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Ratt-sody in Blue

 

Kawin, Sinthaweechai, Chanin and Rattanai

 

Sport MThai have reported that Thai National Team Coach Zico’s appearance at PAT Stadium on Saturday was not just to get a closer look at new Port signing Elias Dolah, but also our exciting young goalkeeper Rattanai Songsangchan.

As The Sandpit wrote about in early January, Dolah has been on Zico’s radar ever since he made the switch to Khlong Toei. His height makes him a potentially great asset to the diminutive Thai National Team, and the change to playing 3 centre backs would seem to create space in the squad for the big Thai-Swede.

Rattanai, however, has not been tipped to make the step up to full international level until now. Indeed, until Port’s starting XI to face Ratchaburi was announced on Saturday, many thought that Rattanai wouldn’t even be Port’s first choice ‘keeper this season. They should have known better! The 21 year old stopper was given his debut last July in the 2-1 League Cup victory against BEC Tero, and impressed so much in the Cup competitions that by September he was already being selected for crunch games against Muangthong Utd in the League Cup semi-final and promotion rivals Ubon UMT in the league.

It’s his lightning reactions that are the most obvious sign that he is a seriously talented ‘keeper, but Rattanai has also looked comfortable collecting crosses; often preferring to catch the ball rather than punch, which is unusual and refreshing in the modern game.

Arguably, the only weakness in Rattanai’s game last season was his distribution. He looked nervous with the ball at his feet, and often seemed to avoid kicking it long wherever possible. In the off-season, though, he trained with the National Team Under 23’s and appears to have worked particularly hard on that aspect of his game. Against Ratchaburi on Saturday, Rattanai picked out a few nice long passes with his left foot, and kept Port on level terms early in the second half with a crucial point blank save from Alharbi El Jadeyaoui. There was one slightly worrying moment when he waited for what seemed an age for the ball to roll in to the area before smothering the danger, but he had judged that he had enough time, and was proved right.

It’s not just Rattanai’s performances which have endeared him to the PAT faithful though, but his personality too. He is a down-to-earth youngster who can often be found eating Isaan food at a local Khlong Toei restaurant with his family and girlfriend after the game. Before his ascent to the first team, Rattanai would come and go with quiet anonymity, but after some of his heroic performances he was entering to the sound of applause, and having to deal with all sorts of star-struck lunatics and their photo requests!

 

 

On the pitch, too, Rattanai has increasingly found his voice and began to express himself more. He seems to be communicating well with his defenders, and isn’t afraid to tell them when he isn’t happy. As the photo below beautifully illustrates, he celebrated as passionately as the fans on the terraces when Port scored their injury-time equalizer on Saturday. That’s what we like to see!

 

 

So what are Rattanai’s chances of making the step up to international level? The 3 goalkeepers named by Zico in the last several squads have been Kawin Thamsatchanan, Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool and Chanin Sae-ear. 27 year old Kawin – not just the best goalkeeper in Thailand but quite possibly in Asia – is not going to be dislodged in the foreseeable future. His understudy Sinthaweechai, however, will be celebrating his 35th birthday when Thailand face Saudi Arabia on March 23rd. After making 83 appearances in the last 14 years for Thailand, the Suphanburi stopper’s international career can’t go on forever, and when it does come to an end Rattanai should surely be one of the names in the frame to replace him in the squad. With Kawin expected to continue as Thailand’s number 1 for many years to come, it makes sense for Zico to look to the future and pick players who could one day be Kawin’s successor.

Expect to see Chonburi’s 24 year old Chanin, 21 year old Rattanai, and a host of other young ‘keepers vying for places in the squad in the coming years. If he continues to develop the way he has done in his first year at Port, we’re backing Rattanai to earn his chance at international level. He may have to wait a while, but time is on his side.

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk – 17 Jan 2017

 

It’s Transfer Talk round-up time! The start of the season is nearly upon us, meaning all of the transfer tomfoolery is nearly at an end. As always, there have been lots of coming and goings, so we’re going to do our best to summarize them for you here.

Out

 

Thiago Cunha (10)
Last year’s big-name signing was expected to make a splash in D1, but ended up being a huge flop. His antics got less and less bearable as the season went on, although he did scoop The Sandpit’s Goal of the Season award!

Rodrigo Maranhao (29)
Maranhao looked like a worldbeater at the start of 2016, but his performances tailed off in the second half of the season. Nevertheless, most Port fans would have preferred to keep hold of the likeable Brazilian. Only time will tell whether letting him go was the right decision or not.

Renan Oliveira (25)
Oliveira was the forgotten man at Port last year. He played a couple of games, didn’t look great, then got dropped from the squad altogether. It’s no surprise he has not been retained for 2017.

Wagner Carioca (35)
Wagner followed the opposite trajectory to Maranhao, really coming in to his own in the second half of last season. Another player who many fans would have been happy to keep hold of, although his replacement in centre midfield does look bloody good.

Artit Daosawang (19)
On loan from Muang Thong last season, Artit played a few games in centre midfield. He will return to Muang thong as planned in 2017.

Sathaporn Daengsi (15)
Sathaporn arrived on loan from Buriram for the second half of 2016, becoming first choice left back and performing consistently if unspectacularly. He will return to Buriram in 2017.

Narong Wisetsri (39)
Narong was third choice goalkeeper last season, never managing to challenge his two younger competitors for a place in the first XI.

Naronrit Samonpan (4)
Naronrit was a bit-part player for the last few seasons, supplying cover in defence and occasionally midfield in the case of injuries and suspensions. He is considered surplus to requirements after the arrival of Dolah.

Artit Promkun (24)
We don’t recall the other Artit getting any game-time at all last season, so far was he down the left back pecking order. It’s no surprise that he has moved on.

Watchara Buathong (1)
Watchara returns to BBCU on loan for a second consecutive season. He’s a good ‘keeper with lots of potential, but can’t find his was past Worawut or Rattanai.

 

The New Signings

In

 

Sergio Suarez (4)
Suarez has impressed in pre-season since joining from Songkhla. His touch and passing have looked top-notch, and he seems to have slotted effortlessly in to the team. We expect big things from him in 2017.

Asdrubal Padron (24)
Asdrubal brings a big reputation with him to Port, having played in La Liga for Las Palmas. It’s too early to tell how well he will adapt to his new surroundings and a different style of football, but we have high hopes nevertheless!

Andrija Kaluderovic (10)
Kaluderovic scores goals for fun, and he does it all over the world. If he can reproduce anything like the 20 in 19 strike-rate he managed in Lithuania last season, he will be a star. It will be interesting to see whether Asdrubal or Kaluderovic are preferred up front, or whether they are played as a pair with either Suarez or Rochela dropping to the bench. Only time will tell.

Elias Dolah (40)
Dolah has lived up to the hype in his brief pre-season appearances. The Thai-Swede who signed from Songkhla has been winning almost everything in the air, and tackling powerfully. He could end up being the signing of the season for Port in 2017.

Patrick Bentley (30)
We know very little about 20 year old Bentley. We know that he’s Thai-Australian, and we don’t think he’s played professionally before. To be filed under ‘one for the future’.

Siwapong Jarernsin (35)
Journeyman Siwapong joins from Sisaket to add strength in depth to the midfield. He can take a lovely free-kick, as he did against Navy in pre-season.

Wanchalerm Yingyong (26)
Wanchalerm has joined on loan from Chiang Rai, giving Jadet another midfielder to choose from.

Tatchanon Nakarawong (27)
Tatchanon at just 20 seems to be a good signing in the long term. Whilst he joins the ever-lengthening queue for midfield game-time, he has time on his side, and has been playing regularly in pre-season.

Panpanpong Pinkong (19)
Panpanpong joins from Bangkok Utd, where he provided cover at full back. He seems to be being considered for a starting role this season at Port, but we’re backing Piyachart to be preferred come the start of the season.

Weera (1)
Weera was first signed by Port in 2015. He has since left and now come back. We think. We’ve definitely seen him training and playing in friendlies, although nothing has been announced by the club.

Unfinished Business

 

Whilst it has been strongly rumoured that Genki (18) was not going to be kept in 2017, his departure has not been announced, and no replacement has been signed. Genki continues to train with the club, and was given a start in the most recent friendly against Sukhothai. We still think it’s likely that another AFC foreign player will be brought in to replace him on the left wing, but time is running out with the season fast-approaching.

 

MATCH REPORT: Port FC 3 – 1 Sukhothai

 

Port ran out 3-1 winners against Sukhothai in Thursday’s friendly at PAT Stadium. Port went 1-0 down early on, but equalized before half time and put in an excellent second half performance to secure a comfortable win.

Port started with Weera (1) in goal, Rochela (22) and Dolah (40) in central defence and Meechok (20) and Panpanpong (19) as full backs. Siwakorn (16) and Piyachat (28) operated in central midfield, with Suarez (4) tucking in behind striker Asdrubal(24). Both Genki (18) and Nitipong (34) were surprise selections on the wing, although Jadet is of course still experimenting with his team.

Sukhothai looked lively going forward in the early stages, but new signing Elias Dolah showed that he will be a force to be reckoned with this season with with some strong, fearless challenges in the air and on the ground. It was surprising, then, when Sukothai took the lead from a corner. Dolah was beaten – for the only time in the half – to a near post header, and the ball flashed past Weera into the Port goal.

Port responded with a sustained assault on the Sukothai goal. Genki, who is rumoured to be leaving the club when a suitable replacement can be found, missed three chances that he would have expected to do better with. If we was trying to convince Jadet to keep hold of him in 2017, he wasn’t going about it the right way.

Asdrubal, making his first appearance for Port, looked strong on the ball despite his diminutive stature. He turned a hopeful punt up the right wing in to an attack by out-muscling the opposing defenders and playing a smart pass inside when it looked like he had nowhere to go. He didn’t make the most of a good shooting chance from the edge of the area, but we’ll let him off as the playing surface was problematic for everyone.

Port looked a little lop-sided at times, with most of the good play coming through the middle of the park or the right hand side. Meechok got forward well from right back and made some dangerous overlapping runs past Nitipong, but on the left hand side Panpanpong and Genki showed little in the way of attacking intent.

Port’s equalizer came just before half time from a set-piece. Piyachat whipped a dangerous ball in, and Dolah stuck out a long leg to divert the ball goalwards. The ‘keeper managed to block the shot,but Dolah was on hand to bundle the ball in to the net and draw Port level.

 

An auspicious full moon over the PAT

 

As we’re used to seeing in friendlies, there were several changes made at half time, from both Port and Sukhothai. Worawut (36) came on for Weera in goal, and in defence Todsapol (6) and Piyachart (23) replaced Dolah and Panpanpong. New young signing Tatchanon (27) replaced Piyachat in the centre of midfield, while Pakorn (9) and Ekkapoom (8) took over from Nitipong and Genki on the wings. Maranhao (29), no longer a Port player but still training with the club, came on for Asdrubal in attack. Rochela, Meechok, Siwakorn and Suarez stayed out for the second period, but were all substituted later in the half.

Port’s left hand side looked much improved in the second period. Piyachart offered much more going forward than the more defensively-minded Panpanpong, and Ekkapoom played in his usual energetic and direct style.

It was to be Maranhao and Pakorn who would really turn the game in Port’s favour, though. Pakorn, looking slightly more slender than last season, was a constant menace down the right. He curled in a couple of fantastic shots which missed by just a few inches, and provided a trademark cross which Maranhao narrowly failed to connect with.

On the hour mark, though, Maranhao put Port in to the lead. He made a clever run in behind the defence, collected a through ball from midfield and side-footed a composed finish in to the bottom corner. Maranhao saluted the fans behind the goal,who were pleased to see him rediscover his early-2016 form. He may not be playing for us next season, but we wish him all the best wherever he goes.

Maranhao turned provider for Pakorn in the 78th minute. He twisted, turned and beat his defender on the left before showing excellent awareness to find Pakorn, who was in space on the right hand side. Pakorn powered his shot past the Sukhothai ‘keeper in to the bottom left corner, getting the goal that his second half performance deserved.

The pace dropped in the final 10 minutes, but Port comfortably held on for a well-deserved 3-1 win. Sukhothai finished 8th in the TPL last season and knocked Port out of the FA Cup with a convincing 4-0 win. Although this was only a friendly, a comfortable win represents a step in the right direction for a Port side aiming for a top half finish this season.

Lineups

1st half

Weera, Meechok, Rochela, Dolah, Pinkong, Siwakorn, Piyachat, Suarez, Genki, Nitipong, Asdrubal

2nd half

Worawut, Meechok (Pakasit, 76), Todsapol, Rochela (Anisong, 81), Piyachart, Tatchanon, Siwakorn (Siwapong, 72), Suarez (Wuttichai, 67), Ekkapoom, Pakorn, Maranhao

 

 

Sergio Suarez: Super Agent?

 

Sergio Suarez has been Port’s most impressive player so far in pre-season, but could he be having even more impact off the pitch than he has had on it?

The 29-year old Spaniard began his career in Las Palmas, where he progressed through the ranks alongside his twin brother Francisco. The two were loaned out to Castillo to gain experience in 2005-06, and impressed so much that there was apparently interest from Barcelona. As you might have guessed, Suarez didn’t end up making the move to the Nou Camp. Not this Suarez, anyway. He stayed at Las Palmas for a further six seasons – scoring 15 goals in 125 games – before eventually falling out of favour. After being loaned out to CD Mirandes in 2012, Suarez returned to Las Palmas and was not even given a squad number.

That’s when he decided the time was right to move on. He joined Police United in the TPL, then the following season moved South to Songkhla in Division 1. His two seasons in Thai football have yielded an impressive 13 goals in 52 games, but Port have already benefited in a different and perhaps unexpected way from Suarez’ presence before a single competitive game has even been played.

Sergio and Francisco Suarez, 29

Whilst still at Songkhla, Suarez facilitated the transfer of his twin brother Francisco to The Southern Fighting Bulls, but Suarez’ agenting skills have since come back to haunt Songkhla and help Port. Since making the move to Khlong Toei, Suarez has been instrumental in convincing both Elias Dolah (a former Songkhla teammate) and Asdrubal (a former Las Palmas teammate) to join him at PAT Stadium. Port have struggled in the transfer market in recent seasons, so after deals for Frenchman Saer Sene and Argentine Bernardo Cuesta fell through, Port fans could be forgiven for fearing the worst. But now things are really starting to look up. Suarez has not only looked the real deal on the pitch, but has brought with him the fire-power that could prove crucial in T1 next season. And with two more foreign players to come in, should we be poring over lists of Suarez’ former teammates to figure out who will be arriving next?

Regardless, we’re certainly happy with what we’ve seen so far from Sergio Suarez. We hope he continues to prove his worth on the pitch, and bring us as many of his best former teammates as he can!

 

MATCH REPORT: Port FC 1-1 Pahang FA

 

Pahang FA held Port to a 1-1 draw on Sunday, but the result didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the home fans, who brought the noise to PAT Stadium for the first time since the stadium ban took effect in September.

The Zone B Fans

Since then Port fans have been itching to get back on the terraces to cheer on their team, and yesterday they finally had their chance. A few hundred fans hungry for football – and a few dozen particularly thirsty for Leo – saw Port slip to a disappointing draw against a side they should probably have beaten.

Pahang FA play in the Malaysian Super League – where they finished 9th last season – but Port’s first half performance indicated that they were much the stronger side. The first half side was almost identical to the one fielded at Navy on Thursday. The only change was in goal, where Weera (40), who if we’re honest we had completely forgotten about, played a quiet but mistake-free 45 minutes. In front of him was a back four of Rochela (22), Dolah (38), Meechok (20) and a former Bangkok United player currently on trial at Port, the superbly named Panpanpong Pinkong (19). Suarez (4), Siwakorn (16) and a 20 year old tralist from Army – Tatchanon Nakarawong (27) – operated as a three in the centre of midfield, with Ekkapoom (8) and Pakorn (9) on the wings. Sene (40) once again started up front; determined to get on the score sheet after peppering the goal but failing to score against Navy.

The action, as seen from Zone B

Port started brightly, moving the ball through midfield with purpose. Suarez was the stand-out player, showing a nice touch and great vision. He controlled play and delivered some excellent passes out wide. His good work paid off 15 minutes in to the first half. Suarez found Pakorn on the right hand side, and Pakorn hung up an inviting cross which had Sene’s name written all over it. The towering French forward jumped so high that he actually had to stoop in mid-air to connect with the cross, but regardless he powered his header past the ‘keeper to make it 1-0.

Pahang rarely threatened the Port goal, but on one of the rare occasions they ventured forward new signing Dolah showed his strength and timing to win an important tackle and play a smart pass out in to midfield. The six foot five Thai-Swedish centre half looked calm and capable throughout the half, suggesting that he could form a formidable partnership with Rochela, although he was never really tested against the Malaysians.

Wholesale changes were made at half time again, with only Sene staying on the pitch. The second string were more evenly matched with Pahang, and they largely cancelled eachother out in a half where chances were at a premium. Genki (18) was industrious as ever, and Piyachart (23) made some enterprising runs forward, but Port couldn’t really find their rhythm. Matters were not helped when Sene was replaced by Wuttichai (14) and Maranhao (29) limped off the pitch after picking up a knock.

In the 75th minute Pahang found themselves back on level terms, and the game started to become a little feisty. Substitute Wuttichai was fouled and exchanged heated words with a Pahang defender, then seconds before the final whistle he was deservedly given his marching orders for an ugly foul, clearly an act of retribution.

Despite the not-so-friendly game ending on a sour note, the Port fans had a good day out, particularly the fans from Zone B who brought their drums and created a more upbeat atmosphere than we’re used to seeing in pre-season.

Port are yet to announce any more friendlies, but when they do The Sandpit will be sure to keep you updated.