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Lions Restore Pride: Port FC 2-2 Buriram Utd

 

With the scars of midweek still fresh, Port looked to bounce back this weekend and take revenge against the Buriram side who ruthlessly exposed their defensive frailties in midweek. This meeting between first and third in the Thai League promised to be the pick of the weekend’s fixtures, featuring some of the division’s best individual talents and played in front of a sell-out crowd.

Port lined up in a relatively conservative formation compared to the team they put out in midweek, packing the midfield with Siwakorn Jakkuprasat (16), Kim Sung-Hwan (8) and new signing Anon Samakorn (20). Bodin Phala (10) also finally earned his much-deserved start against his former club.

Buriram fielded a very similar lineup to the one that had already beaten Port in midweek, with the only change coming at right wing-back as versatile Korean star Yu Jun-Soo was eligible to return to the team.

The visitors began in much the same way one would expect them to, with Brazilian striker Diogo Luis Santo spending more of the first five minutes on the ground than on his feet, immediately getting the raucous crowd at the PAT Stadium on his back. Buriram looked to adopt the same defensive posture that worked so well for them in the last encounter, and the early action suggested that Port were in danger of falling foul of the same trap.

However, the changes to the team did pay off, with the play appearing much slicker and sharper in key areas. Bodin’s involvement and link-up with Kevin Deeromram (97) on the left flank brought out the best in both of them, with the Thai-Swede putting in another typically excellent attacking performance early doors.

Seeing Anon in action for the first time was also particularly enjoyable. He began in a primarily defensive role early in the match, choosing mostly to play simple passes, but as the game progressed the Leicester City academy graduate began to show his more and more excellent on-ball ability.

However, the cracks very quickly began to show. Without Nurul or Suarez present to break down the opposing defense, the creative onus was placed upon Siwakorn, who was simply unable to affect the game in this role. Additionally, Kevin’s commitment to attack left Rochela stranded on many occasions when faced with Brazilian winger Osvaldo (17), making the 28-year-old Spaniard look about 38 instead.

Buriram were finally able to make one of their breakaway chances count in the 25th minute when a long-range effort from Rattanakorn Maikami (26) took a wicked deflection and cannoned off the post, before falling to the feet of Diogo. The sudden change of direction caught Port defender Nitipong Selanon (34) completely off-guard, giving the Brazilian forward little resistance as he slotted the ball home.

The sense of deflation around the PAT Stadium seemed palpable as Diogo wheeled away in celebration. With the wind knocked out of the hosts’ sails, Buriram didn’t have to wait long to get their second. A simple chipped ball to Diogo was enough to catch Elias Dolah (4) completely off guard, as he was outpaced and outmuscled by the Brazilian to make it 2-0.

Just as it appeared all hope was lost, who better to step up than Pakorn Prempak (7) with a cheeky free-kick placed perfectly in the top-left corner shortly before half-time. This would be Pakorn’s only meaningful contribution of the game, as he insisted on spending the rest of his time putting on an exhibit of why he has only earned two caps for the Thai National Team. With the reaction time of a snail and the work ethic of a high school senior, it is a real shame to see a player of such vast technical skill be wasted in this manner.

With the window of opportunity open once again, it appears that Jadet took the time to read the letter I kindly sent him last week, as Port began with a furious press on the midfield, exposing the lack of on-ball ability across Buriram’s back-line. He also made the divisive decision to withdraw Bodin for Arthit Butjinda (29), allowing the substitute to play as a target-man and giving Boskovic the freedom to roam around him.

After Yu Jun-Soo missed an absolute sitter from the edge of the six-yard box, Port would finally have their route back into the game. With Toby still outside the stadium drinking his (second?) half-time beer, Port found it to be the opportune time to score their second goal in the 52nd minute when an inch-perfect Kevin cross found Kim Sung-Hwan entirely unmarked to score a diving header that will surely have the visitor’s perfectionist coach Bozidar Bandovic up in arms.

Having already made the decision to move to a flat back five with Suchao as a defensive right-back, Buriram found it difficult to switch back into their attacking gear, and the momentum was firmly with the home side for the final half-hour of the match.

A winning goal looked to have come from the unlikeliest of sources when Nitipong managed to get one-on-one against Buriram’s goalkeeper, but the linesman rightly flagged for offside.

Diogo came close to taking the three points for the away side on numerous occasions, and tended to follow up each one with a lengthy spell of rolling and moaning on the ground as time began to run out. The Brazilian managed to hit the upright from a free-kick in the final minute of stoppage time, with substitute goalkeeper Worawut Srisupha (36) making an excellent save to deny the follow-up from Andres Tunez.

As the referee blew the final whistle, neither side seemed to upset by the point, but Buriram will have more to be aggrieved about after throwing away their two-goal lead. However, due to results elsewhere, they still sit nine points clear atop the Thai League and seem set to win their seventh Thai League title.

Port, meanwhile, maintain their three-point lead over Muangthong United in third place, meaning the side are still on course for their best league finish in over a decade.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Kim Sung Hwan

 

 

Despite having played a full 90 minutes in midweek, Kim looked fresh and sharp in this match, regularly covering more ground than most of his teammates and effectively shutting down Buriram’s midfield. Without the likes of Nurul or Suarez in front of him, the onus was on Kim to help create and make late runs into the box – something he did perfectly to score the second goal. He has been an invaluable asset for Port this season, and has once again been at the heart of a strong performance at the PAT Stadium.

 

Dear Jadet: This Is How You Beat Buriram

 

Dear Jadet

I would like to begin by congratulating you on your excellent and highly successful campaign thus far. Unfortunately, you are soon set to face the even more excellent and highly successful Buriram United, who currently sit atop of the Thai League table and may constitute the toughest opposition you have faced this season.

Despite how well the side have done this season, it may be time to change your winning formula and introduce a new, alien concept into your side’s game – tactics. Unfortunately, the man most equipped to give you a lesson on said alien concept, Mano Polking, is currently too busy mastering the art of total football, so we are going to have to settle for the next best thing.

Mind you, I have no idea how far down the list of “next best things” a 17-year-old football ‘journalist’ is, but it’s all we’ve got.

Firstly, it is important to be aware of how Buriram United set up. While they have played two different formations under the management of Montenegrin coach Bozidar Bandovic, they effectively operate as one ‘system.’ In action, we expect Buriram United to appear like this:

 

 

Now, in order to counter this, my suggestions are extremely high-risk, so proceed with caution. Buriram United are conditioned to deal with deep-lying defensive structures, as it is the preferred method of most of their opposition in this division. Thus, the best way to defeat the Thunder Castle is to buck the trend and spring them with a surprise.

Using the raucous atmosphere and favorable pitch dimensions at the PAT Stadium, it appears possible to “press” Buriram with enough intensity to force errors and open up spaces to score, while simultaneously preventing them from scoring themselves.

In order to do this, Port should attempt to match Buriram’s basic system, with some minor alterations, in a manner similar to this:

 

 

In order to execute their system, the Thunder Castle need width coming from the full-backs in order to stretch the play, with two of either Korrakot Wiriayudomsiri, Narubadin Weerawatnodom and Sasalak Haiprakhon needed to play high and wide in order to give their attackers room to operate.

However, with the presence of Kevin (97) on the left, who has been one of the league’s strongest players this season, Port may have an ace up their sleeve. His excellent recovery pace will allow him to occupy aggressive starting positions, forcing Buriram right-sided player to keep one eye open defensively, effectively handicapping his attacking potential. This should leave their forward three isolated, and thus easier to contain for the defensive line, with the help of Kim Sung-Hwan and Siwakorn.

Secondly, you may notice Nitipong (34) placed at center-back as opposed to right-back. This is a measure mainly to contend with the pace of Diogo Luis Santo, by providing a player that can successfully keep up with the Brazilian and prevent long through-balls from catching the Port defense out when they come forward.

Additionally, Buriram can sometimes find themselves short-staffed in midfield, which is usually patrolled by only two players, who are primarily creative outlets. Cutting these supply lines is crucial, and a far easier prospect than closing down a mobile 3-man frontline.

The midfield of Kim Sung-Hwan, Siwakorn and Suarez (5) should outnumber the defending Champions in the middle of the park, with Boskovic likely to be partnered with Bodin in the absence of Nurul up top.

Ceding possession to Buriram’s defensive players will hopefully expose their lack of creativity, and increasing the risk of the Thunder Castle making a decisive mistake. The ferocity and intensity of the press should be most in midfield, creating “bottlenecks” in the areas where Buriram have the fewest players.

This serves as both a defensive and an offensive measure; done properly, it allows Port to pick up the ball in dangerous areas and outnumber Buriram with minimal defensive risk. The key to Port’s attack is allowing Kevin to run at the left center back and getting Nurul or Boskovic in one-on-one positions in the final third.

Port have shown that they have the talent, support and belief to mix it with the best – and, on occasion, come out on top. As you prepare to face Buriram United twice in the span of five days, it is the ideal time for this hugely talented squad to reach their peak performance levels. I hope my humble suggestions have offered some insight into how this can be made possible.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Gian

 

Dolah Exchange Proves Costly for Port: Buriram Utd 3-1 Port FC

 

At the start of this month we said that April would be a decisive month for Port – six games after which we would know for sure if the club’s title challenge is the real deal or not. After just three of those games, we already know the answer – no it isn’t. And whilst defeat at runaway leaders and defending champions Buriram is no disgrace, the manner of it does not bode well for the rest of the season, nor for the future of coach Jadet, whose decision-making was once again highly questionable.


Thanks to the Thai FA’s genius for fixture scheduling, we convened at Don Muang at 10:30 on the day before the start of the Songkran holidays to fly to Buriram for a 17:45 kickoff. Truly great work guys. The sophisticates (Jim & Nigel) headed to Coffee Club for breakfast; the proles (AC and, er, me) hit McDonalds; the technically challenged (Tim W) got stuck in a long manual check-in queue.

 

Nigel leads the Port invasion

 

Around 90 minutes later we found ourselves at the Amari Buriram Utd, a very pleasant (if somewhat jerrybuilt – think 1970s student hall of residence with a pool in the middle of it) 4* hotel located within the stadium complex. Fellow Sandpitters Keith & Kev were already settled by said pool with a bucket of Heinekens and we very quickly stripped off (partially I should add) and joined them. Well, following Port isn’t all slums, dodgy sausages and drinking Leo in carparks. Sometimes you have to pamper yourself.

 

THIS IS KHLONGTHOEY!!!

 

Thankfully Keith reminded us that we were here to go to a football game, so we spurned the hotel’s kind offer of free tickets in the home end and went to buy away tickets, before joining Peter & the Buriram fans in their local (basically a little shop with a couple of tables outside and a friendly dog who, although named Judy, was male. Well, TIT) for a few pre-match Leos and a few crispy crickets, much to the disgust of AC, who was obviously pining for a currywurst. The bar works on an honesty system – you help yourselves to Leos out of the fridge and then pay for what you’ve consumed. This worked very well pre-match but got very messy when we returned after the game for more.

 

The Port/Buriram love-in

 

The game? Oh yes, the game. Calling what few brain cells I have left this morning into action I now remember we did see a game. Buriram’s stadium is a cracker, the closest Thailand has to a proper European stadium, complete with actual turnstiles, and whilst it was less than half full, the Port fans in the away end made a wonderful racket throughout and we didn’t stop singing for 90 minutes – not that it helped the team unfortunately.

 

 

Port lined up in a 5-4-1 formation, Dolah (4) joining Rochela (22) & Todsapol (6) in the back 3, and this rare show of tactical flexibility from Jadet paid off early doors – on 12 minutes, a deep cross from Nitipong (34) somehow found its way onto the head of the smallest player on the pitch, Nurul (31) who placed his header past the home keeper to spark mayhem in the away end. And things should’ve got even better for Port on 20 minutes when Tunez dived in on Nitipong and brought him down, but the referee waved away any appeals for a penalty. The bastard.

 

 

What should’ve been 0-2 quickly turned into 1-1, when that man Diogo “My Parents Couldn’t Spell Diego” Luis Santos fouled Kevin, then set up an attack, dawdled on the edge of the box, and then made a delightful run into space to slot the ball comfortably past Rattanai (17). A textbook display of the striker’s art (both dark and light) from a player who, when he cuts out the shenanigans and plays football, is simply untouchable – though it would’ve been nice if Port’s players had occasionally tried to touch him instead of standing back and watching in admiration as they did most of the game.

But 1-1 at half-time? We’ll take that, and as we said over our Changs, whilst Port weren’t playing particularly well, Buriram weren’t setting the game alight either and a draw was definitely achievable.

 

The magnificent Chang Arena. The only time you’ll see me write the words “Chang” and “magnificent” in the same sentence

 

Sadly Jadet had other ideas and committed football (and possibly career) suicide early in the second half, taking off the excellent Dolah and replacing him with Bodin (10), who had earlier raised hackles in the away end whilst warming up, when he acknowledged the Buriram fans but ignored us. The move made Port much more vulnerable at the back and completely confused up front, where only Nurul seemed willing or able to have a go at Buriram’s defenders. Pakorn (7) is still dining out on his performance at against Air Force, Bodin – as so often – didn’t look interested, and Boskovic (23) made me nostalgic for Brent McGrath. The biggest disappointment since The Force Awakens. The wind had been well & truly taken out of Port’s sails and they barely set foot in Buriram’s half from this point. There was also the somewhat undignified spectacle of the Buriram fans unveiling a big Euro Cake flag, to a chorus of boos from the away end. Not that we have anything against Euro Cake of course – their products are regularly washed down with a cup of tea chez Russell – but sponsored supporter flags? That’s almost as bad as the Yamaha Ultras Stand.

 

Buriram fans in Euro Cake shame

 

As on Saturday, Terens (28) stripped off to come on & was kept waiting on the touchline for almost ten minutes, during which time of course Buriram scored their second, Tunez nodding in unchallenged from an 81st minute corner. And nine minutes later it was all over, Diogo crossing to an (again) unmarked Edgar who made no mistake from a couple of yards out.

Another very poor performance from Port, let down by a coach who made an effective change in the system and then completely screwed it up again in the second half. Our defence remains chaotic, our midfield was toothless and simply too small, and our attackers seem to have lost the swagger & confidence of early season – far too often we saw wingers hesitate and overthink situations instead of putting balls into the box, and we still haven’t worked out how to play the ball through the middle to Boskovic. If he’s still in his job by then, Jadet will really have to up his game for the Prachuap fixture as Pang is already no doubt loading the bullets. As for Buriram, they’re tidy, solid, well organised and blessed with the finest footballer in Thailand; they’re not as much fun to watch as Bangkok Utd but they’ll go on grinding out wins and have the title wrapped up by August.

 

“HAHA YOU LOST!!!”

 

We troop disconsolately back to Judy’s Bar, to find said hound offering a warm welcome and more cold Leos, after which things become a little hazy. The bar owner tries to swap his old Buriram shirt for Kenny’s 2018 Port shirt and is politely rebuffed (you have to be polite when rebuffing drunk, half-naked Isaan bar owners). Attempts to calculate how many beers we’ve consumed come to nought and we simply give Kenny’s new friend 200BHT each and wish him a happy new year. He then points out that the stadium complex is now locked up for the night, before helping us over an 8-foot metal fence to get back in. Not easy when you’ve all been drinking for 6 hours. I vaguely remember another McDonalds. And during our last, utterly unnecessary beer at the hotel, the waitress, despite wearing a Buriram shirt, tells us she’s such a big Scum fan that she named her son Muangthong. We make our excuses and retire to bed.

 

“No fucking way am I wearing this!”

 

I find myself sharing the flight home with several Port players. Pakorn, hat & shades on, gives out serious “don’t talk to me” vibes whilst Rattanai & Worawut are engrossed in their WAGs (and who can blame them); thankfully Nurul is up for a bit of a chat after we land and turns out to be a very shy, likeable, laid-back fella. I congratulate him on his goal & he modestly points out that he can’t be too happy about it as we lost, before we exchange new year greetings and head home. A great end to a fantastic trip.

 

A rare opportunity to congratulate the MOTM in person

 

Sandpit Man of the Match: Nurul

Yeah, I know. I’m a sucker for a smile & a handshake. On the flight back I was debating who would get the MOTM award, and the little fella sealed the deal at the baggage carousel. Obviously his hard work and that goal helped, as did the fact that there were literally no other contenders, on a night when even Siwakorn was out of sorts.

 

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season: Week 10

 

Port’s season has gone off the rails a little with two defeats in two games, so a trip to face leaders Buriram is the last thing the club needs as we head into the Songkran break.

This week in Songs of the Season we pay tribute to the hosts’ Brazilian striker Diogo, with a cracking bit of dancefloor-friendly shoegaze from the criminally underrated Chapterhouse, singing about something we are sure to see a lot of at the Chang Arena this Wednesday…

 

 

Crystal Balls 2018: Buriram Utd

In our latest Crystal Balls we cross the palm of Buriram Utd fan Jamie Pinder to get his thoughts on how Thailand’s top team will fare in 2018. Buriram went through the 2017 season with only 2 defeats and won the league at a canter, but will start the new season without the services of top scorer Jaja Coelho and midfield lynchpin Ko Seul Ki.

 


 

What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

Easy. Reclaiming the title. Or maybe it was the photo shoot pulling faces to scare the opposition in the away changing rooms.

How will your team fare in 2018?

Top of the pile….. ish.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Ummmm ….waiting ……so far I think the new Chang Mascot in his scrambled egg shirt.

Which departed players from 2017 will you miss the most? Who are you glad to see the back of?

Jaja for his goals but Seul-Ki is a greater loss. He missed the 2016 season and look what happened there.

What changes would you like to see at your club? Or are you happy with the way things are going?

Can’t really complain about much. Just need to fix the website and I’ll be a happy camper.

Which teams will be in contention for the T1 title, and who will win?

Chiang Rai will compete much better this year. Muang Thong will be close and Bangkok United will be trailing but ahead of the rest.

Which 5 – yes 5 – teams will go down to T2, and which 3 will come up to T1?

Any 5 from…..it’s a long list……. Of course the 3 promoted clubs are always in contention plus Swat Cats, Sukhotai and Ubon. 3 to come up will be Ang Thong, PTT and Krabi!! Need some good road trips.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Any places I haven’t been before….e.g Sukhotai, Chainat and Air Force

Thai football crowds are declining year on year. Why do you think this is, and what can be done to make the game more popular?

Just play the games without the long breaks. All the fans agree that they lose interest the more this happens. Why can’t the FAT understand this…..

Finally, give us your three wishes for the 2018 season.

Buriram to win the Champions League 🙂 Muang Thong fight relegation and I meet everyone of the expats who are reading this and we enjoy a quiet beer before/after our respective games. Good Luck everyone.

 


 

Thanks Jamie! Want to do a season preview for your team? Just fill out our questionnaire!

 

Offside Hassle at Thunder Castle: Buriram Utd 1-0 Port FC

 

Today I am going to talk as much about the away day experience as I am the game. By the way for any of you that missed it, we lost.

The day started with me having to get up at 04:00 to put a bit of a shift in at DKSH towers to enable me to bonk off early for an “offsite meeting” yeah that old chestnut, the perks of being the boss. Remember always, family, football and work in that order.

As I sat in the departure lounge at Don Mueang I noticed a few familiar Port faces – Achim my German buddy and Big Bubba, who were to become my trusted lieutenants. I also noticed a small chick in  Adidas trackie bottoms with an entourage – it was our owner Madam Pang, who greeted me on the way on the plane with a huge smile, having spotted I was in her team’s colours. On arrival at Buriram Airport, my tenth time there, we were informed that the club had hired a car and Madame insisted we get in. We were staying at The Amari, and if you ever get a chance put this on your bucket list, it is one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in and I’ve been to a few. Its simplicity merged with a real hospitable friendliness made the defeat a lot easier. Off to Paddy’s for some beers and a throw of arrows and then back to the game. We shook hands with every single Port fan before the game: we had about ninety in total.

Both teams adopted the exact same formation, our now familiar 4-4-1-1.

Kalu (10) was always going to have a tough task in that lone striker role against the league leaders complimented by Suarez in the hole, they did OK to be fair. Buriram on the other hand had a samba double operating these roles and again they did OK.

First twenty minutes they came at us strong, our midfield battled hard. Ittipol (7) and Siwakorn (16) knew straight away they were in for a tough time and they weren’t helped by the Thunder Castle full backs who had the pace of thoroughbreds.

In the 27th minute one of the aforementioned Brazilians broke the deadlock in unbelievable circumstances. Well unbelievable to anyone who hasn’t watched Thai football before anyway. A kick out from Rattanai (17), who has now established himself as our number one stopper in my opinion, fell straight to the Buriram center midfielder who hooked a right footer over the top to Coelho who was two yards offside and to our disbelief ten seconds later the ball was in the onion bag, Rattanai on his arse!!! 1-0 Buriram. That said if you watch the goal our defensive positioning would not be out of play at the red arrows display at Duxford air museum. How the hell Rochela was ten yards from his partner Dolah and the two fullbacks I’ll never know. Think back to the Invincibles – you would never see Tony Adams two yards from the high line never mind ten.

The second half Zico, my friend, you earned your corn. We were fantastic in every department and my team put in a display worthy of my trip and the expense and as a football fan if you come away from a midweek away came having ticked those boxes then you have done well. We had a couple of half chances, Pakorn (9) started pulling the strings and was assisted ably by Nitipong (34) down the right. Listen to me here, when these two bring their A-game there is no better right hand side in the league. Defensively we were solid although we rode our luck at times but we were playing against the league leaders. Adisorn (13) and Tana (99) entered the fray and performed admirably and Genki, though substituted, put in his usual shift. In the 81st minute Pakorn fizzed in a free kick that took paint off the crossbar but it wasn’t to be but we yet again proved one point, on our day Thai Port are a match for anyone. Onto Ubon where I am that convinced of a victory I will be discussing as serious investment with my compatriot Paddy Power. Peace out my fellow sandpit members, boarding has been called!

 

Tim’s Man of the Match – Pakorn

As with Sunday’s win over Honda, Port put in a much improved performance with a greater degree of intensity, better organisation and crisper passing than seen during the last days of Jadet, and as such there were several contenders for the coveted Sandpit MOTM award. Rattanai, who loves playing against Buriram, bossed his area and made some superb saves when needed; Nitipong for once managed to combine both attacking and defensive duties; and the midfield duo of Siwakorn and Ittipol didn’t give Buriram a moment’s peace.

But my MOTM this week is the Midfield Monk himself, Pakorn, who has come back from the Wat with a new lease of life. His corners and free kicks could, if there had been anyone on the end of them, given Port the win, and when he moved into a more central role – as our own Tommie Duncan has long advocated – he looked even more of a threat. If he can keep up this level of performance in the next few weeks, Port will be hard to beat.

 

Not Waving but Drawing: Port FC 0-0 Buriram Utd

“Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.”

– Stevie Smith

That has got your attention now hasn’t it? Doing a modern day match report is a thing of desperate ugliness. Like when you live in an isolated place with a dying pet. It is a task nobody wants to do and yet it needs to be done. And when the deed is done it carries little thanks, acquires little thoughtful scrutiny and at best encourages a response of “well, yeah, obviously”. Everybody knows the result. They’ve seen it all before. They’ve even seen the replays. Tweets have been twittered to death and the hivemind has already spoken as you plonk yourself down to take aim at the sorry carcass. You can’t shock, inform or even blag your way to any great extent. We’re all fucking experts now.

And so there remains the scraps of a game to report on. The macros are all covered. (It was 0-0 by the way if this looks like it might imminently veer off into tangents.) What is left is the minutiae. So what do you give the football fan in your life that has everything?

This match report will thus come at you through the prism of the word “wave”. Much like a Sesame Street episode near the end of a tired season, run out of letters, it is the best we could come up with. Put up with it.

Ostensibly the most important wave of the night was from the dead king. His hand raised out and up over PAT stadium giving us permission to wear the colours we all shouldn’t be wearing. And his own yellow robes were a foreshadowing of things to come.

Buriram started confidently and had the best of the opening exchanges. The more familiar looking line up at PAT Stadium today soon matched them after some early jitters and some sky-rise clearances. Todsapol replaced Dolah in central defence. Even if Dolah has unfairly been labelled as a scapegoat for the midweek disaster at Thai Honda, the decision to bring Todsapol in looked the right one as he played a crucial role in holding the Buriram attack at bay. Rattanai reclaimed his entirely rightful place in goal and lets never speak about how he didn’t play last Wednesday night again. Although clear-cut chances were few and far between for Port they weren’t without some genuine goal threats. Josimar had an excellent shot from distance saved late in first half. Adisorn was a ball of energy and surely must have inspired all Port shirts around him. He certainly did in Zone B. He only improved as the game went on.

But this was a game of waves, lest we forget. The referee in the opening minutes had cause to wave a card or two but chose not to in the spirit of “not in the first wave”. Following his waving on of play, a wave of aggression seemed to flow over both teams. His lack of disciplinary action was a waving red flag to a bull and tackles began to fly in. A wave of yellow cards then followed and half time sandpit talk broached the beloved topic of Thai referees’ extreme temperance in showing more than one yellow card per player. Half time talk does what it often does and finds itself completely wrong mid way through the second half as Buriram’s star striker found himself on the receiving end of a second wave of the yellow. The travelling team lost the services of one of their most potent threats in Diogo. His long cross-field walk was met with appropriate shock and of course, delight. Wave off.

It was like the second half was reset and this time we were the favourites. A wave of a wand and the 6,900 strong crowd were suddenly louder and lighter on their feet. Thai Port’s intermittent counter attacks from the opening hour became, simply, attacks. Zone D first suggested, then exampled and finally imposed a Mexican wave on Zone C and so it flowed round the stadium in reverse alphabetical order. Even Madam Big Bird must have been impressed with this orchestrated spontaneity. In the last twenty minutes Port played with abandon and Buriram, now playing on the counter, could have stolen it but for some great last ditch defending. Rochela back to his usual self at the heart of the defence. Much time wasting and the new wave of yellow in the yellow-uniformed medical staff carried them to the final result everyone didn’t see coming; a victorious draw for Thai Port.

At full time in the far far away away section the away fans tragically waved confetti in the air. Futile. Too much, too early. Their sweaty anticipating palms unburdened of their presumptuous load. They had waited 94 minutes to see a goal that never came. Fifteen times in five games they had already seen their team score this season. But not at PAT Stadium. Not tonight. No fucking wave.

 

Man of the Match – Adisorn

Even amongst plenty of good performances, Adisorn was a clear man of the match. Often seemingly outnumbered in midfield on the ball, he rarely lost it, won it back more than he had a right to expect to and generally drove the team on with his energy. A welcome show of professionalism in midfield.

 

Thunder Castle to Besiege Fortress PAT: Port FC v Buriram Utd Preview

 

Port have not lost a home League game since July 2nd 2016, but will face a stern test when they lock horns with the Buri-rams this Saturday. Buriram? Who are yer? Particularly for those who are new to Thai football, their rise to fame is worth revisiting.

 

The Plot

A leather-clad, Ducati riding ex-politician, with, allegedly, a hint of chicanery; a singing and dancing, cheerleading wife; a town that lost its team; a town that gained one; a footballing marriage of convenience; fairy tale success and a burgeoning, bitter rivalry. The Buriram story has all the intrigues of a classic TV drama; imagine The Borgias meets When Saturday Comes.

The Electricians

In 1970, The Provincial Electricity Authority FC was founded, playing mostly in the lower divisions of Thai football until, at the end of 2003/04 Season, they were promoted to the Thai Premier League. In 2008, after leading a fairly nomadic existence, with no ‘ohm’ to call their own, the team was switched to and nicknamed Faifa (Electric) Ayutthaya, where they generated a bigger fan base. That season, they charged to the Title, becoming one of the leading clubs in the Country. However, after a fairly static follow-up campaign, the club ran out of juice and finished in 9th place.

The Politician

Enter Newin Chidchob, a highly influential Thai politician, with an impressive CV: MP for Buriram, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and a former close ally of Thaksin Shinawatra. His career in politics was, allegedly, not without controversy, surviving a suspended jail sentence, fines, and accusations of doubtful business practices, before eventually receiving a 5 year ban from politics in 2007 for his associations with the disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party. With time on his hands and more than a bit of loose change in his pocket, he looked around for something to occupy his time; preferably a TPL team to buy.

Mr Buriram – Newin Chidchob

 

The Acquisition

In 2010, Newin took over Ayuthaya PEA and promptly moved them 350 kilometres to the Isan town of Buriram, who already had a football team, Buriram FC, which was also de-facto owned by Newin, who just as promptly put them in the hands of his wife, Karuna, whose main responsibility had been cheerleading the home fans. Getting confused? Back on the pitch, Buriram PEA came runners-up in the TPL, and more notably, runners-up in the League Cup Final to a team with a slightly longer history, by the name of Thai Port. The following year, Buriram PEA, won the domestic treble, in the process gaining revenge over Port in a repeat League Cup Final.

The Amalgamation

In 2012, with Buriram FC about to join their sister club in the Premier League, Newin and Karuna, allegedly following the rules of Thai football rather more closely than those of politics, joined the two clubs together to create Buriram Utd FC. The magnificent Thunder Castle stadium, finished in June 2011, had become their home, later expanded to hold 32,600 fans. Karuna continued to rouse the fans, Newin delivered the impassioned team talks, was rumoured to pick the team, and, no doubt, drove the supporters bus. What he undoubtedly had done was turn Buriram into a passionate football town with a team to be proud of.

The Acclamation

In 6 seasons, between 2011 and 2016, Buriram in its two forms, won 13 out of the 18 domestic titles on offer, plus 4 Kor Royal Cups, going through the 2015 season unbeaten, with Brazilian forward Diogo breaking the Thai scoring record with 33 goals in 32 games.

Diogo – the Ultimate SFS

 

The Port Connection

Apart from the two League Cup Finals, Port and Buriram share a mutual loathing of Muang Thong Utd, with whom Buriram also have a bitter rivalry, making them okay in my book. They also shared an epic recent match, the memory of which still sends a tingle down my spine. It was 2014, Port had been promoted the previous season and were, unbelievably, in the top three after only one defeat in 8 games. The gates were closed on PAT Stadium with a full house of 12,000 and then some more, most of whom were hanging off the floodlight pylons. A game of high intensity was settled by Kroekrit’s first time piledriver after a thrilling, jinking run by Saruta. Chanin re-tied his shoelaces before every goal kick in the final 15 minutes as Port held on for a famous victory against the reigning champions. More of the same on Saturday please!

Video highlights of that game below; the goal at 2:30:

 

Here’s a good read from 2015 on Buriram, which also visits the controversies surrounding the club which I have been too respectful to go into, given the fact that I will be having a few pre-match beers with their fans on Saturday! We have always been greeted with the warmest hospitality by Thai and Farang fans on our trips to the Thunder Castle – much appreciated!

 

The View from Buriram

Many thanks to Graham Dresser of Buriram Times for this preview:

“In good news for Port, the defence is constantly being changed and is looking extremely shaky to say the least. Thank goodness Siwarak (1) is playing as well as ever in goal.
Up front, Diogo (40) seems to be back to his best and, once again, looking the best player in the league. He has frightening pace and does things that not many other players could even attempt; his contribution to the third goal against Thai Honda, the perfect example. Another Brazilian, Coutinho (20) (no, not that one), joined in the close season and did well in the friendlies. He is quick and likes to run at defences. Unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury and has only just returned to the squad. Supachok (19) hit the headlines with an excellently-taken hat-trick at the weekend and I believe he is a young player with a big future. Korean Seul-Ki (7) has moved into Suchao’s holding midfield role and looks like he is born to it. Former Iceland international centre-back Ottesen (23) has been signed and is finding his feet in the Thai league.
Buriram are currently in third place , two points behind Muang Thong with Nakhon Ratachasima to come before our trip to our friends at Thai Port. They have made a solid start to the season and I’m sure it will be an entertaining game. I’m not expecting 0-0! (Neither are we, Graham!) May I wish Thai Port and their fans an enjoyable and successful season (after Saturday) and thank you for allowing me to contribute to your publication.”

 

Coelho

 

I watched the highlights of the Rams’ game against Thai Honda and can only echo Graham’s words. Diogo combined at lightning speed with Coelho and Supachok to carve open the Honda defence at will. More on that later.

 

Predicted Port Lineup & Tactics

After that dismal performance against Thai Honda last night it is difficult to have confidence in any line-up against a rampant Buriram (4-0 winners v Nakhon Ratchasima) but I hope Jadet sticks mostly with last Saturday’s starting XI; keeping Meechok (20) in place of Nitipong (34) and Genki (18) in for Tana (99). Pakorn (9) just about keeps his place but I find his constant movement inside quite irritating; closing down others’ space to often lose the ball after the first one or two dribbles. I am a traditionalist, having grown up watching Ian Callaghan and Peter Thompson (Liverpool mid 60’s), and want to see my wingers go down the wing (see Saruta again). The key battles will be Dolah (4) and Rochela (22) trying to neutralize the deadly pairing of Diogo (40) and Coelho (50) (or Coutinho) and Siwakorn (16) tracking back on the excellent Supachok (19) (two future internationals?)

Predicted Score

I won’t predict a score but logic tells me Buriram will win; I just hope the game is not out of reach before half-time. If it isn’t and we are kicking towards Zone B in the second half, logic could take a back seat.

Pertinent Form Guide

Thai Honda 1 Buriram 5

Thai Honda 5 Thai Port 1

As the Americans say; ‘You do the Math’.

 

Buri the Hatchet! Port & Buriram Fans’ Meetup, Saturday 11 March

 

Port face their toughest home test of the season this Saturday (19:00) when Isaan giants Buriram come to the PAT. Apart from Port, no other Thai league team has so many farang supporters, so our top boy Keith Wright got in touch with their firm to arrange a pre-match rumble.

Not, I should add, for the purposes of fisticuffs, but for beers, bantz and bonhomie, and probably saying nasty things about Muangthong. The meetup starts from 16:00 at The Sandpit’s official watering hole The Sportsman, on Sukhumvit soi 13, where all in attendance will get special beer prices and 10% discount on food & drinks.

We look forward to seeing you there on Saturday, followed by a great game at the PAT – hopefully more enjoyable than Buriram’s last visit in 2015…