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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.

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season 2018: Week 2

 

This week’s Sandpit Song of the Season is in honour of Muangthong Utd, Port’s opponents tomorrow evening. Now, before you accuse me of being inflammatory, and unnecessarily harsh on our suburban friends, can I just state that I’ve scoured YouTube, Spotify and Soundcloud for songs about Kirins, and unfortunately drawn a blank. Therefore I have little option other than to post this tender romantic ballad by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds.

 

 

Fan Ban Thank You Ma’am: SCG a No-Go for Port Fans

 

Following the recent news that official Port supporters’ groups were planning to boycott Saturday’s away game at old rivals Muangthong Utd, in protest at the home club’s inability to guarantee fan safety, the two clubs have announced a joint away fan ban for both games between the clubs this season.

Those Port fans who were still planning to go to the game will now have to watch it on a big screen which will be set up at the PAT which, if the last big screen game is any indication (home to Ubon in late 2016), will be a right old laugh. Possibly not as much fun as drinking Chang under a flyover whilst dodging flying bottles, but fun all the same.

 

The scenic splendour of Muangthong, Pearl of the Orient

 

It is of course a shame that away fans won’t be able to attend and take part in arguably Thai football’s fiercest rivalry, but a supporter boycott would have been rather embarrassing for MTU and caused them to ‘lose face’, and we can’t possibly have that, and so an away fan ban spares the blushes of all concerned. There’s also the risk of the two clubs being docked points should any trouble occur, and with La Pang investing upwards of 100mBHT in her squad this year, that’s not something she wants to happen.

See you at the PAT on Saturday (18:00) then!

 

Header image courtesy of www.thai-fussball.com 

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Crystal Balls 2018: Muangthong Utd

 

After sweeping all before them in 2016, the team we Port fans love to hate meekly surrendered their title in 2017, with the League Cup their only trophy of the season. This time out they’ve lost Kawin, Theerasil and Teerathon (aka Hia Um), but have added Buriram’s 2017 top score Jaja Coelho, and are expected to be in the title race. Here’s MTU fan Grant Aitken to tell us what he thinks the season has in store for the Kirins…

 


 

What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

The ACL campaign was thrilling. That last minute winner against Kashima Antlers will live long in the memory.

How will your team fare in 2018?

1st or 2nd hopefully, best to wait a few games before making any firm predictions though.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Only one contender here, Jaja. He’s a different level player and will make the difference.

Which departed players from 2017 will you miss the most? Who are you glad to see the back of?

We’ve lost 3 key players in Terrasil, Theeraton and Kawin, but with Peerapat and Adisak we have high calibre replacements for the two that are going to Japan. Kawin is less easy to replace and we’ll need to tighten our defence to compensate for the loss.

What changes would you like to see at your club? Or are you happy with the way things are going?

Losing players to clubs abroad is the major talking point for Muangthong this year, but I think the club has little option but to agree to let the players move on. Blocking moves would appear spiteful and make the next generation of players, that are good enough to play abroad, less likely to choose Muangthong to further their careers. It’s important the club thinks about its long term strategy rather than desperately clinging on to players who want to play elsewhere. We have a strong academy, several feeder teams and potentially a valuable parent club, unless I’m reading too much into the eventual destinations of Leicester City’s “Fox Hunt” development programme graduates.

Which teams will be in contention for the T1 title, and who will win?

Muangthong and Buriram will be the front runners. Although, I’m hoping Buriram will suffer from the same issues they had two years ago when they finished outside the top 3. I would like to see them hold their own on the ACL stage, but their squad looks weaker now then it did 2 seasons back so they will find it difficult being competitive on all fronts.

Chaing Rai and Bangkok Glass have improved, although not significantly. I think Mano Polking will re-group his side to be a strong outfit, but I feel they’ll still have problems taking points against the big 2. Port have some good attacking players, but I think they’ll struggle for consistency if Jadet is intent on playing them all at the same time and they could take a while to find their feet. Tero and Ratchchaburi will be hard to beat this year, but don’t quite have enough quality to mount a title challenge.

If I had to pick a winner I’d go with Muangthong, although its getting tighter so injuries, bust-ups or divine intervention could result in a surprise winner this year.

Which 5 – yes 5 – teams will go down to T2, and which 3 will come up to T1?

Chainat have seemed very quiet in the transfer market so far, and I think the shenanigans of last season will have a detrimental effect on Navy. Ubon have issues in many areas of the club, and I think Sukhothai will struggle this year too. Prachuap seem to have ambition but I’m not sure they can stay up, whereas Air Force have some good fire power up front and emerging young talent so they should be fine. I expect to see Suphanburi and Nakhon Ratchasima in the dogfight too, but I’m backing them to beat the drop.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Bangkok United is probably my favourite fixture. The away game is not far to travel so we normally bring 4-5k fans. They, as well as ourselves, have a gifted manager, so I find it intriguing to see their tactics in action. Coach Ban got the bragging rights last season and Mano was the overall victor the year before. Buriram is a big game, but far more tense, and generally having more at stake so it’s not quite as enjoyable, but certainly a game I eagerly anticipate. I look forward to any fixture if I know I can expect the opposition to come and try and play some football. That generally rules out Ubon, and certain away fixtures where the playing surface is deliberately made unplayable. You can’t emulate EPL style football on a Sunday league playing surface. I hope the FA is monitoring next year and dishes out fines for repeat offenders.

Thai football crowds are declining year on year. Why do you think this is, and what can be done to make the game more popular?

There are many things clubs could do better but the main problem is that fans will not flock in their masses if the football is not entertaining. I think more support needs to be given to referees to show them how to help the game flow and make sure they’re punishing offenses that contradict entertainment values. I’d love the FA to set aside a budget to bring in a retired referee from Europe to scrutinize performances, not just for the big decisions, but for the little ones that annoy the hell out of spectators too.

Finally, give us your three wishes for the 2018 season.

1.Muangthong to progress to the ACL Group stage beating Japanese opposition on their own turf in the process.

2.Buriram to have a strong showing in the ACL group stage – it’s a necessary evil if we’re to keep chipping away at Australia in terms of coefficient points.

3.Somebody to put together a hilarious montage of Diogo’s face every time he takes a tumble in the penalty area, only for the referee to refer to VAR and book him for simulation.

 


 

Thanks Grant! Want to share your thoughts on the 2018 season? Fill out our questionnaire!

Due to technical issues entirely beyond our control some of you may see a picture of the 2017 Port team celebrating an away victory at the top of this page rather than a picture of Muangthong. We apologise for any inconvenience or distress this may cause.

 

Can Lions Roar Behind Closed Doors? Muangthong United vs. Port FC, 17 May 2017

 

Port take on fierce rivals Muangthong United behind closed doors on Wednesday, hoping to make some noise by securing a shock victory in the eerie silence of SCG Stadium. With the normal feuding between the Yamaha Ultras and the Khlong Toei Army set to be put to one side for a year, we might even be able to talk about the football for once!

 

Muangthong United

Players to Watch

 

I’ve had to be extremely selective here, as pretty much the entire starting XI plus a couple of substitutes would be players to watch in any other team in the league.

Even with the abundance of quality on display though, the number one threat has to be Chanathip Songkrasin (18). The 5 foot 2 (yes, you read that right) attacking midfielder has been running rings around and through the legs of defenders across the continent this season. Almost certainly the most talented Thai player of all time, Jay (as he is known by Thai fans) has lightning-quick feet and a football brain to match. He will be playing one of his last games in Thailand before he heads off to Consadole Sapporo in the Japanese top-tier for the next year and a half, so expect the mini maestro to put on a show before his departure.

Theerathon Bunmathan (3), or “Heea Um” – as he is not-so-affectionately known in the Port terraces – is a wing back and dead-ball specialist with one of the best left feet in Asia. He already his nine assists to his name in 2017. From left back. Bloody hell. Um’s ability to land a cross on his teammate’s forehead is unerring, although in recent games against Port Um has let the crowd get to him and performed well below his usual level. He’s probably over the moon that he can get on with his job in peace and quiet on Wednesday!

Teerasil Dangda(10) has his critics (including me, after some of his recent performances for the national team) but his record speaks for itself. When he’s on his game, his finishing is second to none in Thai football, although his work-rate can at times be questionable. If given half a chance in or around the area, Port will just have to pray he has his boots on the wrong feet!

This fella is an absolute brute of a centre half. Celio Santos (29) stands a full foot above Chanathip (6 foot 2) and at times seems almost as wide as he is tall. Celio is a formidable barrier on his own, and his defensive partner – experienced Japanese defender Naoaki Aoyama (5) – isn’t bad either. Muangthong have yet to concede a single goal at home in the league, and most of the credit has to go to Celio who has been outstanding week in week out.

 

Chanathip, Theerathon, Teerasil and Celio Santos

 

Form

 

10 wins out of 13 isn’t too shabby, is it? The only glimmer of home for Port fans is Muangthong’s loss last week to specialist giant-killers Thai Honda. Honda took an early lead to Muangthong, and showed incredible resilience to hang on for a win against a barrage of late attacks. If Port can channel the spirit of their exceptional performances against Chiang Rai and Buriram, they too could spring a surprise at the SCG against opponents who have been busy both at home and abroad in the League and Asian Champions League this season. The catch is, that without their 12th man, the Port players will feel very alone indeed in the SCG.

 

Port FC

Starting XI

 

With the mid-season break nearly upon us, it’s time for players to really play for their places. With weaknesses in the squad likely (hopefully) to be addressed in the upcoming transfer window, big performances are needed from several players to ensure that they’re not replaced or lose their position in the starting XI. With that in mind, here are some of the people I think should probably be looking over their shoulder.

With Rattanai (17) now back in training after his injury and Watchara (37) returning the club after BBCU went out of business, Worawut (36) has a big few weeks ahead of him. Rattanai looks odds-on to replace him in the Starting XI when he is back to full fitness, but Worawut still has three games to prove that he belongs ahead of Watchara in the squad. If he continues to look vulnerable under the high ball with his punching (flapping) and distribution very much hit and miss, he could be usurped by Watchara and loaned out if he’s not careful.

Panpanpong (19) has had a decent season to date, but is far from the complete full back. With 21 year old Buriram defender Yossawat being the first arrival, it is clear Jadet is seeking to bolster his options in that area of the pitch, so Panpanpong is going to have to step up his game to stay ahead of his younger teammate in the pecking order.

Adisorn (13) has been a surprising hit this season, performing well in big games and forcing his way in to the first XI. Nevertheless, defensive midfield is a position that Jadet may look to address, as he has shown very little faith in his other options, Tatchanon (39), Wanchalerm (40) and Ittipol (7). Adisorn’s performances in the next few weeks could determine whether or not Jadet will look for another option in the transfer market.

Neither Genki (18) nor Tana (99) has been quite able to make the left wing spot their own so far this season, and that makes them vulnerable. Jadet has already brought in a left sided midfielder in the transfer window, so we know he is looking to add depth in that area of the pitch. The question is, will he be looking to replace either of the two, or supplement them?

Pakorn (9) has been utterly abysmal at times this season. His performance at Korat last week was a prime example of just how bad he can be when his head is not in the game, and it’s a risky time to be at your worst with the window approaching. It’s absolutely infuriating watching a player of his talent blow mostly cold and rarely hot, as he could and should be such a huge asset to Port. If Jadet does look to give himself another option on the right, I would be far from shocked.

Suarez (5) hasn’t quite lived up to the early promise he showed in pre-season. He has had some great games, but has also gone missing at times too. With Maranhao (92) itching to get in to the squad and challenge for a place in the side, Suarez has to put his best foot forward in the coming games to be sure he retains his place.

Josimar (30) has had his moments this season, but he could certainly be more consistent. With Kaludjerovic (10) surely out of the door after being left off the bench against Korat, either Maranhao (92), Asdrubal (27) or another forward will be coming in to the squad and challenging Josimar for his place up front. Josi has three games to prove that he is the man to lead the line for Port in the second leg.

With probably only Nitipong (34), Rochela (22), Dolah (4) and Siwakorn (16) really able to say they are sure their place isn’t under threat, a lot of players have a lot to prove against Muangthong.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Weak Link?

 

 

My usual ‘Key Battle’ segment seems a bit redundant here, as Port have 11 Key Battles against 11 excellent players. Instead I’m going to focus on perhaps Muangthong’s weakest player. Premier League fans may remember Xisco Jimenez from his ill-fated move to Newcastle in 2008. With a transfer fee of £5.7 million and £50,000 per week wages, Newcastle were less than impressed with the 1 goal in 9 games Xisco managed before being shipped back to Spain.

Despite his failure to light up the Premier League, Xisco would still be expected to be a dominant force in T1, but as it is the Spaniard has found the net 5 times so far this season (the same as Josimar). The main reason I think Xisco could be Muangthong’s weak link today is that his aerial prowess – his main threat – could amount to little if he is well-marshalled by Port defender Dolah (4). Dolah has looked increasingly confident at the heart of the Port defence, earning The Sandpit’s Man of the Match awards against both Chonburi and Korat, and will be relishing the chance to dominate a big name like Xisco in a physical battle.

I may be clutching at straws calling Xisco a weak link, but it’s all I’ve got!

 

The match will be shown live on True4U at 18:00 on Wednesday 17 May, but we recommend you join us upstairs at The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13, where a group of Port fans will be watching on a big screen.