And it ended with a bang. And what a bang! Fourteen goals in three games (nearly a fifth of our goals all season); just another one yesterday would have given us a goal tally in those games of 555 – now that would have been a laugh.
Port went into this match knowing that a win would secure third place while any other result that matched Muangthong’s would have the same effect. With the match switched from Pattaya to the ever-so-slightly more accessible (in distance anyway) 72nd year anniversary stadium in Minburi, the opportunity for a large, vocal support to spur Port over the line was in place. The Klongtoey Army did not disappoint, the 1000 tickets on sale quickly snapped up with others getting in by virtue of the Pattaya allocation. The scene was set.
Port opened brightly with Rochela’s glancing header from a Pakorn free-kick in the 9th minute just evading the far post. Pattaya had the better of the play after that with a clear threat coming from their tall boys, most notably Korean centre back and captain Lee Won-Young, whose head-on from a free kick was scuffed past the post by left-winger Chayawhat.
Port were to take the lead, slightly against the run of play, in the 24th minute, Suarez’s (try saying that) left-foot cross from the right wing being perfectly taken on his chest by an unchallenged Boskovic, before hammering a right-foot volley into the top left hand corner of the goal; after reaching the ton last week, the muscular Montenegrin was on a roll. It certainly brought a smile to the face of Madame Pang, sheltering in the dug-out in what looked like a cheap 7-11 rain mac, but then I’m no judge of fashion.
The lead was increased on the half-hour with a sumptuous team goal. Pakorn’s long cross-pitch ball from the left was headed into the box by Nurul for Suarez to run onto and, when his prod was deflected by the keeper, Bosko was on the spot like a true poacher to nudge the ball over the line. It may have got there without him but this was a man scenting blood and he was not to be denied.
Eleven minutes later the travelling fans were sent into raptures with a third Bosko goal; Suarez once again providing the assist with another left-footed cross from the right, inch-perfectly placed for Bosko to nudge home back across the goal. This was Suarez again in creative midfielder mode – the mint was back. 3-0 at half-time and surely there was no way back for Pattaya. Muangthong were being held 0-0 by Bangkok Utd and third place was in sight.
Then the heavens opened. It had been raining with varying severity throughout the first half but the teams had no sooner left the field than the rain swept across the stadium with a biblical vengeance, quickly turning the pitch into a sodden mess, with large puddles soon gathering in both halves. It seemed almost impossible that play would continue; certainly not in the English Premier League but, thankfully, this is Thailand and the rules are, as it turned out, different and viewed with more optimism. However, I was already pessimistically imagining a midweek replay at Pattaya where we just couldn’t replicate our form of the past three games, to surrender our coveted third place spot without a fight.
Then news filtered through that the second half was to be delayed by 20 minutes while the groundsmen performed their best Canute-like miracles and, even though there were still significant pools of water at both ends, play thankfully resumed.
It was rumoured that Terens might appear in a blue and orange diving suit, complete with snorkel, to lurk in one of the puddles on the edge of the opposition box before rising to the surface to grab his precious first goal, coveted by his adoring fans as much as Terens. Sadly, it was not to be.
Pattaya seemed to adapt better to the atrocious conditions, and long balls into the box to their big lads was always going to be a legitimate tactic. Nittipong got away with a potential handball in the box on 50 minutes before Peeradon blasted the resultant clearance over the bar from the edge of the box. Port were living on the edge, giving away free kicks in dangerous areas and, from one of these, Lee Won headed home a curling free kick, virtually unchallenged. Another goal for the Blue Dolphins at this point would have made for a nervy last half hour. Suarez was having a running battle with Korean midfielder Kim Tae-yeon, which provided much peripheral entertainment. Fortunately, Port weathered the storm and with just four minutes of normal time to go, substitute Arthit, the Port Pele, made a ploughing run through the puddles on the right before crossing to Man of the Match Bosko to sweep the ball home in majestic fashion. The shirt came off, Madame Pang got excited again, whether at the sight of Bosko’s pecs or the amazing scoreline and the Port fans entered a state of delirium.
There was still time for Watchara to provide some first class entertainment with at least two spectacular saves and a charge outside the box to twice defy onrushing Pattaya forwards. At times his reflex saves are almost casual, like a man on a sofa reaching for the remote and you think, is he taking the piss? I, for one, hope to see more of him next year.
The final whistle heralded in some exuberant celebrations, kicked off by the traditional team slide towards the fans, while shirts, shin-pads and other assorted paraphernalia were hurled into the crowd who were belting out their Khlongtoey anthems with gusto. The mutual respect and affection between players and fans was palpable.
And rightly so. There will be other reflections made on this site about the Port season but for now let’s just bathe in the glory of our best finish since 2003, with 73 goals scored, only 3 fewer than Champions Buriram. Now we await the Thai Cup Final on Saturday, October 27th when we will all be Buriram supporters.
Finally, a sight for drowned rats: Legoland has fallen.
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|4 4||เอสซีจี เมืองทอง ยูไนเต็ด SCG Muang Thong United||34||59|
The Sandpit Man of the Match: Dragan Boskovic
There can be only one. This was the kind of dominant attacking performance we signed Bosko for, and which has been sadly all too rare this season. He was simply unplayable and took his tally to 28 for the season in all competitions – the best return from any Port striker for many a year. Let’s hope he can continue his late season form in 2019.