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I See a Darkness: Power Failure Costs Port

 

Following Sunday’s farcical scenes at the PAT when the season reopening match against Police Tero was abandoned after 87 minutes due to floodlight failure, the FAT handed Port the predicted punishment yesterday – a 50,000THB fine and the win awarded to the away side. You can read a frustrated Tom Earls’ report on the game here. The decision means Tero leapfrog Port in the table and more importantly, in what looks like being the closest T1 title race in years, deprives Port of what could be three vital points come the end of the season.

Even by Port’s standards, 2020 is shaping up to be a calamitous season of poor, misjudged or just downright bizarre decisions. First there was the decision to reduce the stadium capacity by 25% (at a time when the club, having just won the FA Cup, probably had its highest profile ever) by putting in cramped, badly designed seating for one ACL qualifier. Then there was the rather arrogant decision to launch a gold away strip for an ACL campaign that never happened. Then there was the predictable flurry of vanity signings, followed by the shameful treatment handed out to loyal servant and captain David Rochela. And then there was last Sunday, when regular media attendees – including The Sandpit and, more significantly, the guys from Singhphanakon on TV, who have been filming and shooting at Port for years – were refused entrance; Port started with an injured player up front; and, of course, the lights went out causing the game to be abandoned.

I’ve long argued that following Thai football requires a fair amount of suspension of disbelief, a willingness to embrace frequently surreal goings-on, and the occasional bit of nose-holding to cover the stench of corruption, arrogance and certain rampant egos. But what’s happening at Port these days makes it harder and harder to do that. With the talent Port have, a properly managed club would walk the title this season. The fans, and the expensively-assembled squad of quality players, deserve much better from the club’s management, but are sadly unlikely to get it.

 

Suspended Sentence: Port ? – ? Police Tero

 

Ahhh, how I’ve missed Thai football. With it’s flawless planning, military execution and complete aversion to games ending in farcical circumstances, it was just another predictable week where everything went to plan, and everyone went home happy.

The end.

 

 

Wait. Why is everyone singing Happy Birthday?

Well, Thai football did indeed make a predictable return to form on the first competitive weekend of action since March, but as we may have fairly predicted, the football gods got straight about making up for lost time. Firstly, a Buriram player tested positive for Covid, before then re-testing negative, but not before not only Buriram’s game, but the games of everyone they’ve played against in the last 2 weeks, were cancelled. That gave Port the chance to go top of the table with a win against a Police side who had been impressive before the long break.

Having heard in advance that our beloved vendors were not going to be selling their wares at PAT, I took a slight detour from my usual pre-match routine, passing by the rat bar (a little establishment in Khlongtoei market that sells cheap beers along with the chance to get up close and personal with Khlongtoei’s sewer-dwelling wildlife) where I encountered a dejected figure slumped over one of the two VIP tables. Apparently someone hadn’t got the memo that season ticket holders and a couple of hundred fans who queued from as early as 9 o’clock on Saturday morning (for tickets that went on sale at midday) were the only ones getting in.

Still, armed with my season ticket and a bottle of the usual I made my way through the market, ducked and dived through the roadworks and joined the queue to get in to the club shop. With a one-in-one-out policy enforced on the door, I had to wait a few gulps, but pretty quickly got not just my ticket for this game, but also the next. Result!

Discussion in the sandpit was as lively as ever though, with most of the usual suspects holding court in the usual places. Then there was the inevitable fuckery. The Sandpit’s media pass, as well as all of those besides Pang’s personal photographer, were denied entry at the door, leaving several bemused people no way of getting in. Had they been told the hoops they were expected to jump through to gain entry? What do you think?

Still, action on the pitch was just about to get going, and there were some interesting choices in the lineup. Rattanai (18) started in goal as expected, but neither Dolah (4) or Adisorn (20) were fit to start, meaning that experienced stalwart Todsapol (6) and untested youngster Thitawee (2) were paired together at the back. With Go suspended for punching a Buriram player in the balls, Kanarin (31) and Siwakorn (16) started in midfield, and Bonilla (99) was adjudged fit enough to lead the line. Spoiler alert. He wasn’t.

Now I’m at a loss for what to write. 88 minutes of football were played, the score was 1-1, and the lights went out. Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you! The lights on everyone’s phones soon illuminated the stands, and the Khlongtoei faithful joined in wishing the football gods a happy birthday. May they continue to have their wicked way with us.

Loxley behind Zone B, the Port Authority, the apartment building behind Zone D and basically everything except the stadium were all operating as usual, and even the lights over the sandpit were working intermittently. It was just the stadium in darkness.

So what does it mean? Well, Thai League rules state that if the power cut effects only the stadium, as it did in this case, then the club has 60 minutes to get things working before the game is forfeited 0-2. 60 minutes came and went without so much as a flicker of light, so by the letter of the law, Bordin’s (10) stunning strike to put us in the lead and Thitawee’s awful defensive error that led to Police’s equalizer count for nothing. Police will be awarded a 0-2 win. Or will they?

 

 

Well I don’t want to give anyone false hope, but the sceptic in me is still unconvinced that this is going to go down the way it undoubtedly should. What if, in Tuesday’s meeting in which the result is to be ratified, Port and Police both propose playing the last few minutes behind closed doors? Of course that’s not in Police’s interest, but I’m sure it could be made to be in their interest. Stranger things have happened. Will the Thai FA still stick to the letter of the law, with a proposed alternative on the table, knowing that Pang has spent 16 million baht to plug a hole in their budget? This is of course why Pang’s donation to the FA should never have been allowed in the first place, and will be one of the most obvious acts of corruption I’ve ever seen if it does happen. So I hope it doesn’t. But it might. Maybe.

So what did we learn tonight from the action itself?

Thitawee had a shocker. He’s young, it was his first game for Port, and there were some positive signs, but this was a performance he’ll do well to forget about. Better luck next time, fella. Bonilla is not fit. Not even close. He barely managed a sprint in the hour he was on, and should never have been in the squad, let alone starting. Heberty (37) was poor, Suarez (5) had a real off-day and Adisak (9) looked lost when he came off the bench for Bonilla. Port’s only attacker who looked on it was Bordin. Helping out defensively and looking dangerous going forward, he was excellent. His ‘goal’ will be expunged from existence if the 0-2 result stands, but I won’t forget it in a hurry. What a strike! Nattawut (45) made another promising cameo too, and Rattanai produced a superb stop in the first half, but those are the only positives I can muster.

Never mind about the result, whatever happens will happen and hopefully the floodlights will work next week. Most of all, it’s good to be back! The chaos and the uncertainty is part and parcel of Thai football, and it gave us a particularly entertaining evening.

We’re at home next week, and I expect things will be the same. Or different. Who knows? Media pass holders will probably not get in, season ticket holders have got their tickets already, and there will likely be more very early queueing for the remainder on sale. See you there! Maybe.

 

Masks For Goalposts: Port FC vs. Police Tero Preview

 

Finally! The long months of pining for the hallowed gravel of the sandpit are almost at an end. We may be masked, separated and deprived of the moo ping and cold Leo that fuel our howls of disappointment, cheers of celebration and insults in whatever language the opposition keeper speaks, but we’re back.

Well, those of us lucky enough to score one of the 25% of tickets that are up for grabs are, anyway. With season ticket holders already having had the opportunity to reserve their seats for Sunday’s long-awaited return, the remainder of tickets, of which we expect there will be a few hundred, will be sold from 1pm on Saturday. Expect queues the length of Zone C, with a socially appropriate distance between everyone, of course. The club shop will be open on match day, although there will apparently be just 6 people allowed in at a time. It’s football, but not quite as we remember it.

While familiar faces, or at least eyes, will be reuniting in the sandpit for the first time in too long, so too will two clubs who have engaged in quite a bit of business over the last few months. Twin towers Thitawee (2) and Thitatorn (3) moved from Police to Port for a reportedly big fee, with Police struggling to keep the lights on during the break. Young goalkeeper Anipong moved in the opposite direction, and of course on-loan forward Arthit has played a big role in Police’s surprising early season form. Crucially, Pele shouldn’t be eligible to play against his parent club on Sunday.

 

 

Port haven’t just been snapping up the finest Police men money can buy, though. We’ve also brought in one of T1’s finest strikers. Ah yes, this familiar story again.

Of course, at Port it’s never as simple as signing a star striker and reaping the rewards. Drama has been unfolding all week regarding Port’s foreign player registration, in what has basically become a bi-annual festival of stupidity and financial recklessness. This year, it centres on the arrival of the aforementioned Salvadoran striker Nelson Bonilla (99). Just a couple of days before the deadline, it was reported that Port would not be registering Bonilla due to concerns over his fitness, with long time club captain Rochela (22) being restored to the squad. Then, at the very last minute, long-serving Rochela was once again ignominiously dropped, with an apparently unfit Bonilla being given the spot. Meanwhile, Rochela will once again be forced to sit on the sidelines, able to participate only in the FA Cup (there will be no League Cup this season) if he is even registered for that.

Port also ‘strengthened’ at the back with the acquisition of national team defender Adisorn Promrak (20), although the new arrival has spent most of his time in Khlongtoei on the treatment table alongside fellow defender Tanaboon (71). In response to these injuries, Port brought in Sarawut Kanlayanabandit (26) as cover, while big-boned fellow centre half Worawut Namvech (24) has also been restored to the squad after a spell on loan last year. Are you keeping up? No, me neither.

 

 

Finally, left backs Jaturapat and Yossawat as well as central midfielder Chatmongkol have been sent on loan, meaning the T1 squad (which you can peruse on our up-to-date squad page) currently consists of 30 players.

Right, who are we playing again?

 


 

Police Tero

Players to Watch

 

I’ll keep the lowdown on our opposition brief, I promise. They had a very good start to the season, with the twins impressing at full back and Arthit leading the line effectively, but the main danger man has been right winger Greg Houla (7). The quick, tricky winger has provided some moments of magic in an otherwise functional but fairly workmanlike side, although it has been beefed up recently using the money earned from the sale of the twins.

 

 

Gambian born winger Mohamadou Sumareh (13) is a shrewd acquisition, with his Malaysian citizenship allowing Police to register him as part of their ASEAN quota. They’ve also brought in Ivorian forward Marc Landry Babo, who has been scoring goals in Thailand for years, albeit mostly in T2.

The key man at the back is one of the most physically dominant players in the business. Ghanaian Issac Honey (35) can play at the back or up top due to the fact that he’s built like both a sprinter and a bodybuilder. Quite an obstacle for Port’s forward line, impressive as it is on paper.

 

 

Former Port right back Ekkachai Sumrei (5) and veteran left back Mongkol Namnuad (53) are some other recognizable names in Police’s squad, but it’s the African contingent that Port ought to be most wary of.

 

Form

 

Police’s early season success, however was not achieved so much by individual talents as it was operating as a solid unit. I don’t expect Port will have an easy time breaking down a team who will be set up to defend and hit us on the counter. With some pace and power on the opposition wings, we’ll have to defend well at times, as well as take our chances clinically when they come.

They’ve ground out two 1-0 home wins, one against Buriram, and BG are the only team they’ve failed to beat.

 

  • Police Tero 1-0 Buriram
  • Trat 1-3 Police Tero
  • BG Pathum 3-0 Police Tero
  • Police Tero 1-0 Samut Prakan City

 

Port FC

A Embarrassment of Riches

 

Under Jadet there’s one thing you can be pretty sure of. We’re going to line up in our usually 4-2-3-1. Who exactly is going to be in the lineup is a very open question though, with injuries and new signings proving plenty more options for the Spherical Supremo to consider.

In goal the usual choices are all available, but Rattanai (18) has been favoured in friendlies, so I expect him to get the nod. Worawut (36) is of course another option, and if he doesn’t start, he’ll be on the bench. Perennial third choice Watchara (1) will continue to be overlooked, and this year’s fourth choice will be youngster Chatcharin (25).

At the back we have a surprising dearth of options available. Defensive leader Elias Dolah (4) was only fit enough to play half an hour against Bangkok United last week, although we expect him to start on Sunday. Alongside him in the recent friendly was Todsapol (6), but he will almost certainly be replaced by new signing Adisorn Promrak (20), who has also been injured, but could be fit to start. The twins (2, 3) are also perfectly good options, while new signing Sarawut (26) is available in case of more injuries.

At full back Nitipong (34) and Kevin (23) will take up their usual positions, with Steuble (15) a very able backup on the left should Kevin tweak one of those notoriously fragile muscles. Thitawee (2) is the new backup right back, which means he’ll be well acquainted with the bench this year.

In central midfield is where things get very tricky for Jadet. Go (8) didn’t start in the friendly last week, but if he’s fit he will of course take up his place in the XI. Siwakorn (16) is probably the leading candidate to partner him, but there’s also a very strong argument to be made for youngster Kanarin (31). His high-energy performances were hugely impressive early on in the season, and he looked excellent off the bench in last week’s friendly, too. I’d give Kanarin a start, but I doubt Jadet will. Chappuis (17) is also available.

On the flanks, Jadet will most likely opt for Bordin (10) on the left and Heberty (37) on the right, meaning we will be seeing a lot of cutting in from the flanks this season. The relationship between Bordin and Kevin on the left always provides a creative threat, but it looks like Heberty and Nitipong will take a little more time to gel. For me, Heberty is too often slow to release the ball, leaving poor old Nitipong pining for his former partner in crime Pakorn (7), who is positively selfless in comparison to his replacement. Tanasith (11) is another great option from the bench, should Port still be looking for a breakthrough late on.

Suarez (5) will most likely start in ‘the hole’ behind the striker, who could be Adisak (9), Bonilla (99) or even Heberty if Port opt for a more fluid attacking system. Adisak started the most recently friendly, but that was while Bonilla was reportedly on the outs. Now he’s back in he could start, although whether he’s fit or not is a mystery. Adisak will likely make it on to the pitch one way or another, with the forward having notched 2 goals from the bench already this season. Nattawut (45) put on an outstanding late show against BU, and if he makes it on to the bench is an excellent option anywhere across the front line. Port’s is a seriously competitive squad this year!

 

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Subs: Worawut (36), Thitawee (2), Thitatorn (3), Steuble (15), Chappuis (17), Kanarin (31), Tanasith (11), Pakorn (7), Adisak (9)

 


 

The match will be shown on TrueSport HD3 at 18:00 on Sunday 13 September, 2020. For the many of you who won’t be able to get your hands on tickets, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

Port FC 2-0 Police Tero: Five Things We Learned

 

 

Port beat Police Tero in their first home pre-season friendly last night, thanks to spectacular free-kicks from Pakorn (9) and new signing Heberty (TBC). It was a comfortable workout for Choke’s team against eager but limited opposition who rarely troubled Port’s defence and look a good bet to go straight back down to T2 this season. Port looked lively and raring to go and and if Ceres Negros were watching they’ll be cancelling those Tokyo hotel reservations today. Here are five things we took away from the game…

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2020 Thai League Lineup Announced… For Now

 

The 16 teams who will be competing in next season’s T1 have been finalized after PTT Rayong’s rumoured collapse was announced on Monday. To account for the dissolution of the unfortunately named ‘Oil Millionaires’, the FAT have confirmed that only two teams will be relegated, with Suphanburi receiving a dramatic late reprieve. Despite finishing 14th after losing 2-5 to eventual champions Chiang Rai, who they led for a time on a dramatic final day at both ends of the table, Suphanburi have been given a lifeline and will compete in T1 for the 8th consecutive season in 2020.

Coming up from T2 are BG Pathum United, who predictably swept aside all of the competition with ease and took the Championship by a 13 point margin. Police Tero will be joining them, having secured second place on the final day by absolutely obliterating third placed Rayong FC 7-0. Remarkably that 7 goal drubbing was enough to see Rayong faceplant in to the last promotion place as in-form Sisaket were run over 0-3 by Thai Honda.

 

 

But wait, this is the Thai League, and just because the season is over, a team has been dissolved, another un-relegated and the promotion places confirmed, that doesn’t mean the drama is over. Sisaket, who finished just 2 points behind third placed Rayong FC, have been embroiled in investigations throughout the season, resulting in in two separate 6 point penalties by FIFA. The Dangerous Koupreys will apparently find out the result of their appeal to the second of those 6 point deductions this week. If successful they would shoot up to second place, and the FAT would have a tricky decision on their hands. Could they un-promote Rayong FC, or un-unrelegate Suphanburi? Who knows?

They’re already in an unusual situation, having reduced the number of T2 teams for next season to 17 by un-relegating Suphanburi. Should they also un-relegate Navy, who currently join Ubon United and Ayutthaya United in dropping down to T3? Navy finished 14th in T2, and by un-relegating them the FAT could restore the number of T2 clubs to 18 and pass the issue down to the regional T3 leagues.

Of course, whatever decision the FAT come to would be fine if it was done in an above-board manner, with the results of their decisions being based on an unambiguous set of rules provided before the start of the season. Unclear rules can potentially leave wiggle room for Thai football’s governing body to play favourites when things, as they do pretty much every year, get complicated. We’ve seen it time and time again, so don’t be surprised if some unimagined scenario ends up on the table in a few days, and we’re all left confounded when Army are announced T1 winners and Port are relegated to T3 North. You heard it here first.

 

Port Haunted Again By Late Horror Show: Police Tero 2-1 Port FC

 

Groundhog Day: A situation in which a series of unwelcome or tedious events appear to be recurring in exactly the same way.

 

Bull Murray reacts to Pakorn’s ‘clearance’

 

I had jokingly remarked to Dominick in The Sportsman prior to this game that, as I feared I may not have much time to write a report on Sunday owing to social commitments, I could just pen it beforehand, knowing full well what the outcome might be and then fill in the details later. Sadly, how right I was.

I had also remarked in my preview that Port’s propensity to shoot themselves in the foot (Latin: sagittam dirigens se in pedes) would pose a greater danger than any opponent and, once again, my words were unfortunately prophetic. Except that this was more than just a shooting; it was pedocide of the most violent kind. The nails were extracted by a rusty pair of pliers; the skin flayed with a blunt razor, the tarsals and phalanges reduced to a pulp by an industrial grinding machine, then the remains blended into a paste to be spread, with boot-clogging effect, over the sodden ground of Boonyachinda stadium.

 

Zico unveiling his tactical master-plan

 

Feet, particularly those of Pakorn’s (9), were to play a dramatic part in the opening half of this encounter, with results ranging from farce to tragedy.  The footballing monk spent most of the half falling over before he was called to the touchline for a quick change of boots; the replacement pair mismatched and perhaps not just in colour, as his other most significant contribution to the half was to sweep a harmless cross into his own net with no one around to challenge for the ball. Given the position of his body in relation to the goal and the trajectory of the cross, it was no mean feat and one that he would be hard pressed to intentionally repeat at the other end of the pitch. As the English translation of the incident on the official Port website so eloquently reported, “Pakorn will kick the ball at the second pillar. But badly into the door.”

Quite what he was doing in the right-back position at the time was colourfully debated by the Sandpit in the stands; perhaps he was covering for another fruitless Nitipong (34) raid, but he had also ended up there last Sunday, so one has to ask whether it was another bewildering Zico ‘tactic’. Meditate on that, Brother. Aside from Pakorn’s ‘foot-feats’, Port had played a neat, tidy game, prompted by an excellent, disciplined performance by Siwakorn (16), without really threatening to turn spells of dominance into goals. Suarez, set free in the box by an intelligent lob from Piyachat (88), took just one step too many and was soon crowded out; a first time effort might have paid dividends. In another attack, Josimar (30)  leapt, salmon-like, to meet a cross from the right but the ball’s arrival unfortunately coincided with his descent and another chance was squandered.

 

 

Just as we were debating at the start of the second half where a goal might come from, it did; Rochela (22) gleefully headed home a Pakorn corner via the post. This goal thoroughly revitalized Port who subsequently dominated large swathes of the half, working the ball in neat triangles, and making good use of the wings, but without delivering that telling final cross or top corner screamer. In probably the most wasteful moment, Josi again failed to connect accurately with a header with the goal at his mercy. He really is an enigma; he climbs well, although not always in sync with the ball, can make vital defensive headers and knock-ons but, for a ‘big man’, his headed cross conversion rate is poor.

With about fifteen minutes left there was some debate in the stands about whether, at this stage of the game, we would take a draw, and the general opinion was, NO, this was a game at our mercy; Police, even BEC Tero, were there for the taking. Which was true, but this is Port, and I would have been happy for the game to have ended there and then, given Port’s uncanny ability to suck you in and fill you with hope and dreams and then shatter your illusions, like finding Santa Claus in bed with your mum on Christmas morning.

Just as Tim’s last minute analysis, “Looks like Port are settling for a draw”, had fallen from his lips, the ball broke free from a slapstick collision between Nitipong and Dolah, sparking a rare Fire Dragons attack. Substitute Wichan Nantasri, who scored Police’s only goal at PAT Stadium, took the resulting loose ball around a flailing Worawut and calmly plonked it in the net. I really don’t know why we bothered to play the previous 93 minutes; they should have just set up that goal at the start and then we could all have got stuck into the ale. As always, the Port faithful remained loyal to the end, cheering their team, in spite of what seemed like a betrayal, and sportingly acclaiming the largely undeserving victors. What we would have given to have heard Tommy Duncan’s respectfully restrained appraisal of affairs right at that moment!

So what can you say? We have had our Groundhog Days all before, felt it all before, cursed about it all before, hoped it would change, all before. But, and this is the point: it probably won’t and we will be back on Wednesday night, a little bit more chastened, but ultimately forgiving. Because, for us die-hard Thai and Farang (foolish you might say) regulars, we still love it and we will keep coming back. It defies all logic but football has a logic all of its own; our devotion in inverse proportion to our suffering.  See you in the Sandpit.

 

The Forgiving

 

Man of the Match: Siwakorn; Men of the Match: The Port fans, as always.

 

We Fought the Law (And the Law Lost): Port FC 2-1 Police Tero FC

 

Port FC stormed out of the tunnel with guns blazing in the second half to finish off Police Tero and record a comprehensive 2-1 win at the PAT. There was only one change from the squad that travelled to Sukhothai last weekend as Siwakorn (16) returned to the lineup after suspension to replace Genki (18).

The home team started the game attacking the famous B end and wearing their familiar blue and orange. The visitors, wearing battleship grey, looked more like cadets on a 5am run and the atmosphere at kickoff could have reflected that early start.  Sluggish was the word flying around the stand as Port set the tempo at a light jog in the early minutes.

 

 

The first chance of the game came to the visitors in the 3rd minute when Datsakorn (7) sent a long ball down the right wing that was quickly crossed to the six yard box and narrowly miss by the opposing striker.  Port quickly regrouped behind the midfield leadership of Siwakorn who played Tana (99) into the box but he lost the ball after one too many stepovers.  

Barely able to string two passes together, Port had their first real chance when a misdirected clearance landed at the feet of Pakorn (9).  He danced into the box from the right side only to boot the ball to the top of B stand with his attempt on goal.  Several minutes of sloppy play from both teams was interrupted at the 15 minute mark when Police Tero earned their first corner.  Datsakorn sent a curling ball to the back post that was brilliantly cleared by Josimar (30).  Siwakorn took the clearance and raced down the middle of the pitch, feeding Pakorn on the wing. Pakorn’s cross landed at the feet of Tana but his attempt on goal was blocked.  

The speed of the game really picked up when Sergio Suarez (5) charged down two consecutive throw outs from the keeper and possession and pressure was now in the opposition end.  Port were on the attack and the midfielders were dominating play.  In the 25th minute Suarez intercepted a pass at the halfway line and played Josimar through by dissecting the center of the Police defense.  Josimar took the ball on his left foot and ran at the keeper, calmy finishing to give Port well deserved lead.   

With the crowd now in full voice Port continued to dominate the midfield with creative passes and hustle from Suarez, Siwakorn and Adisorn (13).   Port had the momentum but couldn’t increase their lead as Dolah (4) failed to get on the end of a free kick from Pakorn at point blank range.  Police Tero then equalised completely against the run of play as Port goalkeeper Worawut (36) misjudged a laser by Wichan (4) from 35 yards out.  The first half finished much like it started with both teams playing out the final minutes and retreating to the locker room with the score level at 1-1.

 

 

Port manager Jadet must have said something special at halftime because the boys came out with a sense of urgency supporters have not seen for a long time.  Port’s midfield, that played so poorly against Bangkok Glass, was now the leading force behind a second half assault on the Police goal.  Wave after wave of attack down both wings excited the crowd but could not produce a second goal for Port.  

In the 51st minute Tana galloped down the left wing cutting into the box and was chopped down by the Police right-back but no penalty was given.  However, Port kept up the relentless pace and the pressure. Their hard work was finally rewarded when a Pakorn (9) cross was headed down by a defender and Siwakorn smashed the ball into the center of the goal from just behind the penalty spot.  More of the same followed as Port continued control the game until the final whistle. In the end they were deserved winners.  

 

Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

Sergio’s hustle, nifty footwork, well timed tackling and crisp passing was the biggest difference on the day.  He had his best game of the season season complementing Siwakorn and spraying passes to Pakorn, Tana and Josimar on the attack. Let’s hope he can continue this good form.

 

Photos by Tim Russell

 

Police On My Back: Port FC vs. Police Tero, 30 April 2017

 

Port welcome Police Tero to PAT Stadium on Sunday in a clash between two of this season’s surprise packages. Neither side were expected to be in the top 6 after 10 games, but that’s where they both find themselves. With Tero on 18 points in 5th place, and Port on 17 points in 6th, expect a close and hard-fought game, with home advantage probably making Port slight favourites.

 

Police Tero

Players to Watch

 

Cheeky rascal that I am, I was intent on doing two separate ‘Players to Watch’ lists. One for players acquired from Muangthong since 2016, and one for Tero’s other players. By presenting these lists as such, I thought, I would subtly undermine the reliance of The Fire Dragons on Muangthong cast-offs, reducing them to the status of a mere feeder team without stooping to the level of direct criticism. Unfortunately, in my sweet naiveté, I hadn’t bargained on just how many of the bastards there would be, and so with my dreams of an indirect yet stinging criticism in tatters, I thought “Sod that. Let’s just get stuck in!”

So, first on the list of former Muangscum is former national team captain Datsakorn Thonglao (7). Probably one of the top 5 most talented Thai players of all time, the 33 year old central midfielder has enjoyed stints in Germany with Kaiserslautern Reserves, and Vietnam with Hoàng Anh Gia Lai. After realizing that his best days were behind him, Muangthong put him out to pasture at Tero where he will likely score some spectacular free-kicks, pick up a boatload of cards and generally saunter about the place exhibiting the gratuitous hot-headed arrogance he could only really get away with while he was still good.

Mario Abrante (6) is the second over-the-hill former Muangscummer on the list. The Spaniard has one hell of a resume, littered with spells at a few La Liga teams, as well as representing Spain at all youth levels. Last season most fans at the SCG were impressed by his strong but calm leadership at the back, although management didn’t think highly enough of him to keep him on in 2017. Think of him as an older, less talented and less good-looking Rochela.

Michael N’Dri (9) makes the third thirty plus on my list, but this Muangthong failure still seems to be somewhere near the peak of his powers. Unfortunately for him, it’s not a particularly high peak. Brought in to challenge Cleiton Silva for a starting berth at the SCG, N’Dri never came close to making the Brazilian sweat. 8 goals in 27 games are the kind of numbers that will see you shipped straight off to Tero, and so it went. However, since becoming a Fire Dragon, N’Dri has racked up 6 goals in 9 games, indicating that perhaps he has found his level in a top-half but not title-challenging side. N’Dri is quick, skillful and good in the air, but seems to need an awful lot of chances to score.

Stop the press. It’ a miracle! I’ve found a Tero player who isn’t a former Muangscummer. After wading through Datsakorn (7), Mario (6) and N’Dri (9) I then encountered goalkeeper Witsanusak (1), defenders Suporn (3) and Weerawut (11), and midfielders Kasidech (24), Seksit (17) and Atit (8), who you may remember from his loan spell at Port last season. But I’ve finally found one who, against the odds, has never played for Muangthong. He’s hard to miss, to be fair. Kalifa Cisse (20) is a beast of a central midfielder who at his peak represented Reading 75 times in the Premier League. Moves to the MLS and then the Championship preceded the 6 foot 2 Malian’s move to Bangkok, where he has played for United, Glass and now Tero. On his game he’s practically unplayable, dominating the midfield with Vieira-like strides and Keane-like strength. OK, so maybe I’m giving him a little too much credit, although the comparison to the former destroyers stands up more on the disciplinary side. 3 yellows and a red card so far this season for Cisse indicate that he likes to get stuck in a little too much. With Siwakorn (16) fresh back from suspension, expect a foul-off in midfield. Maybe if he and Adisorn (13) go for one leg each, they might be able to bring him down!

 

Datsakorn Thonglao, Mario Abrante, Michael N’Dri and Kalifa Cisse

 

Form

 

Tero have a lot of quality in their squad, and uniquely with so many new arrivals they have gelled quickly largely based on the fact that they’ve almost all played together at the SCG. It’s not a complete surprise to see them in 5th place in the league table, although most would have had them a few places further down.

This is probably mostly because they’ve had a relatively easy time to date, facing just 2 teams in the top 9, and 8 teams in the bottom 9. Port, by contrast, are just a point and a place behind Tero, but have played 5 of the top 9, and 5 of the bottom 9.

In more potentially positive news for Port, Tero are poor on the road, having managed just a solitary victory away at Super Power so far in 2017. In terms of their recent form, The Fire Dragons are unbeaten in April, with wins against Bangkok United and Honda and draws with Navy and Suphanburi.

 

Port

Starting XI

 

The only change since Sunday’s away win at Sukhothai is the return of midfield maestro Siwakorn (16) from suspension. In an unexpected tactical maneuver, Jadet chose to replace Siwakorn by shifting Genki (18) to central midfield, with Tana (99) coming into the side on the left wing. Whilst Port got the 3 points, it’s unlikely that this system will be employed against The Fire Dragons, although it is possible that Tana will be preferred to Genki on the left after impressing in the second half against Bangkok Glass and having a hand in 2 of Port’s 3 goals against Sukhothai.

I expect to see the same XI who have performed so well in recent weeks with the possibility of Tana being given a start in place of Genki.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Potential Suspensions

 

I’m not going to lie; this is getting scary. Currently on 3 yellow cards – one away from suspension – are Rochela (22), Dolah (4), Nitipong (34), Adisorn (13), Suarez (5) and Tana (99). Whilst these suspensions will inevitably happen at some point, Port are in the precarious position of 3 of the back 4 potentially being ruled out simultaneously. Don’t all get booked at once, chaps! With a tricky away trip to Chonburi on the horizon, we’ll need our defence as intact as possible.

 

Key Battle

 

 

The midfield is set to be the key battleground on Sunday. Kalifa Cisse (20) will be tasked with doing the dirty work for Tero, whilst Datsakorn (7) will – if selected – take up the creative burden. Interestingly, Datsakorn was on the bench for The Fire Dragon’s 3-2 win against Honda, although it seems more likely that the veteran was being rested rather than dropped.

For Port, Adisorn (13) will try to use his high-energy pressing to make life difficult for Datsakorn, whilst Siwakorn (16) will attempt to move the ball through midfield and start Port attacks. Whether or not the skinny wizard will be able to do that could depend on how much help he gets from Sergio Suarez (5). The more robust Spaniard will have to harry and disrupt Cisse to give Siwakorn a chance, as the Malian man-mountain will simply dominate the tiny Thai if they are left to slug it out one on one.

Teamwork is the name of the game for Port. They will need to stick together and fight for every ball in midfield if they are going to overcome their stronger and more experienced opponents.

 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 6 at 18:00 on Sunday 30 April, 2017