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Spit in the Sandpit: Opening Day Notes

 

Warning…I am about to tell you about many of my observations of the season opener last Saturday night and I don’t mention or sing Genki’s name even once. So all you Genki fan boys move on, nothing to see here.

Close to a sell out, which warmed my heart, and as I looked out upon the sea of Port support I noticed hey, where are the black shirts in Zone D known as the Ultras? Have they been banned because of last season’s shenanigans? I miss having them there. Sort of a security blanket…like The Hell’s Angels providing security for a Rolling Stones concert, though that didn’t turn out all that great.

The new 50th Anniversary home kit is meh. I prefer last season’s white sleeves to the black and where’s the badge commemorating 50 years? The black away kit is sharp looking.

Wow. The pace in TPL (or do they call it Thai League 1 now?) is so much quicker. The ball is moving around a lot faster and I think our players had trouble adjusting for the first half hour. It’s so nice to see fast paced football return to PAT and of course the obligatory poor officiating. Ha ha ha.

Hey, I like our new foreign players. I thought after a slow start Spaniard Sergio Suarez #5 and Serbian striker #10 Andrija Kaluderovic provided Port with a dangerous one/two punch up front. Swedish-Thai defender Elias Dolah #4 is pretty slow but solid in the back and he seems to make right decisions when opposition is threatening. I give the new players a B+ grade.

I am disappointed with our new electronic scoreboard. It’s boring. It cost a lot of baht to install it and I’ve seen it display things other than score & time. I know league rules prevents it from showing replays but how about crowd shots or scores from other matches when there’s a break in the action? You can accuse of me of being a typical North American sports fan needing lots of bells and whistles on the scoreboard to keep me entertained but come on, can we have a little bit more than score and time?

My final observation of the night – Madame Pang is a rock star. The supporters just wanted to touch her as she came up to greet them in Zone C. I think she is a great asset to Port FC. I really do. I’m sorry all you negative Nellie’s. But just one bit of advice for the Madame, it’s weird watching the owner of the team lead the cheer in the players’ pre-match huddle.

 

Arigato Genki-San! Port FC 1-1 Ratchaburi FC

 

Football came home yesterday as Port opened their season at the PAT against Ratchaburi in front of what looked like a full house. An evening of great football, controversy, excitement and heavy drinking. Ah, we’ve missed you.

What’s that? Heavy drinking? Wasn’t it a dry day due to the Makha Bucha holiday? In theory, yes. But it’s a brave man who tells Port fans they can’t get leathered, particularly after 5 months without football. I was just about to pack some cold Leos into my backpack before heading to the stadium when my wife, who had gone down to the PAT earlier, broke the joyous news that the beer stalls were serving as per normal. It’s a Makha Bucha miracle!

Patrick Bentley models the 2017 Port shirt

The new season’s shirts were also revealed, modelled by friend of the Sandpit Patrick Bentley, to mixed reviews. The home shirt looks better on the pitch than it does close up, though the Leo logo proved popular and the black away shirt is very tasty.

We had no firm idea of what the lineup would be, with further confusion sowed the previous evening when Brazilian striker Josimar confirmed that he’d passed his medical and signed for Port, and then Ratchaburi’s Armenian striker Edgar Manucharyan was pictured wearing Port kit, with Ratchaburi confirming on Twitter the morning of the game that he had indeed signed for Port. That makes seven foreigners, so quite what is going on is a mystery.

Eyebrows were raised when the lineup was revealed, with Jadet paying virtually no attention to player performances in pre-season friendlies and picking Piyachart at LB, Piyachat as DM and Nitipong at RB. Heads were scratched when Piyachat went off injured in the first half and was replaced not by Wanchalerm or Tatchanon, but the long-forgotten Adisorn.

 

 

And in the first half Port’s play was as disjointed as Jadet’s thinking, as Ratchaburi, looking stronger, fitter and better organised, and blessed with the obligatory Scary Foreign Strikers that Port continually refuse to sign, threatened to run away with the game in the first 15 minutes, with only some heroic defending from Rochela keeping the score at 0-0. After weathering the storm, Port started to get more into the game and during a good spell of pressure Suarez shaved the crossbar with a diagonal shot from the right. But as the half-time whistle blew, there was general relief that we were still on level terms.

The second half began in a much more lively fashion, the excellent Rattanai making a superb stop from point blank range before Essombe fired over the bar. Then Port took hold of the game for the next 10 minutes, launching wave after wave of attacks with the otherwise unimpressive Kaludjerovic almost scoring from a header.

But it was the visitors who took the lead in the 77th minute, when a corner was headed back into the area where the excellent Santos, man of the match for me, headed in at the post. A bit harsh on Port who had had the best of the half but, and I can’t believe we’re still saying this, completely lacked any kind of goal threat.

 

Ten minutes later chaos reigned, when we were reminded of just how bad top flight refereeing is in Thailand. A Tana ball into the box was blocked by a defender, with a hand claimed Port, and the ref initially appeared to give a penalty which, after consultation with both his assistants and a lot of handbaggery from both sets of players, was amended to a free kick, despite the offence clearly taking place inside the area. Repeat viewing suggests it hit the defender’s leg rather than his hand, but if the referee thought there had been an offence, it should’ve been a penalty.

In front of an aggrieved Zone B, Pakorn curled the resulting free kick towards the far corner but was denied by an excellent save. But Port didn’t have to wait long to get their deserved equaliser. In the 5th minute of injury time a free kick was awarded on the edge of the Ratchaburi box. Pakorn pinged it into the box and right onto the head of Genki, who rose majestically from the melee like the snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji to nod it past the keeper and into the net, sparking ecstatic scenes on the terraces as five months of frustration, and several hours of heavy drinking, caused an explosion of joy. Grown men hugged, women wept, and two weirdos started singing a Human League song.

So, a creditable first result against a very good side, but there is much work to do with Jadet clearly having no idea what his best side is, and some very good players sitting on the bench watching some very average ones. On the plus side, Suarez made a busy, combative debut, Siwakhorn and Genki’s workrate inspired their colleagues, Pakorn looked well up for it, and Rochela was majestic. On the minus, Kalu didn’t look like the SFS we’ve been waiting for, Dolah seems to lack pace, and until Pinkong came on, our full-backs were simply awful. A decent result from a poor performance, with much improvement needed if that top half place is going to be a reality.

 

PORT MAN OF THE MATCH – David Rochela

A typically classy, authoritative performance from the captain. Spent the first half having to cover for Piyachart at LB as well as doing his own job, yet still stopped Ratchaburi’s strikers from having a sniff. Apparently he had his pocket picked on the way home – the thieves got away with 2000BHT, his phone, and Marcel Essombe.

 

 

Josimarvellous! Port Get a Brazilian

 

Last minute transfer drama is unfolding just as Port prepare to get the T1 season underway on Saturday. After injury unfortunately ended Asdrubal Padron’s Port career before it had begun, many assumed that Rodrigo Maranhao – who has been waiting patiently for his chance – would be stepping in to take his place in the squad, but the litany of rumours since suggest otherwise.

Port have been linked with 3 Brazilian forwards in the last week, likely indicating that they are intent on going in to the season with 6 foreign players, even though only 5 can be named in the T1 squad. Maranhao must be wondering what he has done wrong!

Firstly, Port were linked with Brazilian former Chonburi striker (where have we heard that before?) Leandro Assumpcao, who scored 21 goals in 61 games for the Sharks between 2015 and 2016. Whilst many players have made the switch from Chonburi to Khlong Toei in recent seasons, the latest news suggests that Assumpcao will be joining Sisaket for the 2017 season.

 

Leandro Assumpcao scores for Chonburi

 

Next came the rumour that really made Port fans giddy with excitement. Heberty Fernandes, the former Ratchaburi star who fired in an outrageous 65 goals in 90 games for Port’s 2017 opening day opponents, was linked with a move to PAT Stadium. With Port fans briefly dreaming of a Top 6 finish, or maybe even a push for a spot in the AFC Champions League, reality soon hit home when it was reported that Port were not going to be able to afford his $800,000 per year wage demands. It was nice while it lasted!

 

Heberty Fernandes at Ratchaburi

 

Finally came talk that former Army striker Josimar Rodrigues was not only being linked with a move, but had been spotted at PAT Stadium. Pictures taken on Thursday afternoon confirm that Josimar was indeed in training on Thursday, so The Sandpit got in touch with the Brazilian who confirmed to us that he will be signing with Port pending a medical at 09:00 on Friday. Josimar scored 16 goals in 30 games in a poor Army Utd side last season, and will be expected to provide competition for Andrija Kaludjerovic to be Port’s first choice striker. Whilst his goal record at Army was undoubtedly impressive, he has struggled to find the net at a few of his former clubs. A solitary goal in 16 games at Tokyo Verdi, then another 1 in 12 games for Al-Fateh SC don’t exactly scream consistency. However good Josimar is, we have to question the wisdom of signing another Brazilian forward to replace Maranhao – who most fans think has earned his chance in T1. Would a left winger or a left back not make more sense?

 

Josimar Rodrigues at PAT Stadium

 

Still, with the signing as yet unconfirmed and more twists and turns still eminently possible, we aren’t counting our chickens just yet. Anyway, isn’t there a game coming up sometime soon to take our minds off all this transfer malarkey?

 

New Kids on the Block: The Sandpit Meets Niran Hansson & Patrick Bentley

 

As Port begin reestablishing themselves as a T1 club, one strategy seems to be to sign young, dual-passport players – those brought up and trained in footballing cultures more developed and disciplined than Thailand, but who crucially have Thai nationality.

Following the signing of Thai-Swedish Elias Dolah, Port signed two more dual-nationality players – fellow Thai-Swede Niran Hansson (who made an impressive debut in the friendly vs BBCU on Saturday), and the youthful 18-year old Thai-British Patrick Bentley, who grew up in Australia.

Both players are a total mystery to Port fans, so The Sandpit met up with them for a chat to find out more about two players who might be the future not just of Port FC, but also of the Thai national team…

 


You both have Thai nationality but grew up overseas. What is your experience of Thailand?

NH – I’ve been here on vacation many times with family. I was adopted when I was 18 months, so I’ve been back here with my Swedish parents to visit the orphanage. 

PB – I’ve been here every year since I was born to visit my mum’s side of the family.

And what’s been the hardest thing about adjusting to life here?

PB – Every foreign player has to get used to the weather. Playing in the humidity is hard. We’re used to the heat in Australia but not the humidity.

 

Tell us how you both got started in football and where you played before coming to Port.

PB – I grew up in Sydney, and I played in the Youth Premier League for a team called Manly Utd. Then I moved to a team called APIA Leichhardt where I played U18s and U20s in the NSW Premier League. I look at myself as a defensive midfielder, but I’ve also played centre back and right-back – I’ve been playing right back in training with Port. But I’ve been a defensive midfielder for the last 10 years. My dad is from Manchester and played football so I’ve been playing since I was 5. I didn’t have a choice. All my friends in Australia started playing rugby & cricket, but I stuck to football.

NH – I started playing with a local team in the suburbs of Stockholm, then got scouted by Brommapojkarna’s academy and joined the U15s, went through all the youth teams, and signed professional terms in 2015. I tried ice hockey for a couple of years but chose football when I was about 12 because I was better at it.

You were coached by Sweden legend Olof Mellberg. What was it like working with him?

NH – It was an experience. He has a long career behind him and I learnt a lot from him.

You’re a central defender but I believe you also like to play right back…

NH – I’ve been a central defender all my career but a couple of years back I started to play right back. In Sweden my height is nothing special, but in Thailand I’m tall, so in Thailand I’ll probably be more of a central defender.

 

 

 

How do you compare football in Thailand to the football you grew up with?

NH – In Thailand possession changes very often. They just get the ball and run. I still have the Swedish mentality of keeping shape and holding the line which doesn’t happen in Thailand. In Sweden we have 3 months of pre-season so we learn to hold our shape.

PB – Non-stop counter-attacking, that’s what I’ve noticed. 

NH – Communication on the pitch is also a problem. Thai players aren’t used to being vocal and maybe they get annoyed with me shouting at them! But somebody has to do it.

PB – In Australia we’re more patient. We spend a lot of time on tactics – I don’t know if it’s beneficial or not but some sessions we just work on positioning, off and on the ball. It was a bit of a shock as here it’s just non-stop backwards & forwards, it really tests your fitness. It’s a lot quicker and more direct than I’m used to.

Do you think if a team started using the more European possession style in Thailand they’d be successful?

PB: I don’t think so.

NH: Yes I think so. If your defence is organised, and you have a good offence, when the other team doesn’t play defence it’s easier for you.

PB – I guess so, but you win some & you lose some. Australia played Thailand recently and drew, were expected to win but should’ve lost. Thailand dominated the game and deserved to win. Yes they played counter-attack but they did it intelligently. It’s no less intelligent, it’s just a different style of football – it’s faster, quicker & more direct. Thailand took Australia by surprise.

 

Have you been brought to Port for the future or will you get lots of first team action this season?

NH – I don’t know yet. We haven’t talked about it.

PB – I guess it’s up to the coach – he expects everything from every single player, every player needs to be ready.

 

What was the process of joining Port?

NH – My agent had a couple of offers from Thailand – I can’t tell you who the others were! – and it all happened very quickly. We flew down, did a medical, and that was it.

PB – Port first approached me about a year ago via my mum’s friend who knows someone at the club. They invited me for a trial last year but I wanted to finish my last year of high school first, so I came here in January this year for a trial and got a contract.

And what were your first impressions of Port?

PB – Very welcoming, everyone greeted me and made me welcome. Noone made me feel left out. 

NH – I’d already spoken to Elias (Dolah) and he said it was a great club & a good place to be, and when I arrived everyone was very welcoming. The captain, Rochela,  he called me when I arrived and invited me to come down to training, and he was really welcoming.

PB – I was surprised by the big turnout for the friendlies. The fans are so passionate and friendly, they already knew my name, they come up & take pictures & ask for autographs. I’ve never had that before!

 

 

Niran, you scored in front of Zone B on your debut, in the friendly against BBCU. How did that feel?

NH – It felt great, starting my first game at home and just trying to get a feel of Thai football and playing with new players…I felt good, I played well I think. I hadn’t played a game in 2 months so my timing’s a bit out – I feel physically fit but the timing isn’t quite there yet. But it was great to get a goal!

 

Which other Port players have you been most impressed with?

NH & PB (simultaneously, without hesitating) – Suarez!

NH – There’s something special about him, he’s got great passing & vision. He’s on a different level.

PB – I also look up to Rochela a lot – his composure, his decision-making, everything about him on & off the pitch. He’s a role model, that’s why he’s our captain because he leads by example.

 

What are the club’s ambitions for this season? Top half, mid-table, or avoid relegation?

PB – Aim as high as possible, that’s what I’m hearing from the coach, Madame Pang, all the players. What kind of team would we be if we only aimed for mid-table?

What about your personal ambitions?

NH – For me, I signed a 3-year contract, so I think they have a plan for me to stay and as long as I’m comfortable I’m happy to stay. It’s good for my development to play with players like Rochela and Elias.

PB – I’ve also signed a 3-year contract. We’re both quite young, and they don’t want to just sign us then see us leave after a year. It’s a perfect club to develop with experienced guys like Rochela and national Thai players, so who knows where the next 3 years will take me?

NH – I’m here to play so I want to get into the first team as soon as possible and play as many games as I can.

PB – I’ve already achieved one of my dreams since moving to Thailand. 10 years ago my dad took me to see Thailand play at Rajamangala, and after the game we got into the pitch and my dad said “Maybe one day you’ll be playing here” – then last week I was training there with Port! I hope I’ll get to play an actual game there one day.

 

What kind of social life do the players have? Do they go out partying together?

PB – I wouldn’t know, I’m 2 years underage!

NH – I hang out with Elias.

PB – We all eat together pre-and post-training. They’re a great bunch of lads, and we all have the same goal which is to do well for the team.

NH – For me it’s 100% football. I try to do rehab in the morning, stay in the pool, just take care of myself.

PB – We don’t have that much free time, just a day off each week. When I’m not training I just eat, rest & stretch.

 

As young footballers, which famous players do you most admire or look up to?

NH – Steven Gerrard. He was a leader on the pitch, scored a lot of goals. He’s a real role model.

PB – I’m a massive United fan (NH groans) – not by choice! From my dad. So I’d say Paul Scholes, Giggs, Carrick – Carrick is my favourite player of all time, I’ve looked up to him all my life and I model my play on him. He’s very underrated and you don’t notice him on the pitch but he makes a massive difference. And I also really like Ander Herrera.

 


It’s heartening to see Port signing up potential stars of the future on long contracts, and both Niran and Pat seem to be very level-headed, ambitious young players who will – hopefully – be a big success at Port. Certainly – if his performance against BBCU is any indication – Niran will be making his full debut sooner rather than later. The Sandpit wishes them both well for the future.

 

Many thanks to Niran and Pat for taking the time to meet with us. Thanks to Max and Joe at The Sportsman Bangkok for hosting us. Interview by Tim Russell & Dominick Cartwright. Photos by Tim Russell. 

 

Patchy Port Pip Plucky Pink Panthers: Port FC 3-2 BBCU FC

 

Port rounded off their preparations for the 2017 T1 season yesterday with a win against an impressive BBCU side – their 5th consecutive friendly win, making optimism high for the new season.

Before the game, The Sandpit team whored ourselves around the dressing room waited on the touchline to hand over our donations to the club’s Khlong Thoey fire appeal, where we were able to have a chat to Maranhao, sporting some rather worrying ankle strapping, and the affable A, aka Mr Pang, who confirmed that Asdrubal’s knee gave way in training on Friday and that he’s heading back to Spain as a result. He added that the club may try and bring in another foreigner before the weekend, and asked us if we wanted a trial. I think he was joking, but Tom was stripped down ready for action within seconds (hopefully the last time I will have to write those words this season).

After the obligatory charity photoshoot (more on our fire appeal tomorrow by the way), it was time to procure further supplies of Leo and take our seats in Zone B for the game. BBCU may have been relegated by the mid-season break last year but they look fit and hungry for immediate promotion this time, bolstered by the signing of French forward Romain Gasmi, whom some if you will remember from our games with Chiang Mai last season.

Gasmi is a Thiago-level irritant, the difference being he’s also a talented and hardworking footballer, and he showed both sides of his character in the first half. After starting a fight with Dolah, who made it clear that this was a most unwise course of action, he followed it up with a stunning 35th-minute free kick which beat Weera at his near post. Weera, who once again spent 45 minutes showing just why he’s third-choice keeper, should probably have saved it, but it was a wonderful – or-Gasmi-c even – strike.

A mostly 2nd/3rd-string Port were already a goal up by that point, Ekkapoom bombing down the wing, leaving defenders for dead and delivering a pinpoint cross to the back stick for Wuttichai to convert on 15 minutes. As we would see again in the last minute, Port finally have players who can cross a ball, and players who can convert said crosses into goals. Wonders never cease.

The Inspector Clouseaus probably had the best of the first half, but were continually denied by a steely Commissioner Dreyfus of a defence, marshalled by the increasingly impressive Dolah and his fellow Thai-Swede, Niran Hansson. Little is known about Hansson and he was expected to be one for the future, but the ease with which he slotted into Port’s defence yesterday suggests we’ll see him in the first team sooner rather than later. Built like a brick sauna, comfortable on the ball and not afraid to get stuck in, Hansson can also play at RB and may have just leapfrogged the competition to win a place on the bench for Saturday. Look out for our interview with him coming next week.

He further helped his cause 15 minutes into the second half when he bundled the ball into the net after a goalmouth scramble to put Port 2-1 up. The lead didn’t last long when Port gave away a penalty – please don’t expect me to give you details of things that happen in front of Zone D when I’m standing in Zone B – which our friend Gasmi converted to make it 2-2.

Port were looking rather aimless at this point, rarely threatening BBCU’s goal and new striker Danudech Trimongkolchok, aka Jar Jar Binks, failing once again to impress – I certainly don’t think he left the door ajar-jar for regular first team action.

With around 10 minutes to go, Jadet decided to put the hammer down and send on the big cheeses, with the likes of Rochela, Kaludjerovic, Pakorn and Sivakorn sweeping majestically onto the pitch, and in the 89th minute it paid off when a wonderful cross from Pakorn was sent the back of the net by a bullet header from Kalu, who looks like the proper striker we’ve been crying out for for so long.

It was just a shame that we didn’t get to see Port’s starting XI play together longer, as they look very impressive. Solid at the back, with the excellent Wanchalerm, clearly an expert in football’s dark arts, sitting in front of the back four; dynamic on the wings, especially when Pinyo took his place on the left; and lively up front, with Suarez orchestrating attacks from the midfield. I hope I’m not putting the usual Russell curse on things by saying that I think we will have an enjoyable and hopefully successful 2017. Bring on Ratchaburi!

 

Adios! Injured Asdrubal Returns to Spain

 

Sad news from Port today as the club announced that big name Spanish signing Asdrubal Padron has had his contract terminated after picking up a serious injury in training. It seems that the player, who hasn’t looked fully fit since joining Port in January, broke down in training with an injury that could keep him out for up to a year, so the club had no option but to let him go, given his rumoured salary.

From what little we saw of him in a Port shirt, and on Youtube, he looked like he would have been a very useful player at T1 level, but now we will never know. So it seems like Maranhao, who has been on fire during the pre-season friendlies, will get his chance after all. Rumours that he is helping Asdrubal with his packing before driving him to Suvarnabhumi are as yet unconfirmed.

 

Ratch of the Day: Port Kick Off 2017 Season vs the Dragons

 

Like a burlesque dancer slowly removing garment after garment, in front of an audience baying to see the full monty, the Thai FA revealed the first 3 weeks of T1 games yesterday. Oh, you saucy old teases you.

As you can see on our Fixtures page, which we intend to be THE most up-to-date and informative Port FC fixture list on the web (in a not particularly competitive field), Port kick off the T1 season at the bizarre but acceptable time of 5.45pm on Saturday 11 Feb at the PAT. The game was originally scheduled to be played at the Sugardome, aka the Mitr Phol Stadium in Ratchaburi, but the club have been unable to complete their erection on time, so the game has been switched to the hallowed turf of Khlong Thoey. It’s also the very first game of the T1 season so if we win, we’ll go straight to the top of the league.

Port then have another home game on Sunday 19 Feb at 7pm against Suphanburi, before making the epic journey to Rangsit on 25 Feb to take on Bangkok Utd.

In a similar vein, Port released a teaser video of the 2017 shirt yesterday. From what little we can see, the shirt appears to have a grandad collar (which will suit various Sandpit readers), simple orange & blue stripes, and a sexy black trim & sleeves. Check out the header image to get a taste of what Khlong Thoey’s fashionistas will be wearing this April, when the shirt will no doubt finally be available in the club shop.

 

 

The Sandpit Predicts… 2017 Starting XI

 

We’ve seen all sorts of experimentation so far in pre-season, but with just two weeks to go until the 2017 season gets underway, we think we have a pretty good idea of who will be taking the field to face Rachaburi on February 11th.
We’re going to show you predicted starting XIs from Sandpitters Dom and Tom, as well as goal.com. All three take the 4-2-3-1 formation that has been used throughout pre-season as their template.

 

 

Dom has gone for Worawut (36) in goal, backing the ‘keeper who has played the majority of games over the last two seasons to hold on to his place in the side. He likes Rattanai (17) as a quality back-up option but says he will be cowering behind the Zone B drums if Weera gets anywhere near the pitch.

In defence, Rochela (22), Dolah (40) and Meechok (20) are almost certainties, whilst Dom thinks that Panpanpong (19) will edge out Piyachart (23) for the left back spot due to his more solid defending.

In central midfield, Siwakorn (16) partners Wanchalerm Yingyong, who Dom thinks could be preferred to youngster Tatchanon (27). An attacking trio of Genki (18), Suarez (4) and Pakorn (9) will provide ammunition for Kaluderovic (10), who Dom backs to edge out Asdrubal (24) as first choice striker.

 

 

Tom thinks that Rattanai (17) has done enough to earn himself a starting spot in 2017. The ‘keeper who played in the crucial cup games against Muangthong last season as well as the key league game against Ubon UMT has looked more comfortable with his feet this pre-season, which Tom thinks makes him slightly preferable to Worawut (36). He also thinks that Weera will be back-up to the back-up.

Rochela (22), Dolah (40), and Meechok (20) are again the obvious choices in defence, although Tom fancies that the more attacking left back – Piyachart (23) – will be preferred to Panpanpong (19) as he thinks Port have looked short of attacking ideas when Panpanpong and Genki (18) have played together on the left.

In midfield Siwakorn (16) is partnered by young newcomer Tatchanon (27), who Tom thinks has played his way in to Jadet’s plans since his arrival from Army. He has looked disciplined and consistent, even earning the praise of David Rochela in The Sandpit’s recent interview with the Port skipper.

Genki (18) will be selected ahead of Ekkapoom (8) on the left wing, although Tom thinks that against weaker opposition the more attacking Ekkapoom could well be favoured. Suarez (4) and Pakorn (9) will complete the attacking midfield, while Kaluderovic (10) will be tasked with scoring the goals to fire Port up the table.

 

 

goal.com have made the surprising choice of Weera in goal. Whilst he has played plenty of pre-season minutes, we would be surprised if he was on the bench, let alone on the pitch in two weeks time. Maybe the guys at goal.com know something we don’t!

In defence, it’s once again Rochela (22), Dolah (40), Meechok (20), with Panpanpong (19) getting the nod at left back.

Siwakorn (16) partners Tatchanon (27), with the usual trio of Genki (18), Suarez (4) and Pakorn (9) ahead of them. Up front, Kaluderovic (10) is expected to be Jadet’s favoured option.

The Certainties

Putting the possibility of injuries to one side, there are 7 pretty-much nailed on starters in 2017. Rochela and Dolah will start in central defence, and Meechok will retain his place at right back. Siwakorn will fill one of the two central midfield roles, while Suarez will be used either as an attacking midfielder or a more withdrawn role. Wherever he plays, he will be starting. Pakorn will be right-winger, and we’re pretty sure that Genki will hold off Ekkapoom to start on the left wing, although perhaps this should be in its’ own ‘not-quite certainty’ category.

The Question Marks

It’s a three way battle in goal, as illustrated by our choices. Either Worawut, Rattanai or Weera could be selected, although The Sandpit thinks that Worawut and Rattanai are far more likely options.

Panpanpong is probably a slight favourite to Piyachart at left back. He has been picked for most of the friendlies, although his performances have been less than inspiring. Piyachart, on the other hand, has been playing with the second string, but putting himself in to contention with some excellent displays.

In central midfield, there are many options for Jadet to choose from. We think that Tatchanon might be a slight favourite to start, but Piyachat (28), Wanchalerm and Siwapong are all realistic alternatives.

Up front, all three XIs chose Kaluderovic, but it could well still be Astrubal who is preferred. The Spaniard looked lively and technically very good on his brief debut appearance, but the reason we give Kaluderovic a slight edge is the ease with which he scored his two debut goals. He looked like a natural goal-poacher, and that is likely to be what Jadet is after from his lone forward.

Let us know if you agree or disagree with our selections in the comments section below!

 

MATCH REPORT: Port FC 2-0 Nakhon Ratchasima

Port overcame Nakhon Ratchasima 2-0 on Sunday to extend their pre-season winning streak to three games. Port endured a tough first half, suffering numerous injury scares, but came back strongly in the second half to win the game with two goals from a red-hot Maranhao.

Port lined up with Rattanai (17) in goal and a back four of Rochela (22), Dolah (40), Meechok (20) and Suchon (11). Piyachat (28) was given a start alongside Siwakorn (16) in central midfield, with Suarez (4) once again playing a more advanced role just behind striker Kaluderovic (10). Pakorn (9) and Genki (18) took their usual places on the wings.

Korat started brightly, with Ghanaian international forward Dominic Adiyiah (10) causing Port all sorts of problems with his pace and skill. Port’s defence held firm, but the midfield was caught out a few times trying to do too much with the ball and losing possession in dangerous areas.

Siwakorn Is Carried Off

Korat couldn’t find a way through, with Rochela and Dolah martialling a strong back line, but after 9 minutes of sustained pressure Port suffered a blow potentially much more serious than conceding a goal. Midfield maestro Siwakorn picked up a nasty-looking injury to his right leg and was piggy-backed off the pitch, unable to even limp. Young midfielder Tatchanon (27) came on in his place. Port will be hoping the injury isn’t as serious as it looked, as Siwakorn is set to play a key role in Port’s starting XI this season.

Just 10 minutes later, disaster seemed to have struck again. Rochela went for a brave header just as Adiyiah was attempting a bicycle kick, but beating Adiyiah to the ball came at the price of taking a brutal boot full to the face. Rochela seemed to be out cold for a few moments, but with the help of both the Port and Korat physios, he regained consciousness and walked gingerly off the pitch, being replaced by Todsapol (6). Port’s captain should be back to full fitness for the opening game of the season, but he will be carrying a battle scar with him when he meets The Sandpit on Monday for our very first exclusive interview!

Rochel-Ouch!

Port still weren’t done with injuries yet, though. Both Meechok and Kaluderovic were replaced before half time, although neither looked to be particularly serious. Nitipong (34) came on for Meechok at right back, while Maranhao (29) replaced Kaluderovic up front.

The one bright spot in an otherwise disappointing first half was goalkeeper Rattanai. The youngster made some good saves, claimed a couple of tricky crosses and looked more comfortable with the ball at his feet than he did last season.

Port held out to go in 0-0 at half time, but they probably deserved to be a goal or two down against an impressive-looking Korat.

The second half brought with it another round of substitutions, and the tide began to turn in Port’s favour. Pakorn was inches away from the top corner with a sweetly-struck free kick, and Ekkapoom (8), who has had a bright pre-season, once again looked lively after replacing Genki. Maranhao was to be the one who really made the difference, though

His first goal came in the 66th minute after a long spell of possession. Port worked the ball out to the right hand side, where Pakorn laid the ball back to Nitipong, who fizzed in a dangerous cross. Maranhao got ahead of his marker and glanced his header past the Korat ‘keeper in to the far corner. He received a booking for his hilarious celebration – taking his shirt off and showing Zone B some choice dance moves – but Maranhao didn’t care.

Minutes later he added a second goal, this time of his own making. Maranhao ran at the Korat left-back, who tried to stop him with a desperate lunge. The referee pointed to the spot, and the confident Brazilian took the penalty himself, calmly sending the ‘keeper the wrong way.

Maranhao – not for the first time this pre-season – looked like Port’s best player when was brought on, prompting questions as to why he hasn’t yet found another club. Surely a player of his ability should be in high demand if not in T1 then at least in T2. Is there another reason he’s still here? With new striker Asdrubal on the bench but not featuring at all for the last two games, some fans have been speculating that the door could could still be open for Maranhao to make a shock return, but at this stage with the foreign player quota filled, that is just speculation.

Port continued to look dangerous throughout the final 20 minutes, but Maranhao could not complete his hattrick with a tricky half-chance from the edge of the area.

Port can be happy with the 2 – 0 win and their first clean sheet of the year, although the first half performance and the injuries were both causes for concern. They will continue their preparation with an away game on Saturday 28th January at PTT Rayong, where Port will hope to extend their winning streak to four games and avoid further injuries.

MATCH REPORT: Port FC 3-1 Pattaya United

 

Port secured a comfortable 3 – 1 win against Pattaya United, thanks to a clinical first half performance. New signing Kaluderovic looked the business, notching his first two goals on his debut. Pattaya struck back, before Genki added a third goal late in the first half to seal Port’s second consecutive friendly victory against T1 opponents.

Port started with Worawut (36) in goal, and the same back four that has started the last few friendlies: Rochela (22), Dolah (4), Meechok (20) and Panpanpong (19). Suarez (15) played in an advanced role just behind striker Kaluderovic (10), with Siwakorn (16) and Tatchanon (27) anchoring the midfield. Pakorn (9) played on the right wing, and Genki (18) on the left.

Pattaya looked lively in the early going, but had no real bite to their attack. Rochela and Dolah were fairly busy, but did what was asked of them with relative ease.

20 year old new signing Tatchanon had his best game to date at the base of the midfield, keeping the ball moving without ever looking like losing possession, and spreading the play with a couple of excellent long balls out to the flanks.

The even younger Meechok was also a revelation down the right. At times in the first half, the right back seemed to be playing a more advanced role than right winger Pakorn, so it was no surprise when his good work led to the opening goal. Meechok’s run down the right was expertly picked out by a lofted Siwakorn pass, and the right back played the ball across the six yard box where Kaluderovic swept home with ease from close range.

Spot the scoreboard #fail

Just a few minutes later, the same three combined to score a second. Meechok, pressing high up the pitch, intercepted a pass in midfield and the ball broke to Siwakorn who played a well-weighted through-ball for Kaluderovic to run on to. The Serbian made no mistake with a classy outside-of-the-boot finish to make it 2 debut goals and 2-0 to Port. Whilst neither goal was particularly special, the way they were taken seemed effortless. We don’t want to jinx it, but this might be the first time since the legendary Leandro that Port have had a foreign striker who makes scoring goals look easy!

Pattaya soon got themselves back in to the game, though. After a fortuitous richochet on the edge of the area, a Pattaya forward reacted quicker than the Port defence and managed to force the ball past an onrushing Worawut to bring Pattaya back within a goal.

Port were still playing the better football of the two sides, though, so it was probably a fair reflection of the first half that they went in 3-1 up. Kaluderovic was once again involved, this time turning well under pressure in the middle of the park before releasing Suarez down the left with a pinpoint pass. Suarez could easily have gone for goal himself, but unselfishly squared the ball to Genki who got ahead of his marker to score the tap-in.

It was an important goal for the Japanese player, who few have been expecting to stay with Port in 2017. Nevertheless, with less than a month to go he finds himself starting with Jadet’s first choice side, whilst no rumours of an AFC replacement are anywhere to be seen. It’s looking increasingly likely that Genki could retain his place in the squad, although there is of course still time for that to change.

The liveliest player of an otherwise pretty dour second half was Port’s other left winger, Ekkapoom (8). Port, once again, brought out an almost entirely different XI. Rattanai (17) came on in goal, and Nitipong (34), Anisong (31) and Piyachart (23) joined Dolah – the only player to stay out – in defence. Wanchalerm (35) and Piyachat (28) played in central midfield, with Ekkapoom wide left and Maranhao (29) wide right. Wuttichai (14) partnered (5) Tana, playing his first game after a lengthy spell out injured, in a conventional front two.

Whilst the two strikers both looked a little off the pace, the wingers looked busy and dangerous. Ekkapoom and Maranhao both hit the post after creating excellent chances for themselves, but neither could add to Port’s lead.

Midway trough the second period, left back Piyachart picked up a knock and was replaced by Suchon (11), but the substitution that got everyone talking was the introduction of Pinyo (21) late on in the half. Pinyo was injured for almost the whole of last season, but now finally seems to be getting an opportunity to prove his fitness. He came on for Ekkapoom in the 80th minute, and looked enthusiastic, although understandably short of match-sharpness.

Little else of interest happened in the second half, meaning Port claimed another confidence boosting victory against top-tier opposition. If they can secure another victory against Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday, Port will be heading in to their opening game of the season against Rachaburi full of belief that they can cause an upset.