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Time to Climb the Table – The World Is Not Enough: Chiangmai Utd 0-2 Port FC

 

After a ‘Slum vs Scum’ derby, you could almost excuse the few people who found our round 6 fixture against new boys Chiangmai United a bit anti-climactic. Not much is known about the team from up north, but what’s been shown so far this season: it’s been up and down. You’ve got to give them credit for the way that they’ve recruited for their first season in T1, and although they haven’t picked up as many points as they might’ve hoped, it hasn’t been catastrophic from them either.

If there’s something that I can compliment all of the teams that were promoted from T2 for, it’s that they’ve not gone down the path that Rayong took: they’ve gone out and signed some good players. Almost every foreign player on the books of the promoted clubs MOONWALKS into the Rayong side from last season, so at least there’s been a jump in the quality of the promoted sides. It’s almost as if they’re learning from the mistakes others have made: who’d have thought that!

For Port, we came into the game having to make [at least] two changes to the squad, due to the injuries sustained by Tanaboon and Kannarin in the derby. I wish the both of them a speedy recovery, and it was nice to see the starting 11 make the following gesture to Kannarin in the picture below. Coming into the starting-11 were Worawut Baresi [#24] and Jaturapat [#15], with Tanaboon [#17] going out of the squad altogether, and Nitipong [#34] dropping to the bench. Taking Kannarin’s place on the bench was Elias Dolah [#4], who hadn’t been a part of the past two matchday squads. It was a welcome return in one way, but it’s now up to the Thai international to force his way back into the starting-11, and show the ability that made him a much loved figure on the terraces, and go on to earn a place in the national team set-up. Simply put: his performances haven’t been up to scratch for a while.

 

 

Fast Starts: A View to Kill

We’ve shown time and time again this season that we’re able to hit the ground running from the offset, though the fact is that our opposition [typically] get the first opportunity of the match. That wasn’t the case today, and with just 2:02 on the clock we nearly took the lead. What a start that would’ve been!

A long, diagonal ball was [inexplicably] allowed to bounce by the Chiangmai United defender, with Roller [#33] getting onto the ball, and breezing by the fullback. I have a feeling that it was Muangthong loanee Saharat that was out there on the wing with him, though the available camera angles couldn’t confirm whether it was or wasn’t him. If it wasn’t: my apologies, Saharat. Regardless, Roller had breezed by, and his delivery into the 18-yard box was pretty damn good. Suarez was rushing into the ball to attack it, and usually when he’s left unmarked to attack the ball the ball is in the back of the net moments later.

It wasn’t to be this time around for the Spaniard, but it was a great bit of play from all of the Port players involved. I’ve no doubt that the next time things play out in the same way: Suarez will be running off to celebrate with his teammates.

 

 

The next goalscoring opportunity for us came after a horrible collision between former Port stalwart Tossapol [#6] and Brazilian defender Evson [#30], with Nelson Bonilla [#9] attempting to latch onto the loose ball and go one-on-one with the Chiangmai United goalkeeper. To his credit, Nont Muangngam [#20] got off his line quickly, and got the ball away from danger. The whistle was quickly blown so that both Tossapol and Evson could receive medical treatment, with the Brazilian definitely the player that came out of the collision worse off. If either player is reading this: best wishes in your recovery. It’s never a nice sight to see someone suffer a serious head injury, and if I don’t see another one this season I’d be quite a lot happier. Tossapol was [somehow] able to continue playing on, but Evson was replaced by Sirisak Faidong [#15] on the 22-minute mark.

The next effort [and I’m not sure you can call it that!] that we had on goal was with 25:00 on the clock, with Pakorn taking a set-piece that certainly wasn’t a cross, but it wasn’t much of a shot either. Some… “interesting”… goalkeeping from Nont saw the ball go out for a corner, though we weren’t able to do anything from the resulting corner. We were [clearly] in the ascendancy, though at the same time we really didn’t look like scoring either. It was quite weird to watch if I’m honest, but I still had faith that we’d find a breakthrough. The lads were cutting through the Chiangmai United players like they weren’t even there at times, but at the end of the day you have to put your chances away to get the 3-points.

With 29:26 played, we did have an effort on goal, though the linesman flagged a bit too quickly in my opinion. There’s no doubt that Bonilla was offside in the lead-up play; he was, by at least 2-3 yards. The thing is, by the time the cross was played in, it looked like he MIGHT have gotten himself back onside, and had a headed attempt cleared off the line. Imagine if we had technology, like VAR for instance, that could go back and disallow the goal if he was actually offside!? The goal-line clearance had only gotten as far as Go [#8], only for the whistle to be blown due to the linesman’s flag. It was all a bit of a mess to be honest, and this was a case where VAR might’ve been useful.

Having said that: the implementation of VAR in Thailand has been a catastrophe, and it probably would’ve taken them 8-10 minutes to come to a decision… but only after watching 329 replays. For what it’s worth, having watched it a few times, I think the right decision was made, I just think the decision was made somewhat prematurely due to the fact that Bonilla had been in an offside position in the lead-up play.

Regardless, the clearance from Tossapol had been a good bit of play from him, and if he could save good performances for anyone but us, that’d be much appreciated!

 

 

It took until the 31-minute mark for our hosts to get a strike off on goal, with Saharat having an effort that would’ve earned applause in a rugby game as a successful conversion attempt. Minutes later, Chiangmai United were back at it, with a through ball from Escudero [#26] giving Melvin de Leeuw [#9] an opportunity. He did quite well to hit the target with his half volley, and even though it was fairly straightforward for Worawut [#36] to save: he still made a bit of a meal of it. Worawut seemed to have something to say to the match officials, but I’m not quite sure why.

The game had lacked controversy, much like the derby had, but that all changed just before the 37-minute mark, when an out-swinging corner from Pakorn [#7] made its way into the box. The ball had glanced off the head of either Suarez or a defender, with it then making its way towards Baresi. It’s pretty damn obvious that the Chiangmai United defender has a handful of Baresi’s jersey, and anywhere else on the pitch, it’s a freekick. So why isn’t it a penalty? What makes it worse [for me] is the fact that he’s not even trying to track the player he’s supposed to be marking, he’s just holding on for dear life instead. Minutes later we had yet another VARcical decision from a T1 match official.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the match officials just aren’t up to standard in Thailand, and it had [yet again] been shown a night earlier in the Khonkaen United-Nakhon Ratchasima game. VAR had been correctly used to give a red card against a Khonkaen United player, but it had made a mistake in disallowing a goal from Ibson Melo in the first-half. If anyone knows the reason that goal was disallowed, please drop a comment on The Sandpit tweet where this is published.

The shirt pull in this game should’ve been a penalty, and was yet another example of why VAR is a pointless tool to have when the people tasked with using it don’t know how to use it properly.

 

 

There’d been 6-minutes in added time for the first-half, due to the injury to Evson, and the VAR farce, with it allowing us a final effort on goal. Jaturapat had received the ball from Go, crossed from deep, with Suarez attacking it. He got a bit fortunate with the ‘pinball’ that went on, which saw him receive the ball in a great position. Korrakot [#77] did a magnificent job to deflect the Spanish maestros effort for a corner, and he’d certainly atoned for his mistake in the seconds leading up to the half volley. Suarez was frustrated to have not scored: Korrakot looked like he’d just found a new source of energy!

It meant we went into the half-time interval at nil-all, and I was certainly intrigued by what our second-half game plan would be.

 

 

An Attacking Second-Half? Die Another Day!

I’ve commented a few times in previous reports that I’ve felt a little underwhelmed by our second-half performances in the attacking-third so far this season, so the one benefit of going into the interval at nil-all was that we’d HAVE to attack in the second-half. A point away to Chiangmai United wouldn’t be an acceptable result in the slightest, but it’d be such a Port thing to do: a great result against the Scum, followed by dropping points to the league new boys.

The first attack of the second-half belonged to our hosts, with them breaking forward whilst the referee waved for an advantage, due to their being a shirt pull. I thought pulling your opponents shirt was okay!? Anyway, the ball ended up at the feet of Jaturapat, who had an absolute ‘mare with his clearance, with the ball finding itself at the feet of Saharat. The effort from the man on-loan from Muangthong was pretty damn awful, and I’ll admit that it made me chuckle for a bit. I think it ended up halfway between the post and the corner flag, and he won’t be watching the replay too fondly in the match review meeting with his teammates.

Our hosts were most certainly in the ascendancy during the start of the second-half, and they had a few good moments in the 10-minutes after the second-half had kicked off. Ultimately: their efforts were for nothing. There was plenty of effort and energy, but without Yannick Boli in the line-up: they looked a bit lost. From what I watched, a simple 4-4-2 would be perfect for Chiangmai United, because a duo of Yannick Boli and Melvin de Leeuw is going to find you the goals to win games. They had 3 or 4 chances to take the lead against us in the opening 15-minutes of the second-half, and if you don’t take your chances, picking up points becomes a hell of a lot harder.

 

 

Whilst I wasn’t too pleased that it took us over 15-minutes to carve out our first proper attack of the second-half, I was quite pleased with the way that we’d handled the pressure that Chiangmai United had been putting on us, and you could sense that we were picking our moment to land the first blow.

An outside of the right-foot pass from Suarez had found Bonilla, and my goodness was his first touch horrendous! He burned his defender for pace quite easily, but the odds were heavily stacked in Nont’s favour to make the save, and although Bonilla got to the ball first, he was never looking likely to score this time around. It was a missed opportunity, and it was a truly poor first-touch from our star striker.

It was the final warning that we would give our hosts.

Just minutes later we took the lead. A cross-field pass from Bordin was expertly controlled by Pakorn [that’s how you do it Nelson!], with the midfield monk in acres of space. The Chiangmai defender [Sirisak] moved across to close him down, but he was nowhere near tight enough to be effective in killing off the danger. Pakorn played a lovely low cross in, and Nelson ran straight onto it: unmarked! He had no qualms in smashing the ball into the back of the net, before making his way towards Pakorn, who’d made yet another magnificent assist. It was a great piece of play from Bordin, Pakorn, and Bonilla, and I couldn’t help but think “I hope we push on for a few more!” to myself.

 

 

The goal had sparked us into life, and a few minutes later we were back at it. Bonilla got his first touch right this time around, after receiving a lovely ball from Siwakorn [#16], and went through towards goal. The defender marking him forced him a bit wide, and rather than being selfish he laid the ball off for Jaturapat to run onto. Jaturapat took a shot, rather than taking another touch, with Nont getting quite a strong palm to it. I thought Pakorn did quite well to get the ball under control again, with him laying it off for Go to have a strike on goal. There was plenty of power on the strike, but it lacked direction, and rocketed towards the running track.

We were well and truly in the mood now, and minutes later: we scored one of the best goals scored in the league so far this season. If any other club had scored it, it’d be all over social media, and people would be losing their minds. It was a thing of absolute beauty!

Bordin picked up the ball in his half [around the left-wingback area of the pitch], and played the ball forward to Suarez. Suarez, sensing that there was an over-zealous fullback headed his way, played a first-time ball to Bonilla, who completed the ‘one-two’ to Suarez: who’d continued his progress forward. This is the part of the pitch where the Spanish maestro is so damn good, because he sucked in another Chiangmai United defender, before playing a perfectly weighted ball for Bordin to run onto. Bordin was gliding down the left-side of the pitch, and rather than trying to do too much: he played a first-time cutback towards the penalty spot.

Who was there? Go! The Korean central-midfielder kept his composure, and thrashed the ball into the back of the net, to double our lead. I could watch this goal on a continuous loop; it was fantastic. It’s the kind of goal that you show a young kid when you’re talking about how important off-the-ball movement is, and every Port player involved in this sequence of play should take a bow.

 

 

After the goal had gone in, our hosts used their second substitution window, with Surawich Logarwit [#16] replacing Khapfa Boonmatoon [#54], who’d been booked in the first-half, and Kittipat Wongsombat [#8] replacing Boworn Tapla [#32]. A minute later: Saharat was booked, in what had been quite a miserable night for him. Things just hadn’t clicked for him, and he doesn’t look anything like the player that had been so dangerous for PTT Rayong. Maybe a move to Korat to reunite with Teerasak Po-on might do him some good?

We were dealt an injury scare around the 77-minute mark, with Baresi having to be withdrawn, with the towering Elias Dolah [#4] taking his place on the pitch. Since the mess that occurred on the opening day of the season, our defensive unit has looked quite good, and it’s of little surprise that we’ve not been coughing up too many goals. I’ll admit to being a bit nervous about Dolah coming on, but I was hopeful that he’d be the Dolah that we all know and love.

Minutes later we had another dangerous attack! I was loving that we were attacking so much in the second-half, and a pass down the line from Roller to Pakorn had the midfield monk weighing up his options. He played a smart pass inside to Bordin, who took a touch, and lashed an effort at goal. Nont parried the shot quite well, and having both scored already: both Bonilla and Go got in each others way! Bonilla took control of the ball, played a pass to Bordin, who did a bit of a song and dance: trying to get himself in enough space for another effort on goal. He played the ball back out to Pakorn, who seemed a bit indecisive this time around, with his cross not dangerous at all.

A minute later our hosts nearly halved the deficit! My god it was heart in mouth stuff. A corner that wasn’t defended well saw a header from Tossapol [I think] hit the post, Sirisak Faidong then hitting the crossbar with his rebound. It was a complete lapse of concentration from the lads, and we very nearly made the final few minutes of the game an end-to-end battle. Thankfully we cleared the ball, and preserved our cleansheet. A ‘get out of jail free’ card had been used by us, and it was now up to Dusit to reorganize the troops, and make sure that it didn’t happen again.

Both teams then made their final substitutions for the night, with Chiangmai United bringing on Phongsakon Seerot [#14] and Kantapong Bandasak [#11] on for Sergio Escudero [#26] and Saharat Kanyarot [#18]. I honestly don’t think much of Escudero: he gives off Gorka vibes for me. That being said: Gorka produced a hell of a lot more during his time in Thai football, and I can’t see Escudero being able to get the same amount of goals or assists as the lumpy Spaniard.

Meanwhile, the substitutions we made were: Charyl Chappuis [#6] and Tanasith Siripala [#11] replacing Siwakorn [#16] and Bordin [#10]. Both Siwakorn and Bordin had played well, and could take their place on the bench knowing that they’d both played a strong part in us getting the 3-points.

There was still enough time for a bit of “controversy” to take place, with an incisive breakaway from Bonilla, Chappuis, and Tanasith seeing us have a potentially dangerous moment in front of goal. It was a perfectly weighted ball from Bonilla to Chappuis, with the midfielder having a… not so good first-touch. It almost killed the odds of him having an effort on goal, and with him trying to make up for his mistake: he somewhat launched himself at the ball. He kept a hold of it, before having a strike on goal that was deflected out for a corner by a defender.

Next minute: VAR check! What I’ll say on it is this: it was touch and go. Could he have been given a red card? Possibly. Do I think he should’ve? No. The problem for Artit Daosawang [#92] wasn’t the contact from Chappuis, it was the way that he’d launched himself to try and make the defensive block. He was trying to contort his body in multiple different directions, and it’s no wonder he came out of it feeling worse for wear! There was definitely contact, and it’s a moment that Chappuis will learn from no doubt. With that being said, and how awful VAR is in the Thai League, I wouldn’t have been surprised at all if they’d sent him off.

Thankfully, common sense prevailed. The full-time whistle was blown not long after, and the lads could begin their trek back to Khlong Toei with the 3-points in the bag! Well done!

 

 

My Thoughts – Chiangmai United

Chiangmai United tried hard, and they’re not exactly a bad side, but they’re not a good side either. We haven’t played Nongbua Pitchaya just yet, but of the 3 sides that have come up this season this is the side that I’m least impressed by so far this season. Whilst I understand that they were missing Boli, who’d destroyed Samut Prakan City just 5-days earlier, the defensive unit wasn’t quite the same once Evson went off, whilst their midfield undoubtedly lacks any real quality. Escudero isn’t good enough to be able to drag them out of a mess; I’ve seen tumbleweeds move faster than him, and that’s without any wind. This side appears to be destined to go back down, and what did they do when they were promoted? They hired a coach that seems to specialize in getting teams relegated!

They’ve got big decisions to make in the next transfer window, and I’d be very surprised to see either the head coach or Escudero last the whole season at the club. I hope that Evson isn’t seriously injured, and wish him a speedy recovery, as the longer he’s out: the more trouble his club is in.

 

My Thoughts – Port FC

This was our first proper 90-minute performance of the season. In the 5 games prior, we seemed to have been good in the first-half, only to be a lot more cautious/reserved in the second-half. That certainly wasn’t the case tonight, and it was extremely pleasing to watch.

The lads that had come into the starting-11 had justified their selection, and I thought that Jaturapat was fantastic in his return. He was someone that I considered for the ‘Man of the Match’ award below, and he was quite unlucky to miss out in my opinion. I thought this was quite possibly our best defensive performance of the season, albeit we were up against a newly promoted side, but it was pleasing that we didn’t allow complacency to creep in, like it might’ve in seasons gone by. Defensively, we looked quite well organized, bar the blip late in the game from that corner. I hope that Baresi’s injury isn’t serious, because if we can have the same back-4 start for the next game against Buriram: I’d be very happy with that.

Our midfield was quite tremendous too, as was the attacking trio of Pakorn-Bonilla-Bordin, and if it’s possible to name an unchanged line-up next time out, we should do it. It appears that certain players have shaken off any rust that was in their games, and I thought that Go had his best game for the club in a long while. He ran the show at times, which was great to see considering he’s been quite lacklustre at times in the games previous. There was a bit more urgency to his game, and I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to this standard of performance from now on. There’s no doubting that when he’s on-form he’s one of the best AFC quota players in the league. The big question is: at 35-years old, can he do it frequently?

Buriram United is our next game, with it to be played at PAT Stadium on Sunday at 7pm. Will fans be allowed? Your guess is as good as mine. I’m hopeful that they will be, and if we can try to create a bit of a raucous atmosphere for them to come into I think we stand a chance. On our day, we’re just as good as anyone in this league, and with Bonilla regularly finding the back of the net, we’ve currently got the ‘Golden Boot’ capable striker that we thought we were getting when we first brought him to the club.

There’s a lot to be pleased with at the moment, and don’t forget, if you’re not able to watch the game at PAT Stadium on Sunday, you can always watch the game at The Sportsman!

 

Man of the Match – David Rochela

 

 

I think that I’ve made my opinion on Rochela quite clear since I began writing for the site, but the one thing that I’ve always said is that he’s a proper professional, and I have a lot of respect him for everything that he’s done for the club. Do I think that he’s the type of defender that will help us challenge for a top-2 finish? No, I don’t. But there’s no way that you can’t admire him for the way that he’s navigated through his 6-season spell at the club. There are plenty of players/agents that would’ve thrown their toys out of the pram in some of the instances, but Rochela just knuckled down and kept going about his business. He’s a great ambassador for the club, and although I do think that we will need to move on from him in the near future, I’m quite content to have him remain for the time being.

Getting back to his actual performance now, he didn’t put a foot wrong in the game. He’s been very consistent so far this season, and although he’s had a few ‘iffy’ moments: they’ve been a bit less frequent too. I think that he must be such a calming influence for his defensive partner, and I actually think that Baresi and Tanaboon are much more suited to playing alongside him than Dolah is. Only Buriram United, BG Pathum United [both 4], Nongbua Pitchaya, and Ratchaburi [both 5] have conceded less goals than us so far this season, though BG Pathum United have the benefit of having played 2 less games at the moment, whilst Nongbua and Ratchaburi have both only played 5 fixtures.

Dusit appears to have sorted our defensive frailties that we seem to show every season, and Rochela has shown fine form during the start of the reign of his new manager. Keep it up!

 

Boli Bosh! Overhead Strike Tops 2020/21 Goal of the Season Poll

 

With a convincing plurality of the votes, Yannick Boli has stormed to victory in this year’s Goal of the Season competition. Continuing the trend of foreign attacking players scooping the award, Boli’s strike is the successor to Suarez’ magnificent chip in 2019, with the likes of Boskovic and Thiago Cunha having also won the award in previous seasons.

Whilst Boli’s victory was never in doubt, there were plenty of impressive strikes vying for second place, so here’s a look at how the public vote ranked our 10 shortlisted goals. Need a reminder of the entries? Look no further…

 

 

1st) Yannick Boli (41%)

Boli was sizing up his spectacular volley from the moment the ball was nodded back in to the danger zone, and once the wheels were in motion, neither defenders or goalkeeper had a prayer of stopping his acrobatic finish. Made better by the fact that his strike in first half stoppage time set Port up for an away victory, and that Suphan stopper Deyto could do no better than to sink to his knees and smile. Us too, buddy.

 

2nd) Bordin Phala (15%)

Bordin has capped off the most memorable season of his career to date with back to back runner up finishes in our polls, and it’s nothing more than Port’s silky winger deserves. Few were better positioned to view his match winner against Chonburi, that gained 15% of the public vote, than I was. Having given up hope in Port snatching a late winner, and with 94 and a half minutes on the clock, I was on my way down the Zone B steps when Port were awarded a free kick, so I positioned myself right behind the goal. Bordin stepped up and bent a marvelous strike in to the top left hand corner, scraping the outstretched hand of Chanin and earning Port an unlikely late win.

 

3rd) Nelson Bonilla / Go Seul-ki (9%)

Two technical masterpieces share third place in the poll, with Nelson Bonilla’s mazy dribble and clinical finish against Korat and Go’s left footed volley against champions BG deadlocked on votes. Bonilla’s run put one Korat defender on his arse, while he also managed to evade several more opposition players single handedly on his way to his finest goal in a Port shirt. Go’s strike was rather more straightforward, with the Korean watching Nurul’s cross right the way across the box, before finding the sweet spot on his left boot and effortlessly driving the ball back across goal, over the head of Chatchai and in to the top corner. Technically excellent, from a devilishly tight angle and in a big game against the future champions, Go is if anything a little unlucky to have to settle for shared third.

 

5th) Nelson Bonilla vs. Muangthong (7%)

6th) Sergio Suarez vs. Buriram (6%)

7th) Pakorn Prempak vs. Prachuap (5%)

8th) Nattawut Sombatyotha vs. MOF Customs (4%)

9th) Jaturapat Sattham vs. Chonburi (3%)

10th) Bordin Phala vs. Rayong (1%)

 


 

Congratulations to all shortlisted players, who had to get past lots of stiff competition just to make it on to our shortlist. Thanks once again to Arm, who edited The Sandpit’s Goal of the Season compilation, and to all Port fans who voted.

 

The Sandpit’s 2020/21 Port FC Player of the Year Poll

 

The season that felt like it would never end finally did, and as such is time to look back and reflect on what it meant for Port. Over the coming days we’ll have reviews, a Goal of the Season vote and a couple of other awards to dish out.

Kicking things off though, is the biggie: the public vote for The Sandpit’s player of the season. The first three editions were won by the Port’s Spanish contingent; first Rochela scooped the prize in 2016 and 2017, before Sergio Suarez took over in 2018. Last season Nitipong scored the first domestic win. Now it’s up to you, the public, to decide who out of the shortlisted players takes the prize. Voting will close at 7pm Thai time on Sunday.

 

กรุณาโหวตนักเตะยอดเยี่ยมประจำปี 2020/21 ครับทุกคน

 

Vote for your 2020/21 Port FC Player of the Year

 

The Sandpit’s Player of the Month for February is…

 

Finally, it’s back! Port Player of the Month features are returning to the Sandpit this year, with a new and improved formula.

Read more

Tom’s Transfer Talk: Tanasith Lord

 

One of Thailand’s best foreign players will be available on a free transfer this year as PTT Rayong’s dissolution means that formidable central defender Victor Cardozo is now without a club.

 

 

Having dropped David Rochela for the second half of 2019, Port chose to prioritize attack and sign an extra foreign striker, but it would be no great surprise if that policy was reversed in 2020, with either Rochela restored to the squad or an established star like Victor filling the role.

Of course there will be competition for his signature, and some of the biggest names in Thai football could well be interested. Buriram will doubtless respond to their failure to lift a trophy this season with some eye-catching transfers, and Muangthong manager Alexandre Gama could be in the mix too, having coached Victor in his double cup winning Chiang Rai side in 2018.

At this stage it’s still speculation, but we’d be mad not to be thinking about signing one of the best defenders in the Thai game. Then again, would he even get in to our starting XI ahead of Tanaboon?

 


 

We don’t just have to pre-empt rumours though, we have a real one to talk about. The subject of an apparent tug-of-war between Port and Samut Prakan, Tanasith Siripala is a player I’ve written about quite a bit in the past, as he was one of Thailand’s hottest prospects a few years back. Playing alongside a certain Bodin Phala for Bangkok Glass, who by the way was considered an inferior talent at the time, Tanasith tormented Port’s defence and scored the game’s only goal when BG defeated Port in 2016, and he was a worry for Port’s full-backs whenever he faced us.

 

 

His form has dropped off quite a bit in recent seasons, though. The reliable end product that you always hope will develop in young players has never quite materialized for Tanasith, and during his time with Suphanburi he’s been in and out of the starting XI. There’s still undoubted potential there though, and as with the signing of Bodin, things could turn out very well indeed.

Known to some as ‘Taodinho’ for his nickname Tao and his physical resemblance to Ronaldinho, Tanasith can play on either flank, although he saw most of his action on Suphanburi’s right wing this season. Whether or not Tanasith would add firepower to our squad is a no-brainer – of course he would – but is it really necessary for Port to sign another winger? With Bodin, Pakorn and Nurul already on the books we have more than enough options in those positions. Career-wise it’s probably a no-brainer for Tanasith NOT to join Port, as he would be much more likely to see significant game time elsewhere.

The state of the deal is unknown at the time of writing, with some saying the move to Port is confirmed, and others saying it is close. We’ll let you know if he pops up on Madame Pang’s Instagram feed!

 


 

As we have known for some weeks now, Port have secured the services of Go Seul-ki on a permanent deal, while Martin Stueble has also told us he will be staying with Port in 2020. Both made important contributions in 2019, and will surely play important roles once again next season. First though, there’s the small matter of a cup final…

 

Storm the Castle: Buriram Utd vs. Port FC Preview

 

Port have had some rotten results against the T1 title chasers this season, but in a league that no one seems to want to win, we’re somehow still in with an outside chance of glory. Two wins for Port, against the champions on Sunday and Samut Prakan the following week, will mean that Chiang Rai can clinch the title if they win their last two games, but if they slip up in either – the second being a tricky trip to Suphanburi – the title will be Port’s. On the other hand, a Buriram win more or less secures them the title, with their final day trip being a dream match-up with Chiang Mai, who will most likely already be down. All three teams have a route to ultimate victory, and all three depend on whether or not Port can storm the Thunder Castle and leave with the only plunder that matters: three priceless points.

 

 

Buriram United

Players to Watch

 

Let’s start with some of the stalwarts. Siwarak Tedsungnoen (1) is in his ninth year between the Buriram sticks, and this year has been rewarded for his longevity by being chosen as captain for both club and country. I remember one stunning performance at PAT Stadium featuring a point blank save from a Genki header that secured a 0-0 draw for The Thunder Castle, but more often than not what you get from Siwarak is consistent, mistake-free goalkeeping. He may be 35, but he’s still one of the top stoppers in T1.

 

 

In defence, Buriram will be led by one of T1’s best and least popular defenders. Andres Tunez (5) is everything that is wrong with Thai football. He turns his size and strength towards aggressive, hateful abuse of officials, before meekly surrendering to any pressure from attackers with pathetic playacting. Think of him as a cross between the physique of Dolah, the temperament of Boskovic and the balance of Nurul. Unfortunately, due in large part to weak Thai refereeing, he is an effective operative, leading the stingiest defence in the league. Buriram have conceded just 23 goals; 8 fewer than Port.

 

 

In midfield, the main man for Buriram has been Hajime Hosogai (7). I’ve been mightily impressed with his work rate, although the Japanese star also shown his creative limitations going forward. He’s just so good at what he does though: harrying, harassing and dispossessing opposition midfielders. In a game where Port’s midfield will be without our leader, expect Hosogai to exert plenty of influence, and make it difficult for the likes of Suarez and Siwakorn to find space in front of the back 3.

 

 

Buriram have shown a lot of faith in youth this season, with the likes of Ratthanakorn (26), Supachai (9) and Suphanat (54) racking up plenty of minutes, but the pick of the young guns has undoubtedly been attacking midfielder Supachok Sarachart (19). He’s netted 10 goals in all competitions, and has made himself an indispensable member of the national team to boot. Supachok can play through the middle or out wide, and has been particularly dangerous cutting in from the left and firing in shots and crosses with his trusty right boot. Perhaps the silver lining for Port could be that Supachok’s exertions across multiple fronts this season really looked to have taken a toll on the young star in the latter stages of the UAE game on Tuesday. He had been kicked all day long, and barely looked to have any gas left in the tank as the game came to a close.

 

 

Supachok’s even younger brother could be leading the line for Buriram against Port, but honestly I have absolutely no idea what Buriram think their best options are up top. They spent massively on Nacer Barazite (39) and Rasmus Jonsson (20), but in the League Cup final it was 17 year old Suphanat Muenta (54) who got the nod, with both foreigners sitting out. In the last 3 T1 games Buriram have gone with three different combinations of the three, with no player starting every game. They may have the element of surprise on their side, but there’s a decent chance they’re the ones who end up being punished for their inconsistency up top. I can just picture Diogo smirking smugly, Malaysian Super League medal in hand, as Jonsson fluffs another shot hopelessly wide.

 

 

Form

 

  • Trat 0-1 Buriram
  • Buriram 6-0 Ratchaburi
  • Buriram 1-1 Sukhothai
  • Muangthong 3-2 Buriram
  • Buriram 1-0 Chainat
  • Korat 2-3 Buriram

 

If ever a set of league results didn’t tell the full story. Their league form may look decent, but add in the stunning FA Cup semi-final defeat to Ratchaburi, who they had just spanked 6-0 in the league, and the League Cup final loss to Prachuap, and you start to see that Buriram just can’t win the big games anymore. Their biggest rivals turned them over in the league, they got dumped out of both cups and now an in-form Port, who haven’t conceded a goal since August, would love nothing better than to snatch the league title from them too. Can they stop the rot?

 

Port FC

No Go Zone

 

Port will be without key midfield man Go (8). The Korean is ineligible as he’s contracted to Buriram, but is also suspended after picking up his eighth yellow card. Besides this though, Port are at full strength. Kevin (97) defied a reported hamstring injury with a lively performance in the 5-1 friendly win against Honda last week, while Todsapol (6) was also fit enough to make an appearance, although he looked a little less comfortable. Todsapol has had plenty of time since then to recover though, and I expect him to start on Sunday, as his inclusion is key to Port’s likely game plan.

It’s a very similar game plan to the one Port employed in the 3-1 defeat to Buriram in the first half of the season to be fair, but with some key changes of personnel. Todsapol and Dolah (4) started in central defence that day, with Rochela (22) deployed out of position in defensive midfield. Port will likely once again shift a central defender in to defensive midfield, but this time we will be moving Tanaboon (71) in to his more natural position, while replacing him with a better centre back. Is it ideal? No, but at least it’s not Rochela in midfield again!

Alternatively, Port could leave Tanaboon in place at the back and try any number of options in midfield. It’s unlikely we’ll see any of Anon (20), Adisorn (13) or Athibordee (35) brought in from the cold, but Sumanya (11) could be given a start with Siwakorn (16) shifted back to a position with more defensive responsibility. This would be a very bold move from Port, especially with Supachok likely occupying the space between defence and midfield. I think we should really have a dedicated defensive player in place there, but going for the throat with an all-out attacking system is another way to go. A draw won’t be enough for Port, so there is something to be said for going all out for the win.

Another sub-plot will be yellow card suspensions, which could mean players missing out on the final day. Siwakorn sits ominously on 7, just one away from his second suspension, whilst Bodin (10) has accrued 3, one away from his first. A yellow for Siwakorn would mean he’s finished for the season, missing both the potentially decisive league game and the FA Cup final, while Bodin – one of Port’s players of the season – would be a massive loss for the visit of Samut Prakan.

 

Form

 

  • Port 2-0 Muangthong
  • Suphanburi 1-3 Port
  • Bangkok Utd 2-0 Port
  • Chiang Mai 0-2 Port
  • Port 3-0 Korat
  • Port 4-0 Chainat

 

Oh, and we won that cup semi-final. Looking good.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

The match will be shown on True 4U at 18:00 on Sunday 20 October, 2019. For those who can’t make it to The Chang Arena in Buriram, 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.

 

Port Suffering From Yellow Fever: Port FC vs. Suphanburi FC Preview

 

Two teams who recorded impressive victories last week face off in an intriguing encounter this Saturday at PAT Stadium. Looking at the table, top dogs Port are clear favourites to overcome Suphanburi, who were bottom of the table until their victory last week, but with the attacking talents at their disposal and the utter insanity that has been T1 so far this season, absolutely anything is possible. Port are without key central midfielder Go Seul-ki and right back Nitipong who are both suspended, but Suphan will also be without their own Korean midfielder Kim Sung-hwan as he is on loan from Port.

 

Suphanburi FC

Habitual Mediocrity

 

It’s worth mentioning briefly Suphanburi’s decline into mediocrity since 2013. After their promotion in 2012, The War Elephants finished in the top six for three successive seasons, boasting some of the league’s best talent like former Port star Pipat Thonkanya (visit our ‘Port Legends’ page for more on him) and a certain Dragan Boskovic. They were even managed by Mano Polking for a brief stint. The likes of Charyl Chappuis, who gets a lot of stick on here although when he was with Suphanburi he was without a doubt one of the best performing Thai players in the league, Carmelo Gonzalez and Thai league veteran Bjorn Lindemann were also part of a team which appeared to have an exciting future challenging the top teams in T1 for honours, but then something went wrong. It’s hard to pinpoint what, but since their initial success, Suphanburi have finished no higher than tenth, and there’s little in their current form to indicate that they’re ready to break that slump this season. They’ve got a highly rated T1 winning coach in Totchtawan, a group of talented Thai youngsters and two of the top foreign strikers in the league, but they just can’t seem to recapture that winning formula.

 

Players to Watch

 

Another T1 team, another Brazilian strike force. On paper this one ought to be among the very best in the league, but while Jonatan Reis (7) and Cleiton Silva (23) have a respectable 6 goals between them so far in 2019, their team has scored just 8 goals in total, and neither has yet provided an assist for a teammate. For some reason they’re just not quite gelling. While Reis has been spending a lot of time dropping back to pick up the ball and start attacks from midfield, Cleiton has held his position up front, and although this seems like an ideal partnership, it just hasn’t clicked yet. Either Reis has failed to find his teammate in dangerous areas, or Cleiton has missed the chances when they’ve come. I shouldn’t talk the pair down too much, though. They’re both superbly talented, and they both managed to get on the scoresheet last time out against Korat, potentially lifting spirits in Suphanburi and giving them the confidence they need to fulfil the promise their partnership holds.

 

 

Besides the Brazilians, it’s really tough to pick out anyone else on current form. The players I rate at Suphanburi have been spending far too much time on the bench. You’ll have heard me talk up the likes of exciting Thai forwards Thanasit Sriphala (11) and Chananan Pumbuppha (10) in past previews, but these guys have been in and out of the team this season. Even experienced Thai national team legends like defensive midfielder Adul Lahso (19) and goalkeeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool (18) haven’t been playing recently, with former Muangthong coach Totchtawan favouring lesser known players. How’s that been working out?

One of those lesser known players will be known to most Port fans, though. Last time the sides met at the PAT, Meechok Marhasaranukun (20) provided two excellent assists from the right flank, and he will be expected to start at right wing back. Quality defensive duo Anderson (3) and Suphan Thongsong (26) will make up two thirds of their central defence, but surprisingly they’ve conceded 12 goals already in 2018, so clearly there are as many problems at the back as there are going forward.

 

 

Mark Hartmann (9) wouldn’t have merited a mention unless he’d scored an excellent header off the bench last week to spark Suphanburi’s comeback, but the English-born Filipino will almost certainly now make a second half appearance. If you haven’t seen him before, he’s not easy to miss, what with his long flowing locks and the unmistakable aura of a player who couldn’t quite cut it at the Gang Warily Recreation Ground. That’s the home of Blackfield & Langley of the Wessex League, for those of you unfamiliar with English ninth tier football. Shame on you.

 

 

Form

 

Suphanburi have been consistently unpredictable so far this season, but on balance have fallen far short of expectations. It took three draws before they finally recorded a win, but that was followed by three defeats, before they bounced back with a win last time out against Korat. Here are their results in full.

  • Chainat 0-0 Suphanburi
  • Suphanburi 0-0 Buriram
  • Sukhothai 1-1 Suphanburi
  • Suphanburi 3-0 Chonburi
  • Trat 4-0 Suphanburi
  • Suphanburi 1-2 Chiang Mai
  • Bangkok United 4-0 Suphanburi
  • Suphanburi 3-1 Korat

 

Port FC

Yellow Fever

 

Port face yet more challenges to their squad depth this week, with suspensions to key players Go (8) and Nitipong (34). The yellow cards have been coming thick and fast this season, and both have already made it to four. Go will most likely be replaced by Athibordee (35), who has seen a lot of action off the bench so far in 2019, although we are clinging to the hope that one of the breakout stars of last season Anon (20) will be picked instead. Anon performed superbly in some big games for Port last term, and is a player Port should be trying to give as many minutes of T1 action to as possible, but Jadet seems to have promoted Athibordee, so that’s probably that. That is unless Suarez is available for selection after missing out last week. If the Spaniard is fit, Jadet could also ask Siwakorn to play a little deeper, with Sumanya alongside him and Suarez further forward. The spherical supremo has certainly got options in the middle of the park.

Normally Adisorn (13) would also be part of the conversation when the DM spot is up for grabs, but with Nitipong being out, he is sure to deputize at right back instead. With no other options available to Jadet, an out-of-position defensive midfielder will have to do. If only we’d considered our paucity of right backs in the transfer window when we were signing left backs like they were going out of fashion!

The rest of the team could remain unchanged, although with captain Rochela (22) returning to near full fitness it’s a question of when not if Todsapol (6) drops back to the bench. Watchara (1) has surely made the goalkeeping spot his own with an assured performance against Muangthong. I haven’t seen a Port goalkeeper looking as confident as Watchara does in all aspects of his game for quite some time. Bodin (10) and Pakorn (7) are undroppable the way they’re playing, so Nurul (31) is going to have to wait for his chance when he returns from injury, too. What an impact sub to have!

 

Predicted Lineup

 

Please, please, please pick Anon.

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 2 at 20:00 on Saturday 27 April, 2019. 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.

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk: Go-in, Go-in, Hwan!

 

With the arrival of Go Seul-ki at Port confirmed (pending the Madame Pang selfie, of course) Kim Sung-hwan has finally agreed to join Suphanburi on loan. Despite much improved performances in the second half of 2018, it was clear that Kim was still struggling for fitness, and at 32 was probably never going to be the player that Port thought they had signed last season. Despite being the same age as his compatriot, there are a few reasons why Go will be a big upgrade for Port.

Firstly, he’s proven himself in Thai football. The winner of 8 trophies, including 2 league titles in his 3 years with Buriram, Go understands how the game is played in Thailand, and how best to marshal his midfield to success. Kim certainly tried to direct proceedings from the middle of the park at Port, but it often felt as though he was swimming against the tide. With his experience, Thai/English communication skills, and some new teammates to boot, Go ought to be able to lead a more cohesive midfield unit in 2019.

Secondly, he’s fit. Go has just finished a season in the Korean top flight where he was a regular starter for Incheon United, even captaining his side on occasions in the run-in.  In fairness I do remember writing something eerily similar just before Kim’s arrival, but whilst Kim looked out of shape from the moment he arrived, here’s a recent picture of Go.

 

 

Finally, he’s got some connections within the Port squad. With a limited knowledge of both Thai and English, Kim apparently really struggled to build relationships with the other players, but not only does Go have more experience in Thailand, he knows a fair few of his new teammates already. Rochela, Nitipong, Bodin, Arthit, Yossawat and new arrival Sansern all enjoyed stints at Buriram during Go’s stay with the champs, meaning that Go will have plenty of familiar faces to help him settle in.

 

A Word of Warning

And a word of caution, because whilst I’m of the opinion that Go will be more successful with Port than Kim was, Port are still losing one of their most effective performers of last season. Kim was even my vote for The Sandpit Writers’ Player of the Year in 2018, and I think Port will really miss his fantastic vision and range of passing. It ended up being something that we grew accustomed to, but those long, raking diagonal passes that Kim specialized in will be difficult to replace, and Port will have to adapt their style and tactics accordingly.

I fondly remember Kim, almost certainly operating off the cuff, dropping back in to a sweeper position when Port had the ball and pointing at Rochela and Dolah to make a back three that allowed Port’s full backs to bomb forward safely. You could tell me it was Jadet’s idea and I would have no way to disprove it, but I’m just not buying it. That was all Kim.

 

Kannoo Believe It? Thitipan Deal On?

 

The familiar feeling is back. After a quiet start to the transfer window, there are so many transfers in and out of Port at various stages of completion I have absolutely no idea what’s going on. But seeing as we’re here, I’ll tell you what I do and don’t know, and what I think might end up happening.

 

What We Know

Done deals get cancelled, so we don’t really know anything, but the incoming transfers that everyone seems to be able to agree on are Fox Hunt duo Jirattikan Vapilai and Nutchanon Sojit, and Go Seul-ki, who has joined Port on loan from champs Buriram.

Out of the exit door have gone Jetjinn Sriprach and Sammy Slot while loanee Terens Puhiri has rejoined Borneo FC and Somprasong Promsorn has just joined Khon Kaen.

Likely Deals

There are a host of deals that some are claiming are confirmed, but haven’t yet gone on most websites’ lists of done deals. We expect some of them to be confirmed in the new year, but it’s possible that some will still be called off. The players in question are all from Bangkok United: Sansern Limwattana, Ernesto Phumipha and Sumanya Purisai.

We can’t very well have Kim Sung Hwan still on the books next season, so one way or another he’s sure to be out of the door. Apparently he’s not making things easy though, with a rumoured loan move to Suphanburi not yet any closer than when it was proposed to him by the club. Bajram Nebihi is also in the unwanted foreigner category, but he’ll be straight off as soon as he’s got his last month’s salary in the bank.

 

Thitipan’s Japanese Deal Off

BG’s superstar midfielder and my man crush Thitipan Puangchan has gone from being an outside transfer punt to maybe a 50/50, with his proposed move to Japan apparently dead in the water. Last time I wrote about him, the rumour was that if his Japanese move fell through he would join Port on loan, and now the latest news is that Bangkok United have joined the race for Thailand’s most exciting central midfielder.

This deal certainly could happen for Port, but at the moment there are no details. This deal could also affect the transfer of Bangkok United midfielder and recently named 2018 Thai League MVP Sumanya Purisai. With Sumanya carrying a hefty 40 million baht price tag, and the Thitipan loan deal sure to cost a pretty penny in loan fees and wages, we imagine that with Go’s signing already confirmed, Port will want one, but not two more good but expensive midfielders on the books. This is pure speculation on my part, though, so take it for what it’s worth.

 

Kan-Who?

 

 

Now I’ll be honest, this is the lowest kind of rumour. Port’s Wikipedia page currently shows young forward Sittichok Kannoo as a Port player, but I haven’t heard any noise anywhere else hinting that this deal could be a goer. Anyway, he’s one of the more promising Thai forwards around, with an excellent record for Thai youth teams at all levels. He has struggled a bit stepping up to T1 level though, netting 6 in 26 for Honda in 2017, then 1 in 5 for Bangkok United last season. Anyway, we need more depth up top, and he’s young and promising. Can’t argue with the logic.

 

My Prediction

Jirattikan and Go will stay, Nutchanon, as one of 5 left backs, could very easily be gone before the start of the season. Either that or he’ll stay but only play for Port B. Ernesto will arrive, meaning that Yossawat leaves on a permanent deal. Sansern will join, but Sumanya’s deal will fall through at the last minute, as Thitipan makes a dramatic late move to Khlongtoei. Sittichok will rightly deny any link to Port, and the only remnant of the rumour will be this Transfer Talk. Port will go on to sign another striker who won’t be as good as Arthit, because, let’s face it, no one is as good as Arthit. Port will not sign a right back, and end up playing Adisorn there in some critical league games, where he will run around a lot before giving away penalties which cost us points.