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Top Dolah: Peter’s 2019 Season Review

 

In a 2019 with some serious ups and downs on all levels, it all still ended with some silverware and a top three league finish. Adding to that, another championship title with only a golden goal away from the double in the futsal, and it becomes clear that the Lions of Khlong Toei are top of the food chain when it comes to kicking a ball about in the Kingdom of Thailand. Remembering this one was quite the enjoyable little afternoon activity.

 

Game of the season

 

 

Muangthong away, T1. No away fans allowed as Port traveled to Legoland with the opportunity to shove our fiercest and most despised rivals deeper into the bottom end of the table where they truly belong. Still, some of us made the journey to the rural north in neutral colours (well, Toby more or less) and were treated to an evening of football we’ll remember forever. Two fantastic goals, the first a long range effort from Bordin, who was arguably the best player in the league at that point, the second when Nitipong, of all people, put the finishing touch to a team effort of passing play that made for the most perfect counter attack I’ve seen since starting to follow Thai footie. Sure, they pulled one back late in the game but the gulf in class was hammered in by Pakorn all by his lonesome making most of the opposition look like pre-schoolers to see out the final moments of the match.

 

Goal of the Season

 

Suarez. Like most of my fellow Sandpitters, my vote went to the exquisite chip against Trat. Now, there are different ways to value goals. Importance, aesthetics, or a combination. But, as the only real contender to this one in my mind, the aforementioned second goal away to Muangthong, was so questionably left out of the competition I didn’t even have to think twice about it. The level difficulty and technique displayed by our top scorer would have edged it in the end anyway.

 

Player of the Season

 

 

Dolah. After such a fantastic season, there’s intense competition for this award. The popular vote, far from undeserved, went to Nitipong “Consistency” Selanon. In the absence of a proper striking option, Sergio Suarez led the offensive line, often from an unfamiliar position as a so called “false 9”. Go Seul-ki always made everyone around him look much better. But Elias earned the title in my book, through the improvement in his game from previous season, not only by finally settling into the role of centre-back, but becoming a true leader and being forced to keep the defence together, even when paired up with and having to carry a central midfielder with a severe phobia of any physical contact around for much of the season. Then, topping it all off with a Thai NT debut. Kudos, my Swedish brother.

 

Disappointment of the Season

 

 

Alexandre Gama. Even though I’m still fuming about what was supposed to be, and started out, as a dignified ceremony to celebrate the memory of five of the clubs’ most dedicated supporters but ended up as what can only be described as perversely self-indulging behaviour from “someone”. Even though hearing the very face of corruption in the sport I love congratulate Thailand on becoming the first country in the region to taint the game with the farcical phenomenon that is VAR has scarred me for life. Even though some bizarre mid-season experimenting with our formation coincided with a poor run of form that ultimately cost us the league title. I refuse to make anything remotely connected to Port FC my disappointment of the season in a year where we finished 3rd and won the FA Cup. My nomination therefore befalls Alexandre Gama. Wasn’t it enough to turn Chiangrai into what is possibly the most repulsive unit ever to step on the football pitch? You had to go and save Muangthong from relegation just to add insult to injury? Really? Talk about getting on the wrong side of history…

 


 

For all the faults we bitch about week in and week out, the results still point to the club heading in the right general direction. With just a little bit of well-considered work in the transfer market *pause for snickering* to fill our foreign player quota with a clear first choice striker next year, along with some managerial freedom in team selections *pause for guffaw*, we should be well equipped to make an even better push for the title next year. Now let’s all just sit back and calmly observe the ever predictable Thai silly season activities.

 

The Sandpit’s 2019 Port FC Goal of the Season Poll

 

Port’s most successful season this millennium saw us top-score in T1 with 55 goals, while a further 17 were netted on the road to FA Cup glory. Add in 2 more goals in Port’s short-lived League Cup campaign and The Sandpit’s Goal of the Season panel finds itself with 74 goals to narrow down in to a short-list of just 10.

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BG’s Saturday Night Fever: Port FC vs. Ratchaburi (FA Cup Final Preview)

 

It has been a season of thirds. A triple layer hamburger, topped and bottomed by a light and fluffy, expertly toasted bap, laced with a tasty, tangy sauce and garnished with an innovative leafy salad, seasoned with a hint of balsamic. In the middle, though, an unappealing, flavourless patty, stodgy in places and miserably failing to satisfy that initial promise. This has been Port’s season in a cardboard box. An explosive start, a laboured, clueless middle, redeemed by a late, often thrilling bid for a first League title. And now comes the dessert, a dish to sweeten the Port season and one which they must devour with gusto.

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FA Cup Final Ticket Info Released

 

The long, arduous wait for FA Cup Final tickets to go on sale is apparently nearly over, with a combination of information from the Thai FA and Thai Ticket Major suggesting that tickets will be on sale starting from 10:00 on Monday 21st October.

9,000 capacity all-seated Leo stadium was announced as the venue a few days ago, before a brief panic ensued when Thai Ticket Major pulled the event info and we all thought ‘here we go again.’ Now with all signs pointing towards Pathum Thani and the information online showing the zones and prices of tickets, we’re pretty sure that we’re all set.

 

 

Tickets are evenly split between Port and Ratchaburi fans, with Port fans occupying zones W3 (150 baht), W6 (100 baht) and S (80 baht).

Follow this link to buy tickets online, or alternatively buy directly from a Major outlet near you. You’ll probably need to be pretty quick, with far more Port fans expected to turn up than there are tickets available in the Port zones.

 

 

Happy hunting, and we’ll see you in Pathum Thani!

 

Storm the Castle: Buriram Utd vs. Port FC Preview

 

Port have had some rotten results against the T1 title chasers this season, but in a league that no one seems to want to win, we’re somehow still in with an outside chance of glory. Two wins for Port, against the champions on Sunday and Samut Prakan the following week, will mean that Chiang Rai can clinch the title if they win their last two games, but if they slip up in either – the second being a tricky trip to Suphanburi – the title will be Port’s. On the other hand, a Buriram win more or less secures them the title, with their final day trip being a dream match-up with Chiang Mai, who will most likely already be down. All three teams have a route to ultimate victory, and all three depend on whether or not Port can storm the Thunder Castle and leave with the only plunder that matters: three priceless points.

 

 

Buriram United

Players to Watch

 

Let’s start with some of the stalwarts. Siwarak Tedsungnoen (1) is in his ninth year between the Buriram sticks, and this year has been rewarded for his longevity by being chosen as captain for both club and country. I remember one stunning performance at PAT Stadium featuring a point blank save from a Genki header that secured a 0-0 draw for The Thunder Castle, but more often than not what you get from Siwarak is consistent, mistake-free goalkeeping. He may be 35, but he’s still one of the top stoppers in T1.

 

 

In defence, Buriram will be led by one of T1’s best and least popular defenders. Andres Tunez (5) is everything that is wrong with Thai football. He turns his size and strength towards aggressive, hateful abuse of officials, before meekly surrendering to any pressure from attackers with pathetic playacting. Think of him as a cross between the physique of Dolah, the temperament of Boskovic and the balance of Nurul. Unfortunately, due in large part to weak Thai refereeing, he is an effective operative, leading the stingiest defence in the league. Buriram have conceded just 23 goals; 8 fewer than Port.

 

 

In midfield, the main man for Buriram has been Hajime Hosogai (7). I’ve been mightily impressed with his work rate, although the Japanese star also shown his creative limitations going forward. He’s just so good at what he does though: harrying, harassing and dispossessing opposition midfielders. In a game where Port’s midfield will be without our leader, expect Hosogai to exert plenty of influence, and make it difficult for the likes of Suarez and Siwakorn to find space in front of the back 3.

 

 

Buriram have shown a lot of faith in youth this season, with the likes of Ratthanakorn (26), Supachai (9) and Suphanat (54) racking up plenty of minutes, but the pick of the young guns has undoubtedly been attacking midfielder Supachok Sarachart (19). He’s netted 10 goals in all competitions, and has made himself an indispensable member of the national team to boot. Supachok can play through the middle or out wide, and has been particularly dangerous cutting in from the left and firing in shots and crosses with his trusty right boot. Perhaps the silver lining for Port could be that Supachok’s exertions across multiple fronts this season really looked to have taken a toll on the young star in the latter stages of the UAE game on Tuesday. He had been kicked all day long, and barely looked to have any gas left in the tank as the game came to a close.

 

 

Supachok’s even younger brother could be leading the line for Buriram against Port, but honestly I have absolutely no idea what Buriram think their best options are up top. They spent massively on Nacer Barazite (39) and Rasmus Jonsson (20), but in the League Cup final it was 17 year old Suphanat Muenta (54) who got the nod, with both foreigners sitting out. In the last 3 T1 games Buriram have gone with three different combinations of the three, with no player starting every game. They may have the element of surprise on their side, but there’s a decent chance they’re the ones who end up being punished for their inconsistency up top. I can just picture Diogo smirking smugly, Malaysian Super League medal in hand, as Jonsson fluffs another shot hopelessly wide.

 

 

Form

 

  • Trat 0-1 Buriram
  • Buriram 6-0 Ratchaburi
  • Buriram 1-1 Sukhothai
  • Muangthong 3-2 Buriram
  • Buriram 1-0 Chainat
  • Korat 2-3 Buriram

 

If ever a set of league results didn’t tell the full story. Their league form may look decent, but add in the stunning FA Cup semi-final defeat to Ratchaburi, who they had just spanked 6-0 in the league, and the League Cup final loss to Prachuap, and you start to see that Buriram just can’t win the big games anymore. Their biggest rivals turned them over in the league, they got dumped out of both cups and now an in-form Port, who haven’t conceded a goal since August, would love nothing better than to snatch the league title from them too. Can they stop the rot?

 

Port FC

No Go Zone

 

Port will be without key midfield man Go (8). The Korean is ineligible as he’s contracted to Buriram, but is also suspended after picking up his eighth yellow card. Besides this though, Port are at full strength. Kevin (97) defied a reported hamstring injury with a lively performance in the 5-1 friendly win against Honda last week, while Todsapol (6) was also fit enough to make an appearance, although he looked a little less comfortable. Todsapol has had plenty of time since then to recover though, and I expect him to start on Sunday, as his inclusion is key to Port’s likely game plan.

It’s a very similar game plan to the one Port employed in the 3-1 defeat to Buriram in the first half of the season to be fair, but with some key changes of personnel. Todsapol and Dolah (4) started in central defence that day, with Rochela (22) deployed out of position in defensive midfield. Port will likely once again shift a central defender in to defensive midfield, but this time we will be moving Tanaboon (71) in to his more natural position, while replacing him with a better centre back. Is it ideal? No, but at least it’s not Rochela in midfield again!

Alternatively, Port could leave Tanaboon in place at the back and try any number of options in midfield. It’s unlikely we’ll see any of Anon (20), Adisorn (13) or Athibordee (35) brought in from the cold, but Sumanya (11) could be given a start with Siwakorn (16) shifted back to a position with more defensive responsibility. This would be a very bold move from Port, especially with Supachok likely occupying the space between defence and midfield. I think we should really have a dedicated defensive player in place there, but going for the throat with an all-out attacking system is another way to go. A draw won’t be enough for Port, so there is something to be said for going all out for the win.

Another sub-plot will be yellow card suspensions, which could mean players missing out on the final day. Siwakorn sits ominously on 7, just one away from his second suspension, whilst Bodin (10) has accrued 3, one away from his first. A yellow for Siwakorn would mean he’s finished for the season, missing both the potentially decisive league game and the FA Cup final, while Bodin – one of Port’s players of the season – would be a massive loss for the visit of Samut Prakan.

 

Form

 

  • Port 2-0 Muangthong
  • Suphanburi 1-3 Port
  • Bangkok Utd 2-0 Port
  • Chiang Mai 0-2 Port
  • Port 3-0 Korat
  • Port 4-0 Chainat

 

Oh, and we won that cup semi-final. Looking good.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

The match will be shown on True 4U at 18:00 on Sunday 20 October, 2019. For those who can’t make it to The Chang Arena in Buriram, 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’s Foreign Signings – A Statistical Analysis

 

I was standing around in The Sandpit after the home game against Nakhon Ratchasima when, as often happens, an unusual claim was made that piqued my interest.

“Do you know how many foreign players Port have signed from clubs outside Thailand? One. Rolando Blackburn.”

Now, as with most unusual claims it was immediately obvious that this wasn’t accurate, but seeing as the club itself has almost certainly made no effort to analyze their own transfer dealings, I thought I’d do the hard yards for them and run some numbers.

What I ended up doing was a little more comprehensive than I originally intended. First, I used the three articles that myself and Marco had written (foreign strikers from 2009-12, foreign strikers from 2012-18, foreign midfielders from 2012-18) about Port signings and collated the data with a little help from Wikipedia and Transfermarkt. Then I found this excellent list of Thai League Foreign Players on Wikipedia which gave me a few even earlier players I’d never head of. Vietnamese defender Lương Trung Tuấn who joined Port in 2004, anyone?

I ultimately settled on a sample size of 53 foreign signings from which to draw my analysis. It’s not a huge number, but it’s an almost exhaustive list of foreign players who have joined Port since 2009 with a few notable extras from before that time period. Only a few players, for which I could not find sufficient information, were left out. I think with this number, drawing conclusions from differences of a few percentage points is probably not worthwhile, but we can be reasonably happy that some of the clear trends are unlikely to be anomalous.

There are only two data points I used, which were the nationality of the player and the country they played in immediately before joining Port. This basically gave me two separate groups of analysis:

  • The countries Port most commonly sign players from
  • The nationality of players that Port sign

Within these two groups, I separated my findings in to 3 sections.

  • Overall (the total %)
  • Before Pang (the % before Pang’s tenure)
  • With Pang (the % during Pang’s tenure)

So, what did I learn after messing around on Microsoft Excel for a couple of hours?

Well, it’s fair to say that Rolando Blackburn is not the only Port foreign player to have been signed from abroad. In fact, foreign players signed from abroad account for 62% of Port’s foreign signings. Before Pang’s tenure it was 65% and during Pang’s tenure the number drops slightly to 58%.

 

Overall62%
Before Pang65%
With Pang58%

 

What has changed somewhat is the areas from which Port have bought these players. Dealing with continents rather than individual countries makes more sense to me here, so here is the breakdown of the continents from which Port have signed their foreign players.

 

Foreign Players signed from Thai clubs

 

Overall38%
Before Pang35%
With Pang42%

 

Foreign Players signed from Asian clubs (not including Thailand)

 

Overall36%
Before Pang41%
With Pang26%

 

Foreign Players signed from South American clubs

 

Overall9%
Before Pang3%
With Pang21%

 

Foreign Players signed from European clubs

 

Overall13%
Before Pang15%
With Pang11%

 

 Foreign Players signed from African clubs

 

Overall4%
Before Pang6%
With Pang0%

 

Arranging the numbers differently shows the key trends more clearly.

 

Foreign players signed from…Before PangWith Pang
Thai clubs35%42%
Other Asian clubs41%26%
South American clubs3%21%
European clubs15%11%
African clubs6%0%

 

With Pang, Port have signed significantly more players from South America. Wagner Carioca, Renan Oliveira, Rodrigo Maranhao and Rolando Blackburn all signed for Port under Pang’s stewardship, whereas only the legendary Leandro Oliveira had signed directly from South America before. Even that signing comes with a massive asterisk, as Dusit Chalermsan, Port coach at the time, already had first hand knowledge of Leandro from his and Leandro’s earlier spells in Vietnam. He was a known quantity from his time spent in South East Asia, even though he stopped off in Brazil on his way from Vietnam to Thailand, and Dusit signed him with a view of building his team around the Brazilian maestro.

 

Rodrigo Maranhao, one of the stars of the 2016 promotion campaign

 

So, what conclusions can we draw from this? Does it mean Port have enacted some sort of scouting system under Pang to identify players in the Brazilian second and third tier who could be successful in Thailand? Stop sniggering at the back!

No, it’s a trend mirrored by the league as a whole. The number of foreign players in the league has fluctuated over the years due to quota changes, but ultimately the number of foreigners clubs can sign from any country has been cut markedly.

In 2014, teams could have six foreigners of any nationality in their squad, plus one additional player from an AFC country (6+1). In 2015, this was reduced to four from any nationality, plus one from an AFC country (4+1). In 2018 the number of foreign players from any country was cut further to three, plus a player from an AFC country and a player from an ASEAN country (3+1+1). In 2019, the current quota, teams can again have three players of any nationality, one from an AFC country and now three from ASEAN countries (3+1+3).

While the number of quality foreign imports has been decreasing, the amount of money available to be spent on them has increased, due to the growth of the league. This has led to the significant rise in the number of arrivals from South American clubs we see above, in place of those in financially weaker areas like Asian and African leagues. Port are simply following a trend which I’m pretty sure exists among most clubs, and the league as a whole.

 


 

The nationalities of the players Port have signed – our second set of numbers – really helps us complete the picture.

Footballers who end up plying their trade in Thailand are for the most part a nomadic bunch. A majority of African and South American players who have signed for Port have done so from outside the continent of their birth, so to better understand some of the fundamental changes in Port’s recruitment trends, let’s look at nationalities, arranged again by continent.

 

Foreign Players of Asian nationalities

 

Overall30%
Before Pang35%
With Pang21%

 

Foreign Players of South/Central American nationalities

 

Overall26%
Before Pang18%
With Pang42%

 

Foreign Players of European nationalities

 

Overall25%
Before Pang21%
With Pang32%

 

Foreign Players of Australasian nationalities

 

Overall4%
Before Pang3%
With Pang5%

 

 Foreign Players of African nationalities

 

Overall15%
Before Pang24%
With Pang0%

 

Again, let’s look at the same numbers in a different table.

 

Foreign players from…Before PangWith Pang
Asia35%21%
South/Central America18%42%
Europe21%32%
Australasia3%5%
Africa24%0%

 

The same trend plays out in these numbers, with a very clear uptick in the signing of South American players. This time it is also accompanied by an 11% increase in the signing of European players, which is another similarly more attractive demographic of players to clubs with more spending power.

With a marked increase in South American and European signings, we must also see decreases in other areas, and this is most stark in the signing of African players. Whilst it’s obvious to anyone who remembers watching football 5-10 years ago in Thailand that the number of African players has decreased significantly, Port not having signed a single African player in the Pang era is still surprising.

This season the biggest spenders in the league brought in Modibo Maiga, whilst mid-table Trat went for African players in all 3 of their foreign player slots. One of them, Lonsana Doumbouya, is the top scorer in the league, and overall there are still 9 African players plying their trade in T1, although surprisingly they are spread across just 4 teams. It seems unlikely to be an anomaly that Port have not signed a single African, but the reasons why this is the case are unclear with the data I have at my disposal.

 

Lonsana Doumbouya, Adefolarin Durosinmi and Bireme Diouf, all of Trat FC

 

Signings of Asian players have similarly seen a decline. Under the 6+1 quota system from 2014 and earlier, Port used to regularly have two or three South Koreans on the books, but with the quota change to 4+1 in 2015, most T1 teams scaled back and only had 1 Asian foreigner in their squad, with Port being no exception.

Since then the rules evolved again though, with one and then three new spots opening up to players from ASEAN countries. Under the 3+1+1 quota in 2018, Port used their ASEAN spot to sign Terens Puhiri of Indonesia, but Terens then returned to his former club and Port didn’t bring in another ASEAN player, Martin Steuble, until the mid-season break of 2019. At this point the quota had already changed to 3+1+3, with Port failing to take advantage of any of those ASEAN spots for the first half of the season. This has to be seen as a big oversight from Port, and next season we should really see a significant increase in ASEAN players joining the club, making full use of the 3 available quota spots. ASEAN leagues may be of a lower standard than T1, but the signing of Steuble has shown us that there are players capable of making an important contribution, even in a side pushing for the T1 title.

 

Conclusions

 

In drawing conclusions from Port’s transfer business, we have to be able to recognize who has been successful and who hasn’t. In our list of arrivals from Thai clubs in the Pang era, we see names like David Rochela, Sergio Suarez, Josimar, Dragan Boskovic and Go Seul-Ki. Names like Kayne Vincent, Thiago Cunha and Bajram Nebihi remind us that not all domestic deals have turned out as hoped, but for the most part the Thai market has yielded far more successful signings than the foreign market. There are examples of successful signings from abroad, such as Rodrigo Maranhao, Martin Steuble and Kim Sung-Hwan, but these are far outweighed by relative failures like Andrija Kaludjerovic, Serginho, Renan Oliveira, Matias Jadue and Asdrubal Padron.

 

Asdrubal Padron, who injury prevented from making a single appearance for Port

 

It looks very much as though we are doing 58% of our shopping in the less fruitful foreign market, and only 42% from the more predictable domestic market. This is a trend that must be addressed if we want to increase the consistency of our foreign acquisitions.

Another area I find surprising is the dramatic reduction in players from Africa, not just at Port but the league as a whole. John Baggio and Lonsana Doumbouya have been the poster boys in the last couple of seasons for how successful African players can still be in T1, but all four clubs who have African players on the books at the moment will be very happy with their contributions. Brazilians may have brought the league lots of flair and more than a few great players, but the standard of football in many African countries is still significantly superior to the standard in Thailand. There are still lots of players who could be brought in at relatively low cost for potentially great rewards.

 

John Baggio of Sukhothai

 

Both Baggio and Doumbouya are African players in the domestic market who, whilst they won’t come cheap, ought to be within Port’s price range in the coming off-season. We would do well to look hard at the possibility of signing both.

In the Asian market, Port should also be looking to increase the number of acquisitions of ASEAN players who can fill the remaining two quota spots which will be available, assuming that Steuble stays with Port next season. The signings of Michael Falkesgaard and Dang Van Lam, by Bangkok United and Muangthong respectively, have shown there are quality half-European goalkeepers available in this market. Also, the success of young Vietnamese players in international football should also be prompting T1 clubs to look in to the possibility of bringing some promising Vietnamese youngsters to Thailand. I don’t have enough knowledge of half-European half-ASEAN goalies or Vietnamese youngsters to suggest any names in particular, but a little scouting could really go a long way in finding top quality foreign players who could have a massive impact at Port.

 


 

Will the club will take heed of any of this, or run their own similar analysis in order to evaluate the success or otherwise of their transfer business? No, probably not. Will I now be able to say “I told you so” to no-one in particular next time we bring in a predictable flop from the Honduran third tier? Yes, yes I will.

 

Chainought: Port FC 4-0 Chainat Hornbill

Port soared to a second consecutive home win and clean sheet as they ripped apart the Chainat defense for a comprehensive 4-0 win.

The Hornbills flew into Bangkok nested firmly in the relegation zone but it was Port who looked to have crooked wings in the first 20 minutes of play. Chainat, fondly known across Thailand as the cheating bastards, showed initiative straight out the gate.

 

First half

 

Wednesday evening at the PAT always makes for a good night but from the outset it felt more like a friendly match. Long lines at the ticket box delayed the arrival of most supporters and those who managed to see kickoff were sitting down. Port were untidy and sluggish, giving the ball away at nearly every pass. Yet the class of our high priced attack nearly paid off in the fifth minute. Bodin’s (10) unrivaled speed got loose down the left flank and slid a square ball to Suarez, (5) whose blast from 12 yards smashed against the crossbar to no avail. A promising chance gone missing and the crowd would have to wait another thirty minutes for a similar opportunity.

Energized and fresh from the clean upcountry air, Chainat took control of possession and looked the better team going forward. A few careless tackles from both sides produced early yellows and an anxious feeling wafted across the stadium. In the 20th minute center back Todsapol (6) came out the wrong end of a good tackle with a sore lower back. Minutes later he was replaced by new boy Piyachanok (2), on loan from BG for his first action in Port colors. His initial touch brought jeers and laughter as he went through our own midfielder Go (8) to get to the ball.

Port continued to look ordinary after 30 minutes with the only real bright spot being the work ethic of right back Nitipong (34). He was all over the pitch and carried the load of the back four in the first half. Chainat’s large Brazilian striker Ricardo Santos (11) was fouled 40 yards from goal (he’s their only player I’ll mention by name because the others were insignificant from this point on). Not a big deal but he took issue with the foul, pushing the ref out of the way to scream in Nitipong’s face. Our brave little number 34 shrieked back with a vengeance and this seemed to ignite the crowd.

Having woken the sleeping giant, Chainat were now on the back foot. Midfielders Siwakorn (16) and Go played the ball into wide positions to spread the defense thin with Kevin (97) and Bodin running rings around their midfield. In the 42nd minute Suarez had two chances, only to shoot straight at the keeper on both attempts. Two minutes of added time and most had gone for a toilet break or to replenish a beer. Both teams hinted on a retreat to the locker room but Nitipong had other ideas. He played the ball forward and it skipped off a few heads before eventually getting to Bodin on the wing, a beautiful cross later and Go thumped a header to the back of the net to open the scoring. Halftime and relief was in the air.

 

Second half

 

Chainat came out of the locker room tattered and tired as they had put it all on the line before half time.  Port were passing at will and moving the ball to all corners of the field, but seemed to find all scoring chances coming from that aforementioned left wing position. Eight minutes into the half a moment of magic from Josimar (30) doubled the lead. Bodin tapped a quick square ball to Josimar who sent Bodin into the box with a back heal. Bodin again sent the ball square to Suarez. He chipped the ball into the six yard box to catch the end of Josimar’s run behind Bodin. Josimar volleyed with his left foot from an incredibly acute angle to beat the keeper for a wonderful goal.

Chances were now arriving every few minutes with Josimar nearly doubling his total on a few chances that seemed much easier than Port’s second goal. The boys were cruising at altitude when a poor pass from Suarez nearly saw Chainat cut the lead in half. Sumanya (11) and Blackburn (99) came on and made an immediate impact.  A little give and go between the two sent Blackburn into the box but he over ran the ball, Sumaya followed him in and cleaned up the mess sliding a left foot strike past the keeper for goal number 3.

 

 

The PAT was rocking deep into injury time and all eyes were again on Bodin down the wing.  His pass rolled across the top of the box, Blackburn dummied it and Suarez smashed a left foot laser to the top corner. Great result for a great hour of football. Port are in form and set out on an epic trip to Buriram in two weeks time. Two games to go, two points off the top, a cup final next month and a storybook season for the faithful of Klong Toey. What more could you ask for?

 

The Sandpit’s Man of the Match

 

 

In his previous stint with Port, Josimar was always known to score in spurts. When one goal came, it was often followed by a month or more of confident, free-scoring play. Luckily for Port, Josimar seems to have hit a spurt with just a few more games remaining in the season. If Josimar can keep his form and his confidence up for three more games and bang in a few more finishes like the magnificent angled sledgehammer he clobbered in yesterday, Port are surely odds on to get our hands on some silverware!

 

Great Wall of Chainat: Port FC vs. Chainat Hornbill Preview

 

Against all the odds, Port have leaped back into the thick of the title race, sitting two points off the top with just three games remaining in the season. As a result, this game is going to be one of incredible stakes for both teams. While the Klongtoei side need a win in pursuit of their first league title, Chainat will also need three points to remain in T1 for a third consecutive season.

Port’s opponents have a transfer budget that would see them struggle to get out of T2, let alone survive in T1, and is roughly equal to the amount Port spent on signing Sumanya Purisai (11) from Bangkok United. However, the Hornbills have bridged the gap in quality with tactical discipline and a scouting team capable of unearthing gems from lower divisions. They have proven to be unlikely giant killers this season, taking three points off Buriram, Muangthong and Bangkok United at home with a varied press designed to stop teams from getting into their passing flow. With their desperate hunt for points, they are unlikely to roll over and will aim to get at Port’s heels with the same aggression.

 

The Manager

Dennis Amato

 

 

The catalyst behind the club’s success has been their coach, Dennis Amato. Formerly a youth coach at Bayern Munich, he was contacted by Chainat during his time as a scout running a training camp in Thailand. In his first season at the club, Amato turned a side barely hanging on to their promotion hopes into T2 champions, and did well to stay in the division despite the league’s downsizing which saw five teams get relegated last season.

His aim to play a pressing game to get in his opponents’ faces is an admirable pursuit considering the quality of his players, but has struggled against his fellow relegation battlers who tend to default to bus-parking when the going gets tough.

You can read a previous interview I conducted with him after this fixture last season for more information about his style and background.

 

Players to Watch

Ricardo Santos (11) – Brazil – Striker – Age 32

 

 

Unlike the other ageing Brazilian forwards in this league, Ricardo Santos offers an incredible amount to his team off the ball with pressing and selfless movement. Capable of finding the net as target man up front, Santos also runs the channels like someone half his size would, and is confident taking players on. I personally believe he is among the most underappreciated players in the league, and should be given far more credit for his off-ball sacrifice that has been crucial for his side this season.

 

Jaturapat Sattham (18) – Thailand – Left Back – Age 20

 

 

Port fans should definitely keep their eye on Jaturapat Sattham. A complete unknown before the start of the season, the 20-year-old put in a string of incredible performances, including a man-of-the-match shift in a 2-1 home victory against Buriram. In the injury-induced absence of Port’s Kevin Deeromram (97), Jaturapat has also established himself in the Thai U23 National team. The youngster has proven to be an invaluable asset to Chainat, and is already replicating those performances for the young War Elephants. Seeing Kevin and the man vying for his spot as Thailand’s most promising young left-back on the same pitch will be interesting.

 

Chatmongkol Thongkiri (22) – Thailand – Central Midfielder – Age 22

 

 

Another recently capped U23 international, Chatmongkol Thongkiri is the Hornbill’s engine room in the middle of midfield. While not as consistent as the aforementioned Jaturapat, he is a key player in the middle that Port will need to close down if they want to stop counter-attacks from being launched. He recently earned a call-up alongside Jaturapat for the upcoming 2019 SEA Games.

 

Port’s Team

 

The Klongtoei lions have been on fine form of late, following up an FA Cup semi-final win over Bangkok United with six points from six against Korat and Chiangmai.

However, this game will likely be a tougher task due to the absence of defensive stalwart Elias Dolah (4), who is out with a suspension. This likely means that Tanaboon (71) will partner Todsapol (6) in the back line.

In midfield, Go Seul-Ki (8) is likely to start alongside Siwakorn (16) and behind Sergio Suarez (5). In an incredibly unpopular opinion, I think this setup is problematic for a few reasons. Go is by far the most complete midfielder in the squad, and among the best in the league, but has been pigeon-holed in a defensive role due to the personal ambition of Siwakorn and his desire to involve himself in attacking play.

I’ve been a vocal critic of captain fantastic but he’s proven me wrong a few times this season. Ideally though, I’d have someone defensive behind Go, such as Fox Hunt academy graduate Anon Samakorn (20) – or Tanaboon, if Dolah was fit. This would allow Go to push into more dangerous areas and carry the ball beyond Chainat’s first line of pressure with a safety net behind him, and also allow Kevin Deeromram (97) to get up the left flank and expose Chainat’s weaker right side. But in reality there isn’t even a 1% chance of that happening. No point changing a winning formula, after all.

Here’s my predicted lineup for the match:

 

 

Prediction

 

Port are on solid form and played with confidence last time out. Should be a routine three points if the pressure of the title-race doesn’t overwhelm them. I expect the home side to collect all three points in a tight match.

 

Port 2-1 Chainat

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Music at 18:00 on Wednesday 2 October, 2019. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, 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.

 

Double Dreaming: Chiang Mai 0-2 Port FC

Port travelled up to Chiang Mai’s adopted home ground in Chiang Rai after Port’s incredible penalty shootout win over long time bogey team Bangkok United in the FA cup semi-final on Wednesday. This game was never going to live up to that dramatic spectacle, but a win was needed to try and keep Port within touching distance of the top of the table. Most Port fans were expecting a win against arguably the poorest side in the league in bottom of the table Chiang Mai, also known as Chiang Rai reserves. However, we all knew that Port could experience a Chiang over and needed to avoid ruining our title hopes by failing to win here. This one will not go down as a classic, but at the end of the day we got the much-needed win. Now, I don’t want to get your hopes up too much and I’ll whisper it quietly but, Port are still in with a chance of doing the FA cup/league double this season.

Avoiding some of the busier bars in Bangkok due to the rugby, I joined a few of the Port faithful and settled down with a Leo to watch the evening’s entertainment. Port started with a pretty strong line up, the only two changes from midweek being Josimar (30) and Blackburn (99) starting for an injured Suarez and an ineligible Rochela. A surprise inclusion was Kevin (97), who after being injured for so long and playing in the midweek fixture I assumed would be given a rest. The biggest shock came from Chiang Mai who decided to drop their three foreign forwards: Caique (7), Eliandro (9) and Azadzoy (10). This one seemed like it should be a walkover.

 

 

However, the first half left a lot to be desired. The main talking points were how it seemed like Blackburn was born offside and how strange it looked to see Chiang Rai’s stadium so empty. Port had more of the possession and were arguably the better side, but it was overall a pretty drab first half. The aforementioned Blackburn did have the ball in the back of the net early on in the first half. A great cross in behind the defenders from Pakorn (7) found a free Blackburn to head it past the Chiang Mai keeper Narit (1). Our celebrations were short lived however, as it was correctly ruled offside.

A few minutes later Kevin put a lovely ball into the box that was cushioned down into Blackburn’s path by Josimar, only for it to be smashed into the side of the net and once again ruled offside. I’ll let Blackburn off for his offsides due to his cheeky penalty on Wednesday. Chiang Mai were limited to long range shots that never really threatened Worawut (36). 0-0 at the break and not many chances created. We couldn’t help wondering if Port were going to throw away a golden opportunity to close the gap at the top.

The second half started much the same as the first and after 58 minutes Port made their first change, bringing on Steuble (15) for a very quiet Pakorn (7), meaning that Kevin was pushed forward. This move surprised me as it seemed like a defensive change, but I was soon made to eat my own words as Port’s football seemed to greatly improve. The first chance of the half came after Josimar had a decent effort from distance well saved by Narit. Eventually the deadlock was broken after a good bit of football. After a few passes that started at the back with Tanaboon (71), Go (8) fed the ball into Blackburn in the middle of the box and after a nice little turn, he laid it off to Josimar. At this point you’d expect me to say he slotted it home, but instead he smashed it against a Chiang Mai defender’s hand and it deflected into the net. It doesn’t matter how they go in. 1-0 to Port.

 

 

By this point the whole team seemed lifted and it didn’t take long for Port to get another. A few minutes after the first goal, Bodin (10) played a ball into the box that really should have been dealt with by the Chiang Mai defence. It wasn’t and the ball fell kindly to Kevin on the edge of the box who was able to slot it into the bottom right corner. Great finish. 2-0 to Port.

Chiang Mai’s best effort came in the dying moments of the game as Worawut made a fine save to deny Chiang Mai’s Chotipat (21), but in general this was a poor performance from the hosts (if you can really call them hosts). Based on this display they’ll do well to stay up.

Overall, this wasn’t a vintage performance from Port, far from it, but at this stage of the campaign a win is a win, it doesn’t matter how we get them. Port have a game in hand and a win on Friday against Korat will see us just two points behind the league leaders. As I’m sure you’re very well aware, we also have the small matter of the FA cup final on the 2nd November. I had to put a bit a sensationalism in the headline, but if you ask me if I really think we’ll do the double, the answer is a definite ‘no’. But is it possible? We can dream.

 

The Sandpit’s Man of the Match: Kevin Deeromram

 

 

It’s easy to pick a goalscorer for man of the match, but I genuinely feel he was the best player on the pitch for us today. Kevin didn’t have much to worry about defensively but looked great going forward particularly in the second half. He put in some decent crosses and it was an excellent finish for his goal. Great to see him playing well after so long on the side lines. Long may it continue!

 

FA Cup Chiang-Over? Chiang Mai FC vs. Port FC Preview

 

Port’s scarcely believable penalty shootout victory over Bangkok United may have put Port fans’ heads in the clouds, but both fans and players are going to have to have to come back down to earth and adjust to a very different reality for Sunday’s away clash against Chiang Mai.

Wednesday’s victory, against a team most fancied to overcome Port, was a victory against the odds, not to mention against a team who we hadn’t beaten in… well, forever pretty much. It was also in front of thousands of vocal Port fans cheering their team come rain or… well, just rain really. The Lanna Tigers are bottom of the table, playing in a stadium which may as well be empty, and there is unlikely to be much of a traveling contingent in the stands. We’ve all seen Port defy the odds against superior opposition before crashing and burning against teams we should be beating comfortably. Overconfidence seems to be as much part of our DNA as Leo and shit strikers.

Having said that, Chiang Mai are well and truly there for the taking. Let’s see why.

 

Chiang Mai FC

Players to Watch

 

Top of my list has to be Brazilian striker Eliandro (9). This monster of a forward is practically bursting out of Chiang Mai’s very attractive shirts, and doesn’t mind throwing his weight around. After an electric start to the season though, Eliandro has slowed down considerably, and isn’t playing with the same free-scoring confidence we saw from him when he burst on to the T1 scene. I could say the same about Mustafa Azadzoy (10), the Afghan forward who usually plays as a no.10 has similarly slowed down after an excellent start. Rounding out the front three is one of the nine (yes, 9) loanees from sister club Chiang Rai: Caique (7). Signed by Chiang Rai, presumably just so he could be loaned to Chiang Mai, Caique has netted 3 times in 8 games since his arrival. I haven’t seen enough of him to give much of a judgment, but just looking at the numbers it’s a respectable return for a struggling team.

 

 

When I saw that Chiang Mai had signed Nattawut Sombatyotha (11) from Ratchaburi in mid-season I thought he’d do an excellent job for them. He’s probably not playing as far forward as he’d like, but he’s still nailed down a first team place and scored twice since his arrival. He’s also rid himself of that horrible blonde mop and looks normal again, which helps. Nattawut is best deployed as an attacking midfielder, but with Chiang Mai basically already having three up top he’s had to fulfil a role with more defensive responsibility.

 

 

Speaking of defensive responsibility, most of that falls on Brazilian centre half Evson Patricio (30). He’s one of those defenders who it’s quite hard to judge based on the fact that he’s playing with a load of dross at the back. The most recent of that dross is actually former Port squad player Worawut Namvech (34), who has started the last few games at centre back, but may not be fit having been withdrawn before the half hour mark last time out. Well, I say he may not be fit, just look at him…

 

 

In goal, Nont (20) has fallen out of favour after failing to perform consistently, so the more experienced Narit (1) has stepped in.

 

 

Form

 

The last 6 games look like this for Chiang Mai. They’ve taken two massive wins from 4 home games, but having failed to get on the score sheet in the last 2 games, they are still big favourites for the drop. The real worry is their failure to score, which has not really been a problem for them all season until now. They’ve got plenty of attacking talent, but have been conceding goals for fun all season, as they have done in each of their last 6.

  • Prachuap 2-0 Chiang Mai
  • Chiang Mai 0-1 Suphanburi
  • Chiang Mai 5-1 Korat
  • Chiang Mai 1-3 Trat
  • Chiang Mai 2-1 Chonburi
  • Chainat 2-2 Chiang Mai

 

Port FC

Feet on the Ground

 

Port need to approach this game with as much professionalism as they can muster. Changes should be made from the side who triumphed in the cup, both to make sure the XI who take the field are fit and raring to go, and to make sure players are fresh to face tougher opposition in Port’s tricky run-in.

Suarez (5) is likely to be an enforced change, with the Spaniard sporting an extremely swollen ankle after an extremely dirty tackle from Peerapat on Wednesday. Josimar (30) and Rolando (99) are both available to lead the line, with Josi raring to go after being cup-tied, and Rolando still grinning like a Cheshire cat after making a mug of Falkesgaard in the penalty shootout. What. A. Finish.

One of Go (8) or Siwakorn (16) should probably be due a rest, but Choke may be nervous removing either of the two, who are among the most consistent players in the team.

Likewise at the back, sitting out Dolah (4) seems unthinkable, and Choke doesn’t seem to be able to bring himself not to start Tanaboon (17). I’m sure we could get away with giving Nitipong (34), who put in an astonishingly hard-working performance, a well-deserved breather. Steuble (15) could cover at right back, with Kevin (97) or Panpanpong (19) stepping in on the left hand side.

In goal, Worawut (36) got a nasty cut on his back making an incredible save from Jaycee John, but we’re not sure if he’ll have recovered in time for this one. Rattanai (17) put in an assured performance in his absence, keeping out his second and third penalties of the season in the shoot-out, and as we don’t tire of saying, Port have three no1’s at our disposal anyway. Worawut can take as much time to recover as he likes with both Rattanai and Watchara ready and able to step in.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True4U and True Sports HD at 18:00 on Sunday 22 September, 2019. For those who can’t make it to Chiang Mai, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. We’re expecting a big crowd (in the pub, not the stadium) so get there early to bag the best seats. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.