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The Hard Way: Port’s Route to the FA Cup Final

 

Yes, we’re still pinching ourselves, but after last Wednesday’s epic, exhausting FA Cup semi final against Bangkok Utd, Port are in the 2019 Chang FA Cup Final! Port’s last FA Cup win was a decade ago, since when silverware has been conspicuous by its absence, with only the 2010 League Cup being added to the trophy cabinet. In fact Port haven’t reached a cup final of any kind since 2011, so this is a pretty big deal.

But, you may ask yourself, how did we get here? Well, as is customary with Port, it certainly hasn’t been easy or straightforward with Port having to get past three of Thai football’s giants en route to Wembley. I mean Army. Here’s a look back at Port’s 2019 cup run…

 

Round of 64

1 May 2019 – Port FC 6-0 Samut Sakhon FC

Port’s cup campaign began with a walkover against regular friendly opponents Samut Sakhon FC, aka The Proud Junk Ship, who were more Junk than Pride on this particular occasion. Two goals each from Boskovic (remember him?) and Sumanya, along with goals from Bodin and Suarez saw Port into the last 32 without breaking a sweat. A game apparently so unremarkable that we didn’t even bother doing a match report.

 

Round of 32

19 June 2019 – Port FC 4-1 Sukhothai FC

From now on there would be no more gimmes for Port, as they would face T1 opposition for the rest of the tournament. And whilst the Firebats are struggling against relegation this season, they were the first team to beat Port in 2019 and in John Baggio they have a player who simply loves playing against Port, so this would likely be no easy task. Thankfully for Port, on the night the Firebats decided that fighting relegation took precedence over the FA Cup and put out a second string side, and Port were 3-0 up by half-time with goals from Pakorn (2) and Bodin, with Rochela adding a penalty early in the second half.  A late Sukhothai penalty was small consolation on a night that saw Port through to the last 16, to face familiar opposition…

Match Report

 

Round of 16

17 July 2019 – Muangthong Utd 0-2 Port FC

Many teams might have balked at having to visit Muangthong in the cup, especially with them newly reinvigorated by the arrival of coach Alexandre Gama. But the SCG has been Port’s playground for the last 3 years and so it was no surprise that they came away with a very comfortable win. It wasn’t a classic game by any means, played in a quiet stadium with Port fans banned as usual, and it took Port until the last 20 minutes to take the lead, with MTU ‘striker’ Theerasil getting the final touch on a peach of a Pakorn cross for the best own goal of the season; then minutes later debut boy Rolando ‘Tony’ Blackburn took advantage of some defensive confusion to round the keeper and fire Port into the quarter-finals. Not a classic then, but every win against MTU is memorable and this was no different, especially given the importance of the game.

Match Report

 

 

 

Quarter Finals

7 August – Port FC 3-2 Chiang Rai Utd

After that grim game at the SCG, Port fans were served up an absolute classic in the QFs, two of T1’s top clubs going head-to-head and producing one of the greatest games the PAT has seen in years. Port tore into the Beetles from the whistle and went a goal up after 15 minutes when a Sumanya corner was deflected in; the same player then doubled the lead in the 20th minute, racing through the Chiang Rai defence and firing home from the edge of the box for one of the goals of the season. Suarez made it 3-0 early in the second half before the Beetles scored twice, but just as fears of Operation Fuckup were growing, some excellent midfield dark arts from Go got Thin Bill a second yellow, and the game was put to bed, with Port taking their place in the semis against the biggest bogey since Winston Churchill.

Match Report

 

Semi Finals

17 September – Bangkok Utd 0-0 Port FC (4-5 on penalties)

I’m sure we don’t need a recap on this one. 120 minutes of grim, attritional, rain-soaked football, with Port reduced to 10 men for the last half an hour, followed by THAT penalty shootout. Football, bloody hell.

Match Report

 

Final

2 November – Port FC v Ratchaburi FC

More T1 opposition for Port, but by this point surely we fear noone. It won’t be easy, but my prediction is a 3-1 win for Port.

 

Thanks to Allie Suwanrumpha for the header photo

 

Rat Saves Port’s Ship From Sinking: Bangkok Utd 0-0 Port FC (4-5 on Penalties) – Chang FA Cup Semi-Final

 

 

Port made it to their first FA Cup final in ten years at the expense of perennial bogey team Bangkok United, but as always with Port, things were not easy, on what had been a surprisingly clean run through to the semis.

The decision to move the match from Police Tero’s tiny 4,500 stadium to Army’s more capable 20,000 one was a rare move of common sense from the Thai FA, one they had threatened to then derail by allegedly toying with moving it back to Tero again following complaints about loss of ticket revenue, this was sometime after more than 4,500 tickets had already been sold by ThaiTicket Major for the Army stadium. Luckily common sense had continued to prevail and the Home of Gentlemen continued in its role as hosts.

 

“You’re Rangsit, and you know you are” (thanks Jim Clarke)

 

Arriving at the Army Stadium last night, there were already streams of orange and blue shirts making the “Wembley walk” into the complex. Just as I neared the entrance, Del was kind enough to point out that I should buy a beer on this side of the fence (Leo for sale) before I crossed into devout Chang territory.

Taking my spot in Zone S behind the goal, I could see each Port area filling up. This continued to the point where security were kind enough to open up fences to allow the overspill into the no-mans land between East and South blocks, this meant Port fans had nearly filled the whole of the U-shape going from East to West stand. If one visual could summarise the potential of this club when the fans have something to get behind such as a league or cup run, then this was it. Meanwhile, Bangkok United’s support looked only slightly better than their average home gates. Were they lost in transit from Rangsit?

 

Kevin kept his place from Saturdays washout against Korat although technically, that 3 minutes may not count as his first appearance since returning from injury. Rochela returned to defence to partner Dolah with Tanaboom being moved into midfield at the expense of a recognised striker. Suarez again being deployed as a “False Nine”….or should that be a “False Five”.

The Match

The first half was pretty drab, in the first few minutes Pakorn had a corner flicked on by Sergio at the near post, Go attempted to karate kick it in at the back post but it was an easy take for Michael Falkesgaard.

A few minutes later, Dolahs misplaced clearance landed at the feet of Tristan Do on the edge of the box but his volley flashed wide.

The rest of the first half carried on in this frankly dull vein, with shooting boots being left at home from both teams. Efforts from Pakorn, Bordin and Go were either high wide or hopeless.

The early part of the second half didn’t really improve in terms of excitement. Thossawat had a free kick for BU which curled over. On the hour mark, Pakorn had a low cross that was heading for Go on the edge of the box but Suarez managed to nip in and steal it from him, ending up with a weak sidefooted effort at Falkesgaard. I think at this point Pakorn had decided to keep his crosses low on purpose because his previous “crosses” were never going to beat the first man, unless Bangkok United suddenly fielded their Under-9’s

65 minutes in, and the best chance of the match fell to Jaycee John of Bangkok United. Vander Luiz put in a great cross to “JJ” at the far post, his point blank range header had Worawut channelling his inner Gordon Banks as he managed to keep it out with a trailing leg, while at the same time diving into the back of the net himself, catching the post on the way through. While Worawut received some medical attention, the heavens had finally opened. Hot on the heels of the Korat washout from Saturday, Bangkok’s weather had continued like this in the subsequent days. My weather app had predicted a 90% chance of rain for the evening and here it was.

The game continued for a few more minutes until visibility finally reached zero and the referee pulled both teams off the pitch as the full wrath of the thunderstorm descended above the Army Stadium.

As the fans continued to spread out and find shelter outside, I managed to find a free spot relatively close to the roofed West stand. After wandering in to use the toilet I was surprisingly able to wander up into the main VIP stand unchallenged where I found a few of the regular Sandpit crew sitting near the back. The stand was relatively well lit, something magnified by the fact that the floodlights were now turned off around the rest of the stadium. This may have given the impression to fans that the plug had already been pulled completely and some fans who had barely dried out from Korat on Saturday, decided to leave at this point.

 

 

However, a few minutes later and the lights were turned on and teams of ground staff were deployed to the pitch to sweep off the surface water as the rains subsided. It was sad detriment to the previous 70 minutes of football that the sight of the ground staff’s synchronised sweeping was the most entertaining thing the fans had seen all night.

 

 

After the efforts to clear the top water off, we were soon back in action, about 45 minutes from when we’d last seen a ball kicked. Port made a couple of changes at this point, Nurul replacing the hapless Pakorn and more notably, Rattanai being bought on for Worawut, who it was assumed must have done some damage making that save.

Although clear cut chances and quality balls in the final third were still lacking, the match that followed the restart was a massive improvement on what had gone down before. As an Englishman, it felt a lot more akin to a winter FA Cup tie in the UK. Suddenly both teams were playing with a lot more urgency, mostly bypassing the midfields and hitting balls over the top for attackers to chase. It was now an unpredictable surface where passes and tackles were much harder to get right. Sadly a victim of making such a mistimed tackle was Siwakorn a few minutes before the 90 was up. He was already on a yellow and sliding in on Vander Luiz was unnecessary given that Nitipong was also in very close quarters.

Bordin had been sacrificed for Rolando during normal time, and due to new laws, extra time opened up the option of a 4th substitution. This meant Steuble was introduced in place of Suarez, who hobbled off.

The huge Port banner dominating the S curve of the stadium read “NO ONE ESCAPED THE LIONS CLAW”. Heading in to extra time, through injuries and tactical reasons, Choke had declawed us already, without Suarez, Pakorn, or Bordin. Kevin was now being deployed further forward in an attempt to support Rolando, who was not having much fun as a lone target man.

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Port managed to hold on through extra time and here we were at penalties, some three and a half hours after the game had initially kicked off. The discussion amongst the fans now was who was going to take penalties outside of Rochela who was our only recognised penalty taker. There was also the concern we were now up against Michael Falkesgaard, a much bigger and more capable keeper than our very own Mr Porcelain, Rattanai. Rattanais attempts to make himself look big on a penalty kick only seem to further exaggerate his lack of size.

Penalties

 

I assume we won the toss as David motioned to have the shoot-out in front of the Port end, as opposed to doing it in front of the one man and his dog in the Bangkok United end. Rolando was up first and his cheeky jump ‘n’ shuffle in the run up managed to totally outfox Falkesgaard and send him the wrong way. 1-0

Wander Luiz equalled things up for Bangkok United, sending Rattanai the wrong way. 1-1

Next up was El Capitan, who calmly sidefooted into the corner. Although this time Falkesgaard did guess correctly, he was still nowhere near it. 2-1

Everton was next up for BU, but the tofeemans spot kick was picked off by Rattanai much to the joy of the Port fans assembled near(ish) to the goal where the shootout was being contested.  2-1

 

 

Before the shootout Tim had earmarked Dolah as a penalty taker, expecting him to give the ball some Julian Dicks style welly if asked (Yeah sorry about that – Ed). Give it some welly he did, but more akin to Chris Waddle than the Irons’ left-back. Insert punchline here about where his penalty landed …. 2-1

After two misses on the trot, Manuel made no mistake with the next spot kick for BU and we were level again, 2-2

Go certainly got Port fans’ nerves racing with the next effort, it looked like it was had missed but ended up being a low-key thunderbastard, bouncing off the underside of the bar and into the net. Again, Falkesgaard had already been sent the wrong way, it was beginning to look like spot kicks were his Achilles heel. 3-2

Anon’s next penalty for BU was very similar to Go’s, except it went into the top corner without needing the bar for help. 3-3

If my nerves were freyed from Dolah and Go’s last two efforts, seeing Tanaboom stepping up as the next taker didn’t help my condition, but I needn’t have worried, his penalty was placed to Falkesgaard’s bottom right, just evading his glove. 4-3

Sanrawats next penalty for BU was again, copy and paste of what Port had just done, Rat guessed correctly but was lacking a few inches to keep it out. 4-4

We were now into sudden death, Sandpit favourite Nitipong made no mistake with his spot kick. Again, Falkesgaard went the wrong way. 5-4

BU sub Guntapon stepped up next, Rattanai did guess correctly again, but this time it was the woodwork that kept his kick out as it thudded back off of the post, the BU no.97 dropped to his knees as the remaining Port players, subs and staff streamed onto the pitch. Against all odds, Port had done it! The cheer was one of the loudest I’d heard at a Port game, the roof nearly blew off the sole covered part of the stadium that I was now housed in.

Including rain delays, it had been nearly four hours of football I’d just witnessed, it wasn’t pretty and Port had to hang on with ten men but none of that mattered now. We now had a cup final to look forward to. More importantly, in the absence of Chas and/or Dave, who is going to record our cup final song?

What’s Next

In the context of this FA Cup, Port will face Ratchaburi in the final. On paper this looks a much more winnable game than facing Buriram, but the Sugar Boys will be feeling confident themselves after disposing of Buriram within 90 minutes in the other semi-final.

At the time of writing the final is still scheduled to be played at Suphanburi, but being Thailand, there could yet be another twist in the tail….

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Worawut

It was hard to pick out an individual performance in what was a pretty dogged and turgid game of football. Worawut himself was one of two Port keepers that got an hour’s football on the night. Rattanai may have made an impressive, and more headline grabbing save from 12 yards in the shootout, but Wozza’s save from 2 yards in normal time was much more impressive, and ultimately put his own body on the line to preserve the clean sheet.

 

FA Cup Semi-Final Ticket Info

 

After this week’s late but sensible change of venue, tickets for Port’s FA Cup semi with Bangkok Utd go on sale this Friday at Thai Ticket Major outlets and online at https://www.thaiticketmajor.com/sport/chang-fa-cup-2019-semi-final-royal-thai-army-stadium.html. Tickets range from 80-100-150BHT.

The game takes place at Army Stadium (18 September, KO 19:00) and the various ticket areas are shown above and in more detail below. The general consensus amongst Sandpitters seems to be E1. See you there!

 

 

 

 

Semi Slot: Port Face Angels in FA Cup Showdown

 

The draw for the 2019 Chang FA Cup semis was made earlier this week, and Port will play perennial bogey team Bangkok Utd, with Buriram facing a somewhat easier task against Ratchaburi. The game takes place on Wednesday 18 September at 19:00.

With Rajamangala being refurbished in order to host an U23 tournament in January, and with the FAT having apparently fallen out with Chulalongkorn University, landlords of Supachalasai, Port’s semi will take place at the 4500-capacity Boonyachinda (Police Tero), with the other semi taking place at 72nd Anniversary (Thai Honda) – rather like the English FA announcing that, what with Wembley being refurbished for a couple of U18 girls’ games and what with them having fallen out with Spurs & Arsenal, the FA Cup semis will be held at Brentford and Wycombe. But from an organisation that considers Thammasat a suitable venue for a World Cup qualifier, what else can one expect, other than an appropriately sponsored pissup in a brewery.

We will share news about ticket sales and TV coverage as soon as we get it – 17 September probably.

UPDATE

Following, one assumes, someone at Port having a quiet word in the FAT’s ear, the semi-final will take place at Army Stadium. Whilst it’s still not a proper football stadium, at least it has a decent capacity. One wonders why Boonyachinda was chosen in the first place, but at least common sense has prevailed!

 

At Home with a Chiang: Port Draw Beetles in FA Cup QF

 

The draw for the quarter finals of the Chang FA Cup was made earlier this afternoon, and whilst Port were fortunate both to avoid Buriram and Bangkok Utd, and get a home draw, they nevertheless face the tricky task of overcoming cup specialists (and 2018 winners) Chiang Rai Utd. The Beetles are experts at grinding out cup wins and have also taken 4 points from their two league games with Port this season, so if Port are to make the semis they need to be at their very best.

It’s good news for ostracised skipper David Rochela though, as assuming he decides to stay at the club it means he’ll get to play at least one more game at the PAT in a Port shirt.

The game takes place on Wednesday 7 August at 19:00.

 

The Same Old ‘Thong: Fans Banned from SCG on Wednesday

 

As predicted, Port have confirmed to The Sandpit that the away fan ban at Muangthong will remain in place for this Wednesday’s last 16 FA Cup clash. The usual copout, which if course much easier than putting measures in place to ensure away fans’ safety. With the recent cooling of rivalry after MTU fans came to the PAT to pay their respects to the Port fans lost in a road accident, it seemed that common sense would prevail and away fans be allowed back in, but sadly once again one of the biggest derbies in Thai football will be away fans only.

No word as yet whether Port will be showing the game on a ‘big’ screen, but with the match not apparently being shown on TV, this could prove difficult. Add in the Buddhist Lent alcohol ban, and the two sides’ current form, and it looks like being a pretty miserable Wednesday for Port fans…

UPDATE

There are now 3 tasty options for watching the game:

Live on TV (True HD3)

At our sponsors The Sportsman

At the PAT, where we hear a big screen will be erected for the occasion

 

 

The Cup that Cheers: Port Draw Muangthong in Chang FA Cup

 

The draw for the round of 16 in the Chang FA Cup just took place, and to the obvious excitement of all involved, Port have been drawn away at deadly rivals Muangthong Utd. We said we wanted an easy draw and whilst this isn’t the T3 or T4 team we could’ve drawn, it’s at a ground where Port haven’t lost since 2015 and where they’ve won on their last three visits. Striker Josimar Rodrigues, who absolutely loves scoring against MTU, will be back at Port by then giving us additional hope of a place in the QFs.

The game will take place on Wednesday 17 July, KO time to be confirmed. As yet there is no word on whether Port fans will be allowed to attend but, based on our experience of the away league game, we’re guessing it’s no. But it’s another chance for the players to get more stamps on their SCG Nightclub membership cards – surely 4 stamps entitles you to a free bottle of champers?

 

 

Port Four Play Leaves Bats A-Flutter: Port FC 4-1 Sukhothai FC (Chang FA Cup R32)

 

 

When Port were drawn against Sukhothai in the FA Cup round of 32, the tie had the look of a potential banana skin about it – despite their lowly league position, the Firebats have one of the best defences in T1, and until Buriram’s visit last Sunday were the only team to have beaten Port all season. Fortunately for Port, but unfortunately for those of us who were hoping for a competitive game, Sukhothai are clearly prioritising T1 survival and put out a second string side, making this little more than a training exercise for Port’s first XI.

The floodgates opened as early as the 8th minute, when Pakorn (7) hit a freekick from the left of the penalty area, which former Port keeper Wanlop helpfully palmed into the net; but then Sukhothai sat back and defended resolutely, holding out against intense Port pressure until the 34th minute, when Pakorn curled in his second freekick of the night. The Midfield Monk loves playing against lowly opposition, but I wish he could find this kind of form when the big boys are in town. On the stroke of half time Bodin (10) scored a third but I’d already gone out for a cleansing ale by that point so can’t tell you what happened.

Predictably, the second half began with the usual Toby Time goal. Nurul (31) was upended in the area and Cap’n Rochela stroked home the pen to give Port an unassailable lead. Sukhothai got a consolation goal with a 75th minute penalty, but that was it for second half action and the gentle workout was just what Port needed before Sunday’s tricky trip to face MK Dons. The only black cloud was Go (8) going off late in the game with a knock, closely followed by the arrival of an ambulance at the stadium. Let’s hope it was just a precaution, as the last thing Port need now is to lose their midfield general.

**UPDATE**

Go suffered a bang on the head & the ambulance was just a precaution – he’ll be fit for Sunday’s game at Samut Prakhan.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Pakorn

Two fine goals. No contest.

 

Trat’s Entertainment! Trat FC 2-3 Port FC (Chang FA Cup R3)

 

 

A one-day trip to Trat with Spiderming and the Thai fans? 10 hours in the bus? It was going to be a long trip, but what the hell, I decided to go anyway.

 

Almost 40 people joined the big Tarua bus leaving the PAT at 9:30 AM and after 4 hours, 4 LEO boxes and 5 whisky bottles we got to Chanthaburi where we stopped for lunch in a touristy spot with a food court and loads of shops. After an hour stop for lunch we headed to the Taksin Camp and the King of Thonburi memorial for of course a praying session while I hung around those handsome soldiers.

 

 

OK, have a look at the outside of our bus – you can see those massive speakers and that was the reason why people stared at us when we arrived at the Trat FC stadium. WE ARE TARUA so we gotta make some noise wherever we go. After a warm welcome from the Trat FC fans and free tickets from our Tarua staff, we were ready for the game. Port started with strong team but how poor they played for the first 20 minutes! After some bad defending by Kevin (97) and Rochela (22), Trat scored their first goal via Tardeli at minute 21.

The second half began with an apparently long way offside goal by Trat striker Tardeli (though I saw he was onside when I watched the video) – more bad defence from our defenders, and a bad bad bad feeling for us so far and we started to regret to take such a long trip to come to support our players when they didn’t look like they cared about the game.

 

 

Then Jadet made a big change, Panpanpong (19) for Bodin (10) and Kevin moved forward which worked almost immediately as Kim (8) scored from a Boskovic headed assist – 2-1 and there was still hope.

Then our fans ran out of whisky as they been caught by Trat security, so the other guy decided to go out during the game and buy more; when he came into the stadium with a glass of ice, people start shouting at him but he quickly calmed them down and took out the whiskey bottle out of his anus (are you quite sure about this? Ed). Hopefully the taste didnt change after the long time hidden in his arse to go through security.

Adisorn (13) got the ball near the Trat goal but was tackled by…hang on, that was Suarez (5), thought he played for Port? What the hell is going on down there? Anon (20) then came on for  Adisorn and the team played much better and we got the second goal at minute 81 – Panphanphong with a nice cross to Kim, who headed to Suarez and he didnt’ make any mistake to score our second goal to equal the score. What a great header from Kim though.

 

 

4 into minutes extra time, a flick back from Suarez, Kim took it nicely and passed to Kevin, who finished beautifully. What is more exciting than a late winning goal? Port won 3-2 and Trat went out of the FA Cup, along with Muangthong who lost to Chiang Rai on penalties – we won, that’s great, but even greater when you know your enemy has lost!

End of the game and it was time to stop at 7-11 to buy some more alcohol for the way back home, followed by a late dinner by the road at Chanthaburi. We got back to PAT Stadium at 2am and I headed home with 3kg of mangosteen from Chanthaburi at the end of a long away trip with our great fans. I need a good sleep now!

 

Tim’s Sandpit Man of the Match – Kim Sung Hwan

Make no mistake, Port got out of jail here after a first half that was as poor as the Chainat game. With Port’s big beasts failing to show up, Kim took the game by the scruff of the neck and almost single-handedly dragged Port into the quarter-finals with probably his finest performance in a Port shirt so far. A goal, two assists, and the kind of on-pitch leadership that the team so badly needed at 2-0 down. He needs to play like this more often.

 

Trat! That Was Liquid Football: Port Face White Elephants in FA Cup R3

 

Having comfortably seen off T2 leaders PTT Rayong in R2 of the 2018 Chang FA Cup, Port face the second-placed team in the division next week when they travel down the eastern seaboard to Roy Hodgson’s favourite beach resort, Trat.

The White Elephants have proved anything but superfluous this season and are in with a very good shout of making the surprise jump to T1, and with former Muangthong/Pattaya goal machine Milan Bubalo up front, Port could be in for a tricky evening. Will Trat go for it, or will they cast the cup aside as Rayong did in order to focus on their promotion bid? Let’s hope it’s the latter, and that Port will have a comfortable passage to the quarter finals in what is, barring a 1996 Newcastle-esque collapse from Buriram, their last chance of silverware this season.

Trat FC vs Port FC

Wednesday 25 July 2018, 18:00 at Trat Stadium

See Spiderming for fan bus bookings