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Bangkok United; Port Divided: Port FC 0-3 Bangkok United

 

A very large contingent of Port fans – officially about 6,500 (Ed – LOL) – welcomed Zico to PAT this Sunday as Bangkok United paid a visit.

 

 

Taking my usual perch at the top of Zone A to watch the teams warm up the first thing that struck me was how fit the United players look in comparison to our squad. I must admit a fondness for Bangkok United, partially because one of their players, Anthony, is from my hometown and because the club has been built with a plan from the day they entered the top flight. Each season has seen a better squad and for the most part better results.

United started with their most formidable offensive lineup of Mario (20), Boskovic (7) and Leesaw (14). Also starting was their new Iranian midfielder Pooladi (9). Interestingly enough their other foreign acquisition Ede (17) was not in the matchday squad.

With the exception of Ittipol (7) in the midfield, Worawut (36) in goal, and Nitipong (34) at fullback, the Port lineup was as Tom predicted

As soon as the first whistle blew to begin the match it was obvious that Port were going to play differently in the Zico era. Wider passing lanes were created, passes were quicker, and the opposition was being pressured in their half. Modern football arrives at PAT. Some good early pressure from Port led to a Josi header that missed, but showed promise. Tough play in the opening half led to a slew of “Pakcorners” one of which resulted in a cross that Josi failed to make contact with. Port’s pressure continued to result in possession, but no real quality chances. BU’s Persian, a nasty piece of work, obviously frustrated by Port’s pesky players finally received a yellow after several warnings. One thought for sure if his antics continued he would be sent off. The last minutes of the first half brought BU’s first real chances of the match. First off, a Boskovic free kick that just missed the target and the second when the woodwork was rattled and Port struggled to clear. Port were the better side in the first half, but just as in Suphan the week before, the failure to capitalize was to come back and haunt them.

The second half began with Port in a less aggressive posture. Two quick yellows, one from Pakorn (9) and one from Ittipol (7) seemed to prod the team on a bit. Perhaps our best chance of the night came soon after the yellows when Josi was hit with a pass that saw him in front of the defender. Sadly as we have seen so many times this season, he was unable to convert this into a credible shot. However, Port’s play picked back up and things were looking good until the first substitution, Wuttichai (14) for Ittipol. At this point the game changed dramatically and swung in BU’s favor. No longer were Port the aggressors as Port gifted United the ball several times with a slew of unforced errors. Realizing his big Iranian was riding a yellow, United manager Mano Polking brought in Pokklaw (39) and BU began pushing forward. Pakorn who still does not appear fit after his extended absence from the team was subbed off for Tana (99), who has far from excelled on the wing this year. Mika (16) was removed in favor of Ekkachai (2) and BU were rolling and pushing the ball up at will. Finally it paid off with Nitipong committing a reckless foul in the box and Boskovic converting from the spot. Realizing that Port needed some speed Ekkapoom (8) was brought in for Genki (18), but the speed on the left could not make up for the lack of it on the right and in the middle. Another giveaway led to a Mario goal and Port were done. Just a few minutes later Boskovic scored on the break after heading a pass down to his feet. Zico’s first match ends 0-3.

 

Thoughts on the Match

 

It was great to see Port playing high-tempo modern football. After boring Jadet-ball, if nothing else, Zico will bring some pizzazz to the PAT. It also seems the players like him and will listen to him. With the right squad he could lead us far.

We are not fit enough to play this style for 90 min. One look at our team in comparison to BU tells you quite a bit. The BU players are all lean, ripped, and very well conditioned. I am sure their training methods are state of the art. I would bet they even have a dietician on staff as well. If we are going to compete we need to up the fitness a few notches.

Our offensive players are not producing. The last two matches we have conceded five and scored none. Last week the chances were there; we should have been home and dry by the half, but instead lost 2-0. We just don’t have the quality up front that we need in T1.

The foreign contingent will be the same for the second leg as it was for the first. Honestly, we needed an upgrade and were allowed two moves to do it. Instead we moved Maranhao (29) into the squad for Kalu (10) and then Kalu back into the squad for Maranhao. (Ed – waiting for confirmation on this absolutely damning rumour) To the best of my knowledge this completes our transfer window foreign quota. Just astonishing. How did this happen? One wonders where the goals are going to come from.

Why not bring in Kalu? I certainly expected the first substitution to be Kalu for Josi, not Wuttichai for Ittipol. Perhaps he could have found the target. Why not use him?

One hopes are that Zico saw some of the same things we did tonight and makes adjustments accordingly. There are some personnel issues to be dealt with on the squad.

 

Port FC Man of the Match

 

 

Honorable mentions to Prawinwat (55) and Jetjin (51), but my MOTM goes to Ittipol (7), whose hard-nosed play and passes kept us the better side in the first half. After he was subbed off, it was all downhill.

In closing it was a mixed debut for Zico, A first half filled with promise and a second to forget. I like the style; I just hope we have the men to play it. Goals are going to be tough to come by this leg. That’s obvious. As long as we stay up, that’s all that matters.

It does not get much easier as we are off on Wednesday to play an in-form Navy team at a stadium we have never done well in. We need the three points.

 

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Pop-corn, Piss-poor Port and a Proliferation of Pongs: Swatcats 0-0 Port FC

 

“There are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics” (origin unknown, attributed to many).

 

This particular statistic, 0-0, does, indeed, not lie. A more depressing, turgid exhibition of vacuous nothingness it would be hard to find outside of a Jose Mourinho press conference.

At least, for most of us, it had been a welcome chance to visit a new ground. The stadium, built for the late King’s 80th birthday anniversary, was completed in 2007 and, along with the surrounding sports complex, was used to host the South-East Asian Games that same year. Situated just outside the main city, it has a fairly pleasant aspect, impressive floodlights and the inevitable running track, although the elevated view, for one of at least eagle vision, is not a significant drawback.

 

 

On a quiet Sunday though there was little gastronomic fare to appease the appetites  of the decent away crowd. I did manage to pick up a reasonably acceptable Pork laap with rice, only to find that my fellow farang travellers were munching on pop-corn on the stadium steps. Popcorn?! Popcorn?! FFS lads – this is a football match, not a bleeding Pixar movie! Hang your collective heads in Bovril soaked shame. Just try asking for a bag at Wigan Athletic!

Once inside the mostly uncovered, all-seater ground, with an official capacity of  24,641, we were disappointed to see the sparse home crowd dotted like a scatter graph of rainfall in the Sahara Desert. This is a club who, only a few years ago, were one of the best and most passionately supported clubs in the country, boasting the highest ever home attendance in the Premier League when they hosted Buriram in July 2015. The crowd that day was a rib-breaking 34,689 (official capacity 24,641). More on this and other Thai grounds in the Sandpit next month.

As implied, the view was unimpaired and the pattern of play fairly easy to follow, even if, with my gradually deteriorating eyesight, individual players could not. I can confidently say that both teams started with eleven men; one lot were dressed in black shirts (who must have been Port because I was wearing one as well) and the other in orange. Some Port players were instantly recognizable by their size and stature: Dolah is tall and Tana is not; Siwakorn is skinny but talented whilst Pakorn…

 

Pakorn does have a left foot!

 

The numbers on their backs also gave somewhat of a clue, their linear form being just discernibly visible from a distance of 150 metres, and provoked memories from days ill-spent in local Bingo halls: Piyachat 88 (two fat ladies); Rochela 22 (two little ducks) were the most distinctive, while Josimar 30 (Burlington Bertie), quickly established his particular identity with a couple of ballooned shots over the bar.

 

Josimar aims for the popcorn bag

 

At one time we had, so I believed, an assortment of players whose names ended in Pong. What we would have given for one of our ill-directed shots to have Pinged off a Pong and into the net. Not only would it have had a certain rhythmic assonance, but the victory that would have surely ensued would have lightened up the four hour journey home. I’m not quite sure what the real collective name is for a group of Pongs – probably a ‘Putridity’ given their overall performance.

The journey up had had its moments of light relief. John had cunningly adapted Dominic’s legendary Chiang Rai ditty, ‘A win away, a win away’, adding a few words of his own and proceeded to sing it in a voice suggestive of John Denver on nitrous oxide. Linny had tried to drag us out of the culinary gutter (I had started the day with a full English) by diverting the bus to a posh restaurant and winery on the outskirts of Khao Yai National Park. Whilst nobody had a ‘Sideways’ moment and swigged down a whole bottle of Pinot Noir, it did add a certain touch of class to the journey, although, back where I come from, the only wine regularly enjoyed by the locals has an ‘h’ in it. The restaurant certainly seemed to be encouraging a bit of drunkenness; even the menu was leathered.

 

 

Oh, before I forget, there was a football match.  I knew we had gone there for something. However, there were really few incidents of note to report. The Port Lions started promisingly, getting their claws into the Swat Cats, who seemed to be suffering from a night on the tiles, but the home team gradually started feline their way into the game, slinging in a few airballs to test Worawut’s (36) handling and the pattern of  play was set. Port scratched around for a few chances without finding the purrfect rhythm to upset their hosts.

At times, Port played the ball neatly out to the wings, only to cross it into the nearest defender, the stand (no mean feat), the long jump pit or a stray popcorn bag. There were a few goalmouth scrambles at both ends, Tana (99) missed another 6 yarder, Worawut dropped the ball with alarming regularity and Siwakorn (16) collected his obligatory yellow card, thereby, once again, curbing his enthusiasm for decisive tackling later on. No-one loves Siwakorn more as a player than me (or Keith) but his recklessness is damaging not only to him but the team. Most of his tackles are in the opponent’s half where any danger is minimal. Personally, I would haul him off after the next inevitable yellow as a warning – he is not a teenager any more.

Genki (18) ‘ran abaht a bit’, Tana and Pakorn (9) didn’t; Josimar (30) looked like he was running through treacle (although to be fair, the playing surface was sodden and challenging, to say the least); only Dolah (4) and Captain Fantastic (22) came out with any real credit – Dolah, my MOM.

 

Our Man of the Match – Elias Dolah

 

I think the whole game was summed up when the Swat Cat right back sent the ball ballooning towards the corner flag to his right with an attempted cross to the left. One didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Did we have a great time, though? Yes, we bloody well did! See you all in Sisaket!

 

Fire Bats Extinguished: Sukhothai 2-3 Port FC

 

The Trip

I should preface this little adventure with a disclaimer… Most of my expat Bangkok acquaintances  seem to be retired amateur beer sommeliers or slightly dodgy teachers; frankly a somewhat lo-so crowd. Which is how I like it.

However, there are one or two exceptions. Up-market folk who own a motorbike or 2 pairs of shoes. It was with one of the latter I journeyed to Sunday’s game – flying up to Phitsanulok, just the 2 of us in his plane. In Sukhothai things got even better. In search of dinner we followed some twinkling lights into a lovely family restaurant that seemed to be having a birthday party BBQ. After the familiar ‘Blimey, it’s a farang!’ stares we were told to help ourselves to anything. A dozen prawns and a couple of crabs  later we  asked for the bill, only to be told  it was free as we’d hardly eaten anything.

 

The Stadium

Now, to the stadium. The Thung Thalay Luang stadium is a neat 8,000 all-seater job, but the location is like nothing I’ve ever seen. The nearest building must be over 3 miles away and it sits beside a lake. On arrival, I realized I’d left my specs in the hotel, so everything was a bit blurry. And that was before the Chang.

 

The Game

Port’s relationship with Brazilian strikers seems to be characterized by blind faith over reality. When I first saw Port it was the tail end of Leandro’s reign.I remember him showboating with the ball at his feet doing the Grobbelar Wobbly knees routine to the delight of those around. The problem was there were 10 minutes to go and we were 1-3 down. In that moment I realized the Thai league was not like home, where such a display would ensure you’d played your last game.

Then last season we were all  aghast at Thiago Cunha – a man who appeared to have bet on himself to get the quickest red card  in history. I remember what I think was his last appearance, when he seemed to be having some kind of mental breakdown on the pitch. It was clear to all (except the coach) where things were heading, so much so that Madame had to leave her seat and pull him off herself (so to speak).

Now its Josimar (30). Already derided by some as lacking skill, speed, heart etc. but showing a talent for being in the right place and applying the vital touch. It took him 10 minutes to put Port 1-0 up, heading in an inch-perfect cross from Pakorn (9), who turned smartly on the right hand side and showed impressive accuracy with his weaker foot to curl the ball in to the corridor of uncertainty where Josimar was lurking. Then our tactics became unfathomable, and the Brazilian was left stranded up field as we elected to run the clock down, relying heavily on the Fire Bats incompetence and Worawut’s (36) excellence. About half an hour into the game Port had a free kick on the halfway line, and we kept 6 (honestly – 6) players behind the ball.

In the second half Josimar struck again, pouncing on a mistake from the keeper, who failed to gather Tana’s (99) cross from the left hand side. Josimar applied the simplest of finishes, but he was outshone just minutes later by Sukhothai defender Hiromichi Katano (4) who spectacularly smashed the ball in to the back of his own net in a way Josimar could only have dreamed of. 3-0! Time to relax & have fun… well not quite . 2 goals in 2 minutes got the home fans cheering and our time wasting tactics came to the fore again. We survived. Just about!

There’s nothing better than seeing 2 coach loads of Port fans pull into the car park, making more noise than the home crowd having set off from PAT at 08:30. What a great bunch – my men of the match!

 

The Sandpit’s Port FC Man of the Match

 

Josimar’s goals may have both come from inside the 6 yard box, but that’s where you want your striker! Josimar found space to nod in a simple header from Pakorn’s cross in the first half, then smartly followed in Tana’s cross and capitalized on the keeper’s error in the second half.

An honourable mention must also go to goalkeeper Worawut, who preserved Port’s lead with some outstanding reaction saves. What a man to have as second choice ‘keeper!

 

It’s a Shame About Rayong: PTT 1-3 Port FC (Friendly)

 

Port won their fourth friendly in a row against PTT Rayong. The first half was played at a competitive pace with reasonable strength sides. The second saw a string of substitutions from both sides and was effectively a training exercise.

For the first time this pre-season Port started with a 4-4-2. Jadet maybe looking for a way to include Tana and Kaluderovic in the starting team. Maybe it’s a plan for a more attacking set up he wants to use in home games or when we need a result.

Starting line up was:

Weera (surprise start for the third choice keeper)

Nitipong Rochela Dolah Panpanpong

Pakorn, Suarez, Piyachaat Ekkapoom

Tana, Kaluderovic (I think I’ll call him Kalu from now on, that’s what the players were shouting today.)

Port dominated the 1st half, lots of chances. Port looked good as they should do against T2 opposition. Convincing as they were Port did miss Siwakorn in midfield and Meechok at right back both out injured. Tana starting is a good sign last game he only got five minutes at the end of the match.

The first half saw Pakorn getting forward and causing trouble for PTT. In the 4-4-2 Suarez held back a bit more than in previous games, but was still making runs into the box. Tana shot wide twice early on with Port looking to get first blood. Then Ekkapoom got a bit of space and played a decent ball across for Pakorn to knock in Port’s first goal.

For the second Pakorn made a good run wrestling past two defenders to get the ball to Ekkapoom who then tipped the ball across for Kalu to score.

PTT applied some pressure and got a debatable penalty there was contact, not a nailed on pen but a fair call.  A fairly soft spot kick was tucked away on the left, Weera went to his right.  2-1 to Port  a fair reflection of the first half. Tana and Kalu were OK up front for a first outing. Ekkpoom was involved in most of the attacking play, but he is still making too many unforced errors.

The second half saw a ton of substitutions from both sides. It was difficult to keep up with who was where. I kept asking Tom “who’s that bloke again?” Half the players had different numbers it was a mess. Most notably Worawut was back in goal for Port, he looked at home.

The revolving door substitutions broke up play for most of the second half. At the beginning of the second PTT had a bit more of the game forcing two corners in quick succession. They were unable to capitalise on the pressure they created their best chance hitting the woodwork.

On the 60 minute mark a mass of substitutes came on for PTT, 10 minutes later Port did the same thing. I’d say Port had the run of the game but only just. On 79 minutes the PTT keeper was unable to hold on to a decent shot and Gengki was on hand to turn in the ball from five yards out. The game finished 3-1

Notable points for Port in the second half.

Pinyo came on and played about 25 minutes. He looked good on the left wing, setting up a good shot for Asdrubal which he skyed, then minutes later skyed a shot of his own. If his is capable on the left wing and is back to 80% fitness I think we should try him there.

Marahao is still around he was his usual full pace self dancing round defenders. Being around this close to the beginning of the season suggests maybe he is there in case someone else pulls out of the squad because of injury. Possibly Asdrubal, but his injury is meant to be just a minor one. I think he’s around in case someone has a serious problem.

Speaking of Asdrubal he played his first game. He was ok for a player making his first pre-season appearance. Worryingly he did occasionally hold on to his leg and didn’t look 100%. People are saying it’s a small problem, but it’s not good for one of our foreign players injured before the season even starts.

The only two players that stayed around for most of the game were Pakorn and Piyachaat Srimarueang (38). It’s no surprise to see Pakorn on for 80% of the game but Piyachat is a bit more surprising. It looks like Piyachat might be edging out other midfield players for a starting place. Tatchanon also had another good game in central midfield.

This week’s new signing “Mr. Nirun”, the other half Thai half Swedish Port player came on and he played central defence. So at least we know where he plays now even if we don’t know his second name.

Another win for Port is always good to see. There are still some questions around this squad. If Siwakorn and Meechok are back on the first day of the season we should be in good shape to get a result against Ratchaburi at PAT Stadium.

 

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