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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.

 

Meet the Cheatles!: Port FC vs Chiang Rai Utd Preview

 

The second half of the season begins with Port in somewhat of a slump. Having gone into the Buriram match top of the table and for the first time feeling like we did so not as underdogs but as genuine rivals to the champions, we have twice been undone by well organised teams that got a lead and sat back, as the Port game plan was reduced, as so many times before, to get it wide and hope for the best.

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Plus Ca Chiang: Chiang Rai Utd 0-0 Port FC

 

 

With Gama & Victor having left during the close season, talk before the game was of Chiang Rai possibly playing better, less cynical football this year. Sadly The Sandpit can confirm that such hope is sorely misplaced, and the Beetles remain T1’s finest exponents of shithousery. In a game where there was clearly no love lost between the two sets of players following this same fixture last season, the home side’s ugly anti-football came up against Port’s tactical predictability, with a draw the logical outcome.

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Curtain Rai-ser: Chiang Rai United vs. Port FC Preview

 

It’s time. After a tortuously long off-season, T1 football finally returns this weekend, with Port facing a tricky away tie in Chiang Rai on Sunday. Events seem to be conspiring in Port’s favour though, with last season’s fifth place finishers facing numerous challenges in the run-up to Sunday’s curtain-raiser. First, The Beetles sacked their manager the week before the opening game, then they went on to endure an exhausting midweek defeat, after extra time and penalties, to Japanese side Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the ACL qualifiers. Port, on the other hand, have been finding their form in some improved friendly performances, putting five past Chonburi, three past Prachuap and two past Chinese side Changchun Yatai in the last few weeks.

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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.

 

Dolah’s Incensed: Chiang Rai Utd 2-0 Port FC

 

 

There can be few better places to enjoy a game of football than Chiang Rai in September. Lovely cool evening weather, a beautiful purpose-built stadium, and a mature attitude to in-stadium beer consumption all contribute to the ideal Thai footy experience, and throw in some particularly friendly food vendors handing out free crispy worms, and the weary travelling fan couldn’t ask for more. Apart, of course, from a decent crowd (note to the FAT – on what planet is 5.45pm on a Wednesday a good kick-off time?), and a referee with a degree of competence and integrity. That, in Thai football, seems too much to ask.

 

Stadium food Chiang Rai style. Who needs pies?

 

Following the piss-poor performances against Prachuap & Chainat, the uninformed observer may have expected Jadet to make a few changes to take into account certain players’ poor form and the inevitable fatigue that comes with playing two games per week. Those of us who know better were not at all surprised that the only change was an enforced one, with the suspended Pakorn replaced not by another winger, but by Port’s own midfield Jack Russell, Adisorn (13). Quite how Jadet had told his players to line up was a mystery to us and the players themselves, with Boskovic (23), Nurul (31) and Suarez (5) all having spells on the right, left and middle. It would’ve been no surprise had Bosko popped up manning the sausage stand under the away end, such was the players’ obvious confusion.

 

 

But Port began brightly, bossing possession and passing the ball around crisply. Chiang Rai simply couldn’t get near them until the 3rd minute, when Chaiyawat (and you’ll be reading more, oh so much more, about this dickhead later) broke forward and fed the left winger who crossed to an unmarked Phittiwat on the edge of the box, who fired home impressively past Worawut (36) to give the Beetles an undeserved lead.

Port once again began passing the ball around comfortably without really threatening and Chiang Rai, rather like a man whose wife has been invited out for the evening by Elton John, were happy to sit back & let them get on with it in the knowledge that there would be no penetration. But after a while Elton, presumably feeling nostalgic for his brief 1980s liaison with busty German saucepot Renate Blauel, started feeling a bit frisky. On 18 minutes Nurul broke into the box and picked out an unmarked Suarez, but the out-of-sorts Spaniard could only pass the ball tamely into the keeper’s arms. A few minutes later Siwakorn (16) curled a shot just wide of the post, and just before half-time Suarez headed narrowly over the bar. 1-0 at half-time, with Port much the better side and Chiang Rai seemingly happy to park the bus against far more talented opponents.

 

 

The second half began in similar vein, with Bodin (10), briefly remembering how to play football and hitting the side netting with a long shot, before the game was transformed by the worst piece of refereeing I’ve seen at a Port game since the infamous Chainat Debacle in 2014. Dolah (4) blocked a shot from Chaiyawat – known henceforth as Chaiyatwat – and the players briefly collided. The big Swede, being the decent sort of gent that he is, tried to help Chaiyatwat to his feet, but the latter reacted angrily and then, seeing that Port were bombing up the pitch at considerable speed, fell to the turf clutching his face. Port played on, and when Chiang Rai regained possession, they gave a similar number of fucks about Chaiyatwat’s plight as the rest of us – that number being zero – and launched an attack of their own, only to start surrounding the ref as soon as the ball went out of play. The ref, who throughout the game seemed to be waiting for the home side to tell him what decisions to make, bizarrely booked both players; at which point CR defender Victor, a huge bear of a man temporarily doing a pretty convincing impression of a weasel, minced over to the ref to point out that Elias had already been booked, and the ref produced a red card. An early bath for the big no4, and my sources tell me that he went the full Thiago on the dressing room door on his way back. And why not.

Minutes later Chaiyatwat cut out a Port attack with his hand – technically a straight red but at least a yellow – yet, despite being given a good mauling by a by-now incandescent Boskovic, the ref let him off. By this point the Port players were in a state of fury, as were the away fans, with one Sandpitter who shall remain nameless (cough) heading down several rows to the front of the away end to hurl abuse at the cheating fucker in the orange 18 shirt. Clearly fearing for their player’s safety, Chaiyatwat was subbed off to a rousing sendoff from the Khlong Thoey Army.

 

Chaiyatwat’s personal dressing room

 

With Port’s twin farang strike force always playing better when they’re nursing a grievance, Port tore into the home team but their best chances fell to Bodin, whose brief moment of enlightenment at the start of the half had long since passed, and who had reverted to his by now standard impression of “man seeing football for the first time”. It was inevitable that Chiang Rai would catch Port on the break and they added a second in injury time, condemning Port to a very unfortunate away win in a game they dominated and, but for the ridiculous referee, could well have won.

That said, all is clearly not well at Port. The team have won just twice in the last 11 games in all competitions (against Police Tero & Trat), and a team that was tearing T1 apart with pace, style and intensity a few weeks ago now looks lost & demoralised. Several players clearly don’t want to be there, others have visibly regressed, and any semblance of a tactical plan has long since vanished. Boskovic in particular seems like a lost soul, popping up all over the pitch when he should be planting himself up front and demanding some decent service. Jadet needs to look up the word “meritocracy” in the dictionary because at the moment he’s picking his standard first XI regardless of form and attitude, and the team are suffering as a result. Mme Pang was away on an Instagramming holiday to Paris, and there will be few people on the Port staff looking forward to her return.

We left the stadium with the red mist still hovering above our heads, but thankfully our faith in humanity and the fine townspeople of Chiang Rai was very quickly restored. Having taken a “fuck it, let’s worry about it later” approach to getting back into town after the game, we found ourselves stranded and facing a long walk. 5 minutes down the road I spotted a farang returning to his car and asked him how one might go about getting to the night market. He didn’t understand me so, recognising his accent, I switched to the old francais, and the farang in question revealed himself as Alain, French retiree and longtime resident of Chiang Rai. Not only that, but he also turned out to be a fellow St Etienne fan, having followed the mighty Verts throughout Europe during their late 70s/early 80s glory years, and happily ushered us into his car and took us all the way into town. Merci monsieur. Then, having located a khao soy stand, the chef complimented us on our choice of football team and threw an extra chicken leg into each bowl. It may have been the warming, hearty goodness of the soup, the kindness of strangers, or the large amount of beer I’d consumed by that point, but my wife informs me there was a tear in my jaded old eye as I slurped down my bowl of the very best.

And so as is often the case, another away trip which would’ve been perfect had we not had to go & watch football. As Alain would say, plus ca change…

 

Post-match khao soy therapy

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: David Rochela

Despite dark mutterings in various Port fan circles about his declining powers, El Capitan was at his very best last night, mopping up at the back, starting attacks with his accurate passing, and making several last-ditch tackles. Honourable mentions to to the ever-reliable Nitipong (34), Adisorn (who was our best player until Jadet inexplicably subbed him off) and Kim (8), who at least tried to instill some order into the tactical chaos that was Port’s midfield.

 

Boskovic vs Cleiton: Port to Face Chiang Rai in Leo Cup

 

The draw for the forthcoming Leo Cup pre-season tournament has just been made, and Port have been handed a tough draw against Chiang Rai Utd in the first round, with the game taking place on Tuesday 9 January at 20:00 in Khon Kaen 18:00 in Chiang Mai

The draw pits two of the dark horses for 2018 T1 honours against each other, with both sides splashing the cash during the break, and two of the Scariest SFSs in Thai football history – Port’s Dragan Boskovic and Chiang Rai’s Cleiton Silva – coming face to face.

The other fixtures can be seen in the image above. If Port win, they’ll join the other R1 winners in the semi-finals which are scheduled to take place on the hallowed turf of the PAT on Friday 12 January, with the final being held in the godforsaken Theatre of Corrugated Iron that is the SCG on Sunday 14 January.

 

Odd Odds as Bookies Make Chiang Rai Favourites for 2017 Thai League

 

Siamsport this week published the latest betting odds on the 2017 Thai League, with one big surprise in store – big-spending Chiang Rai Utd are favourites to take the title, closely followed by the usual suspects Buriram, Muangthong and Bangkok Utd. Port are unfancied, coming in 15th at 450/1. Worth a cheeky 1000BHT in my opinion.

 

Here is the full list, with thanks to Facebook page Thai League Football for the translation:

 

1. Chiangrai Utd 5/2
2. Buriram Utd 3/1
3. Muangthong Utd 7/2
4. Bangkok Utd 6/1
5. Bangkok Glass 7/1
6. Chonburi 20/1
7. Ratchaburi 30/1
8. Suphanburi 40/1
9. Sukhothai 70/1
10. BEC Tero 150/1
11. Nakhon Ratchasima 300/1
12. Pattaya Utd 300/1
13. Sisaket 350/1
14. Thai Honda 400/1
15. Thai Port 450/1
16. Siam Navy 500/1
17. Ubon UMT 700/1
18. Osotspa Superpower 1000/1

 

Dodgy betting patterns, or a fair reflection of Chiang Rai’s close season transfer activity?