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Crystal Balls 2019: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

 

The Swatcats surprised us all with an impressive 7th place finish last season, and also delighted us Port fans by losing to us 4-0 both home & away. Can they repeat last season’s top half finish, whilst also providing us with another 6 points? Here’s Brit Swatcat fan Russ John, editor of The Swatcat Blog (one of Thai football’s longest-established English language fan sites) with his thoughts on the season ahead…

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Leo Cup Half Empty: Nakhon Ratchasima 1-0 Port FC

 

Port made a quick exit from this year’s Leo Cup last night, going down 1-0 to the Swatcats in a feisty affair in Korat. With both sides looking very rusty, quality football was at a premium whilst the ref had a busy night indeed, the FAT’s vaunted “respect the officials” campaign clearly having gone way over the heads of both sets of players.

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Beer We Go: Port Kick Off Leo Cup Campaign Tomorrow

  Following the success of last year’s pre-season tournament, an expanded 2019 Leo Cup gets underway this week with 12 Thai clubs and 4 ASEAN invitees competing for the trophy. Port, as one of the greatest teams in the entire world, have been given a bye into the QFs where they will play away to Nakhon Ratchasima tomorrow night (18:00, on True4U). You can see the full format below:     Quite how this all works remains a mystery. Port have a QF against Korat, but if they win they will then play another QF against one of the ASEAN clubs. If they win that, it appears that they will go straight into a 3rd-place playoff which kicks off at exactly the same time as the semi final they just played, the FAT having clearly developed revolutionary timewarp technology. According to the above it is already technically impossible for them to make the final. Anyway, tomorrow is the first opportunity to get a look at the 2019 Port side (minus Sumanya who is with the Thai national team at the Asian Cup) in what should be a tricky but eminently winnable tie against the Swatcats. The game kicks off at 18:00 and will be on True4U.  

Specially Reserved Port vs Korat Reserves? Port FC vs Nakhon Ratchasima Preview

 

Port return home this Saturday to face Nakhon Ratchasima after a disappointing run of form. I was talking with Hockers trying to remember our last win, anyone?…….. Trat away July 25th. Our last league win?…….. Police Tero July 21st. I know we’ve had a break, but it comes to something when you are struggling to remember the last win for a fourth placed team.

So where is the bright side? Nakhon Ratchasima are in town, also known as Korat and the Swatcats both are a lot easier to write so I’ll use those. Four months ago Port won 4-0 in Korat, oh the heady days of 4-0 away wins. If Port have confidence against anyone it should be these Swatcats. Korat are a better side now with two recent wins and a creditable draw against Bangkok United. These results have pulled them into mid table safety. But wait what’s that coming up over the Korat plateau to save Port? It’s a Wednesday fixture in the league Cup semi final. Korat vs Chiang Rai a definite highlight for the Swatcats in a difficult season. The semi final is on the Wednesday 19th. Korat rest them, rest them all, the big and the tall and the small. Has it come to this? Hoping the other team field a weakened side? Yes, Yes it has.

Eyes down for a full house

For those wanting to play “have they got their first team out bingo” the player numbers you are looking for are,

4, 11, 15, 25, 27, 32, 37, 77

If a player is not in the starting line up just cross him off your bingo card. If all of these players are not in the starting line up shout “BINGO WE ARE SET FOR A WINGO” and receive your free large bottle of Leo with an amaretto chaser. Be careful not to celebrate too much, check first their absence isn’t due to the Korat team bus crashing.

Port lineup

Dolah is out, those two yellows take his card tally up to 8 this year so he’ll serve a second suspension. More bad news on the suspension front Pakorn (7) is back. I guess he’ll be rested, so he will bound onto the pitch with nervous energy for three and a half minutes then settle down for a nice stroll. There were patches of decent play in the Chiang Rai, match Kevin proved he can take a decent corner, so we will see if there is any discussion around the corner flag at the weekend. Unfortunately Nurul’s wayward free kicks didn’t make the case for prising the ball out of Pakorn’s hands come free kick time. We’ll probably see a traditional Port line up. Anon(20) should get the shout to start but probably won’t. If Nurul’s injury was serious Jadet will probably start Bodin in his place.

The Likely Lads

Worawut(36)

Nittipong (34) ,Rochela(22), Tossapol(6) Kevin(97)

Pakorn (7), Siwakorn(16) Suarez (5) Kim(8) Nurul(31)

Boskovic (23)

With this run of form you have to wonder how much the players are trying. If Jadet really wanted to do something different he could just pick the eleven players trying to do something.

Port effort 11

Rattanai (trying to get back from injury)

 

Nittipong (genuinely trying)

Rochela (trying to remember what it was like playing for a sane club)

Dolah with a huge false mustache (trying to play even though he’s suspended)

Kevin (trying to get in the national team)

 

Terens (trying to do remind Jadet he exists)

Kim (trying to communicate with anyone)

Adisorn (trying to tower over Terens in order to look taller)

Nurul (trying to win a free kick)

 

Boskovic (trying to play anywhere but up front)

Artit Bunyinda (trying to score, always trying to score not actually doing it)

 

My Prediction Port 5-4 Korat

A barnstorming game against a second choice Korat team and a Terens last minute winner. You can call me crazy for predicting this, but what do we have left in the season? Not much, a fading hope of 3rd place, a Terens winner would be genuinely worth celebrating.

I asked Korat fan Russ about the match and the Korat players to watch. Russ writes regularly about the Swatcats at http://russjohn1000.blogspot.com/ 

I also asked Russ what he thought of Port’s season, I should have just asked what he thought about the first half of the season.

 

Port v Nakhon Ratchasima – an away fan’s view

An intriguing match up given the relative current runs of form of the two protagonists. Port on an awful run of results and fading fast, the Swatcats, after strengthening the squad, resurgent with an encouraging set of second leg results moving them up to a respectable 8th place.

Whether the visitors will field a full strength team with next week’s League Cup semi final imminent is up for debate but the match should provide Port with a chance to placate their fans with a dominant display over a pretty ordinary Swatcat side.

Swatcat men to look out for? – well actually we have no real stars; we are just a hardworking set of players who give 100% and who play for each other. Samuel Cunningham(11) in goal has been a real hero at times this season and has undoubtedly saved the team a few points. Everyone knows Leandro Assumpcao (77), of course and now back after injury he will be a threat up front. My third pick for men to watch is an unlikely hero. Watch out for Yayah Kunath (27) (if he plays) buzzing around just behind the front men.

My views on Port’s season so far you may not wish to hear…. their season has been like opening a bottle of champagne – the cork is popped, lots of fizz, then everything goes flat. I have watched a few Port games on TV and performances have been erratic. In the recent game against Chainat I seriously thought that they had all been out on the pop the night before. The reality is of course they have stopped playing for coach Jadet.

I am no tactician but whenever I see Port, I see a team in a rush to get forward with men streaming forward in a ridiculously cavalier fashion. This will of course lead to the occasional super performance when individuals perform well but for a sustainable approach and success, they need to put their foot on the ball and build slowly from the back.

With the team in danger of finishing a disappointing 6th how long will Pang maintain interest? Jadet has to go of course, then hopefully the light bulb will come on and Port will attempt to temper expectations and build for a sustainable future….I suspect given the bumpy road that Port fans have learnt to expect, there is nil chance of this happening.

My match prediction Port 2 Nakhon Ratchasima 0

 

Port FC vs Nakhon Ratchasima FC, Saturday 15 September 18:00 at PAT Stadium and live on True Sport HD3

 

Swat’s the Way Uh-Huh Uh-Huh I Like It Uh-Huh Uh-Huh: Nakhon Ratchasima FC 0-4 Port FC

 

“Never write match reports when you’ve had a few beers”, as Graham Greene once wrote (The End of the Affair, 1951), but bollocks to it, it’s not often you get home from the pub having seen Port win 4-0 away after bossing a game on the road the way they generally do at home. Yes, the Swatcats were dreadful, by far the worst team we’ve played all season, but this was the kind of performance that makes you think Port have turned a corner after the watershed moment that was Chainat. Can you turn a corner after a watershed? Am I mixing too many metaphors here? Who cares. We are Tarua, and we are 3rd in the league.


Several factors contributed to a complete absence of Sandpitters at the 80th Anniversary Stadium tonight. Many of us are still scarred by that trip to Chainat; Port’s away form doesn’t in any way justify a 10-hour return trip on a Sunday night; and we tend not to like stadiums where you need the fucking Hubble Telescope to watch the action. So we convened at The Sportsman where as usual the game was on a big screen and the beer was flowing like the sacred waters of the Chao Phraya as they pass majestically by the fragrant docksides of Khlong Thoey.

Port started the game in a fairly generic formation, Suarez (5) returning in place of Bodin (10), who can consider himself very unfortunate after his superb performance against Chiang Rai last week. Such is life at Port, where reputations count for more than form. Dolah (4) kept his place after his superb show last weekend, and Worawut (36) replaced Rattanai who was presumably injured as he didn’t even make the bench.

Now at The Sandpit we try to operate on a glass-half-full basis as regards the development of Thai football, but it has to be said that the first half of this game was absolutely dreadful, and about as good an advertisement for the Thai game as Ed Sheeran is for British music. It was, frankly, fucking shocking. And yet, amidst the incompetence, Port somehow emerged at half-time with a 1-0 lead, after Boskovic (23) casually wandered through a static Swatcat defence to fire a header at our old friend Cunningham which, to be fair, the latter miraculously managed to save, only for the ball to fall to Nurul (31) who buried the fucker in the corner.

The little winger (who, according to Sandpitter Tommie Duncan, looks like a marmoset) should’ve made it 2-0 minutes later when put in the clear by a sublime pass from the otherwise nondescript Pakorn (7), but, thinking he was offside, he fluffed his chip over the keeper.

So 1-0 to Port at half-time when it could easily have been much more, but with Port dominating the game, and the Swatcats offering little other than a succession of fouls (the ludicrous Rangel being the worst offender, as per usual), hopes were high for the second half, hopes which – for a change – were fulfilled.

I think it’s well known that, so far this season, The Sandpit hasn’t been particularly impressed with Port’s marquee signing Dragan Boskovic (23), and our frustration boiled over after the Chainat defeat, when we gave the big Montenegrin a bit of what we Brits euphemistically refer to as ‘stick’. To his credit, Bosko has responded and in the second half tonight he grabbed hold of the Swatcat and, ignoring the hissing and the slashing of claws, proceeded to tear it a new feline arsehole. On 65 minutes he latched onto a lovely through ball from Suarez and blasted it past Zone B favourite Cunningham for 2-0, and then, on 90 minutes, slotted away a penalty (after a foul on Nurul) to put the cherry on the cake for Port who were already 3-0 up after a classic Suarez 6-yard poacher goal in the 66th minute.

This was a VAR game, and was yet another advertisement for why this ridiculous concept has no place in football, with the ref wasting several minutes watching incidents and then either making the right decision (sending off Ekkachai) or the wrong decision (allowing the appalling Rangel to stay on the pitch), leaving us wondering what the point of watching the video was in the first place. Please, let the game flow, embrace its randomness and errors, and leave this insistence on “fairness” to inferior sports. Football isn’t a sport, it’s a culture, a reflection of life itself, and as such it can’t be ‘decided’ by video evidence.

Anyway, Port won 4-0 away and played with the kind of confidence and swagger they show at the PAT and which we’ve been begging them for years to show away from home. It was a dominant performance from a team who have reacted to the Chainat shambles in the right way and are playing as a tight, compact unit. Yes, there are still faults – Kim (8) just isn’t the DM we hoped he would be; Siwakorn (16) had an absolute shocker; and Pakorn (7) no longer justifies a starting place. But this was a performance that gives us hope that Port’s top 3 place isn’t just a flash in the pan but is genuinely sustainable. Apart from Buriram & Bangkok Utd, T1 is a carnival of shite, and right now, Port are proving less consistently shite than those around them, so a good finish beckons.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Dragan Boskovic

Finally, 14 games into the season, we’ve seen the player who banged in 38 goals last season. Bosko was on top form tonight, not giving Korat’s defenders a moment’s peace, running his arse off and adding two goals to his tally for the season. Runners up – Dolah, Suarez, Nitipong.

 

Rampant Lions Pound Wet Pussies: Port FC 3-1 Nakhon Ratchasima FC

 

After yet another paws for international matches, the Lions & the Swatcats convened at the PAT for a T1 catfight. With both teams still facing, albeit distantly, the spectre of relegation, I had the feline it would be a tight game – would Korat go fur it, or park the puss? During a pre-match Twitter chat with Cap’n Rochela, he predicted that the wet, muddy conditions wouldn’t make for good football, so mewl be surprised to learn that, despite the far from purr-fect pitch, it was actually a very entertaining and eventful game. Here’s my re-paw-t.

 


 

Port started the game with the classic Jadet 4-5-1 lineup, with the only changes coming in defence where Rattanai (17) returned in place of Worawut, and Todsapol (6) came in for the suspended Dolah, two changes I’d like to see made permanent as both players give Port’s defence a much more solid look.

There was also a familiar face in the Korat lineup, with our old friend, the Comedy Keeper himself, Weera Duckworth returning to the PAT to delight the crowd with his slapstick antics.

The game began in lively fashion, with both teams doing their best to play good football despite the pitch resembling a litter tray. But it was Port who looked the most likely to score, with Suarez (5) shooting narrowly wide on 15 minutes, closely followed by Pakorn (9) curling a free-kick into the arms of Weera Duckworth a couple of minutes later, and Josimar (30) hitting a disappointingly tame shot into the former Rovers Return landlady’s grateful arms after being released by a lovely Siwakorn through-ball. Korat too had their chances, with Rattanai making a smart one-handed save from a rasping drive by Chanatphon (22).

The deadlock was finally broken in the 38th minute. A Panpanpong (19) cross from the left found Josi, but for reasons best known to himself the big Brazilian headed the ball down rather than into the net, allowing Duckworth to make a save. However, in the resulting melee, Suarez was deemed to have been barged over by a defender and, to much hissing and spitting from the Swatcats – which, having just seen it on video, was entirely justified – the ref pointed to the spot, and, as per usual, Rochela (22) buried it in the old bolso de cebolla for 1-0.

Korat were further aggrieved 4 minutes later when Suarez again, and Ekkachai (20) clashed in the box, with the latter going down rather spectacularly. Too spectacularly for the ref’s liking – he gave the Korat player a yellow for simulation which, given that he’d been booked earlier in the game, meant an early bath. It was a little harsh as it was no more or less a penalty than the one given to Port minutes earlier, but given the number of harsh penalties given against us this season we weren’t complaining.

There was another somewhat unsavoury incident just before the break. Rattanai dived for the ball at the feet of Brazilian striker and serial irritant Paulo Rangel (9) and as the latter jumped over him, he deliberately stamped on the young keeper’s leg. The referee and his assistant may not have seen it but all of us in Zone B did, and proceeded to inform Rangel of our displeasure at his ungentlemanly conduct.

The rain began to fall again at half-time making the pitch even more slippery, but it didn’t stop Port who were 2-0 up within a couple of minutes at the restart. I’d just succeeded in smuggling a can of Leo past the less than attentive Zone B stewards when I noticed Suarez bursting into the Korat box. His chipped cross to the far post was fumbled by Weera Duckworth right onto the feet of Josi, who hammered it home from 2 yards to double Port’s lead. And two minutes later it was nearly 3, when an absolute thunderbastard from Pakorn was tipped over the bar by the much-loved former Coronation Street star (RIP). Josi was next to come close on 55 minutes when his near-perfect header from a Panpanpong cross beat Duckworth but came back off the post.

On the hour mark, Jim & myself were busy discussing Rangel’s shortcomings as a human being when who should get on the end of a Korat free-kick to nod it past Rattanai, but Rangel himself. It was the kind of confused defending (Rangel being marked not by a central defender but by Josi & Panpanpong) that has let Port down on so many occasions this season, and with the Swatcats’ tails now up, it looked like Operation Fuckup was once again underway.

Rangel came close in the 70th minute, with his shot being turned wide by the excellent Rattanai, but 4 minutes later it was pretty much game over, when a superb inswinging corner from Pakorn was bundled in off Suarez’s shoulder, the Spaniard showing the kind of desire to get on the end of corners that has been absent from his – and the team’s – game most of the season.

There was time for some late drama, with Korat being reduced to 9 men in injury time after a shocking tackle from behind left Nitipong (34) in a crumpled heap, before the referee finally blew the whistle.

One of Port’s better performances this, with the team looking energetic and committed after the recent limp cup exits. More importantly, the 3 points guarantee Port’s T1 status next season and the team can now enjoy the rest of 2017 without pressure, starting with next Sunday when we have a chance to effectively end Muangthong’s title hopes. Come on boys, you know what to do.

 

Man of the Match – Sergio Suarez

What’s this? Tim giving Suarez MOTM? Well, it’s true. There were several good performances from Port, notably Rochela, Rattanai and Adisorn, but the Spaniard gets the nod this week. Clearly revelling in the muddy conditions, he was at the heart of everything Port did, winning the penalty for the first goal, setting up Josi for the second, and scoring the third. It was a skilful, hard-working performance which earned him a warm ovation when he was substituted. And as ever, it begs the question – when he can play like this, why the hell doesn’t he do it more often?