before playing a perfectly weighted ball for Bordin to run onto. Bordin was gliding down the left-side of the pitch, and rather than trying to do too much: he played a first-time cutback towards the penalty spot.

Who was there? Go! The Korean central-midfielder kept his composure, and thrashed the ball into the back of the net, to double our lead. I could watch this goal on a continuous loop; it was fantastic. It’s the kind of goal that you show a young kid when you’re talking about how important off-the-ball movement is, and every Port player involved in this sequence of play should take a bow.

 

 

After the goal had gone in, our hosts used their second substitution window, with Surawich Logarwit [#16] replacing Khapfa Boonmatoon [#54], who’d been booked in the first-half, and Kittipat Wongsombat [#8] replacing Boworn Tapla [#32]. A minute later: Saharat was booked, in what had been quite a miserable night for him. Things just hadn’t clicked for him, and he doesn’t look anything like the player that had been so dangerous for PTT Rayong. Maybe a move to Korat to reunite with Teerasak Po-on might do him some good?

We were dealt an injury scare around the 77-minute mark, with Baresi having to be withdrawn, with the towering Elias Dolah [#4] taking his place on the pitch. Since the mess that occurred on the opening day of the season, our defensive unit has looked quite good, and it’s of little surprise that we’ve not been coughing up too many goals. I’ll admit to being a bit nervous about Dolah coming on, but I was hopeful that he’d be the Dolah that we all know and love.

Minutes later we had another dangerous attack! I was loving that we were attacking so much in the second-half, and a pass down the line from Roller to Pakorn had the midfield monk weighing up his options. He played a smart pass inside to Bordin, who took a touch, and lashed an effort at goal. Nont parried the shot quite well, and having both scored already: both Bonilla and Go got in each others way! Bonilla took control of the ball, played a pass to Bordin, who did a bit of a song and dance: trying to get himself in enough space for another effort on goal. He played the ball back out to Pakorn, who seemed a bit indecisive this time around, with his cross not dangerous at all.

A minute later our hosts nearly halved the deficit! My god it was heart in mouth stuff. A corner that wasn’t defended well saw a header from Tossapol [I think] hit the post, Sirisak Faidong then hitting the crossbar with his rebound. It was a complete lapse of concentration from the lads, and we very nearly made the final few minutes of the game an end-to-end battle. Thankfully we cleared the ball, and preserved our cleansheet. A ‘get out of jail free’ card had been used by us, and it was now up to Dusit to reorganize the troops, and make sure that it didn’t happen again.

Both teams then made their final substitutions for the night, with Chiangmai United bringing on Phongsakon Seerot [#14] and Kantapong Bandasak [#11] on for Sergio Escudero [#26] and Saharat Kanyarot [#18]. I honestly don’t think much of Escudero: he gives off Gorka vibes for me. That being said: Gorka produced a hell of a lot more during his time in Thai football, and I can’t see Escudero being able to get the same amount of goals or assists as the lumpy Spaniard.

Meanwhile, the substitutions we made were: Charyl Chappuis [#6] and Tanasith Siripala [#11] replacing Siwakorn [#16] and Bordin [#10]. Both Siwakorn and Bordin had played well, and could take their place on the bench knowing that they’d both played a strong part in us getting the 3-points.

There was still enough time for a bit of “controversy” to take place, with an incisive breakaway from Bonilla, Chappuis, and Tanasith seeing us have a potentially dangerous moment in front of goal. It was a perfectly weighted ball from Bonilla to Chappuis, with the midfielder having a… not so good first-touch. It almost killed the odds of him having an effort on goal, and with him trying to make up for his mistake: he somewhat launched himself at the ball. He kept a hold of it, before having a strike on goal that was deflected out for a corner by a defender.

Next minute: VAR check! What I’ll say on it is this: it was touch and go. Could he have been given a red card? Possibly. Do I think he should’ve? No. The problem for Artit Daosawang [#92] wasn’t the contact from Chappuis, it was the way that he’d launched himself to try and make the defensive block. He was trying to contort his body in multiple different directions, and it’s no wonder he came out of it feeling worse for wear! There was definitely contact, and it’s a moment that Chappuis will learn from no doubt. With that being said, and how awful VAR is in the Thai League, I wouldn’t have been surprised at all if they’d sent him off.

Thankfully, common sense prevailed. The full-time whistle was blown not long after, and the lads could begin their trek back to Khlong Toei with the 3-points in the bag! Well done!

 

 

My Thoughts – Chiangmai United

Chiangmai United tried hard, and they’re not exactly a bad side, but they’re not a good side either. We haven’t played Nongbua Pitchaya just yet, but of the 3 sides that have come up this season this is the side that I’m least impressed by so far this season. Whilst I understand that they were missing Boli, who’d destroyed Samut Prakan City just 5-days earlier, the defensive unit wasn’t quite the same once Evson went off, whilst their midfield undoubtedly lacks any real quality. Escudero isn’t good enough to be able to drag them out of a mess; I’ve seen tumbleweeds move faster than him, and that’s without any wind. This side appears to be destined to go back down, and what did they do when they were promoted? They hired a coach that seems to specialize in getting teams relegated!

They’ve got big decisions to make in the next transfer window, and I’d be very surprised to see either the head coach or Escudero last the whole season at the club. I hope that Evson isn’t seriously injured, and wish him a speedy recovery, as the longer he’s out: the more trouble his club is in.

 

My Thoughts – Port FC

This was our first proper 90-minute performance of the season. In the 5 games prior, we seemed to have been good in the first-half, only to be a lot more cautious/reserved in the second-half. That certainly wasn’t the case tonight, and it was extremely pleasing to watch.

The lads that had come into the starting-11 had justified their selection, and I thought that Jaturapat was fantastic in his return. He was someone that I considered for the ‘Man of the Match’ award below, and he was quite unlucky to miss out in my opinion. I thought this was quite possibly our best defensive performance of the season, albeit we were up against a newly promoted side, but it was pleasing that we didn’t allow complacency to creep in, like it might’ve in seasons gone by. Defensively, we looked quite well organized, bar the blip late in the game from that corner. I hope that Baresi’s injury isn’t serious, because if we can have the same back-4 start for the next game against Buriram: I’d be very happy with that.

Our midfield was quite tremendous too, as was the attacking trio of Pakorn-Bonilla-Bordin, and if it’s possible to name an unchanged line-up next time out, we should do it. It appears that certain players have shaken off any rust that was in their games, and I thought that Go had his best game for the club in a long while. He ran the show at times, which was great to see considering he’s been quite lacklustre at times in the games previous. There was a bit more urgency to his game, and I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to this standard of performance from now on. There’s no doubting that when he’s on-form he’s one of the best AFC quota players in the league. The big question is: at 35-years old, can he do it frequently?

Buriram United is our next game, with it to be played at PAT Stadium on Sunday at 7pm. Will fans be allowed? Your guess is as good as mine. I’m hopeful that they will be, and if we can try to create a bit of a raucous atmosphere for them to come into I think we stand a chance. On our day, we’re just as good as anyone in this league, and with Bonilla regularly finding the back of the net, we’ve currently got the ‘Golden Boot’ capable striker that we thought we were getting when we first brought him to the club.

There’s a lot to be pleased with at the moment, and don’t forget, if you’re not able to watch the game at PAT Stadium on Sunday, you can always watch the game at The Sportsman!

 

Man of the Match – David Rochela

 

 

I think that I’ve made my opinion on Rochela quite clear since I began writing for the site, but the one thing that I’ve always said is that he’s a proper professional, and I have a lot of respect him for everything that he’s done for the club. Do I think that he’s the type of defender that will help us challenge for a top-2 finish? No, I don’t. But there’s no way that you can’t admire him for the way that he’s navigated through his 6-season spell at the club. There are plenty of players/agents that would’ve thrown their toys out of the pram in some of the instances, but Rochela just knuckled down and kept going about his business. He’s a great ambassador for the club, and although I do think that we will need to move on from him in the near future, I’m quite content to have him remain for the time being.

Getting back to his actual performance now, he didn’t put a foot wrong in the game. He’s been very consistent so far this season, and although he’s had a few ‘iffy’ moments: they’ve been a bit less frequent too. I think that he must be such a calming influence for his defensive partner, and I actually think that Baresi and Tanaboon are much more suited to playing alongside him than Dolah is. Only Buriram United, BG Pathum United [both 4], Nongbua Pitchaya, and Ratchaburi [both 5] have conceded less goals than us so far this season, though BG Pathum United have the benefit of having played 2 less games at the moment, whilst Nongbua and Ratchaburi have both only played 5 fixtures.

Dusit appears to have sorted our defensive frailties that we seem to show every season, and Rochela has shown fine form during the start of the reign of his new manager. Keep it up!

 

The Sandpit’s 2020/21 Port FC Goal of the Season Poll

 

Once again it’s time to feast your eyes on the wonder that is the annual Sandpit Goal of the Season video. The season may have been long and by the last few rounds there was little to play for, but the standard of goals scored by Port was once again superb. The process of getting the 68 goals scored this season down to the final 10 wasn’t easy. The result is a smorgasbord with something for everyone so, whether you like slick passing and flicks, bicycle kicks or naughty chips we’ve got it all.

So sit back and prepare for 6mins of great goals. Pick your favourite and vote below.  Polls will close at midnight on Tuesday 6th, after which we’ll announce the successor to Sergio Suarez, who took down the prize in 2019.

 

 

Choose Your 2020/21 Port FC Goal of the Season

 

Thanks once again to friend of The Sandpit and video editing wizard Arm, who put together this superb compilation of goals.

 


 

Thanks to Tom and Geoff for going though the highlights of each game, culling the pens, dodgy VAR moments and tap ins to get us down to a long list of good goals, and also to The Sandpit’s Goal of the Season Committee who then used the most democratic and scientific methods to get us down to the final 10 you see before you.

 

The Sandpit’s 2020/21 Port FC Player of the Year Poll

 

The season that felt like it would never end finally did, and as such is time to look back and reflect on what it meant for Port. Over the coming days we’ll have reviews, a Goal of the Season vote and a couple of other awards to dish out.

Kicking things off though, is the biggie: the public vote for The Sandpit’s player of the season. The first three editions were won by the Port’s Spanish contingent; first Rochela scooped the prize in 2016 and 2017, before Sergio Suarez took over in 2018. Last season Nitipong scored the first domestic win. Now it’s up to you, the public, to decide who out of the shortlisted players takes the prize. Voting will close at 7pm Thai time on Sunday.

 

กรุณาโหวตนักเตะยอดเยี่ยมประจำปี 2020/21 ครับทุกคน

 

Vote for your 2020/21 Port FC Player of the Year

 

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)

 

Port Survive Light Frisking: Port FC 6-3 MOF Customs FC

 

Port laid on the entertainment in a pulsating cup tie against the reasonably named Ministry of Finance Customs United Football Club, running out 6-3 winners and advancing to the next round. The score might suggest a rout but it was far from that and our opponents should be proud of their endeavours.

Riding high after our derby victory, Coach Oud decided to shuffle the pack and select two Sandpit “favourites”, Chappuis (17) and Tanaboon (71), in central midfield. There were also nods for Nattawut (45), Adisorn (20), (Right) Thitawee (2) and a welcome return for the El Capitan Rochela (22). Sensing that this wouldn’t be a walk in the park, Kevin (23), Suarez (5), Bonilla (99) and Tanasith (11), who put in a great cameo in the derby, were also drafted into the starting XI.

 

A glorious evening at the PAT

 

Normally the best way to deal with lower league opposition in a cup tie is to steamroller them with some early goals, then toy with them for the remaining minutes and this looked on the cards when Nattawut latched onto a loose back pass and, with the aid of a fortunate deflection off their hapless keeper, strolled the ball into an empty net. Nattawut then helped himself to a second goal, surely a contender for goal of the season, when he received Tanasith’s lay off and deftly chipped the goalie from just inside the box. Pick that out, jogo bonito etc….

 

Winners are grinners , Nattawut bags his first of the evening.

 

Customs clearly were not in the mood to be whipping boys and raised their game, matching us in midfield and constantly exploiting the lack of experience shown from Adisorn and Thitawee. Customs’ midfielder Vaikainah, a wardrobe on legs, was also winning his midfield duels against Chappuis and Tanaboon far too easily. The best chance of the half fell to Deyvison, their Brazilian striker with a Brazilian on his head, sending a header against the post and the follow up was easily gathered by Rattanai (18).

And so, with Port being Port, they did the most Port thing possible and handed the initiative to Customs at the start of the second half. A cross from the weak right hand side was nodded in by Deyvison and then Rattanai took leave of his senses a clattered 2 Customs players earning them a penalty. Deyvison slotted home and sent the travelling contingent into raptures. So 2-2 and it’s now game on.

Port eventually retook the lead in the 75th minute; negligent goalie Chompong failed to hold onto Bonilla’s shot and substitute Adisak (9) scrambled the ball home at the far post. 2 minutes later Suarez pinched the ball off the customs midfield, found Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Nelson Bonilla in the box and he smashed home Tony Yeboah style to put Port 4-2 up. Just before the 90th minute Bonilla earned a very soft penalty which Captain Rochela coolly finished. Customs decided to add a bit of spice with striker Rachata spanking an absolutely filthy volley over Rattanai. But wait, there was still time for Suarez to square the ball across the box for Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Nelson Bonilla to tap in his second and make it 6-3. Moments later the final whistle and everyone involved in this encounter could finally exhale.

 

Brace buddies, scorers Freeeeeeeeeee Nelson Bonilla and another for Adisak

 

What can Coach Oud take from this game? Well Nattawut clearly has potential to make the first team and Rochela was a calming influence when Customs got back into the game but sadly cannot play in the league campaign. The B team in truth didn’t perform and several players involved would benefit from loan spells elsewhere. Suarez had his best game supporting our in-form strikers Bonilla and Adisak, which is a relief as he has been a little anonymous (when compared to his usual standards) at times. Still, a very satisfactory week for the club and we go into the next round.     

 

You ain’t seen me…….. right, El Capitan finally back in a Port shirt.

 

One final thing to note; it was great to have the food and drink sellers back at the stadium for matchday. These locals rely on this income and to see them back, happily taking my money in exchange for cold Leo, is a wonderful thing. Let’s hope further restrictions are lifted soon so we can have more fans, more community and more atmosphere at the PAT.

 

MOTM: Nattawut Sombatyotha

The lad can play. Sure, he faded in the second half but he showed skill, directness and opportunism which sadly was lacking in some of our more seasoned midfielders. Arguably he wouldn’t get a chance if Jadet was still manager so it’s great Oud is blooding him in matches like this. His second goal was a thing of beauty and will make the goals of the season list for sure.

 

All pictures: Allie Suwanrumpha  Captions: Sandpit Monkeys

 

Broken Glass Everywhere: Port FC vs. BG Pathum Utd Preview

 

Well this preview was never going to be simple after the farcical circumstances of last weekend; in case you missed it, the stadium generator went on the fritz at the end of the match and turned a dour, laboured 1-1 draw into a default 0-2 defeat and a 50K fine. Maybe we can install an exercise bike next to the power supply and ask Rochela to pedal for 90 minutes to safeguard against these things happening again? Anyway, there’s another home match on the horizon and this time it’s against one of the big guns: BG Pathum United FC or, to the layman, Bangkok Glass.

Glass suffered a surprising relegation 2 seasons ago, a definite case of a team too good to go down, and then proceeded to romp T2 last season. Even though they are newly promoted they have recruited well and are a solid outside bet for the league, but more likely will have some influence over the outcome instead. They are unbeaten so far this season and Port will certainly have to raise their game against this bunch.

 

BG Pathum Utd

Players to Watch

 

Some canny transfers both preseason and during the enforced break have improved their backline. First they brought in Brazilian man mountain Victor Cardozo (5) from the now defunct PPT Rayong who, with 5 years experience of this league, knows how to put himself about and instill confidence in his defence. Next they took advantage of Andres Tunez’s (30) shameful treatment by Buriram United and brought the Venezuelan over to Rangsit during the shutdown of the league. Even at 33 this could be the transfer of the season; a serial trophy winner and master practitioner of the dark arts of defending. Expect the shithouseometer to be fully cranked up to 11 with these two. Ex-Port midfielder Sumanya (10) will probably feature after leaving PAT Stadium following a lacklustre season playing in the same space as Suarez, and will definitely have a point to prove to his former paymasters.

 

You and us both, Victor

 

The jewel in their midfield is Thitiphan Puangjan (8) and stopping his rhythm will be key to a Port victory. Too good for a lower league, Glass wisely loaned him out to the J-League last season and now have him back for this campaign. A big favourite of seasoned hacks at The Sandpit, this guy has great passing range and is a classic box-to-box midfielder. Although a little light on goals, expect to see him driving the ball through the middle and pulling the strings for the front line. Speaking of their frontline, they went all out and poached free-scoring goal machine *checks notes* Chenrop Samphaodi (19) *checks google* from *rubs eyes*… Port FC. Yep, the second coming of Tana was unceremoniously shipped out of Khlong Toei after a stellar 7 appearances and 0 goals. It’s more likely other forwards such as Surachat (9) or Siroch (35) will start but knowing Port he’ll probably come on and bag a goal. Or give us a bloody good laugh with his headless chicken routine.

 

 

Port FC

The PAT Jigsaw

 

Port will hopefully welcome back key personnel for this encounter, with Go (8) returning from his ban for gonad pulverising, plus centre-backs Dolah (4) and Adisorn (20) coming in to strengthen our defence. The rest of the midfield should pick itself barring last minute injuries, but there will be a decision to make up front. Bonilla (99) is clearly weeks, maybe months away from full fitness so do we gamble on him or go for Adisak (9), who despite his detractors has had a decent start to his Port career in my humble opinion. The final decision will of course be Pang’s and Jadet will accept it as normal so key criteria such as form, fitness and tactics will not be considered and the big, expensive foreign marquee signing will most likely start. Whatever the starting XI, a performance better than last week is required from every individual on the pitch as fans will not tolerate more of the same, especially after so much recent investment in the squad.

 

 

This will be my first game back at the PAT which, on the face of it is great, but from my armchair position last week I was struck by the lack of atmosphere generated during the Police match. Sure, a quarter full stadium will never be able to replicate the intensity a full house (with suitably lubricated fans) brings but the constant encouragement/barracking has always been the ace up our sleeve and definitely affects the opposition. Teams might no longer fear coming here, and now free from being under the cosh from start to finish, that might have a detrimental effect on Port’s results. I also need to work out a new strategy for Toby Time© as there will be no beer sellers outside the ground. This might possibly involve stashing cans up a tree (not a natural climber tbh), maybe a sprint to the 7-11 across Sunthon Kosa Road (no bridge anymore so will have to chance it Frogger style) or wear some elaborate MC Hammer style pants filled with delicious, but potentially warm, Leo. Anyway leave that dilemma with me. Football is thankfully back, and let’s pray to the footballing gods, and local electricians, we’ll get 90 minutes this time around.

 

Fuck this, I’m going for a Leo or 6

 

Prediction

Well it has to be better than last week, but the opposition will be much tougher. Can’t see past a score draw at this moment. 2-2.

 


 

The match will be shown on True 4U and True Sports 2 at 19:00 on Saturday 19 September, 2020. For the many of you who won’t be able to get your hands on tickets, 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.

 

Masks For Goalposts: Port FC vs. Police Tero Preview

 

Finally! The long months of pining for the hallowed gravel of the sandpit are almost at an end. We may be masked, separated and deprived of the moo ping and cold Leo that fuel our howls of disappointment, cheers of celebration and insults in whatever language the opposition keeper speaks, but we’re back.

Well, those of us lucky enough to score one of the 25% of tickets that are up for grabs are, anyway. With season ticket holders already having had the opportunity to reserve their seats for Sunday’s long-awaited return, the remainder of tickets, of which we expect there will be a few hundred, will be sold from 1pm on Saturday. Expect queues the length of Zone C, with a socially appropriate distance between everyone, of course. The club shop will be open on match day, although there will apparently be just 6 people allowed in at a time. It’s football, but not quite as we remember it.

While familiar faces, or at least eyes, will be reuniting in the sandpit for the first time in too long, so too will two clubs who have engaged in quite a bit of business over the last few months. Twin towers Thitawee (2) and Thitatorn (3) moved from Police to Port for a reportedly big fee, with Police struggling to keep the lights on during the break. Young goalkeeper Anipong moved in the opposite direction, and of course on-loan forward Arthit has played a big role in Police’s surprising early season form. Crucially, Pele shouldn’t be eligible to play against his parent club on Sunday.

 

 

Port haven’t just been snapping up the finest Police men money can buy, though. We’ve also brought in one of T1’s finest strikers. Ah yes, this familiar story again.

Of course, at Port it’s never as simple as signing a star striker and reaping the rewards. Drama has been unfolding all week regarding Port’s foreign player registration, in what has basically become a bi-annual festival of stupidity and financial recklessness. This year, it centres on the arrival of the aforementioned Salvadoran striker Nelson Bonilla (99). Just a couple of days before the deadline, it was reported that Port would not be registering Bonilla due to concerns over his fitness, with long time club captain Rochela (22) being restored to the squad. Then, at the very last minute, long-serving Rochela was once again ignominiously dropped, with an apparently unfit Bonilla being given the spot. Meanwhile, Rochela will once again be forced to sit on the sidelines, able to participate only in the FA Cup (there will be no League Cup this season) if he is even registered for that.

Port also ‘strengthened’ at the back with the acquisition of national team defender Adisorn Promrak (20), although the new arrival has spent most of his time in Khlongtoei on the treatment table alongside fellow defender Tanaboon (71). In response to these injuries, Port brought in Sarawut Kanlayanabandit (26) as cover, while big-boned fellow centre half Worawut Namvech (24) has also been restored to the squad after a spell on loan last year. Are you keeping up? No, me neither.

 

 

Finally, left backs Jaturapat and Yossawat as well as central midfielder Chatmongkol have been sent on loan, meaning the T1 squad (which you can peruse on our up-to-date squad page) currently consists of 30 players.

Right, who are we playing again?

 


 

Police Tero

Players to Watch

 

I’ll keep the lowdown on our opposition brief, I promise. They had a very good start to the season, with the twins impressing at full back and Arthit leading the line effectively, but the main danger man has been right winger Greg Houla (7). The quick, tricky winger has provided some moments of magic in an otherwise functional but fairly workmanlike side, although it has been beefed up recently using the money earned from the sale of the twins.

 

 

Gambian born winger Mohamadou Sumareh (13) is a shrewd acquisition, with his Malaysian citizenship allowing Police to register him as part of their ASEAN quota. They’ve also brought in Ivorian forward Marc Landry Babo, who has been scoring goals in Thailand for years, albeit mostly in T2.

The key man at the back is one of the most physically dominant players in the business. Ghanaian Issac Honey (35) can play at the back or up top due to the fact that he’s built like both a sprinter and a bodybuilder. Quite an obstacle for Port’s forward line, impressive as it is on paper.

 

 

Former Port right back Ekkachai Sumrei (5) and veteran left back Mongkol Namnuad (53) are some other recognizable names in Police’s squad, but it’s the African contingent that Port ought to be most wary of.

 

Form

 

Police’s early season success, however was not achieved so much by individual talents as it was operating as a solid unit. I don’t expect Port will have an easy time breaking down a team who will be set up to defend and hit us on the counter. With some pace and power on the opposition wings, we’ll have to defend well at times, as well as take our chances clinically when they come.

They’ve ground out two 1-0 home wins, one against Buriram, and BG are the only team they’ve failed to beat.

 

  • Police Tero 1-0 Buriram
  • Trat 1-3 Police Tero
  • BG Pathum 3-0 Police Tero
  • Police Tero 1-0 Samut Prakan City

 

Port FC

A Embarrassment of Riches

 

Under Jadet there’s one thing you can be pretty sure of. We’re going to line up in our usually 4-2-3-1. Who exactly is going to be in the lineup is a very open question though, with injuries and new signings proving plenty more options for the Spherical Supremo to consider.

In goal the usual choices are all available, but Rattanai (18) has been favoured in friendlies, so I expect him to get the nod. Worawut (36) is of course another option, and if he doesn’t start, he’ll be on the bench. Perennial third choice Watchara (1) will continue to be overlooked, and this year’s fourth choice will be youngster Chatcharin (25).

At the back we have a surprising dearth of options available. Defensive leader Elias Dolah (4) was only fit enough to play half an hour against Bangkok United last week, although we expect him to start on Sunday. Alongside him in the recent friendly was Todsapol (6), but he will almost certainly be replaced by new signing Adisorn Promrak (20), who has also been injured, but could be fit to start. The twins (2, 3) are also perfectly good options, while new signing Sarawut (26) is available in case of more injuries.

At full back Nitipong (34) and Kevin (23) will take up their usual positions, with Steuble (15) a very able backup on the left should Kevin tweak one of those notoriously fragile muscles. Thitawee (2) is the new backup right back, which means he’ll be well acquainted with the bench this year.

In central midfield is where things get very tricky for Jadet. Go (8) didn’t start in the friendly last week, but if he’s fit he will of course take up his place in the XI. Siwakorn (16) is probably the leading candidate to partner him, but there’s also a very strong argument to be made for youngster Kanarin (31). His high-energy performances were hugely impressive early on in the season, and he looked excellent off the bench in last week’s friendly, too. I’d give Kanarin a start, but I doubt Jadet will. Chappuis (17) is also available.

On the flanks, Jadet will most likely opt for Bordin (10) on the left and Heberty (37) on the right, meaning we will be seeing a lot of cutting in from the flanks this season. The relationship between Bordin and Kevin on the left always provides a creative threat, but it looks like Heberty and Nitipong will take a little more time to gel. For me, Heberty is too often slow to release the ball, leaving poor old Nitipong pining for his former partner in crime Pakorn (7), who is positively selfless in comparison to his replacement. Tanasith (11) is another great option from the bench, should Port still be looking for a breakthrough late on.

Suarez (5) will most likely start in ‘the hole’ behind the striker, who could be Adisak (9), Bonilla (99) or even Heberty if Port opt for a more fluid attacking system. Adisak started the most recently friendly, but that was while Bonilla was reportedly on the outs. Now he’s back in he could start, although whether he’s fit or not is a mystery. Adisak will likely make it on to the pitch one way or another, with the forward having notched 2 goals from the bench already this season. Nattawut (45) put on an outstanding late show against BU, and if he makes it on to the bench is an excellent option anywhere across the front line. Port’s is a seriously competitive squad this year!

 

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Subs: Worawut (36), Thitawee (2), Thitatorn (3), Steuble (15), Chappuis (17), Kanarin (31), Tanasith (11), Pakorn (7), Adisak (9)

 


 

The match will be shown on TrueSport HD3 at 18:00 on Sunday 13 September, 2020. For the many of you who won’t be able to get your hands on tickets, 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.

 

The Field of Broken Dreams: Bangkok Utd vs. Port FC Preview

 

Mission Impossible, or another rung climbed on the ladder of redemption? Saturday’s away trip to the far-flung Thammasat Stadium could make or break our fluctuating season and the portents are not good (and now we’ve got them in the Cup!). Prior to that stirring, toe-to-toe, 1-1 home draw on a mournful, emotionally charged night in May, Port had lost eight consecutive games to their cross-town rivals, with a negative goal deficit of 5-26.  In fact, the last time Port beat Utd in a League match was June 6th 2010. Port were pretty good back then, beating Buriram 2-1 in the Toyota League Cup Final and making it to the quarter-finals of the AFC Cup, losing to Al Qadsia of Kuwait 3-0 on aggregate. I was following Port in those days and this is the best squad I have seen at the club in those intervening 9 years, in spite of some mid-season hiccups.

With results largely going our way at the weekend, Port have a wonderful opportunity to stake a claim for at least second place and an AFC spot once more. It will be difficult, but, as Sir Winston Churchill once opined, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Dear Reader, which are you?

The Angels have had their wings clipped in recent times, losing to Prachuap and Chonburi, with draws against Nakhon Ratchasima and relegation haunted Suphanburi. With Port on a high after three consecutive wins, surely there is no better time to grab our first win on the road against them. What do we have to fear?

 

 

Nelson Bonilla (11), if he is fit, for a start. His haul of 16 goals this season is only bettered by Lonsana Doumbouya of Trat and he has nasty habit of scoring against Port. Even if we can keep him quiet, we do need to score ourselves and even our best attempts have been regularly thwarted by Danish/Filipino Michael Falkesgaard (1), probably the best goalkeeper in the league. Sanrawat Dechmitr (29) has also been a constant thorn in our side in recent games, but his temperament is suspect, as witnessed in his petulant sending off at Port, so maybe a good winding-up might see him get his marching orders again. This would be helpful, as he tends to make them tick. And of course there’s ex-MTU rightback Tristan Do (7). The only problem with winding up figures of hate at the Thammasat Stadium is that they will never actually hear you, its cavernous depth making it one of the worst away stadiums for both view and atmosphere. A far cry from the up-close, eardrum-bashing abuse they get at Port.

 

 

Port will be without Sumanya (11) for the next three weeks, which is a pity as he was beginning to show some form, as well as finding the net. Given Port’s recent form, it is unlikely that many changes will be made but with Pakorn (7) possibly still unavailable, Choke will have an interesting tactical decision to make. Will he be bold and adopt an attacking line-up (1) or prompt for caution (2)? I might have included Adisorn but am not sure what has happened to him during my long absence.

 

Option 1

 

 

Option 2

 

 

Whichever of these fascinating permutations he goes with, I am going to, for once Sir Winston, be the optimist, and predict a 2-1 Port win. You have to, don’t cha!

 


 

The match will be shown live on True4U and True Sports HD2 at 19:00 on Saturday 24 August, 2019. For those who can’t make it to Thammasat 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.