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Drawbridge Lowered at Thunder Castle: Buriram Utd 1-1 Port FC

With a return flight and accommodation paid in full to travel to Buriram, I was forced to make the reluctantly adult decision to forfeit any sunk costs and remain in Hua Hin as the preparations for my impending move back to the cold Baltic shores of my native Sweden left me strapped for time in a way that didn’t allow for dedicating two full days to attending what suddenly became the final game for Port fans to see our beloved lions in action before the great eastern beer virus of 2020 reduces human society to its final post-apocalyptic state. Despite the promising start to the season I took comfort in the fact that we usually don’t come close to beating Buriram anyway, especially away from home where having the audacity to even threaten to do so is likely to be resolutely dealt with by the officials. Instead I sat down in front of a screen to watch it in the same manner as most working stiffs unable to take a Monday off even for a game of this stature.

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2020 Vision: Buriram Utd

 

2019 was a barren year for Buriram, with not a single trophy being added to the Thunder Castle collection. Will 2020 see normal service resumed? Here’s Buriram fan Jamie Pinder with his thoughts…

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Game of Thrones: Port FC vs Buriram Utd Preview

 

 

Well, just the one throne actually; the one that has been comfortably occupied by Buriram bums (no offence intended), in their, ‘United’ form, 5 times in the last six years. In that, ‘air of inevitability’, period they have added a footrest, cup holder, Sensurround video system and a fold-out bed. Are they about to have those trimmings stripped bare for a more utilitarian Klongtoey model?

In his Chiang Mai match report, Brian Blanchfield brilliantly summed up all long-term Port fans’ feelings when he spoke of that largely comfortable victory as a, ‘new ordinary’, at PAT Stadium. The table doesn’t lie. Eight victories, 28 goals for, a goal difference of 15, only one, ten-man defeat, and depending on Buriram’s midweek match v PTT Rayong, at least two points ahead of the perennial Champions. And yet, somehow, we are not surprised. And, why should we be? We have kept a strong nucleus of players since our last promotion in 2016 and artfully built upon it, improving incrementally during that period. Our challenge is real. And, what better time or opponent to prove it?

Buriram go into their game on Wednesday not in the best of health, picking up just a single point from their previous matches at Chainat and Sukothai. John Baggio ran their defence ragged at times in the latter game and Port might think of unleashing Bodin down the middle early doors to test the waters. Brazilian striker Pedro Junior (77) seems to share only nationality with the departed Diogo, managing a paltry 4 goals in 12 games. But, apart from when Baggio-bothered, the Thunder Castle pull up the drawbridge with the meanest defence in the League, just 9 conceded. Top Scorers v Top Defenders – something has to give.

 

Supachok

 

Pedro Junior

 

Twenty-one year old Supachok Sarachat (19) has impressed this season, an attacking midfielder with an eye for goal, just one behind Pedro, although admittedly that is not saying much. At centre back, veteran Andres Tunez (5), comes with great pedigree, playing nearly 100 games for Celta Vigo in La Liga and boasting 16 Venezuelan caps. His experience will be needed to thwart Port’s often, rapidly interchanging forward play.

 

Andres Tunez

 

Port will be missing Buriram loanee Go Seul-Ki and a yet to be fully-fit Kevin. With rumours of Rochela making way for a Josimar return, and Todsapol in outstanding form this season, it is unlikely Jadet will go down the sentimental route and play our club captain for a final farewell to the Port faithful, but, if he is to leave, an appearance at some point should be on the cards. An un-named source has claimed that Suarez is not best pleased at the prospect of losing his compatriot but he should be professional enough to put that aside for the greater good. This will hurt Rochela more than anyone though.

The debate will no doubt rage on whether or not we need Josimar; could it be our Faustino Asprilla moment, although to be fair the flamboyant Columbian didn’t so much scupper Newcastle’s title challenge in 1996 as the Geordie’s own defensive frailties, not to mention Kevin Keegan’s, ‘I would just love it’ rant. Personally, I do not think it is the brightest idea to lose your club captain and long-time inspiration in the middle of our best season ever. With 28 goals in 13 matches, we don’t seem to have suffered from a lack of a true target man and our counter-attacking play recently, speed of movement combined with accurate one touch passing, has created chances for a number of outfield players. If it is a knee-jerk reaction to Arthit’s dreadful miss on a rain-sodden Korat pitch, it could be an ill-judged one. Only time will tell but we had thought Port’s propensity for flirting with pedicide (shooting in the foot) was done with and I hope I am proved wrong. However, if this is to be Rochela’s last home game for the club, we should mark it with the tribute he deserves.

Selection-wise, Watchara should line up behind the ever dependable Nitipong, Dolah, Todsaporn and either Pinkong or Adisorn, depending on whether Jadet opts for a natural left footer or someone with some kind of positional sense. With Go missing, Siwakorn should continue to dominate proceedings alongside Sumanya with Suarez sitting deep. Boskovic, in a run of form, will support Bodin and one of Nurul or Pakorn, take your pick. This would be an extremely attacking line-up but Buriram have been fragile recently and we should just go for it. It will be expected.

Lineup

Watchara: Nitipong, Dolah, Todsaporn, Adisorn; Sumanya, Siwakorn, Suarez; Pakorn, Boskovic, Bodin

What else will be expected? I have been lucky enough to witness every home game against Buriram since they became a ‘Big Thing’ and they have been very special, atmospheric occasions. Our recent record, apart from a 5-1 drubbing in our 2015 relegation year, is good: two draws and a momentous 1-0 win against the reigning champions in 2014; Koerkrit’s drive from outside the box just enough, with goalkeeper Chanin retying his shoelaces before every goal-kick, the capacity crowd, some hanging perilously from the floodlights, with others cramming overlooking balconies, baying for the final whistle that would send us for a glorious, fleeting moment, to the top of the League.

The two draws epitomised the competitive fervour of this fixture; Buriram playing precise, methodical football, while Port, responding to the increasing, riotous volume of the crowd, adding a grit and a physicality to their own neat passing game, to unsettle their opponents. In the 2017 0-0 draw, one of the best stalemates I have ever seen, it riled Diogo enough to be sent off, to the almost admiring derision of the crowd, if that is not an oxymoron, in a, ‘we don’t like you but we respect and fear you,’ kind of way. I, for one, will miss him this year. His two goals last season were pure artistry; no back-lift, the ball dispatched in a twinkling, like an assassin with a poison-tip umbrella, before defenders or goalkeeper knew what was happening. He could summon up the dark arts too; he is South American, but you couldn’t take yours eyes off him. I have not seen a better player in this League and that includes my own iconic hero, Leandro.

This Sunday, expectations will be high, the relative League positions making this game a mouthwatering prospect. There is always a kind of respectful malice from the crowd, yet not the toxic kind directed at Muang Thong, and a brand of grown-up, adults in the room, absorbing football that is not often seen in this League. We can also expect a pulsating, heaving PAT, emotions on the boil with, hopefully, no heavy, pitch-saturating rain to dampen the spirits and ruin the spectacle.

My one fear is that the magnitude of the game will get to the players and the indiscipline that has plagued us so much this season will bite us again. Buriram will have done their homework and noted our 5 red cards and the fact that we have got through more Yellows than a Coldplay tribute band. The need for a strong, unbiased, calm and cool-headed ‘professional’ referee has never been more clear. Do we have any?

This will be a game for the ages. Is our age now upon us?

Port to win 2-1

 

Port FC vs Buriram Utd. Sunday 16 June, 19:00

I’d Have to Say, the Worst of the Beetles: No AFC Place for Port

 

The Khlong Thoey hordes descended on Supachalasai last night, with numerous patches of orange & blue in the Buriram end as we lent our support to the Thai champions’ bid to win the double, thus handing Port a place in the AFC Champions’ League qualifying stages. Sadly it was not to be as, on a night of considerable drama, a typically rugged display of anti-football from Chiang Rai won them their third trophy of the season.

The Beetles took the lead in the second minute, after a foul by Fat Bill on a Buriram defender left William in the clear; he raced down the left and passed to the chubby Brazilian who slotted it in the corner with aplomb. Buriram had a chance to equalise in the 15th minute when MOTM Osvaldo was brought down in the box, but Diogo’s penalty was spectacularly saved.

But the Isaan team got the equaliser their neat possession football deserved in the 25th minute when Osvaldo gave the Thai FA Cup its own Ricky Villa moment, dribbling past half the Chiang Rai defence before burying the ball in the corner.

 

 

They did not stay level for long however, as another long ball found that man William who ran into the Buriram box, only to be fouled by Tunez. The ref initially didn’t spot it, but with the FAT trying out a radical new experiment which involved handing control of VAR not to an independent panel but to the Chiang Rai bench, the penalty was eventually awarded, and Blobby Bill converted it to send the Beetles into the dressing room at half-time 2-1 up.

After the restart, the drama quickly continued when Buriram midfielder Sasalak was fouled just inside the box, with the ref once again needing a look at VAR to make his decision. This time Diogo made no mistake from the spot to put Buriram level again. But another defensive lapse on the 71-minute mark saw Bill, unmarked on the edge of the box, put clear by a lovely through ball and he slotted it past the keeper for his hat-trick. 3-2 to the Beetles, and time for Operation Shithouse – and there are no better exponents of shithousery in Thai football.

Buriram brought on Suchao to fight fire with fire, and on 76 minutes he seemed to have played his role to perfection, being upended by a shocking late tackle by our old friend Chaiyatwat. The ref immediately – and correctly – pulled out his red card, but with Victor and the Chiang Rai bench by now refereeing the game it was quickly rescinded to a yellow.

12 minutes later the referee pulled out another red, after handing a second yellow to Sasalak for no apparent reason, and having just watched the video three times I still can’t see any offence; however the Chiang Rai bench were all on their feet howling for it and once again the referee obliged them. Ludicrous refereeing.

Buriram laid siege to the CR goal for the remaining 5 minutes but without a target man (oh how they missed Edgar tonight) their attack was fairly toothless, and when the ref blew up after a ridiculous 3 minutes’ extra time (Gama and his staff were clearly in charge of the watch too), the cup was heading to Chiang Rai, and Port’s AFC hopes were heading down the U-bend.

 

The Sandpit’s Player of the Year meets his adoring fans

 

How this affects La Pang’s transfer plans remains to be seen, but Thailand & Bangkok Glass midfielder Tanaboon was seen watching the game with Port full-back Nitipong. After negotiating our way out of the stadium via its unlit death-trap staircases and procuring post-match Leos, we bumped into the Sandpit’s 2018 POTY and asked him if Tanaboon was joining Port, but he just gave us that cheeky grin of his and said nothing. So watch this space.

 

This Is The End: Bangkok United 2-1 Port FC, Port FC 1-3 Buriram United

 

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.

 

The Divine Mop: Buriram United vs. Port FC, 11 April 2018

 

Port will try to become the first team to defeat clear title favourites Buriram when they travel to the land of depressed husbands on Wednesday. This match couldn’t come at a worse time for Port though, having just suffered back-to-back defeats against Police and Bangkok United, whereas Buriram have maintained their unbeaten start to the season and currently enjoy a four point gap at the top of the table.

Port are also missing a couple of foreign players, with Kim (8) suspended after getting his fourth yellow card against Bangkok United, while Suarez (5) is reportedly out for a month after picking up an injury against Police Tero. Buriram are also missing a key foreign player, with instrumental centre back Tunez (5) having sat out the last 3 league fixtures through injury.

 

Buriram United

Key Players

 

It’s a strong team with too many to choose from, so here’s the lot of them.

33 year old Siwarak Tedsungnoen (1) kept two clean sheets against Port last season, with the fixture at PAT Stadium featuring an absolutely ridiculous point blank save from a Genki header. A model of consistency and Kawin’s understudy at national team level, don’t expect to get anything easy from Siwarak.

Buriram are without key defender Andres Tunez, and haven’t kept a clean sheet in the three league games since his injury. Their back three will be led by Pansa Hemviboon (3), who was my Player of the Tournament for Thailand in the recent King’s Cup. Standing at 6 foot 3, he is a formidable physical presence who doesn’t lose much in the air. Pansa will be joined by South Korean Yoo Jun-Soo (16) and former Port loanee Pravinwat Boonyong (4), who has become a surprise regular at The Thunder Castle this season.

 

Pansa Hemviboon

 

Extremely attack-minded Narubadin Weerawatnodom (13) will be right wing-back, with the more experienced and less bombastic Korrakot Wiryaudomsiri (11) on the left flank.

Buriram have a mix of youth and experience in central midfield, with 20 year old Ratthanakorn Maikami (26) being joined by either one of experienced duo Suchao Nuchnum (8) – who you may remember being bitch-slapped by Lazarus Kaimbi after reportedly calling him a monkey a couple of years ago – or Jakkaphan Kaewprom (10), who made the T1 team of the season in 2017.

Ahead of them will be one of Thailand’s best youngsters Supachok Sarachat (19), who has scored one and assisted two in a promising start to the campaign. The 19 year old has already scored 10 times in 47 appearances for The Thunder Castle, and will try to occupy the space in front of the back four that Aung Thu and Sumanya used to such good effect in Port’s two recent defeats.

 

Supachok Sarachat

 

Remarkably for a team comfortably atop the league, before Buriram’s draw with Sukhothai last weekend, they had only one player who had scored more than one goal. That of course was The Divine Mop: Diogo Luis Santo (40). It’s not just his hair that invites the comparison. The Brazilian spends most of his time sprawled across the floor and has an uncanny knack for finding filth wherever he is deployed. Like a mop though, Diogo is also reliable. And yes, this metaphor is in need of a good rinse. In only one season since he arrived at Buriram have they not triumphed in the league, and this was in no small part due to the fact that he was injured for most of the season. When he is fit, The Divine Mop is guaranteed to clean up. He has done so 11 times in 9 games so far this season, and will be expecting to add to that tally against Port’s lacklustre defence. Never bet against the best striker in the league.

 

Diogo Luis Santo

 

Diogo is joined by Edgar Bruno da Silva (23). Edgar scored his second goal of the season with a well-taken header against Suphanburi on the weekend, but has been far from convincing so far in 2018. He’s one of those players that has turned up at a lot of impressive-sounding clubs but not really seen a lot of action. Like his teammate Diogo, Edgar played for Brazil at youth level, then went on to represent such teams as Sao Paolo, Porto, Red Star Belgrade and Vasco da Gama. More recently representing a slew of average teams across Asia, Edgar is a mediocre T1 striker if ever there was one. His main function seems to be to get the ball to Diogo and watch the master at work.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Form

 

Buriram have spent most of 2018 so far just getting the job done. Experienced winners one and all, they have made a habit of scoring late goals and grinding out results. Their recent last-gasp win against Chonburi was a textbook example. After starting out with 4 wins, Buriram were finally held to a 2-2 draw by Bangkok United, but they went on another run of 3 wins before being held to a 1-1 draw by Suphanburi.

Port, on the other hand… Actually no, I’d rather not. You all know how we’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks, so no reminder is necessary!

 

Port FC

Now or Never?

 

It’s time, Jadet. It’s quite possibly now or never. 9 T1 bosses have received their marching orders in just 9 weeks, and Sir Det could well make that 10 in 10 if Port take another heavy beating. He doesn’t have a full complement of troops at his disposal, either.

With Kim out, Jadet will most likely turn to Adisorn (13) to fill the midfield void, although Athibordee (35) is another realistic option. Athibordee was brought on when Jadet tried to change Port’s fortunes against Bangkok United, but was later subbed off. Ouch. With Adisorn having a barnstorming Buriram battle under his belt from last season, he really ought to be the man Jadet puts his faith in in his time of need.

Further forward there is a bit more of a dilemma. Suarez leaves a hole in the team that no player in Port’s squad is particularly well suited to fill. If Bodin (10) comes in again, then we are likely to see him and Nurul (31) on the flanks and Pakorn (7) playing through the middle, which just doesn’t seem like a great idea. As much as I like Pakorn, that’s not his position. Alternatively, Arthit (29) – who looked lively when he came on – could be deployed as a partner for Boskovic (23) and Port could switch to a pure 4-4-2. Interestingly, when Buriram visited PAT Stadium last season, Port lined up in a 4-4-2 which featured Adisorn in midfield and came away with a point. Rattanai (17), recently restored to the first XI, also kept goal that day, making one of his finest appearances in a Port shirt, while Todsapol (6) made a rare appearance before going off injured.

Whatever Jadet chooses though, the players are just going to have to do better. More discipline will be required at the back, more running in midfield and most of all better finishing. Yes Dragan, I’m looking at you!

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 2 at 17:45 on Wednesday 11 April, 2018. For those who can’t make it to The Chang Arena, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. We’re already booked in, so head upstairs and we should be easy to find. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.