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The Same Old ‘Thong: Fans Banned from SCG on Wednesday

 

As predicted, Port have confirmed to The Sandpit that the away fan ban at Muangthong will remain in place for this Wednesday’s last 16 FA Cup clash. The usual copout, which if course much easier than putting measures in place to ensure away fans’ safety. With the recent cooling of rivalry after MTU fans came to the PAT to pay their respects to the Port fans lost in a road accident, it seemed that common sense would prevail and away fans be allowed back in, but sadly once again one of the biggest derbies in Thai football will be away fans only.

No word as yet whether Port will be showing the game on a ‘big’ screen, but with the match not apparently being shown on TV, this could prove difficult. Add in the Buddhist Lent alcohol ban, and the two sides’ current form, and it looks like being a pretty miserable Wednesday for Port fans…

UPDATE

There are now 3 tasty options for watching the game:

Live on TV (True HD3)

At our sponsors The Sportsman

At the PAT, where we hear a big screen will be erected for the occasion

 

 

The Cup that Cheers: Port Draw Muangthong in Chang FA Cup

 

The draw for the round of 16 in the Chang FA Cup just took place, and to the obvious excitement of all involved, Port have been drawn away at deadly rivals Muangthong Utd. We said we wanted an easy draw and whilst this isn’t the T3 or T4 team we could’ve drawn, it’s at a ground where Port haven’t lost since 2015 and where they’ve won on their last three visits. Striker Josimar Rodrigues, who absolutely loves scoring against MTU, will be back at Port by then giving us additional hope of a place in the QFs.

The game will take place on Wednesday 17 July, KO time to be confirmed. As yet there is no word on whether Port fans will be allowed to attend but, based on our experience of the away league game, we’re guessing it’s no. But it’s another chance for the players to get more stamps on their SCG Nightclub membership cards – surely 4 stamps entitles you to a free bottle of champers?

 

 

Football’s Coming Home – to T2: Muangthong Utd 1-2 Port FC

 

 

The most exciting derby game in Thai football came round again, and for another season away fans were banned, rather than the clubs getting together to sort things out. Some fans watched from home, a few sneaked into SCG Stadium undercover, some watched in the pub, and loads of Pot fans went to Go Dang stadium to watch on the big screen. I was thinking about going to the SCG in my Vietnam shirt (to get it signed by Muangthong keeper Dang Van Lam) but decided I was better going somewhere where a hooligan like me could make some noise!

My last visit to Muangthong was a bit of a nightmare as I ran out of the away end in fear of flying beers and ice, later followed by my husband who was soaked in beer and grinning his head off. When we saw guys in black masks trying to get into the home end we realised it was time to get the hell out, leaving a lot of trouble behind us.

 

We got to Go Dang around 6pm – we’re not futsal fans so skipped the game in favour of Pala Pizza before arriving at Port’s ‘other’ home to find a big Songkran party with DJs, foam machine, water cannons, kids’ paddling pools and bikini dancers on the big screen. This is Thailand 🙂 A few people were a bit annoyed with the water and trying to keep their phones dry, but we found a good place near the screen, put our mats down and waited for kick-off/

Unfortunately when it did start we ended up watching a constantly buffering screen from a shitty internet stream with no sound, whilst most of the fans ignored the game to continue celebrating Songkran. After 10 minutes of this we gave up and jumped in a taxi to The Sportsman to join the numerous fans who’d already left. So I missed the first 27 minutes of the game – forgive me for not writing about them, though apparently I didn’t miss much.

 

Port set up with a 4-4-2, with Suarez (presumably injured) replaced by Sumanya (11). In-form Bodin (10) kept his place and there were no other changes. Watchara (1) also started again and made a stunning acrobatic save from a Heberty free-kick on 35 minutes.

The second half started with a nice pass from Sumanya to Bodin and our boy didn’t let us down with an amazing goal past Van Lam. 1-0 to Port and it was pandemonium at The Sportsman as we celebrated a superb goal.

On 55 minutes Boskovic (23) gave the ball away in midfield and a superb pass from Heberty set Theerasil through, but Watchara made a superb save from the La Liga/J-League dropout. Straight after Port went down the other end and a superb pass from Pakorn picked out Sumanya in the box; he calmly sidefooted it to Nitipong (34) who gleefully buried it into an empty net for 2-0, a mere 10 minutes into the second half. An awesome spell of football.

Port were beginning to tire from the intensity of the game so Jadet made a couple of changes: Sumanya with his two assists was replaced by the White Blood Cell himself, Athibordee (35), and the injured Bodin replaced by Pele himself, Arthit (29) to the delight of the Port fans present. MTU also made some changes to try and get back into the game, with Chappuis from those adverts on the BTS coming on in midfield and blasting a shot wide of the goal within minutes of his arrival. But with 10 minutes to go MTU did get back into it with some nice play from Heberty down the right to pick out the unmarked Weerawut in the Port area who stroked the ball into the net to make it 2-1.

Could Port hang on to keep the 3 points? There were near-heart attacks in The Sportsman as MTU continued to attack, and my throat (and middle finger) got sore waiting for the whistle. Finally, after a ridiculous 5 minutes’ injury time, the whistle blew and Port went 4 points clear a the top and, the cherry on the cake, Muangthong went bottom – I couldn’t have been any happier. The game clearly wasn’t over for Boskovic who had to be restrained by his teammates from attacking an MTU player (or players) for as yet unknown reasons – probably just Bosko’s well-known and fully understandable dislike of Muangthong.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Nitipong

Watchara made some great saves, Go Seul-Ki was superb in midfield, and Bodin scored a beautiful goal. But my MOTM is Niti, who not only got a rare goal but was also back to his best in defence.

 

 

Penthouse & Pavement: Muangthong Utd vs Port FC Match Preview

 

UPDATE 18 APRIL – the FAT announced late yesterday that away fans are banned from this fixture and the return fixture at the PAT. A ridiculous face-saving measure which of course saves both clubs from having to put proper security measures in place, particularly Muangthong where the trouble has previously occurred. Jesus it’s hard to defend Thai football sometimes. Anyway, we will now be watching the game at Go Dang Futsal stadium, where the game will be shown on the big screen.

 

The last time Port fans were allowed in to the SCG seems like an entirely different age. Port were in T2 and battling to get back to the top flight, whilst Muangthong were top of T1 and en route to the league title. The occasion was the second leg of the 2016 League Cup semi-final, Port coming away with a creditable 1-1 draw but losing 3-2 on aggregate overall. After which it all kicked off, and we’ve not been allowed back since.

Three years on and, as we prepare to make our long-awaited return to the SCG, things are very different. Port have the most exciting attacking team in the division and sit on top of the league, two points ahead of Buriram, whilst Muangthong are spiralling into decline – after finishing behind Port in 4th last season, this time round they find themselves joint bottom of the table with Suphanburi on 6 points after 5 defeats in their opening 7 games. As the late, great Windsor Davies would’ve said, Oh dear. How sad. Never mind.

So it’s bottom vs top at the SCG this Saturday in what promises to be a thrilling game in a cracking atmosphere, the first time the fixture will play out in front of both sets of supporters since 2016. Let’s hope the atmosphere is as feisty as usual without spilling over into the nonsense we saw last time round – if you’re going to give me a beer, I prefer it passed to me rather than thrown over my head thank you very much.

 

Let Me See That ‘Thong

There’s no getting away from it – the 2018 season has been a disaster for the Kirins so far. After opening their season with defeats to bogey team Prachuap and away at Bangkok Utd, it looked like they’d steadied the ship with wins over the two Chiangs, Rai and Mai. But a run of three consecutive away games ended with three consecutive defeats at Ratchaburi, Chainat and Nakhon Ratchasima, which spelled the end of the always doomed reign of coach Pairoj. The Combover King has been replaced by Korean Yoon Jong-Hwan, so we’ll have to hope there’s no new coach bounce on Saturday.

Whilst MTU were never fancied as title contenders, even the most rabid ABM-er wouldn’t have predicted them finding themselves in a relegation scrap but make no mistake, that’s where they are. The loss of Tristan Do to rivals Bangkok Utd, the injury to Oh Ban Suk, and the returning Theerasil failing to recapture past glories have left them struggling, whilst coach Pairoj clearly didn’t like the look of new star signings Mario Gjurovski and Aung Thu, preferring to have them alongside him on the bench rather than on the pitch.

That isn’t to say Port should take their struggling rivals lightly however, as they still have T1 goal machine Heberty doing the damage up front, and new signing Dang Van Lam, one of the stars of Vietnam’s Suzuki Cup-winning side, between the sticks, and we believe Oh Ban Suk will be fit to play too. Nevertheless on current form it’s hard to see MTU causing Port too many problems – but let’s see what MTU themselves have to say, as we talk to fans Grant Aitken & Stephen Romary…

 

MTU are currently joint bottom of the league – what’s gone wrong?

 

GrantI believe, as with most sports, half the battle is psychological. Few are doubting our players’ overall ability, but we’re playing like a side devoid of any confidence. This isn’t an elite European league, but I’ll bet the players feel the burden of expectation just the same. Whatever managerial processes Muangthong currently has in place to help shoulder the expectations that come with playing for one of the countries bigger teams, it’s not working. The side looks incapable of expressing themselves and individual errors are hurting us. Whatever game plan Pairoj was trying to install, it wasn’t clear and this seems to have led to obvious hesitancies come match day.

Stephen: 1. Lack of a dynamic midfielder

2.  Ban gets injured
3. Needed a coach to lead and inspire the quality they have .. we have players to rival any team.

 

Pairoj was always a strange appointment given his somewhat limited CV – do you think the new coach will be a big step up? What does he need to do to turn things round?

 

Grant: You could argue they also took a gamble with Totchawan, who had success with teams that had limited budgets, and I think they saw similar potential with Pairoj. However, it looks like he baulked at the task. I’d have been willing to give him longer but given how quickly he has run for the nearest exit it’s perhaps a blessing he left the post so early.With Yoon Jong-Hwan now in place there can be little doubting the quality of the head coach. He was named manager of the year in Japan two seasons back, and with so many Thai players aspiring to play in that league, I’m hoping his appointment will inspire some of the younger members of the squad and relieve some of the pressure from our more established players.

Offensively we need to attack as a single unit and not merely pass the ball to our best players at every single opportunity. The full backs need to support at each attack and having two deep lying central midfielders is overkill, one should be looking to press forward every time we’re in possession. The defense is going to take longer to solidify, but with Van Lam and Oh Ban Suk in place there is potential. It’s quite apparent from his training sessions that he will focus on fitness. We struggle to get players back in position quick enough after relinquishing possession so this should help.   

Stephen: The new coach needs to lead and inspire.  Also the team has been very vulnerable on the counter….there is a need to defend from all points on the pitch.

Is relegation a genuine concern or do you expect MTU to begin climbing the table soon?

 

GrantWell, they say nobody is too big to go down, but having a bigger squad and the funds to change things during the transfer window would give is a huge advantage if things haven’t improved after a few months. I fully expect we’ll pick up points eventually, however. It’s just frustrating that we had similar issues at the start of last season and have made little progress in the meantime. If this year is used as a springboard for next season and an opportunity to blood some youth I can still enjoy the campaign, but it really should have happened last year.

 

Stephen: Relegation is not a concern.. it is early.. the team is only a few points away from the top half of the league.  Slumps are just slumps.

 

New star signings Mario & Aung Thu have hardly played – why do you think this is?

 

Grant: Mario has had some injury problems so we just need to be patient with him, he’s back in full training now. Aung Thu came with much hype but he’s not hit the ground running. Despite his breakout season last term, he’s still only 22, so dips in form are to be expected. He looks like a player in need of a confidence boost so hopefully netting at the weekend could be the start of a purple patch for him. We’re not likely to get much joy in the air against Port’s centre backs but I fancy him with the ball at his feet against either Dolah or Tosapol.

 

Stephen: Mario is a strange signing…often injured and not the player he used to be.. but he is a good morale builder and fans like him.

 

Which Port players are you most worried about facing?

 

GrantI’ve stated my admiration for Pakorn a few times and I’m always disappointed when he’s not selected for the national team squad. Even if he’s not a first 11 player, with his quality deliveries, there’s not another option like him in the country. Suarez is another player that has hurt us over the last few seasons. He does the damage that most proficient No10’s apply, but with added aggression in his game to boot. His play acting is irritating but that’s one of the few flaws in his game. I hope Lee Ho is on his game to watch the Spaniard’s late runs in to the box, we’ve been poor defending crosses this season. Those two players working in tandem is my biggest fear.

 

Stephen: Port FC have been scoring, averaging about 3 goals per game, and 9 goals over the past two matches.  Especially worrying are Sergio Suarez and Korean midfielder Sunghwan Kim (given that Kim is now playing for Suphanburi I think you should be OK – Ed).  Muangthong will need to close down these threats, but there are other players such as Thailand international Kevin Deeromram who can also put the ball into the back of the net.

 

Port & MTU games are always a feisty affair – what are you expecting from Saturday’s game? Prediction?

Grant: If we’re going to have any chance in the match we’re going to need to get a foothold in the middle of the pitch. Sumanya, Sivakorn and Seul Ki are a prickly trio. I’d love to see a few imposing challenges to rattle them at the start of the match but It’s more likely to be the other way round.Just as last year, Port look very good going forward.  I’m worried about our full backs, particularly the left hand side, but then again the players Port have in those positions have some chinks in their defensive armor too. I’ve honestly no idea how we’ll shape so I’m just looking for signs of improvement. I’ll back us for a 2-1 win, although that is based more out of optimism than expectation.

Stephen: 2-1 in favour of Muangthong .. players are hungry to prove their worth and new coach will be looking for an impact at home.

 

Lions Purring

Whilst MTU struggle, Jadet has his side purring like a finely tuned engine. After carelessly dropping points against PTT and Sukhothai, Port kickstarted their season by demolishing Trat and Prachuap 4-1 and 5-0 respectively to go top of the table after 7 games. Port have got their attacking swagger back which, combined with a very miserly defence, is making them very difficult to handle and giving us fans considerable optimism that they could be in the mixer for the title come the end of the season, especially given Buriram & Bangkok Utd’s less than impressive start.

Jadet’s only problem is deciding who to pick up front, and given his general reluctance to tinker with a winning side, one would expect him to kick off with the same attacking unit that destroyed Prachuap. But with Sumanya now available after suspension and Arthit ‘Pele’ Boochinda banging in the goals from the bench, and with star striker Boskovic struggling to hit the target (1 goal in 7 starts, and that from a penalty), Sir Det may be tempted to have a fiddle. In my opinion Port look a much more complete side with Sumanya on the pitch, but who do you drop? Siwakorn has been our player of the season so far, Suarez has finally hit form, and Bodin is finally fulfilling his enormous potential, and whilst Bosko isn’t hitting the heights, his workrate and his ability to create space for others have been phenomenal so far. So on that basis I think Jadet will stick rather than twist.

Elsewhere, the team picks itself. Cap’n Rochela returned to training this week after his opening day knee injury, but Saturday will almost certainly be too soon for him return, so Todsapol will carry on partnering Dolah in Port’s defence. Watchara started the game against Prachuap, but I expect Worawut to be back between the posts for this big game.

 

 

Prediction

It’s always hard to predict the outcome of derby games, but on the current form of both teams, I can’t see anything other than another Port win, especially given that we haven’t lost at the SCG since 2015. MTU’s new coach bounce will probably prevent a hammering, so I’m going for a repeat of last season’s 2-0 win.

 

Muangthong Utd vs Port FC, Saturday 20 April, 20:00 at SCG Stadium. If you can’t make it, please support our sponsors at The Sportsman and watch the game there on a big screen with drink discounts for Port fans. 

 

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Crystal Balls 2019: Muangthong Utd

 

With the new season a mere month away, it’s time once again to consult the runes and ask farang fans of rival clubs what they think 2019 has in store for them. And who worse, oops I meant better, to start with than our old friends (we can be nice to them now they’re behind us in the table) Muangthong Utd? So take it away Grant Aitken

 

How did your team perform in 2018? Where do they need to improve?

By our own expectations, not great. It was a turbulent season after losing key personal and changing coaches several times, so for the most part it was a case of damage limitation after starting the season poorly. We’re generally a goal threat, thanks in part to the magical feet of Heberty Fernandes, but our defensive unit needs a complete overhaul.

Transfer window – which new signings are you most excited about? Which departing players are you sorry to see go/happy to see the back of?

Aung Thu is an exciting player and Dang Van Lam will add some much needed steel to the back line, also. It’s taken me by surprise how well the board have embraced the new ASEAN quotas. It seems unrealistic prices for domestic players have forced Muangthong to cast their net farther afield this season. Familar faces, Supanan Bureet and Mario Djorovski have also been welcomed back.

On the other hand it’s a bitter blow to see Tristan Do move to a rival club, and not to a J-League team which will surely be his eventual destination. Bangkok United also took Peerapat off our hands and whilst the two transfers have been made synonymous due to their timing, the latter’s gradually declining performances have made a move away from the club less shocking. Jaja is another player whose absence will be met with indifference by fans. We also said a goodbye to Naoaki Aoyama after four years of lionhearted defensive displays. He’ll be sorely missed.

Happy with your club’s coach?

Language barriers and failure to adapt to his surroundings meant Radovan Curcic’s reign was as unremarkable as it was unproductive. I’m not surprised they selected a Thai native this time around and Pairoj’s record as as good as any currently available. I’m withholding judgment right now, but he does seem to have lifted the mood in the camp. In addition he has involved many youngsters in his preseason training programme ensuring each player has had a chance to shine. As a result a few previously unfancied candidates have worked their way into the first team, which is a pleasant surprise.

What are your realistic ambitions for the 2019 season?

Top 3 with a significantly bigger points tally than last term would be nice, but as long as were not going backwards I’ll be content for now.

The main priority for the club should be blooding the youngsters in to provide the foundations for future success. This time last year I remember watching the Coca-Cola Cup final, Munagthong U19 v Buriram U19. It was an evenly matched game with Supachok scoring a sublime late winner. However, at that point, if you’d have told me that Rattanakorn and Supachai, who were largely anonymous, would have breakout seasons, whilst academy gems, Poramet Arjvirai and Sundy Wongderee would spend the season struggling for game time I’d have scoffed. Korrawit Tasa was an unused substitute that day, however Ubon gave him a platform last season and he repaid them handsomely. I hope we do the same for those boys this year.

Which teams will be in contention for the title? Which teams will struggle to survive?

I think the top 4 will be exactly the same as last year, with us and Port being the most likely to swap positions, if any. Buriram have a mental strength that is hard to breakdown right now, even with Diogo leaving I still wouldn’t bet against them finding a way win when it matters. Regardless of what they’ve spent, I think Bangkok United’s favorite’s title is optimistic, with only a couple of their new signings improving their starting 11. I’m not sure it will be enough to stop Buriam’s reign of dominance, unfortunately.

At the other end, I see no hope for Chiang Mai United. I fancy PT Prachuap to have a bad case of 2nd season blues and Chainat’s lack of ambition will also cost them dear.

Tell us your very favourite, and your absolute least favourite, things about following your club

I’m a family man, so it’s great that I can enjoy the game out here with my wife and kids. I’m not sure I’d be as willing to do that back in England. With this being my 6th season as a regular supporter it’s also nice to have made a few friends, half of which I’m still unable to communicate with but I still get a wai or handshake out of recognition for my continued support for the team.

The least enjoyable thing about supporting Muangthong recently has been the lack of identity we showed under Curcic’s reign. Has brand of football was bland, cautious and generally negative, but then again I wouldn’t expect much less from a man that was only given a six month contract and therefore prioritized results over style. Additionally, Muangthong fans are immensely proud of our successful academy. Whether it be Kawin’s escapades in Europe, or Suphan and Thithipan’s commanding displays for Thailand. So when it the young players get neglected it really does irk the fans. I think the board are slowly starting to appreciate that our loyal fan-base does need throwing a bone every now and then. Any club with long term aspirations needs to utilize it’s youth academy, especially one with a track record as good as ours.

 

Thanks Grant! If you’d like to share your thoughts on your team’s chances this season, you can complete the questionnaire here

 

NB I apologise for using the same picture for this preview as I did for the 2018 preview, but images of Muangthong’s stadium have proved very difficult to find and this was the best I could do.

 

Seven Minutes of Madness: Port FC 2-3 Muangthong Utd

 

 

Last season Port went to Muangthong, banged in 3 goals in 5 minutes, and spent the rest of the game clinging on by their fingernails. Last night the Kirins returned the favour, in one of the most thrilling games I’ve ever seen at the PAT – goals, controversy, shenanigans and one hell of an atmosphere. Football, bloody hell.


Port v Muangthong is undoubtedly the biggest rivalry in Thai football and queues began forming at the stadium around lunchtime. I arrived around 4pm to find the Sandpit already packed, and met up with understandably nervous Muangthong blogger Gian, doing his best to cover up his MTU staff shirt while he interviewed me.

 

The editor with a slightly nervous Muangthong blogger

 

Port lined up as per usual, whilst Muangthong, with Jaja up front and professional model/Instagrammer Chappuis in midfield, were clearly trying to set a new T1 average player weight record.

This was a whole new level for a Port-MTU fixture, finally a clash of equals with Port in 3rd & the visitors in 4th, and as a result the first half was a cagey affair, with Heberty having the first shot on goal after 12 minutes, and Kevin (97) waiting until the 22nd minute to return fire for Port with a rasping shot/cross that MTU keeper Prasit, who let’s face it is certainly no Kawin, ineffectually slapped over the bar.

On 28 minutes, Port were gifted a free-kick just outside the box, but Pakorn (7) fired it straight at the wall then blasted the rebound over the bar, with several teammates in good positions. The winger’s selfishness around the box is becoming a serious issue for Port and Jadet needs to address it – time & again last night he opted to shoot, even from corners, instead of picking out a better-placed teammate, and anyone wondering why he’s not getting national team callups can take last night’s game as exhibit A.

But Port were having much the better of things, and after Nurul (31) tested Prasit with a fairly tame shot from the edge of the box, Port almost took the lead on the stroke of half-time. Nitipong played a long ball up to Suarez whose delicious flick found Boskovic on the right; the big Montenegrin played a perfect pass into the box back to the Spaniard but his shot was spectacularly turned away by Prasit.

0-0 at half-time then, and MTU would’ve been the happier team going into the changing rooms, relieved at having stayed level despite Port bossing the game. They were certainly the happier team within a few minutes of the restart, as they flew out of the traps and stunned Port with 3 goals in the first 7 minutes of the half, leading to a lot of baffled fans returning from their HT beer to find they’d missed 3 goals (or in Toby’s case, 5).

The first went in a mere 30 seconds in, with that man Tristan Do (who indisputably won his much-hyped battle with Kevin) putting in a deep cross which was nodded in by Sanukran, with Rattanai (17) out of position and Port’s defence as a whole still sucking on their oranges. Assuming players still eat oranges at half-time. Probably not. Probably some kind of energy pods or something. Ah, the good old days. Jumpers for goalposts. Isn’t it?

Things got worse 2 minutes later when Heberty skinned Kevin, having by far his worst game for Port, on the edge of the box and picked out Sarach on the 18-yard line, who slotted it into the corner for 2-0. Muangthong’s blood was clearly up and on 49 minutes a pass from the left found Sanukran totally unmarked in the Port area, but luckily his shot went wide of the post. But with Port’s defence in utter disarray, a third goal looked inevitable and it came on 51 minutes when Heberty broke clear, was briefly held up by Dolah (4), and then returned passes with Jaja to create enough space to get a shot past Rattanai.

This was a return to the darker days of 2017, when Port’s defence was leakier than a Welshman’s vegetable drawer; but the 2018 Port side are made of sterner stuff and, spurred on by a crowd whose already considerable loathing for the Pathum Thani bumpkins had just reached new heights, they set about clawing their way back into the game.

And it took them all of a minute, when a blocked Boskovic (23) shot found its way back to Suarez (5), who volleyed it emphatically into the back of the net. The game was well and truly back on and Port set about their opponents in an atmosphere of pure unbridled hysteria. On 55 minutes Pakorn found himself in a great position on the right of the area but, as per usual, elected to shoot rather than pass to a teammate. But 2 minutes later the Midfield Monk finally turned provider when his peach of a free-kick was flicked on by Rochela (22) for Boskovic to nod home. 2-3, and had there been a roof on Zone B, it would well & truly have been blown off by now. And on the hour mark, pure mayhem broke out when a Suarez shot deflected off a defender and found its way onto the boot of Boskovic. 3-3, or so we thought, until we spotted the lineman’s flag aloft. No goal. Bosko stomped over to the touchline, presumably to tell the official exactly what he thought of his flag and make some suggestions as to where it might most effectively be stored, and watching the video afterwards it was clear that Bosko had every right to be aggrieved as he was clearly onside.

The PAT was now in absolute uproar and a match that had started out as a cagey tactical battle descended into the pure chaos of an U11s game, with no pause for breath as both teams, realising that neither could defend, attacked relentlessly. Port almost got their equaliser on 68 minutes when a spectacular Suarez header hit the crossbar; theb on 80 minutes a rasping drive from Kim (8) was parried into the path of Boskovic by Prasit, but the Port striker, faced with an open goal, fired over the bar, his blushes fortunately spared by another incorrect offside flag, and his miss sparing the linesman a difficult exit from the stadium. On 84 minutes an almighty scramble erupted in the MTU box which, in 20 glorious seconds, included a two-footed tackle on Kim that should’ve been a penalty, 2 shots on goal, a spot of Sunday league head tennis, Kim trying to head the ball out of Prasit’s hands, resulting in the keeper indulging in an extended display of injury-feigning right in front of Zone B (his post-game attempt to salute said stand was not well received and I doubt he’ll do it again), and Chappuis rather laughably trying to square up to his equally chunky Korean counterpart during the ensuing handbags. This was exactly what a Port v Muangthong game should be all about and the fans were absolutely lapping it up.

 

Heberty feigns injury; stretcher bearers dump him right in front of Zone C; gets welcome he deserves (pic by Nig Dammusig)

 

Port had one more chance on 88 minutes, with Arthit (29) heading over at the far post when it would’ve been easier to score, but thanks to a combination of canny game management, balls to the wall defending and increasingly desperate shithousery (Heberty, take a bow), the visitors held on for an ill-deserved win. Despite the result, we all partied in the Sandpit like we’d won the league with the result that I have now almost completely lost my voice. I’m exhausted just writing about it, and have lost all feeling in my middle finger (thanks Prasit).

So a first defeat in 6 games for Port but a performance that deserved much better. But for that insane 7 minutes at the start of the second half they defended superbly, attacked relentlessly and bossed the midfield, and really should be celebrating 3 points now. Once again we’re left ruing a lack of streetwiseness, and the absence of some really big, nasty exponents of the footballing dark arts, though Kim showed flashes of it in the game’s later stages. Muangthong played the old Ali rope-a-dope game to perfection, and left Port with just a little bit too much to do in the last 35 minutes, but Port will certainly play worse than this and win.

 

Panpanpong Fanclub AGM

 

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

Whilst this was a good Port performance, there weren’t many standout individuals. Apart from that crazy 7 minutes, Rochela & Dolah had Heberty & Jaja in their pockets (and you’d need pretty big 1970s flares to find a pocket big enough for the latter), and Kim had his best game at the PAT so far.

But the standout man for me was Suarez. There’s nothing the Spaniard loves more than a sense of injustice and trying to drag his team back into the game, and the way he set about Muangthong in the second half was a joy to behold. Yes, as usual he gave the ball away far more than a player of his ability should, but when you’re playing at such a pitch of intensity you can’t always place passes on a sixpence (or a 1-baht). With just a bit more luck he’d have had a hat-trick and an assist to his name.

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season: Week 18 – Muangthong Utd

 

Ah Muangthong we meet again. Choosing songs for this fixture is probably easier than any other. Whilst it’s hard to find fitting songs for, say, Suphanburi or Sukhothai, when it comes to our old friends from the Ballardian wastelands of northern Bangkok we’re spoilt for choice.

For the away fixture I picked the rather obvious choice of ‘Scum’ by Nick Cave. This time round the song is a lot cheesier but no less appropriate, as we head back to the early 90s for a bit of grunge-lite vitriol from the long forgotten Ugly Kid Joe…

Port FC vs Muangthong: The View from the (Empty) Away End

 

With North and South Korean relations starting to thaw, we decided that it was time to follow their example and reach a truce, albeit temporary, with the auld enemy. So I pulled off my helmet, put down my weapon and strode out into no man’s land, where I met Muangthong fan and occasional English language correspondent Gian Chansrichawla, to get his thoughts on Saturday’s hotly anticipated clash at the PAT…


Tell us the story of MTU’s season so far. Are you happy or unhappy with the way it’s gone?

Muangthong’s 2018 season was always going to be incredibly difficult. Losing Theerathon, Teerasil and Kawin has decimated the spine of the team, and we have massively regressed from the peaks we hit during the start of Totchtawan’s second season.

We have finally emerged from mid-table with the appointment of Radovan Curcic, but I don’t think he can overturn the massive lead that Buriram and Bangkok United have at the top of the table.

Seeing the inner workings of the club for the first time makes the experience of this season totally incomparable to the previous ones. I disagree with some of the players we’ve sold and some that we’ve signed, but overall I wouldn’t call the campaign a disaster.

 

You’re one of 10 clubs to change coach so far this season. Has the change helped?

I think our situation is slightly different than the other nine teams. The club hierarchy wanted to keep Totchtawan, who brought stability to the club. Whether he “jumped before he was pushed” or simply didn’t think he could rebuild the squad after the mass exodus during the off-season will probably remain a mystery.

We stuck with caretaker coach Santi Chaiyaphuak for a while, which I think was a good decision. He experimented tactically and tried to freshen things up, but his inexperience showed and he wasn’t able to fully exert his authority over the team.

Radovan Curcic’s arrival has brought new hope to the team. He clearly sees Muangthong as a stepping stone in his career and has publicly mentioned how he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic, who won the Thai League with Muangthong in 2012. We don’t have the best style in the league, but we are certainly playing with more discipline, which seems like the natural product of having a giant Yugoslav staring you down from the touchline.

The best part of having him has been the three-way translation that goes on in the press-room, from Serbian to English courtesy of Radovan’s assistant, then from English to Thai from Santi. Seeing words being slowly lost in translation is at least amusing if not decidedly worrying.

 

Which players should we be looking out for? Who’s most likely to do the damage?

Heberty dropping deep and Jaja running in behind has been the clutch for Muangthong this campaign. It’s predictable but almost unstoppable. Additionally, Tristan Do has been moved from right-back to right-wing under Radovan, and has been incredibly effective.

 

And which players are your weak links?

Our defense has been atrocious all season, and I don’t expect it to get better unless we make some major signings. I’m not a big fan of Charyl Chappuis but he is supposedly a good footballer so we’ll just leave it at that.

 

Where do you think MTU will finish in the league?

I think where we are now, in fourth place, is where we will end up. I don’t see us closing the gap on either of the top two, and Port just have too much firepower. Maybe Radovan will pleasantly surprise me, but as of now, I don’t see that happening.

 

How do you rate this 2018 Port team? Which players are you most worried about?

Port are fantastic to watch this year, and I think they could have a very strong finish in the league. With a stronger defense, they could be genuine title competitors this term.

I really worry about the three attacking midfielders Nurul, Pakorn, and Suarez. Seeing how Sukhothai tore us apart in our last home game, I don’t want to think about how much fun these guys are going to have on Saturday. It could genuinely end up being a  knife-through-butter situation, which is something I don’t want to think about.

 

Port v MTU is probably the most intense rivalry in Thai football, and the atmosphere at the PAT on Saturday will be pretty insane. Do you think the MTU players will be intimidated? And do you agree with the decision to ban away fans this season?

Some of the players might be affected, particularly those in defensive positions. Small mistakes will get amplified in that cauldron, which could definitely harm certain players. I think the atmosphere would be greatly elevated with a vibrant away section, but I also understand the safety risk involved. It may come at the detriment to the players, but an intangible factor going against us is a far better alternative to a points deduction.

 

Finally, give us your score prediction.

Port’s attack is fantastic and I think Heberty and Jaja will have to pull us out of a sticky situation again. I’ll go with a 2-2 draw.

 

Big thanks to Gian for his contribution! You can read Dave’s somewhat less balanced, some might say unhinged, preview here

 

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Your Name’s Not Down, You’re Not Coming In: Port FC vs Muangthong Utd Preview

 

Port take on another team on Saturday, with both coming into the game in absolutely flying form. Port you don’t need telling about I imagine – needless to say 5 straight wins have seen an unusual sense of buoyancy, free from crisis or a sense of impending implosion. The other team have themselves constructed (probably by fluke or bribe) a 3 match unbeaten streak in which they have notched 10 goals, and came from 3-1 down to secure a 4-3 win against unstable fence owners Sukhothai. This comparatively inferior winning run to our own shining path of victories followed a total 4-0 drubbing by the farmhands out at Buriram.

So before we bathe in adulation of Port players and try to figure out what tactical nuances Jadet the Hutt (I can say that, I’m fat too) will employ on the battlefield, I suppose we should take a minute or two to consider the opposition.

The Opposition

10 goals in three games is no mean feat for a bunch of triers from the conference hub of north Bangkok. Obviously it pales into insignificance against Port’s blitzkrieg of…er…10 goals in three games, although ours will certainly have all been a result of free-flowing football played with gay abandon, whereas they probably pinged them in off the goalkeeper’s arse after a goalmouth scramble, or some hopeful toe poke or some other such nonsense.

I thought I’d approach a quick rundown of this other team by way of attack, defence, weaknesses, tactics and ‘any other business’, before then moving on to Port.

Attack

Heberty Fernandes De Andrade (7) is the man of the moment for the under-the-flyover, corrugated-tin shack dwellers, bagging an outrageous – yet certainly undeserved – 16 goals in 19 games. He probably nicked half of them from his team mates as the ball was rolling over the line anyway. See how flukey he was with his efforts here (https://youtu.be/BbjIqeTDeLE?t=82) and here (https://youtu.be/BbjIqeTDeLE?t=108). He’s also chipped in with 7 assists. The boy from Brazil or Timor, depending on which fake baptism documents you wish to believe (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heberty_Fernandes_de_Andrade#Eligibility_Controversy ), is undoubtedly the danger man for Rochela to have in his pocket for this game.

 

 

Thankfully the Timorese wannabe isn’t really being ably assisted by anyone; you need to go a long way down the goals tally before you’ll find Do (19) (6 goals; 5 assists), Jaja (50) (4 goals; 1 assist) and Samphaodi (4 goals; 0 assists) who are the other main ‘threats’. Admittedly, Samphaodi has got his 4 in 8 games but injured at the moment. Haha! So, do we just need to keep ol’ Hebbers quiet?

Tristan Do (19), the French-Thai right winger, has provided much of the impetus and creative menace for the team we play on Saturday. He’s certainly one to contain and we need to press his defensive duties into action more than allow him to release his attacking capabilities. Somewhat confusingly he is listed as a right back, but this team’s line ups show that this is patently not the position he’s been put into lately.

Looking amongst the rest of the squad, danger does not seemingly lurk in the shadows.

Defence

These lot shipped goals early on in the season, and are still figuring out how to plug leaks. Sukhothai put three past them at the Rusty Tin Shed only 3 weeks ago. Who can forget that Prachuap game when they were hit for six? They also had an affinity for the 2-2 draw which they seem to have shaken off lately. Seven goals against in the last 4 games suggests a defence that is still not at its peak, should they actually have a peak to find. Bosko and Suarez may be in for rich pickings.

One of their regular centre backs – Promrak – is suspended for this game having got himself sent off inside 15 minutes of the game against Pattaya. I can only assume some VD-riddled skank from the night before showed up and he had to leg it posthaste (is that libel editor?), as there is no video evidence of the game to be found. His card was nominally for violent conduct.

Tactics

They tend to flip-flop between 4-5-1 and a more traditional 4-3-3, and much like a 70 year old retiree flip-flops between hating continental Europe or dark-skinned folk, they can’t seem to settle on one or the other. Even the 4-5-1 could be a 4-3-3 depending on where you draw the line. In short if they come to attack you will see Do and Thinjom pushed on, and if they come defensively (fnarr, fnarr) then you will see one or both of Yooyen and Chappuis dropped back from centre midfield to defensive midfield.

Weaknesses

Weighing up the above comments it looks on paper that their weaknesses are an over-reliance on Heberty and Do, and an inability to shore up their defence with any consistency. Although when someone has put away 16 absolute, undeniable flukes, you can nearly be forgiven for relying on him. Providing Port can shackle Heberty, and Kolossal Kev™ and Nurul can keep Do pressed back down that flank, I feel we are in with a good shout of seeing victory.

Likely line up, assuming some sort of 4-5-1

GK: Padungchok

Def (L-R): Notchalya, Auyamo, Inthanee, Plainum

Mid (L-R): Panthong, Yooyen, Chappuis, Thinjom, Do

Att: Heberty

It’s worth noting than Thinjom has played across all midfield positions except right-wing in recent weeks.

Any Other Business

Let’s tackle it. This is them lot. This is the biggest grudge match in Thai football by some distance. The voluntary ‘stay away’ by away fans on both sides robs Thailand of one of its most boisterous and colourful nights. Sure, PAT will still be rocking, but who can we gloat at and gesture to as Bosko dances his way through the massed ranks of utter c*nts (dear editor, you are lucky it took this long) to leather the ball into the top right corner to cap a glorious victory? Well, it will now all be directed at the players.

Given the…ahem…’heritage’ of the game, what would it take for one of those players to do something stupid (or measured) to incite reaction from the home crowd? We are going to have to police ourselves seeing as the Royal Thai Police cannot give a single flying f*ck about deploying their crowd control unit in any meaningful way.

The longer this frankly ridiculous lack of away fans goes on, the longer it takes for the pressure to mount and the release, when it eventually happens, will only be greater. You see it the world over when two old enemies meet after time apart. By ducking their responsibilities for an extended period of time, the authorities (in which I include the Police, FAT, and – to some extent – fan representatives) are only exacerbating the eventual problem.

Anyway, off the soapbox now, and to look at the kings of Khlong Toei.

Port Lineup

Is there a need to change anything? Five wins on the bounce, a tight defence, goal-happy strikers. It’s almost impossible to see Jadet swapping anyone out, despite individual performances against Air Force. So bollocks to it. I can’t be arsed to trawl through all our players and heap praise upon praise on them (see recent articles ad nauseum).

What I will say is that Kim and Siwakorn need to pull up their socks a touch in order to make midfield a tough place for Chappuis et al. Kevin might have a need to be a little more defensive given Do’s threat, although as previously noted, with Nurul running the same flank I think the other team will have their hands full. Bosko and/or Suarez will certainly find the net, with a depleted central defence hopefully being run ragged.

Rochela and Dolah need to be alert to anything Heberty tries on and keep a lid on secondary threats wherever they may emerge from given the lack of likely candidates.

Likely Port Lineup

 

 

 

 

Pangwatch

Personally I’d love to see her in her iridescent spangly jeans again, they really caught the eye on that steamy night against whoever it was. I forget, as I was too busy looking longingly across to the soul of the club perched like a bird of paradise on the end of the bench. This coupled with a sheer white blouse perhaps. Her hair loose, with a shine that confirms both her fine health and burning inner fire. Divine. However, this is likely to be a blood and thunder encounter and she will want to look like she means business. If I was to dare second-guess our most benign and splendid maharishi, I believe she will opt for a pastel tracksuit, possibly eggshell blue or baby pink, with a filigree baseball cap – simultaneously implying “I’m hard me, but you can feel my feminine warmth before I smash this plant pot over your head, you mug”. Footwear – not a night for heels, probably all white K-Swiss.

A prediction to finish with

We’ll win 3-1, get thoroughly smashed on Leos and roll home in the early morning.

 

Port FC vs Muangthong Utd, Saturday 9 June, 17:45 at the PAT. If you can’t make it, the game will be shown on True4U.

 

Purple Reign: Muangthong Utd 0-2 Port FC

 

Despite the absence of their usual vociferous away support, Port travelled to the Ballardian wastelands of Muangthong and, for the second season running, came away with a win, which takes them to the top of T1. A couple of thousand Port fans turned up to watch the match on the PAT scoreboard, and created probably the best atmosphere at any Thai league game this weekend.

 


 

The times they are a-changin’, and Port headed to the Theatre of Corrugated Iron with arguably the stronger squad, confident of getting a result against a Muangthong side whose star is definitely beginning to fade. Yes, they might have two of T1’s greatest SFSs (Heberty & Jaja), but when the best you can offer in midfield is professional model and occasional (and ludicrously overrated) footballer Charyl Chappuis, you’re in for a long old season.

Jadet made one change from last week’s win over Pattaya, replacing Adisorn with new Korean signing Kim Sung Hwan; but the formation remained an attacking one with Pakorn & Nurul on the flanks and Boskovic spearheading the attack.

The game kicked off in front of swathes of empty seats at the SCG (though it did fill up by half-time), and the atmosphere was certainly a lot better at the PAT, despite those of us unwisely choosing to sit in Zone B requiring the Hubble Telescope to see the screen. What followed was a classic, packed with action & incident, and a great advertisement for how far Thai football has progressed as a spectacle in recent years.

Port, sporting their new purple away kit, made the early running and should’ve taken the lead on 5 minutes when some lovely interplay between new boys Nurul (31) and Kevin (97) resulted in a golden chance for Nurul, but he fluffed his shot and it went straight to the keeper. But 2 minutes later Port got the goal their lively start deserved, in a goal rich in irony. Left-back Kevin had already been announced as a Muangthong player when Port stepped in & gazumped them, and Pakorn’s (7) excellent free-kick was nodded into his own net by Peerapat – who would’ve been on the bench had the Kevin deal gone through.

 

 

The early goal was just what Port needed for Jadet to carry out his tactical masterplan, and they began soaking up wave after wave of MTU attacks, with the brilliant duo of Kim (8) and Siwakorn (16) bossing the midfield, and Rochela (22) his usual calm self at the back. Muangthong’s much vaunted duo of Heberty & Jaja were barely getting a sniff, and last week’s hat-trick hero Chenrop spending more time in Kevin’s pocket than his phone. Even an early injury to Bumrungrad loyalty card holder Todsapol (6) couldn’t disrupt Port, with Dolah (4) seamlessly replacing him.

Muangthong did occasionally carve out chances, hitting the bar on 15 minutes and Worawut (36) spectacularly saving a long-range Heberty strike on 17, but the manner in which Port were managing the game, rather than running around like headless chickens as was so often the case last year, was very impressive indeed. They made it to HT with their lead intact, and for once Operation Fuckup felt like a distant memory.

As expected, Muangthong came storming out in the second half, and as we’d moved closer to the scoreboard, we could actually see what was going on, as Worawut (having possibly his best game in a Port shirt) made another flying stop from a 46th minute Sarach thunderbastard. But Port continued to threaten on the break and on 49 minutes Suarez, who was having one of his invisible nights, volleyed narrowly over the crossbar after being put through by Nurul. Kevin also tried the spectacular on the hour mark with a Roberto Carlos-style volley from far out left, which again only just cleared the crossbar.

Muangthong had been warned, and on 65 minutes Port’s grip on the game tightened with a beautifully worked goal. A long pass from Suarez found Nitipong (34) in acres of space on the right, and the little right-back skipped past an MTU defender before squaring a delightful pass back to the Spaniard who buried it in the back of the net, sparking euphoric scenes at the PAT. Like last season, Port were winning at the SCG; unlike last season, they were bossing the game and from this point the result was never in much doubt, and although Jaja had the ball in the net seconds later, it was correctly disallowed for offside.

Indeed, it could have been much worse for the hosts before the final whistle, with Nurul heading narrowly wide and Boskovic (23) being denied by the Muangthong keeper. Even Kim tried to get in on the act 3 minutes into stoppage time with an outrageous free kick attempt – not sure what the Korean for “taking the piss” is, but he was definitely doing it.

 

There ain’t no party like a Sandpit party

 

After the final whistle the Sandpit was the venue for scenes of celebration not seen at Port in a long time, with the farang and local fans sharing songs (they still haven’t learned “Shit on the Muangthong” yet but we intend to make it happen), beers and other intoxicants (let’s just say one of those beer stall guys is a marketing genius), in further evidence that, even when there’s no game on, the PAT is the best place to experience football in Thailand. I eventually found myself with fellow Sandpitter Tom Earls in a craft beer bar in the wilds of Punnawithi having utterly unnecessary late beers, and I awakened this morning with a throbbing head and a rasping voice. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

As for Port, something very special is happening here. The new players have gelled from the off, with the existing players raising their game to match them; but even more impressive was Port’s tactical mastery, sitting back, soaking up pressure, keeping Heberty & Jaja on a tight leash, and hitting MTU on the break time after time. Muangthong may have felt they were robbed last season, but they can have no complaints this time round. With Kim taking his place in the team the jigsaw is finally complete, and with Port sitting on top of T1 after 2 games, fans now have realistic hopes of them staying there for a good while longer.

 

Sandpit Man of the Match: Kim Sung Hwan

As with last week’s game there were MOTM performances all over the pitch. Keeper Worawut had an absolute stormer of a game; Kevin justified Jadet’s claim that he’s the best LB in Thailand with a stunning display (Panpanpong now seems just a bad memory); Pakorn was superb down the right; Rochela was flawless; and Siwakorn was his usual busy self in midfield.

But this week’s MOTM award has to go to Kim, who oozed class, authority and leadership from the whistle. Port have lacked a leader on the pitch for a long, long time, but in the big, physical, classy Korean they finally have one. He may not speak English or Thai but he certainly manages to tell his teammates where he wants them, and Port look like a different team with him sitting in front of the defence.