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Muangthanks: Muangthong United 0-2 Port FC

Port move in to the last 8 of the FA Cup after overcoming rivals Muangthong 0-2, but really it was Port’s opposition who we have to give credit to for the victory, with a couple of suicidal defensive acts swinging a pretty poor game which neither side particularly deserved to win. It’s not every day us Port fans extend heartfelt and genuine thanks to a club with whom we have had so many problems in recent years, but let me, on behalf of all Port fans, do so now: Thankyou, Muangthong.

In the spirit of friendship in which Muangthong so generously handed victory to us last night, I will endeavor throughout my report to treat our red-clad brethren with as much respect as they showed us last night. That’ll make for an interesting change of pace.

 

 

Port lined up in a curious formation which, despite minimal changes in perssonel, represented a significant tactical departure for embattled coach Jadet. Usually a big believer in width, which is emphasized in his favoured 4-2-3-1 system, Jadet this time played a narrow 4-4-2, with the midfield four set up in a diamond formation. Worawut (36), the third goalkeeper Port have used in four games, was a surprise inclusion between the sticks, with the rather more familiar sight, although we won’t be able to say that for much longer, of Rochela (22) and Dolah (4) in front of him. Nitipong (34) and impressive new arrival Martin Steuble (15) manned the full back positions, with a remit to attack even more freely than usual necessitated by Jadet’s narrow set-up. At the base of the midfield diamond was Go (8), while Bodin (10) played to his left and Siwakorn (16) to his right. Sumanya (11) played in his favourite role just behind the forwards, who on this occasion were the familiar Suarez (5) and unknown quantity Rolando Blackburn (99).

The early going was scrappy, with both teams working hard but ultimately failing to create many clear-cut chances. Most moves broke down in the middle of the park, with Sumanya in particular for Port being very wasteful and possession. It was crowded in there, with Siwakorn unsurprisingly showing a proclivity to play more centrally than your average right sided midfielder. Focusing on Port’s shortcomings is only half the story, though. Muangthong, in the spirit of brotherhood in which I’m sure it was intended, were almost entirely unthreatening. Adisak (11), a player who we often malign for… well, everything, was suitably helpful to Port’s cause, and Derley (87) was the epitome of the striker who you want on the opposing team.

Heberty (7) was the only man who looked capable of making Port’s life difficult, but after creating a shooting chance for himself with a fantastic run on 24 minutes his deflected shot was tipped wide by the excellent Worawut (36). The resulting corner, taken by Heberty himself, was also flicked towards the far post dangerously by Oh Ban-suk (4) but thankfully his effort drifted just wide. Heberty took aim himself 10 minutes later with his viciously struck long range freekick well dealt with once again by Worawut.

The best two chances of the half fell to both sides in the last 5 minutes. First, Siwakorn fed Nitipong, whose looping cross found Rolando with plenty of space and time to direct his header, but he was some way out with a poor effort not coming close to troubling Dang Van Lam (1) in the Muangthong goal. Then a cross from Muangthong’s right was half blocked by Rochela, but fell to that man Heberty once again, who really should have done better with his side-footed effort, which went straight to Worawut, who nevertheless held it well.

The second half started quietly, with the quality remaining as poor as ever. Suarez put another wonderful chance on a plate for Rolando on 67 minutes, but the Panamanian was once again off target with a pretty weak attempt. Steuble, covering a lot of ground down Port’s left, tried his luck with his weaker foot a few minutes later but fired well over.

Muangthong were first to call on substitutes, with Brazilian Bruno Gallo (88) and Teerasil (10) tasked with turning to tide. Gallo came close with a well-struck volley which missed by the finest of margins, but it was Teerasil, in combination with another substitute, who would really shake things up. Jadet called on Pakorn (7), notably absent from the starting XI after his run-in with Port fans last week, and with his very first touch the Midfield Monk showed why we tolerate his deplorable attitude. Port win a freekick on the right flank. You know the rest. Or maybe not. Pakorn’s cross was bang on the money, and although the Port attackers failed to get the vital touch, Teerasil was on hand to put Port in to the lead. The Muangthong captain, who has had a very poor season since returning from the J League, wasn’t even concentrating on the ball; he was busy appealing to the linesman. The linesman, his arm probably knackered after giving almost very forward pass offside in the first half, for once stood still as the ball bounced off a confused Teerasil’s thigh, sending Port fans, crowded around TVs all over Khlongtoei, in to wild celebrations. Thanks guys, we couldn’t have done it without you! It was also a fantastic redemption story for Pakorn, who once again reminded his many critics what he brings to the team. Love him or loathe him, this is what he does.

Just a one goal win wouldn’t do, though. Chappuis, inspired by his captain, gave Rolando the chance to make the game safe and make his debut a dream start. Credit must go to the new man for having the awareness to run on to Chappuis’ beautifully weighted through ball, which at once set the Port man free on goal and took a despairing Dang Van Lam out of the game. Precision. Rolando tried his best to make a meal out of the finish, scuffing his shot a little and allowing Dang to get his fingertips on it, but nevertheless the ball found the back of the net and Port had the two goal cushion they needed to put the result beyond doubt. The defence, which has struggled horribly in the last few weeks, were even able to hold on to an encouraging clean sheet.

The result could be massive for Port’s season. Many a time has a cup win inspired improved league form, and with a tricky trip to Rayong coming up this Saturday, the boost in confidence could be the catalyst for a long overdue return to form. Jadet also has some breathing room, quieting some of the calls for his replacement for the time being.

At the end of the day, a tough game has been successfully negotiated and Port are through to the last 8. Almost all of the remaining teams hail from the top half of T1, though. The only team one could really say are an easy draw are Thai Honda, so expect Port to face a tougher test than what Muangthong offered in the quarter finals.

 

The Sandpit’s Man of the Match

 

 

A shared award this time, I think. Both Teerasil and Chappuis provided moments of magic that put Port over the line, and are equally deserving of our gratitude.

Seriously though, Worawut is probably the only Port player who can be entirely happy with his performance, dealing with everything Heberty had to throw at him admirably, although as always looking very punch-happy from corners and crosses. The defence were also solid, although most had the odd heart-in-mouth moment at some point.

 

Suphan Main Course: Port FC vs. Suphanburi FC, 19th Feb 2017

 

Port FC face Suphanburi FC at 19:00 on Sunday. Suphanburi finished in a disappointing 10th place in the TPL last year, making them just the kind of team that Port should be looking to take all 3 points from at PAT Stadium if they are going to achieve their goal of a top half finish this season. Here we will take an in-depth look at Port’s opponents before turning our attention to Jadet’s team selection.

Suphanburi FC

Players to Watch

 

Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool (18) is Thailand’s second choice ‘keeper at international level and, even at 34, is still one of the best in the business. He is an excellent shot-stopper, but is better known for charging off his line and is a classic example of a ‘sweeper-keeper’.

Adul Lahso (19) is a disciplined, no-nonsense defensive midfielder who protects Suphanburi’s back four and very rarely loses possession. He played one season in Japan, and has made 34 appearances for the Thai National Team. Adul will likely be tasked with keeping tabs on Sergio Suarez (5), who will be trying to operate between Suphanburi’s midfield and defence.

Charyl Chappuis (7) is a Thai-Swiss central midfielder with possibly the best range of passing in T1. His ability to pick out a 40 yard pass and land it on a 1 baht coin is reminiscent of Scholes in his prime, although Chappuis’ legion of female fans would probably not be too happy with the comparison. Chappuis’ career has been blighted by injury, but after missing the majority of the last 2 seasons, he is now back to full fitness and eager to impress. Chappuis is not one to be intimidated by the famously hostile atmosphere at PAT Stadium, leaving this cheeky comment on Instagram after we warned him what to expect.

Dellatorre (9) was Suphanburi’s top scorer in 2016, netting a useful but not particularly scary 10 goals in 26 games for The War Elephants. The 1.86m striker looks like a bit of a handful, although the way Rochela (22) and Dolah (4) handled the physical side of Ratchaburi striker Marcel Essombe’s game last week, his size shouldn’t prove too much of a problem.

Thanasith Siriphala (11) is a quick, tricky left-winger who didn’t start Suphanburi’s first game of the season, but looked electric when he came off the bench. Known as Taodinho, (his nickname is Tao, and the dinho comes from his rather more famous buck-toothed doppelganger) he absolutely terrorized Port last time he came to PAT Stadium, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win for Bangkok Glass. Let’s hope Meechok (20) is fit enough to play 90 minutes at right-back this week, as the prospect of Taodinho running at Nitipong (34) is not one that Port fans will relish.

 

Sinthaweechai, Adul, Chappuis, Dellatorre and Tanasith

 

Form

 

It’s hard to judge form so early in the season, so we will give you a brief account of Suphanburi’s first game of the season. The War Elephants earned a hard-fought 2-1 win against newly-promoted Thai Honda, but looked far from comfortable against a team that is expected to be in the lower reaches of the T1 table. Suphanburi looked good in central midfield with Adul (19) and Chappuis (7) combining well, and dangerous going forward, with Chananan (10), Dellatorre (9) and Madrigal (8) looking sharp. Defensively, however, there was a lot to be desired from The War Elephants, and it was indecision from two defenders that led to Thai Honda taking the lead. They both stood and waited for the other to take control of an innocuous ball across the 6 yard box, and Honda midfielder Peemvit (11) snuck between them to head the ball past Sinthaweechai (18).

Suphanburi always looked likely to equalize though, and it was a peach of a pass that led to the goal. Chappuis (7) showed excellent vision and technique to play a pinpoint ball over the top, and former Thai under 23 striker Chananan (10) did well to beat the keeper with a first time shot from a tight angle.

Suphanburi’s winner came just before half time, as an unmarked Dellatorre (9) did well to connect with a deep corner, sticking a leg out and sending an unconventional finish past Buncha (24) in the Honda goal. Honda will have been disappointed with their defending though, as Dellatorre should never have lost his marker with such ease.

Honda pushed on in search of an equalizer in the second half and the game really opened up, leading to several chances for both sides. Sinthaweechai (18) made a quality save late on to ensure that Suphanburi held on for the win, and they will head to PAT Stadium with 3 points under their belt despite a patchy performance.

 

The Suphanburi Perspective

 

We caught up with Matt who runs the @fcsuphanburi Twitter account to get a feel for how the away side are expecting to do this season.

“This season, for Suphanburi after their poor end to the truncated season last year, a fit again Charyl Chappuis, three Brazilian and one Argentine new imports, there needs to be a lot of samba flair. I am a big fan of second time round coach Sergio Farias. He is a calm and clear tactician who now has at least four members of the squad that he can communicate directly with (his English is very basic). There seems a good mixture of experience (not sure where the 38 year old Rangsan fits in) with thirty year old Adul a stabilising force for the team and keeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool a consummate professional to influence the younger players. The preseason has not been great, but a come from behind win against Thai Honda with Dellatore bagging the winner showed some promise. It is time for him and Chananan to show what they are capable of. Both flattered to achieve last season. Fourth is the new first, so I expect the best case scenario to be that. Title winners are Muang Thong, dark horses are Scott Cooper’s Ubon and a good cup run and fighting for an AFC place would be a good step forward for Suphanburi after the frustrations of last season.”

We also asked Matt to pick out one key player to watch from both sides. From Suphanburi he chose Brazilian striker Dellatorre.

“For Suphanburi, a slimmer Dellatorre has plenty of skill and, if he can improve his work rate and consistency, he will always prove a threat. His ability has never been in doubt, but his fitness and application have let him down in the past. Fitter and thinner, a good run in the team supported by the “Syrian” duo  [Ed – Brazilian duo Marcelo and Gilson have both recently acquired Syrian passports] might, finally, bring out the best in a player of undoubted ability.”

Unsurprisingly, his player to watch from Port was captain and last week’s Port FC Man of the Match David Rochela.

“For Port, I have always felt David Rochela is a touch of class. He has the football intelligence to keep the younger players in a more disciplined frame of mind and the temperament to cope with the febrile atmosphere at the PAT. He should score more goals in a season from set pieces, but he is a real defender’s defender.”

 

Port FC

The Starting XI – Selection Headaches

 

Jadet has some key decisions to make after Genki rescued a point for Port last week against Ratchaburi.

Rattanai (17) should retain his place in goal after an excellent performance on Saturday, while Rochela (22) and Dolah (4) will continue in central defence.

If Meechok (20) has fully recovered from the knock he picked up in pre-season, it’s a no-brainer to bring the youngster in for Nitipong (34) at right back. Whilst Nitipong got forward well against Ratchaburi, his defensive struggles mean he is very likely to be back on the bench.

There is another slightly trickier decision to be made at left back. Piyachart (23) played OK against Ratchaburi, but also seemed to prioritise attack over defence. Panpanpong (19) replaced him in the second half and played with more discipline, but looked poor going forward. With the less-than-inspiring options Jadet has available to him, it is perhaps unsurprising that the club have chosen to dip in to the loan market to snap up Surachet from Chainat on a 1 year deal. We’re unsure whether Surachet will be considered for selection this week, and we are also not certain if Jadet intends to play him in defence or midfield. With Surachet having been at the club less than a week – and attack-minded Suphanburi the opponents – it seems likely that the more defensive Panpanpong will make his first competitive start for Port.

The biggest head-scratcher from the Ratchaburi game was Jadet’s central midfield selection. Siwakorn (16) and Suarez (5) were of course expected to be starting, and it wasn’t a complete surprise to see Piyachat (88) get the nod, but I doubt that a single person in PAT Stadium expected to see Adisorn (13) come off the bench. Is there a reason that Tatchanon (39) or Wanchalerm (40) were not even in the squad? Both impressed far more than Adisorn in pre-season, with Tatchanon in particular looking like a class act in the holding midfield role. With Piyachat injured until the end of the month, we will be very interested to see who Jadet picks. If you’re reading, Jadet, anyone but Adisorn, please!

Pakorn (9) and Genki (18) combined to rescue a point for Port last week, and will surely continue on the wings, but Jadet could ring the changes up front. Kaludjerovic (10) looked a little off the pace against Ratchaburi, despite finding the net several times in pre-season. With new signing Josimar (30) likely to be in contention for a place in the side, Jadet could consider making a change, although we think he’s much more likely to stick with the Serb for now.

 

Predicted Starting XI

 

 

The Key Battle

Suarez vs. Adul

 

 

Suarez will likely be in the same advanced midfield role he played against Ratchaburi, while Adul will be sitting in front of his back four trying to track the Spaniard’s forward runs. If Suarez can find space and time on the ball, and make Adul’s life difficult when Suphanburi have possession, then it could well give Port the upper hand. Alternatively, if Adul can nullify the Suarez threat and dictate the pace of play, then Suphanburi will likely control the game.

 

 

Thanks to Matt from @fcsuphanburi for contributing.