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Ratch Me If You Can: Port FC vs. Ratchaburi Preview

 

Just under 11 months ago, Port welcomed Filipino champions Ceres Negros to PAT Stadium for an ACL second round qualifier in which we were widely expected to advance. Port had already unveiled a garish gold Champions League shirt intended to be used in the next round, and some foolhardy fans had splashed the cash on tickets to Tokyo. Losing was just unthinkable.

One masterclass in missed opportunities later, and the plucky underdogs had deservedly turned over the home favourites. Our ACL journey was over before it had started, and we’d have to wait another year at least for another shot.

 


 

Well, as it’s turned out, it’s a bit less than a year since Port’s insipid surrender at the PAT, and yet we are already one step closer to qualification than we were last season. With T1 scheduled to drag well in to next year, the FAT decided to base ACL qualification on the league table at the end of the first half of the season, which ends two games from now. With Thailand also having been granted an extra automatic qualification spot due to overtaking Australia in the AFC club coefficient, this means a spot in the top 2 after the next 2 games guarantees Port a spot in the ACL group stages next season, while a 3rd place finish would land us in the qualifiers. So how do things stand now?

Well, the fight for second place is between Port and our opposition on Sunday: Ratchaburi. We are 5 points clear, with both teams having played 13 out of 15 games. That means that a win or a draw guarantees us a second place finish, and even if we lose we can still guarantee finishing second if we win our final game, a tricky trip to Chiang Rai which has been postponed due to the champions having been participating in this year’s ACL group stages. We’re sitting pretty right now, but neither of our next two opponents are going to be pushovers.

 

Ratchaburi Mitrphol FC

Sugar High

 

The Dragons have surprised some with their form this season, and they’ve had an awful lot of fun doing it. Taking the opposite approach to BG, who invested heavily in experienced foreign defenders, Ratchaburi have packed the attack with foreign talent, and have been rewarded with the second highest goal tally in the league. Second to Port, that is.

The key man up top is Yannick Boli (10), who is strongly rumoured (we think it’s a done deal) to have already signed with Port for the second leg. He’s registered 8 goals already this season, and is on top form right now. If a deal has indeed been agreed then the clubs may also have agreed for Boli not to participate on Sunday, which would be a massive boon for Port. His main provider-in-chief Steeven Langil (11), who leads the T1 assist charts, will definitely be missing out having picked up his fourth yellow card last week against Suphanburi. So far, so good.

 

 

Lossemy Karaboue (18) completes Ratchaburi’s foreign quota trio, and unfortunately this time I can find no reason why the French midfielder might miss out. He’s only registered one goal this season, but he’s instrumental in their build-up, and his work rate will mean that Go and Siwakorn will have their hands full in the Port midfield.

20 year old Filipino defender Justin Baas (22), who I identified as a T1 transfer target last year, was smartly snapped up by Ratchaburi this season, and the youngster has already made 5 starts since joining. He’s 50/50 to start at the back alongside fellow big fella Pawee (39). His countryman Javier Patino (20) also deserves a mention for his 5 goals. A Thai League veteran who guarantees you a few goals and doesn’t take up a foreign quota place is never a bad thing.

A clash which has been great to watch in the previous meetings between these two sides has been the battle between Port’s Thai-Swede Kevin (23) and Ratchaburi’s Thai-German Philip Roller (33). Roller is Ratchaburi captain nowadays, and my word has he been leading his side by example this year. Seven goals, and more than that some truly outstanding performances, have made him one of the most impressive players in the league so far in 2020. Yes some of his goals have come from the spot, but he’s been an all-around menace since moving in to a more attacking position this year. Stopping him will be key to stopping Ratchaburi.

 

 

Form

No one has been able to stop Ratchaburi getting on the scoresheet so far this season, but they have also conceded an average of considerably more than a goal a game.

They have 4 wins from their last 6, securing victories against Bangkok Utd, Rayong, Samut Prakan and Suphanburi, but have also been beaten twice at the hands of Chiang Rai and Chonburi. On their day they can beat anyone, but they’re far from consistent.

 

Port FC

Oud-standing

 

Coach Oud has really surprised me by how he’s managed to turn things around at Port since his return to the club. Former assistant coach under Choke, Oud has been able to fix a previously very leaky defence, and the attack is even starting to get back to it’s unplayable best. Seeing Port employing Go in an advanced role specifically to press Muangthong’s defenders when they tried to play short goal kicks last week exemplifies the kind of detail-oriented preparation we’ve lacked under previous coaches. I’m not going to give him credit for picking Worawut (24), who has been a revelation alongside Dolah in defence, but the fact that he has slotted in so effortlessly after struggling in past years is certainly a credit to the current regime.

 

 

There will be a forced change in Port’s back 4 though, which will mean we’re deprived of seeing this year’s edition of the Kevin vs. Roller duel. Kevin is suspended after picking up his fourth yellow card against Muangthong, and who will replace him is an open question. Thitatorn (3) played in Port’s first FA Cup clash while Steuble (15) missed out, but the experienced Filipino full-back has been on the bench while Thitatorn has failed to make the match day squad for the last couple of games. I’d certainly pick Steuble as the best option to shackle Roller, as he’s excellent in just these kind of 1 on 1 duels where defence takes priority. A safe pair of hands, and surely the best man for the job.

 

 

 

The rest of the team should be mostly unchanged, save for Pakorn (7) potentially being replaced on the right flank. Nattawut (45) has impressed in his cameos off the bench, and his two goals in the FA Cup last week should make him the number one candidate ahead of Tanasith (11), who has looked lively but been a little light on end product. Bonilla (99) should continue to lead the line, with Adisak (9) coming off the bench, as he has been doing to great effect (on my wallet) this season.

 

Form

We haven’t conceded in T1 since October, and we haven’t been beaten since September. ‘Nuf said.

 


 

The match will be shown on Channel 5 and AIS Play at 18:00 on Sunday 13 December, 2020.

 

Sandpit contributor John Spittal asks a Lions superfan if this season’s Port FC squad is the best ever?

Ho hum, we beat the Scum.

The referee blows the whistle to conclude another slum vs scum classic…er hold off on that word ‘classic.’ How about just another routine Tarua FC win? Bangkok’s most bitter football rivalry has become just another ho hum 3 points in the standings for the slummers. I have been a Port FC supporter since 2013 and I thought I would not live to see the day that a 2-0 thumping of the mighty Muangthong United would be met with no red flares going off in the sandpit and no crazy farangs dancing like um…crazy farangs. It was a mild, laid back celebration by the PAT stadium faithful. A ‘been there, done that’ type of thing. Wow. Are we, Port FC Lions now that good?

We are THAT good.

This current edition of Thai Port FC has 7 straight wins in league play!  back to back to back clean sheets!  undefeated on the road! Defending champions of the Chang FA Cup and in the round of 16 this season. Surely, all these numbers add up to this 2020-2021 squad being considered the best ever Port FC side?

Nattawuth Boonsorn owner of LAAB 38 restaurant

Well, no, not for one superfan…and stop calling him Shirley. His name is Nattawuth Boonsorn and his Thai food restaurant on Sathupradit soi 38 in Yan Nawa is a shrine in tribute to his beloved Port FC. LAAB 38 loosely translated in English is ‘Fortune 38’. It has Port Lions memorabilia adorning every wall in this six table eatery. Port FC players of the past are displayed above the dining tables. In my home country of Canada, Nattawuth would be considered a superfan; maybe even a superduper fan. He and his family attend most home matches and he has been known to close the doors to his popular LAAB 38 for one to two days because a Port FC away trip beckons. Nattawuth fell in love with the Lions the moment he attended his first match in 2009. When I ask him what year was the best ever Port squad he points to a framed team picture of the 2019 Chang FA Cup champions…

2019 Chang FA Cup Champions

but wait…hold on,  that’s his third place winners.

Second place goes to the team picture right next door..the current 2020-21 squad. His favourite player on this year’s Lions…#10 Bordin Phala.

And the winner is….

First place goes to….he points all the way down his wall of fame to a framed team picture of the 2009-10 Port FC Lions.

Huh? Really? A team that finished 4th in league standings, lost twice to the hated rivals MTU? Nattawuth nods and says “yes, but they won the League Cup for the first time and the 2010 Lions, for the first time, qualified for “The AFC Cup” The Asian Football Confederation Cup then a stepping stone for clubs to get into the AFC Champions League. It was a big deal for Thai football squads to qualify for the AFC Cup. Thai port FC was eliminated from the final 8 teams in the 2010 AFC Cup tournament.

Sompong Soleb forward Thai Port FC Lions 2010-11.

Nattawuth points down to a player photo which is in the centre of his wall. “He is why the 2010 club is my favourite.” The emergence of a true Thai football superstar took place on that side. #24 Sompong Soleb (forward) scored 12 goals in 37 appearances for Thai Port FC in 2010-11. He was instrumental in carrying this rag tag bunch from Klong Toei and making them trophy winners and AFC Cup qualifiers. Many long time club supporters still name Sompong as their all time favourite. Sompong Soleb now plays for Chamchuri United in Bangkok.

2010 Thai Port FC AFC Cup qualifiers. Sompong Soleb is circled.

 

Panache minus the Pang

Nattawuth Boonsorn

Nattawuth Boonsorn says he doesn’t know if the current squad can overtake his 2010 side on his favourite list. He thinks there was something very special with that club of 2010. He says they
played with abandon, care free up front but a disciplined defence. A group of ‘nobody believes in us’ football swashbucklers. Nattawuth smiles slyly when I suggest his 2010 squad had “panache minus the Pang”.

Port Survive Light Frisking: Port FC 6-3 MOF Customs FC

 

Port laid on the entertainment in a pulsating cup tie against the reasonably named Ministry of Finance Customs United Football Club, running out 6-3 winners and advancing to the next round. The score might suggest a rout but it was far from that and our opponents should be proud of their endeavours.

Riding high after our derby victory, Coach Oud decided to shuffle the pack and select two Sandpit “favourites”, Chappuis (17) and Tanaboon (71), in central midfield. There were also nods for Nattawut (45), Adisorn (20), (Right) Thitawee (2) and a welcome return for the El Capitan Rochela (22). Sensing that this wouldn’t be a walk in the park, Kevin (23), Suarez (5), Bonilla (99) and Tanasith (11), who put in a great cameo in the derby, were also drafted into the starting XI.

 

A glorious evening at the PAT

 

Normally the best way to deal with lower league opposition in a cup tie is to steamroller them with some early goals, then toy with them for the remaining minutes and this looked on the cards when Nattawut latched onto a loose back pass and, with the aid of a fortunate deflection off their hapless keeper, strolled the ball into an empty net. Nattawut then helped himself to a second goal, surely a contender for goal of the season, when he received Tanasith’s lay off and deftly chipped the goalie from just inside the box. Pick that out, jogo bonito etc….

 

Winners are grinners , Nattawut bags his first of the evening.

 

Customs clearly were not in the mood to be whipping boys and raised their game, matching us in midfield and constantly exploiting the lack of experience shown from Adisorn and Thitawee. Customs’ midfielder Vaikainah, a wardrobe on legs, was also winning his midfield duels against Chappuis and Tanaboon far too easily. The best chance of the half fell to Deyvison, their Brazilian striker with a Brazilian on his head, sending a header against the post and the follow up was easily gathered by Rattanai (18).

And so, with Port being Port, they did the most Port thing possible and handed the initiative to Customs at the start of the second half. A cross from the weak right hand side was nodded in by Deyvison and then Rattanai took leave of his senses a clattered 2 Customs players earning them a penalty. Deyvison slotted home and sent the travelling contingent into raptures. So 2-2 and it’s now game on.

Port eventually retook the lead in the 75th minute; negligent goalie Chompong failed to hold onto Bonilla’s shot and substitute Adisak (9) scrambled the ball home at the far post. 2 minutes later Suarez pinched the ball off the customs midfield, found Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Nelson Bonilla in the box and he smashed home Tony Yeboah style to put Port 4-2 up. Just before the 90th minute Bonilla earned a very soft penalty which Captain Rochela coolly finished. Customs decided to add a bit of spice with striker Rachata spanking an absolutely filthy volley over Rattanai. But wait, there was still time for Suarez to square the ball across the box for Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Nelson Bonilla to tap in his second and make it 6-3. Moments later the final whistle and everyone involved in this encounter could finally exhale.

 

Brace buddies, scorers Freeeeeeeeeee Nelson Bonilla and another for Adisak

 

What can Coach Oud take from this game? Well Nattawut clearly has potential to make the first team and Rochela was a calming influence when Customs got back into the game but sadly cannot play in the league campaign. The B team in truth didn’t perform and several players involved would benefit from loan spells elsewhere. Suarez had his best game supporting our in-form strikers Bonilla and Adisak, which is a relief as he has been a little anonymous (when compared to his usual standards) at times. Still, a very satisfactory week for the club and we go into the next round.     

 

You ain’t seen me…….. right, El Capitan finally back in a Port shirt.

 

One final thing to note; it was great to have the food and drink sellers back at the stadium for matchday. These locals rely on this income and to see them back, happily taking my money in exchange for cold Leo, is a wonderful thing. Let’s hope further restrictions are lifted soon so we can have more fans, more community and more atmosphere at the PAT.

 

MOTM: Nattawut Sombatyotha

The lad can play. Sure, he faded in the second half but he showed skill, directness and opportunism which sadly was lacking in some of our more seasoned midfielders. Arguably he wouldn’t get a chance if Jadet was still manager so it’s great Oud is blooding him in matches like this. His second goal was a thing of beauty and will make the goals of the season list for sure.

 

All pictures: Allie Suwanrumpha  Captions: Sandpit Monkeys

 

Customs Check – Port FC vs. MOF Customs, FA Cup Round of 32 Preview

 

Port continue their FA Cup defence with a home tie against MOF Customs United on Sunday at 6 pm. With the opposition being from the second tier, l was off to the wonderful world of Wikipedia, Transfermkt and the roulette wheel of Thai club website and Facebook pages. Which couldn’t be better summed up than by the first Customs page l found having a total of two posts, including this.

 

Not a clue

 

Add to the mix that contracts signed for the original 2020 season calendar ran till the end of November and there’s a fair chance one or two players who have been Customs first-teamers will have moved on, so apologies if anyone mentioned doesn’t appear.

 

MOF Customs – What We Know

 

Their full name is Ministry of Finance Customs United Football Club. They are based in Lad Krabang, just over the fence from Suvarnabhumi airport. Their ground has two sides and the away stand has one of the best sunsets views in Thai football. So we messed up not warm balling ourselves an away tie.

 

Told you it was nice

 

They’ve managed a solitary season in the top flight in 2008 and finished rock bottom, having been champions of the second tier in 2007. They were coached by our own Sarawut Treephan in 2014. Kayne Vincent was their top scorer last season. We’ve loaned them a few players, Tom will know them all, nobody else will.

 

Easy on the sponsors lads.

 

This Season

 

Customs are currently 12th in the M150 championship. Unbeaten in 3 games and have back to back wins v the middliest of middle table pair Navy and Ranong in their last two matches. Away from home their record is 3-1-3 scoring 10 and conceding 12. Against the top 8 sides in the division, their record is a somewhat disappointing 0-1-5. Conceding an average of 2.5 goals a game. Against those below 8th, it’s a different story with just 5 goals allowed in 9 games (0.56 per game). So, it appears they can handle teams to a level and then it all gets a bit much. Also, 9 of their 15 league games have reached half time scoreless.

They were among the teams from the Championship who had to enter the FA Cup in the Qualification round, drawing fellow second tier club Uthai Thani, in a game that didn’t just get to halftime at 0-0 but remained scoreless to the end of 120 minutes before Customs advanced on penalties. In the last round, they faced the rather wonderfully named Nakhonratchasima Municipal Sport School and made like playground bullies making off with all the lunch money and a place in the next round, 3-0.

 

Who Plays for them?

 

Japanese attacking midfielder, Kenzo Nambu (7) leads the scoring with 7 leagues including a brace against Ranong and one in the previous match v Navy. He’s spent most of his career in the Japanese regional leagues and J3. Before moving to Thailand to join Kasetsart last season.

 

Kenzo scoring against Ranong United

 

Second, on the scoring charts is Brazilian left winger Deyvision (27) who has 4 goals from 11 starts and arrived from Port feeder club Songkhla, he has one of those epically nomadic Brazilian journeyman career history’s appearing to have made 15 transfers in an 8 year career.

 

Deyvison making shapes

 

Not playing for them is South Korean Yoo Byung-soo who moved to Ayutthaya after the pre-COVID part of the season but his nickname of “Ronaldo of Wolmido” is getting him a mention. He’s also currently the second top scorer in the division, maybe we’re better off not know which Ronaldo his moniker is derived from.

To stick to the Thai football stereotype, the defence appears to be marshaled by an overseas player in Swede Viktor Lovgren, who’s a vegan and had a pretty solid career in Sweden before heading over to Customs at the start of the year.

 

Imagine how buff this fella could be if was banging back bacon sandwiches.

 

Back up keeper Pisan Dorkmaikaew (35) has started the two previous rounds of the cup over league first choice Nutchanon (26). Pisan’s Wikipedia page has him down as retired, however, it seems a bit of pressure from Customs officials got him to retract his initial statement. Seemingly one of the better keepers in Thailand at his peak he was called up to the national team squad twice, eight years apart but never capped.

 

You’re going nowhere, son

 

In January, Thai Italian defensive midfielder Antonio Verzura (4) decided to call it a day at the ripe old age of 27 having spent the first half of the 2019 season at Prachuap and the second half at Sukhothai. Yet between the two and being involved in nearly 50% of matchday squads, the only appearance he made on the field came as Port thumped Prachuap 5-0. These Customs fellas are clearly pretty persuasive when they get you in a little room and start explaining the situation you’ve got yourself into. As they pulled the same unretiring stunt and Antonio found himself back warming the bench come the first day of the season. Maybe he makes a superb half time cuppa. His twin brother Gionato is at Chiangmai this season and has never retired.

The Wikipedia fun continues as diminutive midfielder Wasan Samarnsin (22) is deemed a 2016 title winner with that team we hammered 2-0 on Wednesday, for playing a grand total of 9 minutes. While Nattapon Woratayanan (9) was part of the Thai to Everton exchange in 2004 before winning the title with PEA in 2008. He would go on to be part of the Buriram team promoted to the top tier in 2011, before doing the same with Ratchaburi the following season and PTT Rayong in 2013. PTT broke his talismanic run by letting play in the top tier again for the 2014 season. Come 2017 he made a double return to PTT Rayong and the second tier but sadly the magic had gone and promotion has eluded him since.

We finish with the obligatory ex Port players, Jirattikan Vapilai (30) was part of the Foxhunt scheme spending time with both Leicester City and OH Leuven, before returning to Thailand for a spell at Port that didn’t work out, he’s been involved in every Customs game since mid October. Nattakit Fongwitoo (24) made 6 appearances for us in 2016 and l can’t say recall one moment of them, he’s only start came in the last round of the cup. Remarkably, despite having the best pedigree of the three, Tanakorn Dangthong (11) is our only former player at Customs to have registered zero appearances for Port. In our infinite wisdom, we signed the striker off the back of a stellar T2 season in which he was the division’s top Thai scorer, before realizing we had more than enough options up top and letting him go on a free. Classic Port.

 

AND NOW FOR THE KIRIN SLAYERS

 

Whilst it didn’t work out well against Bangkok FC in the last round, I’d expect an almost fully changed starting elven from that seen on Wednesday. With Ratchaburi next weekend and the possibility of a rearranged fixture against Chiangrai leaving little time for rest, it’s time to protect our starters and give the squad some match time. So I’d expect Suarez (5), Pakorn (7), Go (8), Bordin (10), Siwakorn (16), Nitipong (34) Worawut/goalkeeper (36) and Bonilla (99) to be rested. At centre back we have such depth you can give both recent starters Dolah (4) and Worarut/Baresi (24) a day off, not use either* that I’ve selected and still have several decent pairings available. Kevin (23) is suspended for the Ratchaburi game, so I’ve play him. I’d opted for Steuble (15) at right back, although if he’s the go to man to replace Kevin next week then an alternative might be considered. As much as Chappius (17) and Kanarin (31) didn’t work well in the first half at Bangkok FC, I felt they started to take the midfield over in the second half before Suarez and Bordin came on to turn the game and merit a second chance. Even if MOF Customs add to their lengthy lists of scoreless first halves we can stack the bench with players to take the game away from them in the second half. A decent side that struggles against second tier flair players isn’t going to enjoy the sight of a Suarez and Bordin double substitution as they try to hold on for the last 20 minutes. That said, hopefully we get a goal early and cruise to the next round.

*The club this morning put out a promo for the game featuring Pang (of course) along with Rochela and Tanaboon.

 

The Port official page has put out the banner below so hopefully, the game will be on AIS.

 

 

The Good New Normal: Port FC 2-0 Muangthong

 

Derby Day – or ‘Slum vs. Scum’ as it is lovingly referred to by The Sandpit, needs no introduction. Port fans’ most anticipated fixture on the Thai football calendar has been kind to us in recent seasons, and this year was to prove no different! As with many things in the COVID era, this time around it had a strangely subdued feel leading up to kickoff and during the game itself, with a usually packed-to-the-rafters PAT Stadium and its famed fiery atmosphere quashed by the current 50% capacity restrictions. From the outset it was never going to match last year’s experience (shoutout to Josimar for that wonderful goal and the celebration that will be etched in the memory of every Port fan that was there) but this is still *the* game that means the most.

Despite the somewhat different circumstances the match report could essentially read as the standard Port-MTU game checklist of recent years: Plenty of kicking and fouling from both sets of players – tick. Plenty of abuse from the Port fans to the Muangthong players, especially heckling the goalkeeper Van Lam – tick. Port score (Adisak (9), 31st min) – tick. Port score again (Bonilla (99), 86th min) – tick. The team and Klongtoey Army jubilant – tick. Another win over the old enemy – tick. So instead of some wordy recap, when “WE WON!! 2-0!! AGAINST MUANGTHONG!!” is pretty much all that matters right now, here are some matchday photos instead…

 

Bangkok’s finest prematch

 

Suarez dishing out the pain on a night of hurt for Muangthong.

 

He’s one of our own

 

Bonilla with a piledriver and this year’s entry for The Josimar Award for best goal picture v Muangthong.

 

The finest marksman in the league.

 

That derby winning feeling.

 

And the classic we won the derby scoreboard pic

Pictures Allie Suwanrumpha(@endresultphoto) Captions The Sandpit.

Man of the Match

With a well-fought team performance across the park it is honestly difficult to pick out any individuals,  so I’ll opt for the entire defensive unit this time as they were all solid throughout (and how about that one-handed save near the end from Worawut!) Special mention to our central midfield generals Go and Siwakorn who both put in a shift and constantly pressed Muangthong high up the field which effectively stifled their play.

 

Lights Out: Port FC P – P Muangthong United

Our match reports are brought to you by The Sportsman.

 

I would normally begin an article with a pithy, light hearted observation that can frame the basis
of the narrative but after taking stock of yesterday’s farcical events, reviewing the news and
social media and casting an eye back over what has been a frankly ridiculous year for the club
all I can do is ask a question:

What the fuck is going on at Port?

 

 

Yesterday’s match postponement due to an electrical fire and subsequently no floodlights
means we have been unable to complete 2 of our 3 home matches since the restart of the
league. The official announcement yesterday was that the match is postponed for a later date
but The FAT has communicated the match has been “called off because the electricity outage
had halted the game for more than 60 minutes”, just like the Police Tero match. This means we
will have to report the incident to a disciplinary committee and might have to accept another 0-2
defeat and a fine.

From any perspective this is shocking. After the last outage one must presume all electrical
units were inspected, any faults repaired and then vigorously tested. I have zero electrical
knowledge (but I know smoke + fire = big problem) and I don’t want to speculate the reasons
why the fire happened because that could lead into tin foil hat time but I will add this:
What happened yesterday is totally unacceptable for a professional football club.

I’m sure there will be more official statements in the coming week but there is nothing positive to
take from this situation. From the photos circulating on social media and chat groups, to the
news that media pass holders were unable to leave their holding room during the incident, this
was a brutal day and will no doubt have a detrimental effect on our reputation.

Let’s quickly take stock of this year: we have cut our stadium capacity by 25% by adding
uncomfortable, dangerous seating for one AFC match (which we lost), fired a silverware winning
coach who had taken 10 out of 12 points in this league campaign, signed an injured player and
shamefully dropped our captain to accommodate him in the squad, fired another coach for 2
defeats (1 technically awarded due to power outage) and there are still many, many things I
could gripe about.

I know that in football, and from supporting this team for 4 years, gallows humour plays a big
role in defeats, relegation and all other forms of misfortune but yesterday’s event was just
disrespectful. The fans, some of the most passionate in Thailand, deserve a lot better and the
club is now damaging the reputation of the league and Thai football in general. Port needs to
accept responsibility and any punishment meted out, show some understanding and remorse
towards its coaching staff, players and fans, and finally conduct itself more professionally. It’s
not something we ask for, it’s something we expect.

 

Trat-gedy Avoided: Trat FC 2-3 Port FC

 

 

Seven months. That’s the amount of time since I’ve last taken any football photos as I was in Hong Kong for Port’s last game (away at Buriram, and watched online from there) before Covid threw a spanner into the new Thai League season as well as the rest of the world. The September restart back then seemed like an eternity away, so when it did eventually roll around suffice to say things have not gone to plan so far. Having frustratingly been denied access to the PAT pitch two weeks in a row due to reduced capacity – and therefore reduced (well, zero) atmosphere – in line with social distancing overkill guidelines along with below-par performances from the team and general drama (because it wouldn’t be Thai football without some), apathy was setting in going into the game against Trat FC, a good 6 hour drive away from the capital. Yet one of the best things about being a football fan is the opportunity to engage in some groundhopping and visit places around the country that you have yet been/rarely go to – and of course any excuse to get out of the Bangkok bubble every now and again, even if it’s a bit of a trek across the eastern seaboard just to fundamentally watch 22 guys kick a ball for 90 minutes. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that nothing should be taken for granted, including the freedom to travel, and with knowing friends around the world are currently under lockdown where they are would absolutely jump at the chance of a road trip right now, I eventually decided to rock up to Ekkamai Bus Station at the crack of dawn. Carpe diem and all of that.

 

 

With the appointment of the affable Coach Oud as the new Team Manager, the prospect of the players bouncing back against a Trat side yet to register any points after 6 rounds appealed to the hundred-or-so other Tarua faithful that also made the long early-morning journey on the disco fan bus. After confirming a place (so I thought) in the media quota for this match with Trat FC’s media team earlier, when I arrived at the stadium all the extremely limited pitchside slots were already filled up (and they were super apologetic about it and tried to find a solution for me and another regular Port photographer, which was appreciated) so decided to go into the away end and try to make the most of it.

 

 

The game itself ended up being quite the rollercoaster with all its dips, peaks, and twists. Adding to the dazy feel was the extremely muggy air that weighed down around the stadium, in which the high humidity levels kept fogging up the camera lenses. After a cagey first half an hour in which both sides had several pops at goal each, Port made the breakthrough with Heberty (37), having already had a couple of attempts, in the 34th minute as he slid in on a cross from Kevin (23) on the left. Trat however quickly hit back minutes later, as they took control of the midfield with Paso (44) latching on to a defense-splitting through ball from Jarunai (29) and emphatically lobbing the ball over Rattanai (18). The fact that he looked substantially offside only further deflated the mood in the away stand.

 

 

Nevertheless, the Klong Toey Army were boisterous again right after the break as Nitipong (34) put Port back in front while they were still re-entering the terraces with their halftime beers. He combined well with Heberty from the halfway line, as they quickly shifted the ball down the pitch before unleashing a right-footer from the penalty arc. Afterwards Trat continued to cause problems for our central defenders, while at the other end Go (8), Adisak (9), and Suarez (5) – wearing the captain’s armband tonight – found themselves thwarted by theirs. Those missed opportunities were rued in the 68th minute when Trat equalised again through a corner, as Rattanai – who was having a solid game with several top saves – lost out in the air to the head of Azadzoy (7). Cue much cursing. Tanasith (11) was subbed on to inject more pace and creativity while Rattanai redeemed himself by denying Azadzoy a second goal with a flying save.

It was a nervy final 10 minutes as both the crowd and the players were getting increasingly agitated, with Go picking up a yellow for kicking the ball away. It was the proverbial kitchen sink time trying to find that elusive winner as the minutes ticked away. Suarez, in true El Mago style as we often see him do so many times, managed to conjure up the goods when it mattered most as he nodded in Tanasith’s whipped cross from close range half a minute before the end of normal time. Cue pandemonium (after a VAR check).

Performance wise it was a very mixed bag overall with plenty to work on in training, but when your team scores a winner right at the very end of an oscillating scoreline and after such a long day, all is well in the moment. And of course, in true Port style, the booming sound system of the disco fan bus filled the night sky immediately afterwards.

 


 

Man of the Match: Heberty Fernandes

A tricky choice as no one really stood out in particular, though Heberty applied himself more effectively this week after much criticism not so much for his ability but his dedication to the cause. Can’t really argue with a goal and an assist, though I know some may disagree. Special mention to Rattanai for pulling off some superb saves yet again.

 

Who’s Trat? Trat FC vs. Port FC Preview

 

Another game, another manager.

It might not seem like it, what with the long break and the familiar figure of Jadet having been back at the helm, but by kick-off on Saturday Port will be on their third manager in just 7 games. And once again, new coach Sarawut’s tenure is unlikely to be a long one, with rumours already circulating about talks with Alexandre Gama, Jose Borges, Scott Cooper and just about anyone willing to wear a t-shirt with Madame Pang’s latest slogan on it.

Yes, Port’s enigmatic owner seems to have come full circle, returning to the wild early months of her tenure where she hired and fired 5 bosses in a single season. Assuming Sarawut, who incidentally was the assistant of the first manager Pang fired this season, is only intended to be in place until Pang finds a bigger name, we will soon be at 4 and in touching distance of Pang’s record.

So why was Jadet once again moved upstairs? Well, clearly Port weren’t performing well, despite having what many are saying is the best squad in T1. The problem is certainly not the talent available, so it must be the manager, right?

No. Whilst I’ve never been Jadet’s number one fan, limited as he is in terms of tactical nous and match preparation, he isn’t making signings, and he isn’t even picking the team. So what do you expect him to do? Give any manager in the league this surly, selfish, want-away incarnation of Heberty, a broken Bonilla, an injury-ravaged defence and the inability to do anything with them other then what they’re told, and see how much better they’d do. Also, let’s not forget that Port lost 0-2 in Jadet’s first match in charge because of floodlight maintenance, and were beaten by one of the top contenders (in my opinion) for the title in the other. What a shit-show.

Anyway, that’s my rant for this preview out of the way. Fortunately for Sarawut, our opponents on Saturday are just who you’d want to face in your first game in charge.

 

Trat FC

 

Rooted to the bottom of the table on zero points, and with an even worse goal difference than most people’s pick for last place Rayong FC, Trat look pretty hopeless this year.

It’s not all their fault though, with the club apparently facing severe financial difficulties over the last few months and having to let go some of their best players. There are even reports of the owner putting land up for sale to keep the club in business. There’s been a messy dispute over the contractual situation of their former winger Adefolarin Durosinmi, in which Trat look very much like the side in the wrong, and the contract of Wellington Priori has also been terminated, meaning that Trat are left with just one foreign quota player – Brazilian striker Ricardo Santos (11). A decent foreign striker by all accounts, capable of giving centre backs a tough evening and popping up with the odd goal, Santos will be the main man for Port to watch out for. Their Asian quota player is Mustafa Azadzoy (7) is also a handy attacker.

 

 

Combative former Muangthong and Thailand winger Mongkol Tossakrai (23) is a shrewd loan signing, and young forward Sittichok Paso (44) also comes with something of a reputation, despite failing to score goals almost everywhere he’s been. He’s young and he’s a forward, you see.

 

 

Their goalkeeper, Todsaporn Sri-reung (81) is a capable T1-standard stopper, and in front of him Amani Aguinaldo (12) looks half decent albeit with a pretty poor defence around him and little protection from midfield.

Bottom line is, if we get beat by this lot, we’re in real trouble.

 

Port FC

 

Did I say I was done ranting earlier? Sorry, I lied.

In my opinion Port’s main problem last Saturday was poor individual performances. There is also something missing from the team as a whole, but I’ll get to that later. In a game like this, it will probably just take a couple of decent performances from our forward players to get the job done.

Heberty (37) was, for me, the worst of Port’s forwards last week, and I honestly don’t hold any hope of him turning his form around. He just doesn’t look like he wants to be here, and seems to be playing badly as a protest. He’s that good that he can’t be this bad. I detest his attitude, and I wouldn’t be sad to see us just de-register him and send him back to where he came from.

 

 

Suarez (5) was also having his second consecutive off-day, but we’ve seen enough of the Spaniard to know that his poor form isn’t through lack of effort, and I’m sure he’ll turn it around soon enough. He invariably does.

Pakorn (7) wasn’t great, but he was mostly a victim of Heberty being more Pakorn than Pakorn. Credit to anyone who understood that. As we’ve said ad nauseum Pakorn is too lazy and too selfish, but last Saturday he consistently found himself in good positions only for Heberty to refuse to pass him the ball, preferring instead to take 30 yard pot-shots or using his weaker foot when he could have played Pakorn in on his stronger foot. Please never play them together again, and I know which one I’d pick given the choice.

Bordin (10) was excellent again when he came off the bench. God knows whose idea it was to put him there after being Port’s best player last time out. Starting Kevin (97) on the wing is a workable option against certain opposition, but I prefer to see it employed late on against teams with a tiring full back where Kevin’s pace can stretch the defence.

 

 

Go (8) and Kanarin (31) were uninspiring in midfield, but I have faith they’ll improve with match sharpness. The same can be said of the defence. Todsapol (6) and Dolah (4) both made blunders that we shouldn’t be seeing at a club with ambitions of winning the title, and those errors have to be cut out.

Rattanai (18) was excellent, and without him between the sticks we would surely have lost by more.

 


 

So what can we expect from new coach Sarawut? Well, I assume his remit is to bring back the boring but functional style that Choke employed, but doing so with a believable smile and a ‘Trust Pang’ shirt. Expect less attacking from the full backs, more discipline from the wingers and less fluid changes of position up top. It worked for Choke in the first four games, and against limited opposition, I can see us getting a win here, although I think it might just be by the one goal.

 


 

The match will be shown on True Visions 357 at 19:00 on Saturday 26 September, 2020. With it being a long away trip, we’re expecting out first big crowd since the restart in The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13, who will show the match with sound and a 10% discount on drinks for Port fans. See you there!

 

Broken Glass Everywhere: Port FC vs. BG Pathum Utd Preview

 

Well this preview was never going to be simple after the farcical circumstances of last weekend; in case you missed it, the stadium generator went on the fritz at the end of the match and turned a dour, laboured 1-1 draw into a default 0-2 defeat and a 50K fine. Maybe we can install an exercise bike next to the power supply and ask Rochela to pedal for 90 minutes to safeguard against these things happening again? Anyway, there’s another home match on the horizon and this time it’s against one of the big guns: BG Pathum United FC or, to the layman, Bangkok Glass.

Glass suffered a surprising relegation 2 seasons ago, a definite case of a team too good to go down, and then proceeded to romp T2 last season. Even though they are newly promoted they have recruited well and are a solid outside bet for the league, but more likely will have some influence over the outcome instead. They are unbeaten so far this season and Port will certainly have to raise their game against this bunch.

 

BG Pathum Utd

Players to Watch

 

Some canny transfers both preseason and during the enforced break have improved their backline. First they brought in Brazilian man mountain Victor Cardozo (5) from the now defunct PPT Rayong who, with 5 years experience of this league, knows how to put himself about and instill confidence in his defence. Next they took advantage of Andres Tunez’s (30) shameful treatment by Buriram United and brought the Venezuelan over to Rangsit during the shutdown of the league. Even at 33 this could be the transfer of the season; a serial trophy winner and master practitioner of the dark arts of defending. Expect the shithouseometer to be fully cranked up to 11 with these two. Ex-Port midfielder Sumanya (10) will probably feature after leaving PAT Stadium following a lacklustre season playing in the same space as Suarez, and will definitely have a point to prove to his former paymasters.

 

You and us both, Victor

 

The jewel in their midfield is Thitiphan Puangjan (8) and stopping his rhythm will be key to a Port victory. Too good for a lower league, Glass wisely loaned him out to the J-League last season and now have him back for this campaign. A big favourite of seasoned hacks at The Sandpit, this guy has great passing range and is a classic box-to-box midfielder. Although a little light on goals, expect to see him driving the ball through the middle and pulling the strings for the front line. Speaking of their frontline, they went all out and poached free-scoring goal machine *checks notes* Chenrop Samphaodi (19) *checks google* from *rubs eyes*… Port FC. Yep, the second coming of Tana was unceremoniously shipped out of Khlong Toei after a stellar 7 appearances and 0 goals. It’s more likely other forwards such as Surachat (9) or Siroch (35) will start but knowing Port he’ll probably come on and bag a goal. Or give us a bloody good laugh with his headless chicken routine.

 

 

Port FC

The PAT Jigsaw

 

Port will hopefully welcome back key personnel for this encounter, with Go (8) returning from his ban for gonad pulverising, plus centre-backs Dolah (4) and Adisorn (20) coming in to strengthen our defence. The rest of the midfield should pick itself barring last minute injuries, but there will be a decision to make up front. Bonilla (99) is clearly weeks, maybe months away from full fitness so do we gamble on him or go for Adisak (9), who despite his detractors has had a decent start to his Port career in my humble opinion. The final decision will of course be Pang’s and Jadet will accept it as normal so key criteria such as form, fitness and tactics will not be considered and the big, expensive foreign marquee signing will most likely start. Whatever the starting XI, a performance better than last week is required from every individual on the pitch as fans will not tolerate more of the same, especially after so much recent investment in the squad.

 

 

This will be my first game back at the PAT which, on the face of it is great, but from my armchair position last week I was struck by the lack of atmosphere generated during the Police match. Sure, a quarter full stadium will never be able to replicate the intensity a full house (with suitably lubricated fans) brings but the constant encouragement/barracking has always been the ace up our sleeve and definitely affects the opposition. Teams might no longer fear coming here, and now free from being under the cosh from start to finish, that might have a detrimental effect on Port’s results. I also need to work out a new strategy for Toby Time© as there will be no beer sellers outside the ground. This might possibly involve stashing cans up a tree (not a natural climber tbh), maybe a sprint to the 7-11 across Sunthon Kosa Road (no bridge anymore so will have to chance it Frogger style) or wear some elaborate MC Hammer style pants filled with delicious, but potentially warm, Leo. Anyway leave that dilemma with me. Football is thankfully back, and let’s pray to the footballing gods, and local electricians, we’ll get 90 minutes this time around.

 

Fuck this, I’m going for a Leo or 6

 

Prediction

Well it has to be better than last week, but the opposition will be much tougher. Can’t see past a score draw at this moment. 2-2.

 


 

The match will be shown on True 4U and True Sports 2 at 19:00 on Saturday 19 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.

 

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.