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Mai Pen Rai: Port FC 2-2 Chiang Rai Utd (Port win 12-11 on penalties)

Port scraped through a bruising encounter with Chiang Rai to book their place in the Leo Cup Final, which will be played on Tuesday. Chiang Rai were moments away from progressing until Port converted a late penalty, after which we went on to tuck away an astonishing 12 more in a marathon penalty shootout. Chiang Rai’s new Brazilian Mailson (11) was the fall guy. Not picked in the starting XI, Mailson looked poor after coming on, before missing the target entirely with two woeful spot-kick attempts. Not a good start for Thin Bill’s replacement.

 

 

The game started as you would expect any tie involving Chiang Rai to start. Both sides kicked eachother. A lot. Dolah (4) opened his account early, accidentally stepping on Chaiyawat Buran (26), who you may remember (Dolah certainly does) got the big man sent off a couple of years back with some particularly egregious foul play. Chiang Rai had their sights set on Port’s creative talents, with both Bordin (10) and Suarez (5) appearing to be targeted with persistent kicks and tugs.

In between the kicking, diving, pushing and foul language some football did eventually break out. Adisak (9) blazed wide from a tricky angle early on, then headed over from close range after a dangerous corner from the left, before grazing the post after the ball was gifted to him with the defence and goalkeeper out of position. It was not looking like his day, once again.

Despite Port looking like marginally the better side though, all it took was one lapse to turn the tables. Rochela (22) committed himself and was beaten far too easily, allowing Bill (9) a clear waddle at Worawut (36). Even as slow and rotund as he is, he had the time and space to pick his spot, and Worawut’s finger tips weren’t quite strong enough to keep his composed finish out.

 

 

Port responded with a substitution. Suarez (5), after picking up a knock in the last round, was withdrawn, hopefully as a precautionary measure. In his place, Tanasith (11) was given the chance to impress with the first team. He added an urgency and attacking endeavor to Port’s game that was lacking with Heberty (37) slowing the game down on the right. The Brazilian was once again looking lethargic and, frankly, continued the trend of being one of Port’s worst players throughout pre-season.

After half time, Port continued to press with Tanasith providing the spark, and the little man soon provided Adisak with a chance that surely even he couldn’t botch. Tanasith danced on to Heberty’s pass down the right, removed the ‘keeper from the equation with a deft chip and presented Adisak with an open goal from a couple of yards out. Port’s oft wayward striker finally put to bed his run of missed chances, getting above his marker and finding the back of the net. Hopefully that will have done his confidence some good!

 

 

Port failed to maintain concentration and kick on, though, immediately allowing Chiang Rai to re-establish their lead. Nitipong (34) and Dolah allowed Chaiyawat a little too much time after a well-weighted ball down the left, and the forward struck a vicious left footed effort towards goal. He hit it well, but Worawut won’t be happy to have been beaten by his effort, which went straight over his head and in to the back of the net.

Port didn’t look particularly likely to level the game, with multiple substitutions from both sides breaking up the flow of the game, but a stroke of fortune did eventually lead to a very late equalizer. Heberty’s freekick was cleared to Chenrop (39), and his attempted cross struck the arm of Chiang Rai forward Somkid (17). The referee didn’t see it initially, awarding a corner, but after receiving word from his linesman a penalty was correctly given. Brinner (5) and several other players harangued the referee and delayed the taking of the penalty for several minutes, and Chiang Rai even brought on apparent ‘specialist’ penalty stopper Saranon Anuin (1) to up the ante. Heberty, entirely nonplussed by the nonsense going on around him, coolly converted, and the tie went straight to a shootout.

 

 

Port immediately set about trying to lose, naming their entire back 4 among the first 5 takers. Todsapol (6) and Dolah (4) both missed the target, but Brazilian winger Mailson followed suit before former Port midfielder Tatchanon (7) slipped and saw his effort saved by Worawut. A remarkable succession of successful penalties followed, with all of the sudden death takers converting without much hassle. Goalkeeper Worawut’s penalty was arguably the pick of the bunch, finding the bottom corner with unerring accuracy.

 

 

With one round completed, the teams were allowed to reorganize, and Heberty was first up for Port to convert his third penalty of the evening, then Athibordee entertained the crowd, pointing to his spot before duly dispatching his effort exactly where he had pointed to. Eventually, after a few more successful efforts from both sides Mailson stepped up to settle the tie in Port’s favour, hitting the worst penalty of the night miles over the bar. In an entertaining subplot, last-minute Tim Krul wannabe Saranon failed to lay a glove on any of Port’s 14 penalties, proving unsurprisingly that tactically changing your ‘keeper at the last minute only works if said goalkeeper actually knows how to save penalties.

All in all, an enjoyable finish to a pretty poor game for Port. We didn’t really deserve to win, the likes of Bordin, Heberty, Adisak and Rochela continued to struggle for form, but at least Port will have another competitive game before the start of the season. Our opponents will be none other than Muangthong, who overcame Prachuap in another shootout in yesterday’s late kick off.

First of course is the Thailand Champions Cup tie with Chiang Rai at the SCG this Sunday, with the Leo Cup game to follow at Leo Stadium on Tuesday.

 

Port Stamp Out Beetles to Give Their Fans a Semi: Port FC 3-2 Chiang Rai

Arriving at the PAT this evening with the drab 1-1 draw at Prachuap fresh in the memory, my expectations for the evening were somewhat low. They were lowered even more when Chiang Rai announced a full strength side, followed by Port’s team sheet showing no out and out striker, plus the continued selection of Sumanya. I was itching for a more simple time when the “gaffer” would just hand in the team sheet on the back of a fag packet and we’d just play 4-4-f**king-2! …At least El Capitan was restored to the team, for what could potentially be his last match at Port.

 

 

With Port now a few games into the Choke experiment, I still wasn’t sure what was actually changing and what his master plan is in terms of the teams tactics and style, the system was still very similar to Jadet’s with the only real difference being Josimar round pegged into a very square hole on the right flank. After all the out and out fuckery during the transfer window to bring in a striker and ditch the one we already had, Roland “Tony” Blackburn (99) was again to be sitting on the bench.

 

First Half

Port were very quick out of the starting blocks with Suarez (5) forcing a save from the Chiang Rai keeper in the first minute of the match after a neat pass from Sumanya (11) allowed Sergio to unleash a low drive towards the bottom corner. This intense opening from Port would continue with Steuble (15) hanging in a nice low cross on his right foot (does he even have a left?) which Go (8) stooped in to head off the post. Ports early pressure finally paid off in the fifteenth minute when the much maligned Sumanya finally put in a decent corner that wrong-footed the Chiang Rai defence and deflected into the net with Dolah (4) in hot pursuit of a final touch.

Five minutes later, Sumanya produced his finest moment in a Port shirt this season, although to be fair, his highlight reel for 2019 prior to tonight could have easily fitted on a Vine clip (if that platform was still going…). He picked the ball up just inside the Chiang Rai half and charged through the centre into the penalty area, shaking off pursuing Chiang Rai defenders before calmly slotting it into the corner past the onrushing keeper. It was certainly the first time this season I can recall seeing this image on the Port scoreboard…

 

 

A couple of minutes later and Suarez almost killed the contest dead, latching onto a stray pass from the Chiang Rai keeper and unleashed a rasping thunderbastard of a shot from 25 yards that hit the underside of the crossbar and came out again. Port kept this tempo up for the rest of the first half and Chiang Rai didn’t know whether they were coming or going. Every time Bodin (10) had the ball, the Beetles’ back line had no real answers except to foul him. The Chiang Rai defence were being pressed in their own half and given no time on the ball. “Friend” of the Sandpit and full-time pantomime villain (fat) Bill (9) was being kept very quiet, especially after an early challenge from Dolah….”a reducer” as Big Ron used to call them.

As the half-time whistle went, it was still hard to take in what had just happened. A Port team that have looked out of sorts ever since the Buriram game had just played the current 2nd place team off the park with Sumanya actually having a big impact on the game.

 

Second Half

Attacking Zone B, Port continued with the same pace as the first half. Pakorn (7) had a free-kick right at the start of the second half which whistled just wide of the post. A few minutes later and Port went up to a 3-0 lead. A free kick was worked out to the wing where Martin Steuble floated in an absolute beaut of a cross for Suarez to leap up and head into the bottom corner. A quick look around the terrace confirmed the goal had indeed come in Toby Time ©. This was getting almost too easy, but this is Port after all… Chiang Rai went straight up the other end with a quick counter attack, A bouncer of a cross evaded the Port defence and Worawut (36), leaving Big Bill with a tap in at the back post.

Back up the other end and Pakorn had a free-kick cleared off the line but Chiang Rai were starting to work their way into the game, the shithousery was beginning to dial up with their entire bench seemingly up off their seats and in the linesman’s ear in front of Zone A, joined by Big Bill who at one point, seemed more interested in protesting on the touchline than actually running around on the pitch. As Chiang Rai began turning the screw more, a handball was awarded against Dolah in the penalty area and up stepped Bill with the penalty to move us into squeaky-bum time. The onset of nerves were not helped by the substitutions, the excellent Bodin was withdrawn for Tanaboon (71) with Pakorn making way for Nurul (31). While Pakorn had redeemed himself somewhat this evening, his replacement Nurul went on to have somewhat of a stinker, blowing chances for Port to put the tie beyond doubt. With just over ten minutes to go, Worawut produced a great save after a free-kick took a wicked deflection on the way through that could so easily have wrong-footed him, yet he produced a great save to keep Port in the lead.

Just as fears of operation f**k-up were creeping in, Chiang Rai’s shithousery finally caught up with them. William (11) was given his second yellow for taking out Go right in front of zone C. With Chiang Rai down to ten, Port were able to get back to doing what they did so well in the first half. Quick passes, neat one-twos and stretching the play. But… as we’d withdrawn Pakorn, Bodin and then Suarez (for Rolando), the replacement attack wasn’t quite up to the task of adding a fourth goal.

There was a sight to behold on injury time as Steuble ran the ball out of defence, pursued by Bill, who soon ended up flat on his face and probably blew a couple of arteries in the process of trying to chase down Steuble in the first place.

The full-time whistle signaled the end of a fantastic performance from Port, who now go into the semi-final draw with Buriram, Bangkok Utd and Ratchaburi.

 

 

The Sandpit’s Man of the Match

My heart says Bodin, who was unplayable in the time he was allowed on the pitch tonight, but I will have to go with Sumanya. I never thought I’d be saying that at all this season! His performances all year have ranged from ref shoving, to anonymous, to flat out awful….tonight he actually looked the part as Ports attack dominated the first half. A key assist in the first goal and a stunning second goal, it goes without saying he needs to turn in more than one of these performances a season.

 

The Fifth Quarter: Port FC vs. Chiang Rai FA Cup Quarter Final Preview

 

Yes, this is the fifth quarter. You shouldn’t be surprised at the complete lack of sense in the title. Port regularly have pre-season friendlies that have three halves and a full PAT stadium apparently contains 6,000 fans. So this is our fifth quarter, our fifth quarter final in seven seasons after the golden era of back-to-back 2009-2010 Cup victories and a trip to the League Cup Final in 2011.

 

The Five Quarters

2013 FA Cup 4-0 rainy Wednesday away loss to a dominant Buriram team. Witnessed by Giz and a handful of hardy away fans including the guy with the gammy leg. Fans had a Leo based Port picnic outside the Thunder Castle. Then the team was quickly devoured inside the ground as the heavens opened.

2016 League Cup a glorious 4 -1 demolition of Lampang. (Don’t mention the war.)

2016 FA Cup 4-0 loss to Sukhothai where we played a second team to focus on our faltering attempt to gain promotion. We gained promotion but missed out on one quarter of the FA Cup and a place in the AFC Champions League. The cup and league were suspended so officially there were four joint FA Cup holders and they drew lots to see who went into the Champions League. Sukhothai won that draw.

2018 FA Cup a disappointing if not unexpected 3-1 home loss to a decent Buriram side.

2019 FA Cup ?

 

The Chiang Right Time? Not Even Close

On Wednesday night we face a Chiang Rai team that managed to humble Buriram 4-0 and put Port to the sword 4-1 at PAT stadium. It was a fairly even game up to half way through the second half, Port pushed up looking for the equaliser then were shown no quarter with two late goals crushing any hope of a comeback. Chiang Rai have always looked a decent team but now they sit in 2nd place looking like they could make a genuine challenge to be league champions. What has caused this? A thinner Bill, maybe. He’s definitely lost a sizable fraction of his body weight since the beginning of 2019. He’s half the player he was, but for Bill that’s a great step forward.

There is also a new kid on the block Ekanit Panya (37) who’s knocked in 2 goals in 3 matches. The 19 year old left footed midfielder has pace and stands up to a tackle well. He’s not scared to shoot, and not scared to shout “I was bloody open there” to his older teammates. Likely to provide a big headache breaking from midfield when Chiang Rai also have Bill (9) and William Henrique (11) as attacking options beside him.

 

 

T1 stalwart center back Brinner (5) occasionally bombing on forward at corners is also a worry. Chiang Rai have their own towering Korean Yong-rae Lee (8), countering our man Go (8). Phitiwat Sukjitthammakul (6) will sit next to Lee and provide the platform for the rest to go forward. All in all Chiang Rai are up in 2nd for good reason. So how do we win? Going back in time to three months ago would help. The last two goals Chiang Rai conceded have come from defensive mistakes on either side of their defence. Bodin weaving in on the left with a cross to Suarez striding past their right back is the one chance we have. So we just have to do that from the kick off then sit on the ball for 89 minutes.

 

 

Portents

Port need something to cling to, a tiny fraction of hope. This hope comes in the fact we are not shit. We’re not as good as we could be but we are not the ramshackle relegation Port of 2012. Nor are we the team of a newly anointed owner/controller/dictator getting through five managers a year. We are not lead by Brent McGrath and Kanye West singing “Half Price” in 2015. But we are the half as good as we should be Port of 2019.

We are getting better, but these results have come despite the new manager and new formation not because of them.  So where do we find hope? Steuble (15) has proved he can easily hold his own in T1. Bodin (10) is looking dangerous whenever he’s given a bit of space. Suarez was suspended for the last match so will be rested and raring to go.

 

The Rochela Question

A fully fit Rochela (22) would slot straight into this squad. Unfortunately he’s not currently in the league team so the cup is all he has. I did ask him what he thought his chances of playing on Wednesday were, he said as diplomatically as ever, “It’s very difficult only playing one game a month.” Fully match fit he’s in the squad, but without regular T1 football there is a question mark over his selection. I’d pick him, we have had four games in two weeks Tanaboon (71) might benefit from the rest or he could push Tanaboon forward into his natural position as a defensive midfielder. If he is going to insist on playing him. Speaking of unwarranted team selection, Sumanya (11) has been screwing up our free kicks so much that even I have been shouting for the return of Pakorn (7). Every player we’ve ever interviewed has said they love playing with Pakorn. You might have to work harder with him in the team, but he can turn it on and create game winning opportunities. He drives me mental but I’d still pick him nine tenths of the time.

Up front Josimar is cup tied, and Dragan Boskovic watched the last FA Cup match at Muangthong in jeans and a T-shirt drinking beer with his mate Mario. Something I roundly criticised him for on Sunday only to find out he’s not registered for the FA Cup so can’t play.

 

Thirteen Elevenths of a Side

 

 

Possible substitutions:

Nurul (31) for Bodin (10) on 70 minutes.

Todsapol for Rochela if needed.

 

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

On form Chiang Rai must be favourites for this one. But… but…. well, please pick your own mindlessly optimistic phrase to help you enjoy an FA Cup Quarter Final night out. These are my top 10.

  • But…  Pakorn can always slot home a free kick.
  • Pang desperately wants silverware, she’ll be having a chat with the ref.
  • Blackburn has to come good at some point, he has scored two already.
  • It’s at PAT we always raise our game for the FA Cup at home.
  • Nurul being subbed on in the last 20 will do them for pace on their right.
  • We are unbeaten under the new manager he must be good luck.
  • We’ve won every home game we’ve played on a Wednesday this year.
  • Maybe someone will randomly hand us two joints before the game.
  • All the Previews and Match reports are sorted so Dominick won’t be bending everyone’s ear trying to get them to do one.
  • I’m just here for the Leo anyway.

 

My prediction, lots of people will drink beer and enjoy a night out at PAT Stadium. The Football may unfortunately get in the way a bit, but then again …

 

Honest Prediction

Port 1-3 Chiang Rai

 


 

The match kicks off at 7.00 p.m. Wednesday 7th August. It is being shown on True Sports HD 3. If you can’t get down to PAT Stadium the match will be shown as always at our sponsors the Sportsman on Sukhumvit Soi 13.

 

Money Can’t Buy Me Love: Port FC vs. Chiang Rai Utd, 28 April 2018

 

Port and Chiang Rai have both had stop-start campaigns so far in 2018, and both will be looking to bounce back after dismal defeats on Wednesday. Port put in their worst performance in over a year in surrendering 2-1 to relegation fodder Chainat, while The Beetles ended a streak of 4 clean sheets and 4 victories in their 4-2 loss to Prachuap. Whilst Chiang Rai have some recent form and one of the best defences in the league to give them belief, however, Port are churning out abysmal performances like they’re going out of fashion. Jadet increasingly looks like a dead man walking, and his players are showing absolutely no willingness to get him out of trouble by, you know, trying.

For the first time since I’ve been watching Port, the players were booed off the pitch by a vocal minority and it was plain to see that certain players were extremely unimpressed by what they were hearing from the stands. Well, us fans have been extremely unimpressed by what we’ve been seeing on the pitch for the last few weeks. Here’s why…

It’s not as if we’re not used to seeing abject performances by Port teams. It’s not as if we’re not used to seeing defenders who can’t defend, midfielders who can’t pass and strikers who can’t score. If players just don’t have the ability then that’s one thing, but what we’re not used to seeing and what we won’t accept is players who don’t try. Sure there have been a few lazy individuals over the years, but on Wednesday I could count the players who put in an acceptable shift on one hand, and still have a few fingers to spare. This team is the most talented assembled by Port in recent memory, but if the players don’t care enough to bother putting in the effort, then us fans would happily take hard workers like Genki and Maranhao back in place of prima donnas like Pakorn (7) and Boskovic (23). Why am I singling out Port’s two most productive players of 2018? Well, they are two of Port’s most talented players, but we just don’t care unless they look like they give a fuck. Make forward runs, track back when we lose the ball, go in to challenges like you want to win the ball and we will support you. We don’t care that much if you misplace passes, miss chances or trip over the ball. Work hard for the team, show passion and commitment and the fans will support you. It’s as simple as that. If you want to stand up in front of PAT Stadium on Saturday night with your head held high and the supportive voices of thousands of appreciative fans ringing in your ears, then earn it! If you want to jog around aimlessly for 70 minutes until you’re replaced with players who actually try like Terens (28) and Arthit (29), then prepare for more boos. Those players may be less talented, but I’d rather support them than players unwilling to do the work. Rant over.

 

Chiang Rai

Players to Watch

 

Victor Cardozo (5) is the best centre half in the league, but even that title barely does him justice. The 28 year old man-mountain has also netted 4 goals, and every time he has scored his team has won without conceding. Victor’s defence was the stingiest in the league before Wednesday’s 4-2 defeat against Prachuap, and even now have conceded just 12 goals. Chiang Rai’s three-man back line has not been set in stone, though. Victor has been joined regularly by excellent youngster Shinnapat Leeaoh (36), but the third centre back spot is anyone’s guess. Former Port defender Artit Daosawang (2) could feature, although he appears to have fallen out of favour just as Chiang Rai have got in to their stride in recent weeks. Goalkeeper Chatchai Budprom (1) is also one of the better stoppers in T1.

 

Victor and Shinnaphat

 

Experienced South Korean former international Lee Yong-Rae (8) and the diminutive but solid Thai 23 year old Phitiwat Sukjitthammakul (6) offer the back three excellent protection, regularly displaying the positional discipline that T1 midfielders (and Port midfielders particularly) so often seem to lack. Built on that strong foundation, though, is one of the poorest forward lines in the league.

 

Lee and Phitiwat

 

Cleiton Silva (23) is one of the finest foreign players to grace Thailand’s top tier, but his return to his old stomping ground has not gone to plan. Cleiton has just 3 goals and 2 assists to his name in 2018, and chances that the Brazilian would have dispatched without a moment’s thought a couple of seasons ago are all of a sudden going begging. The ability is there, there’s no doubt about that, but the confidence that propelled him to over 100 T1 goals is nowhere to be found. In other words, he’s Chiang Rai’s Boskovic.

Of Cleiton’s usual partners in crime, Bajram Nebihi (7) is unavailable as he is on loan from Port, so the responsibility for supplying the chances falls mostly on talented young winger Sivakorn Tiatrakul (10). Sivakorn is one of those wingers who insists on playing on the wrong wing (he’s left footed but operates almost exclusively on the right), and whilst he has a lot of talent, his decision making and final ball have, for the most part, let him down in 2018. He has a goal and an assist, but in the advanced role he plays that’s just not enough. The same can also be said of Chaiyawat Buran (18) who has buckets of pace but the touch of a drunk Carlton Palmer.

 

Cleiton and Sivakorn

 

Form

 

Chiang Rai’s last 6 games have seen a run of 4 victorious clean sheets sandwiched between 2 absolute stinkers. After losing 2-1 to Chainat, Chiang Rai bested Bangkok Utd (1-0), Pattaya (1-0), Air Force (2-0) and Buriram (1-0) before slipping to a shock 4-2 loss in Prachuap. Their form is still a darn sight better than Port’s though.

 

Port FC

What’s Less Than a Thread?

 

I said in my Prachuap preview that Jadet was hanging by a thread. Well, I will be somewhat surprised if that thread hasn’t snapped under the weight of Jadet’s laughable decisions by Saturday. I’m sorry, but who the fuck brings on Tana (11), who has been back with the squad for just a couple of weeks, whilst the likes of Bodin (10) and Terens are sat on the bench? A man who is crying out to be giving his marching orders, that’s who.

On Saturday Jadet will be without Suarez (5), unless he recovers from injury sooner than expected, and Siwakorn (16), who picked up his fourth yellow card against Chainat. Jadet will probably take the negative approach by replacing him with defensive midfielder Athibordee (35). Another option is to bring in Bodin (10), but if I know Jadet than just means that he will be shifted to the left and Nurul (31) to the right, while Pakorn (7) puts in an even more ineffectual performance than usual through the middle.

Sorry if I seem pessimistic. Watching 90 minutes of the garbage I was exposed to on Wednesday will have that effect! What would I do? Wholesale changes to the starting lineup, with Siwakorn (16) Pakorn (7), Nurul (31) Boskovic (23) and Todsapol (6) making way for Chaowala (57), Terens (28), Bodin (10), Arthit (29) and either Dolah (4) or Worawut (24). New blood like Port B’s best performer Chaowala is necessary to shake things up, and I would probably include Partchya (56) and Chanayut (99) on the bench for good measure. Buriram gave a debut to a 15 year old in their victory on Wednesday, so don’t tell me that one of Thailand’s top 5 youngsters is too raw to be given a chance. Has the thought even crossed Jadet’s mind? Has it fuck.

 

Suggested Lineup

 

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True 4U at 19:00 on Saturday 28 April, 2018. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

Chiang Why? Nont Denies Port: Port FC 1-2 Chiang Rai United

 

Port put in their best performance so far under new manager Zico, but came up just short against high-flying Chiang Rai. An inspired goalkeeping performance from Nont Muangngam (20) in the Chiang Rai goal and profligate finishing from Port’s forwards swayed a game which, had it been decided by any other metric, would have been a crushing victory for the home side. Unfortunately for Port goals win games, and Port’s ability to convert their chances was desperately lacking, as it has been for much of the season. We also bumped in to former Port *sob* now Police Tero defender Niran Hansson before kick-off, who told us he is getting along well at his new club. “Well, I’m playing!” he said. Quite.

 

 

Port started the game confidently, getting the ball wide quickly and efficiently, with Suarez (5) dropping back in to midfield where he is more comfortable and has more influence on the game. Ittipol (7) was also looking strong, but he was perhaps too strong in the tackle on Chiang Rai captain Tanaboon (17), who was stretchered off and taken straight to hospital after a clash with the veteran Port midfielder early on. Unfortunately, I am told it’s a serious potentially season-ending injury for Tanaboon, so we at The Sandpit wish the national team regular a speedy recovery.

 

 

In the 10th minute Suarez spread the play wide to Nitipong (34), who teed up Pakorn (9) for a trademark right-footed cross which Genki (18) headed over the diving ‘keeper and in to the net. The crowd went wild, Genki wheeled away in celebration and it was a few seconds before anyone realized that the linesman’s flag was raised. Replays showed that he was spot on, with Genki a fraction offside.

Port were undeterred though, using the same formula just a minute later. This time Josimar (30) couldn’t quite get a touch on Pakorn’s cross, but Genki followed up at the far post, and must have thought he’d scored with a well-struck right footed effort. Somehow, Chiang Rai’s 20 year old Thai-French ‘keeper Nont – a product of the AS Nancy youth system and a former Under 17 international for the Frogs – got some body part or other in the way (it looked like his head to me), and Port were again denied.

Next it was Chiang Rai’s turn to attack, and this time Worawut (36) in the Port goal was called on to make a flying save, denying midfielder Sivakorn (21, no, not our Siwakorn, their Sivakorn) with a superb reaction stop. The resulting corner – delivered by Sivakorn – was a lesson in set-piece organization from the visitors. Chiang Rai moved two attackers in front of Worawut, and with their markers that was 4 obstacles for Worawut to find his way past. The ball was delivered to an area Worawut may have been able to reach unobstructed, but with the traffic in his way he never stood a chance. He came halfway then stopped in no man’s land, but to be fair he probably wouldn’t have saved Prathum’s (5) header anyway, which was deposited with precision in to the bottom left corner.

With Port feeling like they could have been 2-0 up minutes earlier, the goal was a real gut-shot. Nevertheless, Port persevered and were quickly back on top. In the 42nd minute, Port won a free-kick within Pakorn range, but the winger’s effort missed to the left, with Nont looking like he had it covered anyway.

The second half started with some highly suspect defending from Panpanpong (19), who headed a ‘clearance’ straight up in the air. He was lucky Rochela (22) bailed him out with an aerial challenge on the line, and that was far from the only time El Capitan came to his left back’s rescue in the second half. Regularly caught out too far up the pitch, Panpanpong was slow to get back, and was probably the only member of the starting XI who had a bad game.

Pakorn, on the other hand, was having a stormer. His crossing was deadly and his forward runs were incisive and created real danger. He even put in a shift defensively! The rumours of Mongkol’s arrival at Port may well have been the motivation he needed to up his game, as he’s been superb ever since. In the 52nd minute, a jinking run from Pakorn gave him the chance to shoot from the edge of the area, but stretching slightly he didn’t quite catch it right and Nont made a fairly comfortable save.

Just a few minutes later, Port’s dominance finally paid off. Indecisive defending from former Port player Atit (2) lead to the ball bounced up on to his hand, and after a little hesitation, during which Josimar launched a shot on goal which was deflected over the bar – the referee pointed to the spot. At the time, I assumed that the penalty was given for the deflection on Josi’s shot, which would have been extremely harsh, but the original handball was clear from the referee’s vantage point, and he was absolutely right to award the spot-kick.

In the usual mess of whinging defenders that occurs whenever a penalty is awarded, Chiang Rai’s captain and goalscorer Prathum was in a particularly trollish mood. He stood in front of goal for ages for no apparent reason, during which time I may or may not have suggested that Dolah (4) take a particularly violent course of action against him. This may or may not have also been captured on video. Oh well, serves him right the cheeky git!

 

Anyone who goes for the bleached-braided look has got to be used to handling some abuse from the terraces…

 

Rochela was far less flustered than me though, and slotted his penalty in to the bottom right corner. The diving Nont got a hand on it and wasn’t far from keeping it out, but Rochela – as usual – was not to be denied from the spot. Port were back on level terms with more than 30 minutes still to go, and were now favourites to take all 3 points. Port didn’t let up for a minute, and were straight back on the attack. The referee again found himself having to make a decision when Genki sped through on to Pakorn’s delightful lofted pass and was cynically brought down by a defender who was clearly caught the wrong side, and was making no attempt to play the ball. Port, however, were a victim of their previous penalty, as the referee wasn’t about to give a second within a couple of minutes of the first. According to research I have undertaken today, Port were denied by a little known law, found in Section W, Subsection E, Paragraph A, Line K, which is commonly applied by Thai officials.

In the 64th minute Port looked to finally have taken the lead when a cross from Genki was headed goalwards by Suarez. He couldn’t have done much better than heading it down towards the bottom right corner, but somehow Nont once again came to Chiang Rai’s rescue, palming it just wide of the post with Josimar lurking nearby ready to pounce on the rebound. Surely the breakthrough was coming…

Well, it was, but not for the team who deserved it. A cross from deep by Vander Luiz (10) was flicked goalwards by Felipe Azevedo (11), and this time there was nothing that Worawut could do. Chiang Rai had only a couple of chances, but had finished clinically, whereas Port had been creating chances for fun but hadn’t been able to seal the deal. Port weren’t done yet, though.

On 78 minutes, Siwakorn’s well-struck shot was deflected just over the bar, and Port came even closer from the resulting corner. Josimar connected sweetly with a powerful heard from Pakorn’s outswinger, and it took a combination of Nont and the crossbar to deny the Brazilian striker. A couple of minutes later, fantastic work in the build-up by Suarez ended with Josimar missing by what can only have been a couple of inches with a powerful left footed from the edge of the area. He looked as shocked and exasperated as us that he hadn’t managed to score with either of his chances, and with time running out for Port, it was starting to feel like we were heading for the most unjust of defeats.

Chiang Rai threatened to add insult to injury on the break, but the score was to remain 1-2 as Port failed to find the breakthrough in the last 10 minutes. That was no thanks to Tana (99), who for some reason had replaced Genki despite the Japanese winger looking threatening throughout the second half. Tana showed his national team striking instincts by standing about 2 yards offside on the left wing for no reason whatsoever before politely passing the ball to the goalkeeper to waste what should have been Port’s last chance for a goal after some excellent build-up play from Pakorn. Kaludjerovic (10), who had bafflingly replaced the excellent Suarez, could be seen violently gesticulating in his teammate’s direction. We feel your pain, Kalu, and whatever you shouted at him, I’m sure we on the terraces shouted far worse! *cough cough Tim*

 

Port FC Man of the Match

 

I haven’t checked, but I’m sure the official award went to Nont, who we will be seeing for Chiang Rai and probably Thailand for many years to come. For Port there are many excellent performances to choose from. Rochela was solid in defence, and should be thanked by Panpanpong for bailing him out on at least 3 occasions when he was caught out of position. Dolah was formidable as usual. Ittipol (7) looks a better bet in central midfield than Adisorn (13), although he only has an hour of football in the tank. Suarez was excellent in central midfield, dropping in and pushing forward at the right time, having one of his most influential games in a Port shirt. Pakorn once again provided the cutting edge, setting up several excellent chances that his teammates failed to convert.

After much head-scratching I’m going to give it to Pakorn, who for me probably had his most complete game for Port. Crossing, dribbling and tracking back were all there, with Suarez a very close second for similar reasons. Well played, lads! If we can reproduce that form just a few more times this season, we will have absolutely nothing to worry about.

 

The Chiang Right Stuff: Port FC v Chiang Rai Utd Preview

 

Port FC v Chiang Rai Utd on Sunday 7.00 pm – live on True Sports 2HD

 

Port return to Premier League action with a tricky home fixture against fourth place Chiang Rai. In the mini summer holiday Zico took the team away for some training days out in Korat. I hope this has given him a better view of the team. When I say better view I mean, the simple view that everyone else with eyes has. I hope he’s realised that Wuttichai is a liability and Tana should only be used as the last resort. Unfortunately what the team really needed was 3 major signings in the transfer window. Zico will need to know the squad well, and with 4 games in 11 days players might need to be shuffled around. Sunday is our best chance of points, as the other league match is Bangkok Glass away. Looking at the table you have to favour Chiang Rai, but Port have beaten them already this year so should go into this game with the hope of picking up something.  Maybe there is something about Chiang Rai that brings out the best in Port sides – in the last 7 games over 5 years Port are undefeated against the Beetles.

 

Port sit in ninth place with 32 points. With the implosion of Super Power, Port should easily pick up the points to guarantee safety. This being said, I will definitely be a lot happier when those points are actually in the bag, rather than a just a solid prediction. A target of 38/40 points gives us something to aim for and celebrate. After yo-yoing back and forth between T1 and T2 solid mid table obscurity might just be as good as it gets, but it’s something we can all enjoy.

 

In a League Cup of their Own

Chiang Rai comfortably booked themselves a place in the second round of the League Cup on Wednesday with a 3-1 victory away at Trang F.C. I was pretty disappointed with our performance at Ayutthaya. But when I was reminded they dispatched Chonburi in the first round of the FA Cup it doesn’t feel so bad. We were lucky to escape to victory, after not capitalising on so many gilt edged chances.

 

Chiang Rai’s Chances

Chiang Rai started the season looking like a genuine contenders and threat to the top two, but have now settled into the chasing pack. They are a decent T1 team who occasionally drop points. A string of good results then a loss to Navy away gives us hope. The likelihood of a blip is increased this weekend as Chiang Rai will be without Everton Goncalves Saturnino (28) – the ever present central defender is out on 4 yellow cards. The men to watch out for in the Chiang Rai attack are forward Rafael Coelho (9) who’s scored 11 goals and midfielder Felipe Azevedo (11) with 13 goals.

 

Port’s Usual Suspects

Wednesday’s starting line up was positive, with the hopes that a 4-4-2 formation would spark some champagne football. No champagne, only real pain for 89 minutes followed by a smash n’ grab win. Josimar (30) looked back on form, but his tireless running around showed up Kalu’s pedestrian ambling around the pitch. He had one nailed on chance, but he seems to need three chances like that to put one away.

 

We looked a lot more dangerous when we reverted to the tried and tested 4-5-1.  One variation that could be tried is centre back Praweewat (55) but he won’t be available on Sunday as he’s on 4 yellow cards. Left back Jetjin (51) looked good coming on in the second half on Wednesday, so it will be interesting to see who Zico starts on Sunday. He has consistently picked Panpanpong (19), so is likely to stay with him. Worawut (36) should start between the sticks as Rattanai (17) is still out with the shoulder injury he picked up in Ubon. An Ayutthaya player did crash into Worawut (36) on Wednesday, but he shook it off and seems to be fine.

 

 

 

Key Matchups

Speed

Adisorn(13) v Felipe Azevedo (11)

 

Felipe Azevedo (11) is Chiang Rai’s best chance at goal but doesn’t seem to have 90 minutes of football in him. He has been subbed off 6 times and come off the bench to play in 3 games this season. If Adisorn (13) the pocket rocket can keep him in check and chase him around the midfield Port have a chance. If he manages to break free and link up with Coelho (9) we could be in trouble.

 

House of Cards

Siwakorn (16)  9 yellow cards v  Thitiphan (8)  8 yellow cards

 

The midfield will also see the battle of the most avid card collectors in T1. With Siwakorn first and Thitiphan joint second in the Premier league yellow card table, both have experienced two games out on suspension. Interestingly enough neither has seen red this season, suggesting they are consistently just doing enough to stop the opposition without really wanting to hospitalise anyone, “the gentlemen foulers”. This foul is not personal, this is just business.

 

It’s good to be back at Port after the long break. Enjoy it while it lasts: another month-long football drought is coming up. Bangkok Glass Away is 5th August, then there’s a month to wait till the next match Sukothai at home on 10th September.

 

Ticket to Rai – Port Head North to Face Beetles: Chiang Rai vs. Port FC, 9 April 2017

 

Port travel to Chiang Rai on the back of two clean sheets and fantastic performances against Buriram and Ubon. It really seems as if Port can compete with the very best in the league at PAT Stadium, but unfortunately the same can’t be said when they travel. Port have only played twice away from home in 2017, deservedly losing 6-2 against Bangkok Utd and 5-1 at Thai Honda. If Port are to hold on to their place in the top half of the table, they will need to stop the rot away from home. Unbeaten Chiang Rai would be a good place to start!

Chiang Rai

Players to Watch

 

I’ve never quite believed the hype about the ‘Thai Busquets’ Tanaboon Kesarat (17), but the fact is that he is a national team regular and the highest paid Thai player in the league. Reportedly earning an eye-watering B700,000 a month after being signed from Muangthong, Tanaboon plays at defensive midfield for Chiang Rai, although he has been used almost exclusively as a centre back for Thailand. Personally, I have always thought that he is too weak to be a centre half and not skillful enough to play in midfield, but the majority of the Thai football community seems to disagree with me, so… Yeah, I guess he must be pretty decent.

Thitipan Puangchan (8) is another former Muangthong player who has thrived at Chiang Rai. Often picked as captain of what is thought of as the golden generation of Thai players at under 23 level, Thitipan’s career stalled at Muangthong where he couldn’t find his way in to the First XI regularly. He has had a new lease of life at Chiang Rai though, where he has started to fulfil his early promise as a box-to-box midfielder who offers something going forwards and defending. He even scored a hattrick against Super Power on the opening week of the season.

The Brazilians. It must be said I don’t know much about this lot, but they look pretty damn good. Rafael Coelho (9) is joint top scorer in the league with 6 goals, and with 2 of Vander Souza (10), Felipe Azevedo (11) and dual-nationality Brazilian-Australian Henrique Silva (15) contributing to the attack, the Port defence will have plenty to think about. Then at the back there is Everton Saturnino (28) who seems fairly solid alongside Thai national team player Prathum Chuthong (5), although if Chiang Rai do have a weakness, it is likely to be in defence.

 

Tanaboon (17), Thitipan (8) and Rafael Coelho (9)

 

Form

19 points from a possible 21 with a +15 goal difference tells you all you need to know! Chiang Rai have been on fire so far in 2017, with their only draw coming away at Ratchaburi. They were very fortunate to come away with a win at Navy before the international break – going two goals down and scoring three (all from set-pieces) in the second half – but bounced back with a comfortable 3-0 win away at Thai Honda last week. I’m trying my hardest to be positive here, but with their home form flawless, and our away form what it is, you would have to be pretty mental to predict a Port win here!

Port FC

Starting XI – Dropping the Dead Wood

 

Things have changed a lot with regards to Port’s best XI since the beginning of the season.

Our excellent young goalkeeper Rattanai (17) has picked up a serious injury on international duty and is expected to be out of action for a month and a half. Whilst in normal circumstances this would not be a big problem as second choice Worawut (36) would step in and get a run in the team, there are reports that Worawut himself may have picked up a knock and is now doubtful for Saturday’s game. Whilst most Port fans would be quite happy to see Worawut between the sticks – particularly after his encouraging (if slightly too punchy) performance against Ubon – third choice ‘keeper Weera (1) is a walking disaster. He showed a staggering level of ineptitude in his only appearance of the season, and quite frankly I wouldn’t trust him to clean Rattanai’s boots without dropping them, let alone keep goal for the First XI. Please be fit, Worawut. Please!

In defence, Dolah (4) – despite a couple of quality performances – has not adapted to T1 as quickly as we might have hoped, meaning that Todsapol (6) could well come in to the starting XI when fit. However, as Todsapol did not even make the bench at Ubon, it seems likely that Dolah will continue to partner captain Rochela (22) against Chiang Rai. After excellent performances against Navy and Ubon, Dolah needs to keep up the good form if he is going to keep his place.

Panpanpong (19) has been looking more and more a T1 left back with every passing game, proving to those who didn’t think he would make the grade at Port that he is indeed a player who can attack as well as defend. As one of his pre-season doubters, I’m happy to be proven wrong!

Nitipong (34) has been a revelation at right back, usurping the younger Meechok (20) with some fabulous displays. A goal and two assists for a right back is quite something after just 7 games, although he has also picked up 3 yellow cards, which points to the fact that he can struggle defensively against the better teams in the league.

Defensive midfield has been the most contentious spot in the team, and to my surprise erstwhile utility man Adisorn (13) has come in and really put a claim on the spot. His displays against Buriram and Ubon have been top-notch, exhibiting an exemplary work rate and tenacious tackling. As an advocate for the ridiculously under-used Tatchanon (39) in midfield, I still believe the youngster is the right man in the long term, although I will no longer feel worried seeing Adisorn’s name on the team sheet. As long as he’s playing well, the spot should be his.

Adisorn will of course partner The Sandpit’s Player of the Month for March Siwakorn (16), whose place in the side is as assured as his consistent performances. Suarez (5) will very likely continue in attacking midfield, despite arguably failing to live up to the promise he showed in pre-season. I believe improved performances from the skillful Spaniard will come, as he undoubtedly has the ability to thrive in T1.

Up top, Josimar (30) still divides opinion despite getting off the mark by scoring the winner against Ubon. Personally, I think the Brazilian brings a lot to the team with his aerial challenges and his hold-up play, and if the goals continue to come now that Josimar has got the ball rolling, he could be the striker Port have been after for years.

After two seriously lackluster performances in the last two home games, Port’s weakest link at the moment has to be right-winger Pakorn (9). With the ability he has we should never be talking about dropping Pakorn, but if he doesn’t step up and put in 100% every week, something has to be done. The rest of the team can’t prop up lazy players in T1, so unless Pakorn can carry his own weight the bench should be doing it for him. Against top of the table Chiang Rai, I would play Nitipong (34) in his more natural position at right wing, and bring Meechok (20) in at right back, with Suarez (5) taking over set-piece duties. Whether or not this is the best permanent solution, it will serve as a wake-up call for Pakorn. Go hard or go home!

At left wing once again will be Pakorn’s polar opposite. Genki (18) works as hard as any player in the league, and when he was replaced by Tana (99) on Monday, Port really missed their Japanese terrier. Whilst Tana is always a goal threat, he belongs at centre forward not out on the left wing where he is too far away to utilize his goal-poaching prowess. Genki does an important job for the team, and in one of Port’s toughest away fixtures of the season his hard work will be more important than ever.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Key Battle

Rochela vs. Rafael Coelho

 

 

 

With 6 goals to his name in 2017, Rafael is going to take some stopping. Fortunately, Port have El Capitan David Rochela at the back. If anyone can keep the Brazilian and his teammates shackled, it’s Rochela. Lest you doubt the raw ability of either player, Rafael has represented Brazil at under 18 level, whilst Rochela was an under 17 World Cup runner up with Spain. Let battle commence!

 

The match will be shown live on True Sports 6 at 18:00 on Sunday 9 April, 2017.