Posts

Wicked ‘Vic: Port FC 3-0 Pattaya Utd

 

The most hotly anticipated Port FC season in living memory kicked off at a jam-packed PAT last night with a win over a Pattaya side who were organised and physical but lacked a cutting edge up front. Stunning debut screamers from Boskovic (23) and Bodin (10) sandwiched a Suarez (5) goal to give Port just the start they wanted and to increase fans’ appetites for what is to come.

 


 

Ah, the first day of the season. The familiar taste of Leo and ice in a plastic glass. The meeting up with old friends. The unveiling of a rather tasty new shirt, then being told you can’t buy it until next month. Some things never change.

Quite why new Port shirts are treated with the kind of secrecy normally afforded to MI5 missions or buying beer on Buddhist holidays is a mystery; an even bigger mystery is how the club can spend over 100mBHT on new players but still not get the club shop stocked for the opening day of the season. Yes, I was given a free can of Leo with my season ticket, but I’d rather have had the option of BUYING A BLOODY SHIRT. Sort it out.

 

It was easier to find a Super Mario outfit than a new Port shirt

 

OK, rant over, because apart from the annual shirt debacle there was nothing whatsoever to moan about. The decision to put ModernDog on stage before the game was an inspired one, with their derivative but highly anthemic Thai rock music working the local fans up into a frenzy of excitement before kick-off. With Zone B visibly filling up, we took our seats 30 minutes before KO and found the stadium already full to the rafters, and Port’s performance will ensure that’s likely to be the norm this season.

Port, as expected, went at their opponents from the whistle, and although their first half performance wasn’t quite as fluid as it would become later in the game, the result should’ve been done & dusted by half-time. Boskovic in particular was serving notice that he’s here not just to score goals, and his all-round play, dropping deep or moving out to the wing to look for the ball, was a revelation to fans so long starved of a genuine Scary Foreign Striker. On 4 minutes, the bearded Montenegrin bombed down the wing, skinned two defenders and fired in a low cross, which rebounded off a Pattaya defender straight back onto his head, forcing the Dolphins’ excellent keeper into the first of many smart saves.

Port came closest to opening the scoring on 7 minutes when an excellent inswinging free kick from new left-back Kevin (97) found the head of Todsapol (6). Tossa directed his header into the corner but somehow the keeper pulled off a miraculous, Gordon Banks-esque save to keep it out. And on 15 minutes Pakorn (7), sensing that he’s no longer the only game in town when it comes to dead balls, hit the crossbar directly from a corner.

Despite their superiority, it took Port until the last minute of the half to break the deadlock. Suarez fed Boskovic down the left and he appeared to overrun the ball before cutting back, leaving two defenders for dead with a sublime bit of trickery, and firing an unstoppable strike into the top corner sparking scenes of delirium on the terraces. Port finally have a real SFS, one who can create goals out of nothing, and it feels damn good.

 

The PAT at its best – packed to the rafters & in full voice

 

Half-time saw the kind of frenzied beer queueing not seen since the repeal of prohibition, so your correspondent decided to forego the usual HT bevvy and thus made the start of the second half. 10 minutes in the referee – who had a generally poor game – awarded Pattaya what I initially thought to be a highly dubious penalty. But after using the VAG system – Video Assisted Guesswork – I can see that Pattaya’s big no9 Lukian has a wrestle with Rochela (22) on the edge of the box, the cap’n goes down, then has a little kick at the Brazilian as he tries to get away. Well spotted ref, and it looks as if Port’s penchant for piffling penalties is continuing into 2018. Thankfully Worawut, with his only real action of the night, pulled off a stunning save to keep it 1-0, with Suarez amusingly appearing to tell the ref where he could stick his penalty.

This proved to be the first of two incidents that turned the game, the second being a red card for Pattaya on the hour mark after Nurul was – for the umpteenth time – upended on the edge of the box. It was now 11 v 10 and, with Nurul restored to his preferred position on the right, Port were playing some champagne football and looking dangerous every time they crossed the halfway line. And yet the next chance fell to Pattaya, with a cross from the left spectacularly volleyed over Worawut but against the Port crossbar.

On 73 minutes, Port finally got the second goal their football deserved. Pakorn picked out Nurul in the box and his shot was again brilliantly saved by the Pattaya keeper, only for the rebound to fall to Suarez who gleefully blasted it into the roof of the net for hopefully the first of many goals this season.

It was Pakorn’s last act of the game as he was replaced by new boy Bodin (10), who almost announced his arrival in the most spectacular fashion, smashing a shot against the post in the 76th minute. Five minutes later, Nitipong (34) went down in the box and the referee, for reasons best known to himself, decided it was a penalty (the VAG tells me Niti was going down before the defender, who played the ball, touched him). Rochela, still taking pens despite the arrival of Boskovic, stepped up to take it but his shot was weak and the keeper saved it comfortably.

Seasoned Port fans may have seen the penalty miss as the beginning of Operation Fuckup, that post-80th minute phenomenon that seems to kick in every time Port have a two-goal lead; but thankfully this team is made of sterner stuff and they put the game to bed on 89 minutes, with the boy Bodin curling a delightful free-kick into the top corner and celebrating with a funky dance routine in front of Zone C. Nurul then went off to a standing ovation and to have the rare experience of being replaced by someone smaller than him, with Terens ‘Flash’ Puhiri making a late debut. Sadly the popular Indonesian didn’t get a touch, but his time will surely come.

So a comfortable, and thrilling, 3-0 win to start off this most anticipated of seasons, and the job done in very impressive fashion. There wasn’t a weak link on the pitch, with the defence solid, the midfield quick and creative, and the forward players often dazzling. Pattaya may not have been the strongest opposition Port will face this season, and they offered little goal threat, but the way Port dispatched them – and, for once, closed out the game – bodes well for 2018. The four new players all made quite superb debuts, and the incumbents visibly raised their game to match their new superstar teammates. Jadet has the winning start he wanted – and needed – and with Kim Sung Hwan soon to take his place at DM, the future is surely bright for Port. Hopefully starting at Muangthong next week!

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match – Nurul

A very, very tough choice this week, with all 11 starters, plus Bodin, staking a claim for the coveted Sandpit MOTM award. I was initially going to give it to Rochela, who put in a masterclass in calm, unflustered defending, however his giving away a penalty at one end and missing one at the other mean he misses out. Boskovic was also a contender, as was Suarez, who revelled in his new free role. But the award this week goes to debutant Nurul who, particularly once he switched to the right, absolutely terrorised the Pattaya defence, drawing fouls, free-kicks and cards almost every time he got forward. Only a miraculous save from Pattaya’s keeper prevented him from scoring on his debut, and his partnership with Boskovic looks like a recipe for goals.

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season 2018: Week 1

 

Introducing a new feature in which we dedicate a song to our opponents of the week. Pattaya are in town on Sunday, so here’s Shed Seven with a highly appropriate and long-forgotten mid-90s indie disco favourite

 

 

ModernDog Day Afternoon: Port Reveal Opening Day Programme

 

The new season is a mere five days away, and with Mme Pang splashing the cash on young Thai talent like an oil rig worker on shore leave, it’s no exaggeration to say this is the most hotly anticipated Port season in living memory.

As per usual, the opening day will consist of more than just a game of football, with the club laying on a veritable cornucopia of entertainment to get fans into the stadium early.

Opening Day Programme – 11 February 2018

(NB – the programme is only available in Thai and so my esteemed colleagues Earls & Cartwright have had a stab at translating it, and we apologise in advance for any errors)

15:30 – ‘check paperwork’ – we are unsure if this refers to season ticket collection or some kind of lucky draw. I’m assuming the former, given that there’d be little point having a lucky draw before people actually arrive

16:00 – welcome speech from La Pang. Weeping crowds. Flowers. Farang eye-rolling.

16:15 – video presentation of new kit – as yet it is not clear if said kit will be available for purchase. Based on previous experience, I wouldn’t get your hopes up

16:30 – La Pang thanks the club sponsors and poses for pictures with them. Farangs prostrate themselves at the feet of the Leo representatives

17:00 – ModernDog live. ModernDog are a pretty decent Thai rock band – if memory serves me correctly they supported Mogwai in 2011 and were quite good

18:00 – ModernDog leave the building, Elvis-style (ie sitting on a portaloo eating burgers)

19:00 – the small matter of Port FC vs Pattaya Utd

21:00 – post-match drinking and discussing how long Jadet is going to keep his job if they carry on playing like this

Essentially it means up to 6 hours of drinking, so you are strongly advised to write off Monday, and possibly Tuesday if we win.

The club have also released a short and fairly pointless video teaser, with the club’s 2018 slogan “Never Stop”. I would share it here but unless you were hitherto unaware that David Rochela had a beard you wouldn’t learn anything from it, so here is another, much better video also entitled “Never Stop”.

 

 

 

Crystal Balls 2018: Pattaya Utd

 

Last season Pattaya surprised many observers by finishing 8th in T1, after a long unbeaten run was only ended by Port in Jadet’s first match back at the helm following the Zico experiment. Following last season’s performance, despite losing star players Wellington & Stojanovic, optimism is high amongst Dolphins fans that they can improve on 2017. Here’s friend of the Sandpit Robin Lennon with his thoughts…

 


 

What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

The run of only 3 defeats in 17 in the second leg was pretty special, specifically the away draw at Muangthong, defeats of Bangkok United and Bangkok Glass in that run showed how far the team progressed through the season and could compete with the best.

How will your team fare in 2018?

Management are targeting 6th but I’d be happy with another top half finish to consolidate last season which should be realistic.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Although the permanent signing of loanee Peeradol Chamratsamee was a huge deal showing the club’s ambition, I think all eyes will be on our new Brazilian attack of Lukian and Rafinha. ” It’s just like watching Brazil ” has a nice ring to it.

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

Wellington Priori and Milos Stojanovic are very surprising and disappointing exits, their contribution to last seasons success was huge and both were big fan favourites, particularly Wellington. However it’s the loss of loanee goalkeeper Somporn Yos without a replacement so far that worries me the most. Port fans who enjoyed the away game at Pattaya witnessed the kind of shambolic display between the posts I fear we may have to endure without Yos. No particularly negative opinions on departed players but I wasn’t overly impressed with loanee Mongkol Tossakrai’s contribution given the fanfare on his arrival.

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

I’m extremely happy with how the new owners are moving the club forward, what they have achieved from taking over only 6 weeks before the start of last season is impressive. I think it speaks volumes that our crowds improved last season given the breaks and what I felt was particularly poor home game scheduling.

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

I expect Buriram to win it but hopefully the next 6 or 7 including Port and Pattaya will be closer matched to make the chase for second and third spot exciting. Quite a few big changes in personnel at several clubs makes for an interesting season in the top half I hope.

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

I would hope at least 1 of the promoted 3 stay up so I would go for Sukothai, Navy and Nakhon Ratchasima to join them. I fancy Udon with the ex Pattaya M&M’s strikeforce of Milos Stojanovic and Milan Bubalo, hopefully PTT Rayong for another derby and Sisaket to return to T1

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

It goes without saying the opener against Thai Port is the perfect curtain raiser to see how both teams new players fare and with a Sunday kick off I’m hoping we can bring a noisy respectable sized support to add to the occasion. Prachuap away in GW3 for a few days, a scenic train ride and a small stadium atmosphere and my first trip to the Leo stadium which I’ve missed the last 2 seasons.

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?

Match scheduling and the continual breaks are the most frustrating aspects at the league organisation level, even though Pattaya bucked the trend with an increased average of just over 3,000 the fact we pulled in 4,000+ in our last 2 games when we had weekend evening kick-offs demonstrates the impact of TV scheduling and fixture planning. The TV deal is necessary to support the league but the breaks don’t appear to benefit anyone.

The clubs have to do everything in their power to provide a decent product on and off the field on matchday and market it effectively and I think that’s why our crowds improved. A big pre-season launch event, a good season ticket deal, continual communication via facebook and a thank you party for the fans after the last home game of the season were all positive steps within the club’s control not being done by the previous regime.

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

1) A committed cup effort from Pattaya, my one gripe last season was fielding a below strength team when realistically cup success is our only chance of a trophy.

2) That no clubs get cast adrift at the bottom early, with 5 going down a tight relegation scrap should make for more meaningful games for all clubs and hopefully decent crowds.

3) Away cup draws to lower league teams where I haven’t been before. Football and travel in Thailand, the perfect combination.

 


 

Thanks Robin & good luck to Pattaya this season! Want to tell us about your team? Fill out our questionnaire!

 

Pitiful Port Punished by Poor Pattaya: Port FC 0-2 Pattaya Utd

 

The Dolphins swam into Khlong Thoey this evening, no doubt expecting a tough game, only to be pleasantly surprised when an out-of-sorts Port side not only handed them 3 points on a plate, but also threw in brandy, mints and a taxi home.

 

The Lineup

Jadet – or whoever picks the team – stuck largely with Port’s regular starting XI in a game they would’ve expected to win fairly comfortably. The only changes from Wednesday’s narrow defeat at Chonburi were Elsie Tana (99) coming back in for Genki (18), thus replacing a guy who can run for hours and sweat blood for the shirt with a bloke who visibly does not give a shit; and LB Pinkong (19) dropped in favour of Piyachart (23), for reasons best known to Jadet himself.

 

The Siwakorn Fanclub

 

The Game

When we interviewed Josimar a few weeks ago, he made the telling observation that whilst Port play well against better teams, when they can soak up pressure and attack on the break, they struggle when they’re required to take the game to inferior opponents, and tonight’s performance bore that out. Right from the start it was obvious that Port had no gameplan – they were even struggling to take goal kicks in the first 5 minutes. Pattaya’s strategy seemed to be to confuse Port by playing a high line to prevent them from calmly beginning attacks from their own half, and it worked like a dream for the first 20 minutes, with Port unable to retain the ball for longer than a few seconds and the Dolphins’ big midfielder Wellington providing the kind of calm head in the middle of the park that Port lack.

From the 20-minute mark Port started to impose themselves on the game, with Josimar (30) coming closest to scoring when fed in by Suarez (5) down the left, but chances were few & far between. Piyachart and the typically lethargic Tana offered little threat down the left, and the absence of the suspended Nitipong (34) deprived Port of the usual dynamism down the right, meaning Port were more often than not going down the middle, where Suarez was ineffectual yet again. When he’s on his game he’s unplayable, but his problem is he’s not on it nearly as often as Port need him to be and once again I found myself pining for Maranhao.

The half finished 0-0 and I hoped that the break would see the most obvious change, ie Tana replaced by Genki; however the same XI emerged from the tunnel for the second half, as did the same shortcomings.

 

Nothing to see here

 

The game changed during a 5-minute period near the hour mark. Firstly, Suarez fed Josimar (30) on the edge of the box and the big Brazilian decided not to shoot but to check back and play a marvellous ball to Tana, who only had to sidefoot it over the line to give Port the lead. So why he decided to chip the keeper, and spoon it into Zone B, only he knows. I apologise to those around me for the torrent of abuse that flowed from my mouth at that point (the kind of Russell meltdown not seen since the dark days of Brent McGrath in 2015) but I’ve been saying since early last season that Tana is a waste of space, and once again tonight he proved it. There are limbless beggars on Sukhumvit Road who would’ve stuck that chance away.

Minutes later Pattaya caught Port on the break and a cross from the right found Picha who, unchallenged, slotted it past Worawut to give the Dolphins the lead.

Port belatedly introduced Genki but for Pakorn (9) who went down with a knock just as Tana’s number appeared on the board, and the Japanese winger’s energy livened up Port’s attack considerably, but there was simply no invention, no creativity, and no gameplan for dealing with highly mediocre opponents who had found themselves a goal up and intended to stay there. But it would be unfair to say that Pattaya simply parked the bus; they were dangerous on the break and hit the crossbar twice in a matter of minutes, whilst Port could’ve played for another hour without creating a scoring chance.

On 92 minutes, another Pattaya break led to another cross, from the left this time, which found that man Picha on the far post where, once again unchallenged, he nodded it easily into the Port net. Whether anything of note happened after this I cannot say, for I was out of there and heading for the taxi home.

A sobering defeat – against one of the poorest sides we’ve played this season – after the euphoria of recent weeks, and one which, following the defeats to Bangkok Glass and Chonburi, suggests that Port aren’t quite as good as we – or they – think. Good players – Hansson and Tachanon, to name but two – are being left on the bench, whilst players who simply aren’t good enough for this level – Tana, Piyachart – are starting games. Playing with a lone striker is fair enough when you’re playing Buriram, but not at home against the likes of Pattaya, where attacking should mean more than leaving Josimar to feed off scraps. And what Port really miss in games like this is a calm head in midfield – Siwakorn and Adisorn’s bustling style is great when you’re up against it, but not required when the opposition are clearly there for the taking. And Port’s “big” players, such as Suarez and Pakorn, just aren’t consistent enough. Yes, 8th after 13 games is a fantastic start but we should be building on it, rather than – as looked to be the case tonight – stepping back and admiring our handiwork.

With two tough away games coming up – Nakhon Ratchasima and Muangthong – Port’s season is in danger of fizzling out into mid-table obscurity or worse. One can only hope that the mid-season break will see Port’s somewhat unimaginative midfield and attack given a bit of spark. Maranhao and Asdrubal are both waiting in the wings and one – or both – are sorely needed right now.

 

Man of the Match – Genki Nagasato

Not many contenders for the MOTM award tonight – even Rochela was out of sorts. But at least the Genk livened things up when he came on and tried to make things happen. It must kill a player with his commitment and workrate to be sitting on the bench watching a player like Tana play in his position, and when Genki came on, he straight away showed what Port had missed in the first hour of the game. No, he didn’t set the game alight, create any good chances or score, but he was the best of a very bad bunch.

 

Photos by Tim & Linny Russell

 

Crystal Balls 2017: Pattaya Utd

 

There’s more to Pattaya than Russian gangsters, ladyboy muggers, and Germans throwing themselves off hotel balconies – they’ve got a T1 football team too, and here’s Pattaya Utd fan Robin Lennon with a look at what 2017 may hold in store for the Blue Dolphins…

 

How will your team fare in 2017?

New owners, a new manager and virtually an entire new team make this campaign likely to be as unpredictable as last season. From the depths of post season despair when it looked like we were Udon bound, there is a renewed sense of excitement and optimism associated with the ownership change. The new manager is a former Pattaya manager who has brought what is hopefully the cream of his Bec Tero crop with him, but it is the return of fan favourites Milan Bubalo, Wellington Priori and ” The Helicopter ” Lee that have got the fans buzzing. Throw in 4 Muang Thong loanees and a few stalwarts from last season, if the manager can get them to gel over this next month in pre-season training and we get a kinder opening fixture run than last year I would hope for a mid table finish. We did it under less favourable circumstances last campaign.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Who doesn’t want to see Brazilian flair, so for me it’s Wellington Priori. I wasn’t around at the time but I keep replaying the you tube clip of his astonishing goal on his original debut for the Dolphins, it would be up there for a goal of the season anywhere in the world. Worth a watch.

Which departed 2016 players will you miss the most?

On my Brazilian theme again, it was sad but inevitable that we’d lose last season’s goal machine Junior Negro and midfield playmaker Antonio Pina. Throw Soony Saad into the mix and the trio on their day made us an exciting attacking team last season.

What changes would you like to see at your club?

It was my first season following Thai football and Pattaya United and I was shocked at the complete lack of commercial and retail marketing presence supporting the club, travelling to the other cities/clubs put these deficiencies into perspective. The biggest change has now happened, ownership, and I’m hoping that the family conglomerate who’ve now taken control will develop the successful promotional model you see at clubs like Buriram, Muang Thong, Chiang Rai etc. I’m sure there is significant potential to expand the fan base if the club is actively promoted and marketed.

Hopefully a bit of momentum behind the club might encourage a bigger travelling away support. There was some seriously impressive turnouts from other clubs at our stadium last season.

Which teams will finish at the top of T1?

If it’s not Pattaya United, hard to see past Muang Thong, ( sorry ), Bangkok United and Chiang Rai. I want to see the title winners rotate each year to keep interest growing in the league.

Which teams will go down to T2?

I’ll give the newcomers the benefit of the doubt since I haven’t seen them play. I’ll go for Navy who I thought would have gone down last season had it been completed, the new incarnation of Osotspa and (Udon) Bec Tero.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2017?

All away games but the shortest trip and local derby against Navy was a highlight of last season, they have a great pre-match live music and beer set-up. Unsurprisingly it was our biggest travelling support and the covered away section amplifies the noise level and is situated right next to the young Navy recruits packed singing section, bouncing atmosphere. Thai Port if your owner does selfies with the away fans.

Finally, if you could change one thing about Thai football, what would it be?

If it happens, the ability for another club to jump the promotion queue by buying and relocating another with no thought for the fan base of the acquired club.