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Zico Begins: Bangkok Glass 0-0 Port FC

 

Port travelled to Rangsit yesterday for a tricky away fixture at high-flying Bangkok Glass. Thanks to some tactical changes and excellent preparation, they came away with a well-earned 0-0 draw, riding their luck at times, scaring their opponents at others. This was the first game in which Zico really put his stamp on the team and augurs well for the rest of the 2017 season.


The Sandpit posse pitched up at the ever impressive Leo Stadium just before 5pm, leaving us a good two hours to soak up the atmosphere, wander around the ground and chat to the home fans  drink lots of beer – something Rabbits Bar make very easy with their competitively priced Leo towers. We also mingled with Glass’ farang fan club – a bloke called Tony. Wandering outside for a while to take some pictures, I found Importz Kenny & Achim consorting with the Glass bunny girls and looking very pleased with themselves.

We arrived in the away end to find the usual excellent beer service was still in place, and as such it would’ve been rude not to shower them with our money. Settled into our seats, we learned that Zico had made two very important team changes. Firstly – and he’s obviously been reading the Sandpit here – he dropped Panpanpong (19) and finally gave a debut to ex-Buriram youngster Yossawat (28). Secondly, he gave up trying to choose between two ageing defnsive midfielders – Ittipol (7) & Adisorn (13) – and instead gave a debut to the somewhat more youthful ex-Barbecue Utd midfielder Pummared (41), who had previously impressed me in friendlies.

The game started with Glass predictably dictating the pace, though the first chance fell to Port  in the 9th minute when Pakorn (9) curled a free kick just wide of the post. Otherwise the next 20 minutes were one-way traffic with Glass laying siege to the Port goal, only some rather wayward shooting preventing them taking a deserved lead. Sandpit interviewee Matt Smith was the worst offender, ballooning a shot over the bar in the 27th minute with an open goal gaping, shortly followed by Campos whose angled shot went wide of the post when it would clearly have been easier to hit the target.

But it was in fact Port who came closest to scoring. In the 39th minute, Siwakorn (16) found himself in space on the edge of the Glass box and unleashed an absolute thunderbastard of a shot which beat the keeper but cannoned back off the crossbar. Minutes later, Pakorn found himself free on the left but opted to try and chip the keeper rather than pass.

Half time, 0-0, and a sense of relief that we’d made it to the break without conceding. The Port fans set about the half-time Leo with gusto and soon drank the bar dry. They’re clearly not used to dealing with big away crowds like this. Well, it has been two years since we last visited.

Port started the second half somewhat more brightly than the home side but had little more than a 59th minute curler from Suarez (5) to show for it, and soon found themselves on the back foot again. Thankfully Glass still hadn’t found their shooting boots, though in the 77th minute Worawut (36) was called upon to make a simply stunning save from a close-range header from Surachat. Minutes later, Pakorn curled another free kick just wide of the post, before the referee blew for full time to the considerable relief of the away fans.

There were some pathetic, embarrassing scenes after the final whistle as the Port players were joined on the pitch by the owner, management, coaches & sundry other hangers-on for a celebratory group picture in front of the fans. Most unbecoming for a proud club like Port to be celebrating a 0-0 draw in this way. We’re not Super Power or some T3 team celebrating a giant-killing; getting a point at Glass is a good result but that’s as far as it goes, and certain people at the club really need to have a look at themselves if they think this kind of behaviour is befitting.

Anyway, this was a very encouraging performance from Port. Zico had clearly done his homework on Glass and, whilst their quality meant they had plenty of chances, they didn’t boss the midfield the way they did in the home fixture and were generally restricted to long range shots. Yossawat is clearly a more defensive player than Panpanpong and whilst we missed the latter’s forward runs down the left, the defence felt a lot more secure with the youngster in it. Likewise, new boy Pummared was a cooler head in defensive midfield than Ittipol or Adisorn and his performance surely means we’ll be seeing more of him. Port chances were few & far between with Josimar playing much deeper than usual and Zico thankfully opting not to use Tana (99), though Wuttichai made a combative late appearance. All in all a very good point from a team that looks fitter, sharper and better organised than under Jadet. The Zico Revolution starts here.

 

Man of the Match – David Rochela (22)

I’ve said it before – Rochela is so consistently excellent that we take good performances from him for granted. But last night he was massive, particularly in the first half when playing without his trusted lieutenant Dolah (4). A typically disciplined, influential and occasionally backs-to-the-wall shift from the Port captain. Top marks also for Pakorn, Worawut, Siwakorn and Pummared who also impressed me.

 

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“The Port Family is Happy” says Rochela

 

In an exclusive interview with the Sandpit this week, Port captain David Rochela spoke to us about the club’s impressive first half of the season and shared his thoughts on what the rest of the season may hold.

“I think all the Port family is happy with 7th place and 28 points” he told us, adding that in his opinion Port’s best performance was the 3-1 win at Chiang Rai Utd. “They were on top of the league” David said, “but after Worawut’s penalty save we worked really hard and showed good team spirit, and I think we deserved the three points.” And what about those somewhat ‘high-spirited’ foreign fans in the tunnel? “Haha, we were shocked! We expected to see fans in the stadium but not in the tunnel. It was really funny!”

But whilst Port have had some excellent results against the top clubs this season, including that win at Chiang Rai, a win at Muangthong and a draw against Buriram, the team have struggled against weaker teams, with disappointing results against the likes of Thai Honda, Pattaya Utd and Sisaket, and David has no doubt as to what the problem is.

“We spoke in preseason and I told you that I had really good feelings for this season” he said. “If everyone concentrates we can do great things. But in T1 any team can beat another so you need extra concentration against small teams. The motivation must be the same against top teams or small ones.”

But despite Port’s occasional lapses, David is happy with coach Jadet’s consistent tactical approach. He told us: “Since we started the league we are using this 4-5-1 formation, with Sergio up front with Josimar or a little bit deeper. The team feels comfortable with this so I’m not really keen to do to many tactical changes.”

Of his teammates, David singles out two of his colleagues in particular for praise. “I’ve been impressed with Nitipong and Adisorn” he said. “I’ve known them for a long time but this season they are playing with more confidence and showing what they can do, which is a lot.”

And what about the second half of the season? Whilst many of us are excitedly dreaming of a top 6 finish or better, David’s ambitions are more modest. “To be honest I’m still looking at the table starting from the bottom” he said. “When we get enough points to be safe in T1 I will start to look up. I hope we can stay middle of the table without problems.”

As do we all! Big thanks as usual for your time David, and good luck for the rest of the season!

 

The Season So Far: The Pit Pundits’ Picks

 

Following my recent review of the season so far, the Sandpit team got together and selected our highlights of the first six games – best player, best match, best goal. Here are our choices – feel free to share yours in the comments or on Facebook.

 

Dominick Cartwright

 

Best Player: Rattanai (17)

Not my first choice for keeper at the start of the season. I would have gone with Worawut (36). But Rattanai has proved me wrong, and Tom right. Even in our dismal away games he has offered a sterling last line of defence. Those dismal defeats could have been even worse. He’s really shown his mettle not letting his head drop in defeat, and being there to shore up the points when we have a chance at some.

Also Keith has come up with a song for him, so I want him starting every game to give us a chance to sing a new song:

Rattanai’s in the goal, what is he gonna do?

Rattanai’s in the goal, what is he gonna do?

He’s gonna save that shot, That’s what he’s gonna do

He’s gonna save that shot

 

(To the tune of Rat in me Kitchen by UB40)

 

Best Match: Suphanburi Home (3-2)

Why do I love football? It’s unscripted drama. If you wrote this game as a script, it would not be convincing at all, just not realistic enough. 1-0 up and the Port faithful are celebrating 3 points already. Then the home crowd are stunned by 2 Suphan goals. Then Tana’s great equaliser. (See best goal pick for a description). Then my favourite moment of the game – all the other players were celebrating the excellent equaliser, meanwhile Suarez was running to the net, he picked up the ball and brought it back to the centre circle for the restart. He wasn’t happy with 1 point; he wanted the win. Then the man who has shown he wants it most, steps up and gets the winner. You couldn’t write a better ending.
 
 

 
 

Best Goal: Tana vs Suphanburi

Tana (99) is not everyone’s favourite striker; he has his faults. But for me I’d give him 45 minutes of any game – he can create chances when there’s not much on, and he always seems to be in the right place. Against Suphanburi he was loitering outside the area, Genki (18) saw him and teed him up well. Tana deftly curled the ball into the top corner, giving us a chance of 3 points in that game. I’m biased on this one, because I was standing right behind the top corner of the goal in Zone D. I genuinely had a moment of disbelief as the ball sailed in. Was that in or just over? Oh it’s in, lets go fucking mental!

 

Tom Earls

 

Best Player: Rattanai (17)

This is a tricky one, but I’m going with the man who I voted for in February’s Player of the Month competition. I was in the minority then, and expect I’ll be in the minority again here, but I just can’t get enough of Port’s baby-faced boy wonder Rattanai. Yes Rochela has been excellent, and yes he brings more to the team with his leadership and guidance than anyone else, but Rattanai has come up with some outstanding performances which have undoubtedly been worth a few points to Port already this season. One mistake against Suphanburi (which fortunately ended up not costing Port) aside, Rattanai has caught everything that has come anywhere near him, shown excellent decision making and has made some lightning-fast reactions stops.
 
Probably the best example of Rattanai’s importance to the team came when he was dropped for the 5-1 drubbing at Honda. Whilst comparing him to Weera would be about as useful about comparing him to a boiled egg, it gave Port fans a glimpse of what it would be like not to have a reliable keeper between the sticks. Scary stuff. Please don’t leave him out again!

 

Best Match: Buriram Home (0-0)

It may not have had the twists and turns of the epic 3-2 win over Suphanburi, or the last minute drama of the 1-1 draw with Ratchaburi, but this was a high intensity, high quality game where Port proved they can compete with anyone on their day. It was Roy of the Rovers stuff. Man of the Match Adisorn couldn’t get a game in central midfield in Division 1 last season, yet had probably the best game of his career, coming out on top against Buriram’s star-studded midfield. Todsapol came in to the side having not played a minute of competitive football in 2017, and looked outstanding against two of the most dangerous forwards in T1. Port, who flopped to a 5-1 defeat at Thai Honda just 4 days earlier and got thumped by the same scoreline last time they hosted Champions Buriram in 2015 were not expected to even be competitive, but defied the odds with a performance full of heart. Port could even have won if not for a miraculous point-blank save from the Buriram keeper. All in front of a sell-out crowd of *ahem* 6,900 people who turned PAT Stadium in to a cauldron where Port just refuse to lose in 2017!
 
 

 
 

Best Goal: Siwakhorn vs Bangkok Utd

For me, there can only really be two candidates here. Siwakorn vs. Bangkok Utd and Tana vs. Suphanburi. Siwakorn’s screamer came at 3-0 down in a 6-2 mauling whereas Tana’s thunderbastard drew Port level in a game they ended up winning 3-2. The skinny wizard’s moment of magic may have been to no avail, but I’m giving it to him for the way he glided past the defender before curling it over the keeper’s head. Tana’s was an outstanding goal, but I think he had slightly less to do when he picked the ball up.
 
 

 
 

Tim Russell

 

Best Player: David Rochela

When Spit claimed in a pre-season article that Rochela was underrated, we scoffed. How could the guy who’d won the 2016 Player of the Year award with a landslide possibly be underrated? But now I think I know what he meant. Rochela is so good, week in week out, that we take his excellence for granted and barely notice it any more. So far this season he’s been as consistent as ever, mopping up at the back, reading the game well and intercepting header after header, and his performances against Ratchaburi and Buriram in particular were little short of heroic. God help us if he ever gets injured or moves on.

 

Best Match: Suphanburi Home (3-2)

If Ratchaburi was a relatively gentle reintroduction to the delights of T1, Suphanburi was a classic all-action balls-out thriller, the kind of game we missed during our brief sojourn into the lower leagues last season. Yes, Port rode their luck at times and benefitted from Adul, who had been Suphan’s star player up to that point, getting a red card; but the intensity and workrate of the Port players was something to behold, particularly Suarez, who grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck in the later stages and scored the winner in what was his best performance so far in a Port shirt. Simply one of the most exciting games I’ve seen at the PAT.

 

Best Goal: Genki vs Ratchaburi

OK, technically and aesthetically it may not be Port’s best goal of the season, but in terms of determination and timing it was perfect. 0-1 down after 94 minutes in their first game back in the TPL – and their first home game for nearly 6 months – Port won a free kick to the right of the Ratchaburi box. Pakorn swung it into the box and Genki threw himself at it Keith Houchen-style to head it in, sparking scenes of utter delirium on the terraces and the first ever airing of the Human League “Genki Nagasato” chant. Best moment of the season so far.
 
 

 

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Spit in the Sandpit: Overrated/Underrated

 

 

Every now and again I hope to share with you my personal list of underrateds and overrateds at Port FC…..

 

Underrated- Midfielder Rodrigo Maranho. #29. Wow. This Brazilian was dazzling to watch. He scored some of the prettiest goals I’ve seen in Thai football.  I guess he fell out of favour with team management but he can take a lot of the credit for Ports success in 2016.

 

Overrated- Forward Hironori Saruta (2014-2015).The chant “Sa-ru-ta!” was loud and clear at PAT stadium for two seasons. But I never drank the Saruta kool-aid. I ended up just shaking my head  whenever the Japanese forward would dippsy doodle just inside the box and then (if he didn’t dive to draw a penalty) he would hit a strike that seemed to always go wide or sail over the crossbar. Saruta scored just 6 goals for Port in 62 appearances. Maybe the chant should have been “ WTF Sa-ru-ta?”

 

Underrated– Defender David Rochela. #22 I know, I know, how can Port FC’s player of the year be underrated? I think I saw at least a dozen matches this past season where I’m sure Rochela was the only Port player who knew what to do with a football. I’m serious! He was always saving our butts.

 

Overrated- Muangthong United FC…..sorry I have to get in at least one obligatory poke at MTU.

 

Overrated- The new fancy video scoreboard in zone D. Yes, it’s a pleasant upgrade to the old  scoreboard that more than half the stadium of supporters couldn’t see. All the old scoreboard would give you is…time of day and home 01 visitors 00. The new video scoreboard will actually show you match time! Wow, technology! But where’s video replays, scores from other matches? or where are the close ups of Madame Pang?

 

Underrated- I can go to a Port home game at PAT stadium and pay 100 baht for my ticket, 60 baht for a large beer, and buy some delicious finger food for another oh let’s say 40 baht. Total cost for a Port FC experience…200 baht. That same 200 baht wouldn’t even pay for parking at BC Place stadium, home of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. A Port FC match is incredibly good value.

 

The Sandpit/Thai Port Importz 2016 Player of the Year

We asked members of the popular Thai Port Importz Facebook group to vote for their 2016 Port FC Player of the Year this week, and the results are in – and it’s an absolute landslide for Port’s Spanish captain David Rochela.

Rochela’s loyalty, his calm, unhurried defending, and his week-in week-out consistency made him the undisputed winner. He surprised many Port fans by pledging his loyalty to the club after relegation in 2015, and his leadership was a key factor in Port returning to the TPL at the first attempt. Thai football’s very own Alan Hansen/Paolo Maldini, his reading of the game means you rarely see him diving into tackles, giving away penalties or getting booked, and his best work is generally so damn smooth & unruffled you barely notice he’s there. Except when he’s stepping up to take penalties of course, which he did with ruthless efficiency on numerous occasions. His dashing Mediterranean good looks have made him a big hit with the laydeez, and, as The Sandpit can confirm after bumping into him on a night out recently, he’s a very nice bloke too. Well done David!

Whilst I was one of the many who voted for Rochela, my second vote would’ve gone to the unfancied Genki Nagasato. He may not have been blessed with the silkiest footballing skills – as Big Ron once observed of Carlton Palmer, “He traps the ball further than I can kick it” – but there’s always something exciting about an old-school, socks-down, balls-out winger. The Genk always gives the proverbial 110%, weighs in with a few goals and, best of all, clearly just bloody loves playing football, which is a wonderful thing to see. If the rumours are correct it appears we may not see him in a Port shirt again, so Genki-san, we, or at least I, salute you.

Anyway, without further ado here are the top-ranked players and some reasons why…

 

David Rochela: 67%

“Our best player by a country mile, and always puts in a shift.” (Danny)

“Over the season Rochela’s work at the back kept us in contention. He held a pretty average defence together.” (Dom)

“Rochela – reads the game well & steady as a rock. A captain leading by example.” (Derek)

“Rochela by a mile…” (Tommie)

 

Pakorn: 11%

“Pakorn must have had more combined goals and assists than any other player by a long shot. Can be frustrating at times, but without his contribution, particularly from set pieces, we would not have been promoted. Without him in the side there is pretty much no one who can take a set piece or cross a ball. ” (Tom)

“When he was on it was a treat to watch.” (Mike)

“Pakorn was an important part of promotion. Without him we wouldn’t have gone up, but for the same money we could’ve got someone better. He was class on the ball, and on free kicks. But he was incredibly selfish, undermines a lot of the good work he did. A big reason Port faultered was big names playing as individuals not pulling together as a team. Can’t give player of the season to someone who boots the ball out of the stadium after being subbed. He would make the top 5 players of the season but can’t bring myself to put him top.” (Dom)

 

Tana: 11%

 

Rodrigo Maranhao: 5%

“Maranhao for me, even though he faded in the 2nd half of the season but still chipped in with a load of goals.” (Kenny)

 

Sivakhorn: 5%

 

Big thanks to all who voted and commented. If you like polls, scroll down to the bottom of this page and tell us how you think Port FC will fare in the 2017 TPL!

 

 

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Tom’s Transfer Talk – 4 Dec 2016

Rumours of comings and goings have been dominating discussion among Port fans in recent weeks. The Sandpit can confirm that Rodrigo Maranhao (29), despite talk of his departure, turned out for the first team in Saturday’s friendly, but compatriot Wagner Carioca (35), who announced his departure earlier in the week, was not involved. Despite his dominant displays at the heart of Port’s midfield last season, the combative midfielder has been deemed surplus to requirements for the coming season, but will continue to train with the team as he looks for a new club.

Sergio Suarez, 29

Sergio Suarez, 29

Talk of his replacement has repeatedly centred around Sergio Suarez. The 29 year old former Las Palmas and Songkhla midfielder was spotted running laps around the pitch by The Sandpit’s eagle-eyed scouts, seemingly confirming rumours that he is set to join the Klong Toey Army for the 2017 season.

In other rumours, French trialist Saer Sene scored twice in Port’s 4-1 friendly win against Thonburi University, potentially putting him in the frame to lead the line next season. Playing in a position that no Port player has really made his own over the last two seasons, the towering physical forward staked his claim with a composed finish to put the Klong Toey Army 1-0 up. He showed some skill with a deft flick in the build up to the third goal, but in the latter stages missed two chances that he probably would have expected to do better with. He found the target again at the death to round off the scoring, but The Sandpit was busy buying beer at the time.

Captain David Rochela, speaking exclusively to The Sandpit when we bumped into him outside The Sportsman later that evening, commented that the trialist had been with the club for two days,and that turnover of trialists has been fast and furious. We think that Coach Jadet Meelarp will likely want to see the striker face a tougher defence than that offered up by Thonburi before making up his mind.