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On The (ACL) Road Again: Port FC 3-1 Ratchaburi

 

The billing had this as a Champions League decider, second vs. third in a slugfest, as the division’s two most prolific sides met to decide who would bag a place in the group stage. Except it didn’t work out that way, if the expectations were for Hagler v Hearns, what we got was something closer to Floyd Mayweather Jr. Port out thought Ratchaburi, with the Dragons barely able to land a blow of note over the course of the contest. Admittedly the opposition was greatly weakened as an attacking force, due to the suspension of winger Steeven Langil (11) and leading scorer Yannick Boli (10) being benched. With Boli’s transfer to Port supposedly already a done deal, there had been much discussion regarding what role, if any, he’d take against his future employers. Yet, even with an injury to striker Patino (20) forcing their final substitution after 65 minutes and the game drifting away from them, the Ratchaburi bench turned to local striker Sittichok (24) rather than Boli. Statement made, l guess.

Port themselves made a number of changes, with Kevin (23) suspended Steuble (15) came in. While an injury to Bordin (10) meant that Adisak (9) would start wide on the left. Also out was Dolah (4), replaced by Sandpit favourite (and surely soon to lose that tag) Tanaboon (71), who was actually rather good.

 

Tanaboon, back from injury and looking sharp. pic Allie Suwanrumpha

 

To continue the boxing analogy, Port in recent years have tactically been a slugger happy to simply stand toe to toe with the opposition and trade blows, in the knowledge that more often than not their attacking prowess would deliver a knockout. However, since Oud took over, slowly a new Port has emerged; one with tactics and a game plan seemingly designed for each opponent’s style and key men. No longer a collection of individuals lacking a system to excel, slowly they’ve morphed into a team, more about the system and collective hard work than individual flair. It’s all very strange and most unPorty.

 

Port finally a team with a system pic Allie Suwanrumpha

 

The rhythm of the match was soon established, Port would dominate possession, happy to probe at the opposition (who seemed equally happy to risk little and try and hit on the break). There were long periods of both teams feeling each other out before occasional the game would spring to life, typified by Port’s two first half goals. Firstly Nitipong (34) played a ball to Pakorn (7) and there’s a quick one-two with Suarez (5) that leaves Roller (33) and Yeo (5) out of position. Pakorn beats a defender creating an area of space for Adisak, who gets a couple of yards on Pawee (39) and with the goal machine bearing down on the keeper, there is only one outcome. 1-0 Port. The second comes at the conclusion of a spell of Port possession as the ball was moved repeatedly across the backline. Throughout the match Suarez, Go (8) and Siwakorn (16) would drop back to play as a libero, attempting to draw an extra opposition player out and allow the quick break. Here over more than twenty passes each of the three would at different points be the deepest and most advanced midfielder. With Suarez deepest, and after a minute of possession,  the break out occurs quickly down the left, leading to a ball infield to Adisak, who exchanges touches with Bonilla, after 27 passes a Ratchaburi player finally gets to the ball but only succeeds in returning it to Bonilla and Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeee of his marker the El Salvadorian makes it 2-0 with a smart finish.

The second half continues in the same vein as the first, Port have more of the ball but aren’t creating more than the odd long shot. For Ratchaburi Karaboue (18) is busy, but without Boli and Langil there is seldom an outlet for him, as the away team struggle to create an opening of note, reduced to their own hopeful long shots and crosses to a striker stuck on the bench. Adisak and Steuble have the better of Roller and Nurul (35), who’s return to Port was pretty uneventful and saw him subbed off inside the hour.

 

 

Go advances with the ball pic Allie Suwanrumpha

 

The comfortable mood however is broken after 73 mins. Karaboue plays in Eakkaluck (17) who attempts to cut the ball back from the touchline 10 yards wide of goal. Worawut/Baresi (24) makes a sliding block and seemingly puts the ball out for a corner. However, in so doing the ball has bounced off his leg and into his arm. There’s zero intent but its undeniably a penalty under the current laws. A terrible rule, enforced by an even worse system of investigation. However, right now we are stuck with both. What we shouldn’t be stuck with is a process that takes over 3 minutes to award the penalty. One view of the incident is all it should have taken, 15 seconds to make the decision and be done with VAR. Instead some 4 ½ minutes after the incident, Roller finally stepped up to send Worawut/keeper (36) the wrong way and bring the game back to life. In days past this would be the moment Port’s self-sabotaging tendencies came to the fore and we’d be lucky to escape with a draw. Ratchaburi ears pricked, did they up their game or was it the lingering fear of times past, tricking us that every Ratchaburi touch was about to lead to the equalizer. Murmers of worry could be heard from the terraces “operation…… something?” But Oud’s Port is made of stronger stuff and rode out the temporary storm and set about finding a third.

Substitutes Tanasith (11) and Nattawut (45) came close before in the last minute Siwakorn’s shot across goal received the merest of touches from Nattawut to send the ball past the keeper and though Yeo’s legs to seal the win against his former club. There was still time for Ratchaburi to create a great chance for Karaboue but Worawut/keeper was able to pull off a wonder save. That it was their first major chance from open play, sums up Port’s efforts. A 3-1 win against a team that is a worthy third. Who given the chance plays some of the nicest attacking football in the league but here were made to look ordinary. The defence was again solid, the run of clean sheets is over but they haven’t conceded a goal from open play since just after half time in the game at Rayong, nearly 600 minutes of league football has pasted since. Playing against several teams in and around the champions leagues places and a derby, to have won them all has been a fantastic effort.


Man of the Match

 

Always dependable and always puts a shift in MOTM Steuble

 

This was the epitome of a team performance, the system and tactics were a 10, individually nobody really excelled, and nobody had a poor game, 7s and 8s across the board. So, the award goes to Steuble, not often a fullback gets the award but off the back next to no game time, he came in shut down Roller, did everything that was asked of him and contributed going forward and had a hand in the second goal.

 

WE ARE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE (group stage)

 

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.

 

Bizarre Love(less) Triangle – Port, Heberty and The Sandpit

 

It was a move that generated a lot of buzz in the pre-season, and I’m not going to lie: I was quite excited initially when Brazilian attacker Heberty was signed. That being said, my initial excitement then became “wait, how will we fit him in!?” to “oh, for goodness sake, he’s killing our attacking movement.” The early signs courtesy of the Leo Pre-season Cup weren’t too good, but despite us not looking all that convincing, we still managed to pick up a [completely pointless] piece of silverware. More silverware beckoned surely!?

What I saw during pre-season from Heberty wasn’t good. He looked moody, somewhat disinterested, and to me, he was disruptive to the team. The incessant shots from 40-yards that didn’t stand a chance of hitting the back of the net, his unwillingness to make a simple 5-yard pass to a teammate in favour of spraying a 40-yard pass that was intercepted or lacked direction: he frustrated me to no end. It’s been blatantly obvious for years that we’d needed a ‘scary foreign striker’ and let’s be honest: Heberty isn’t that. He’s an attacking midfielder, and we already had a brilliant attacking-midfielder in the form of one Sergio Suarez. Whilst it’s probably fair (to some) to say that Heberty is a better player, there’s something that Suarez is far better at: working with his teammates! Shock, horror, exactly the thing you’d expect from someone playing that position.

Don’t get me wrong, the statistics attached to Heberty’s time in Thailand are impressive prior to arriving in Klong Toei:

 

 

 

When you factor in the 29 assists that he’s credited with for the 2018 and 2019 seasons for Muangthong, it’s obvious that his [statistical] output was phenomenal.

During his two 2 spells in Thailand, he won a solitary Thai League Cup in 2017 with Muangthong, as well as the Mekong Club Championship in 2017: a moment that would surely be the pinnacle of any player’s career.

 

A surly celebration after scoring away at Trat. Presumably shhhhing some home fans.

 

It goes to show how statistics don’t show the whole truth. For all of his stat-padding, he’s never truly achieved any measure of success in his career, and the way he plays (for himself, not for his team) is the very reason that he’s stuck playing in Thailand, and not still playing in Japan or the Middle-East.

 

Heberty looking miserable playing for Ratchaburi

 

During his time at the club, Heberty scored 7 goals in 11 appearances, in his latest showing of blatant stat-padding. He was a part of our disastrous Asian Champions League campaign that ended before it was able to start, and he was also credited with 2 assists on Transfermarkt, so I’ll mention that too.

What I felt of his performances for the club was this:

The goals and assists may suggest he had a huge role for the team, but our attack was disjointed, and it was 100% because of him. His insistence that everything had to go through him meant we missed out on plenty of goal-scoring opportunities. That said, there was moments against Trat and Rayong where I thought he was quite fantastic, possibly even turning things around, before being disappointed by him the next time he stepped onto the pitch for us.

 

I thought he liked them? Seemingly forlorn at signing for Muangthong.

 

It’s no secret that we’ve looked a much better side without him in the line-up, with it appearing that we’re now much more balanced. Bordin is now giving every fullback in Thailand nightmares, and is certainly benefiting from receiving the ball a bit more often. Every member of the squad is pulling their weight during the game, nobody is shirking their defensive duties, and our performances can almost be described as ‘workmanlike’ at times under Coach Oink.

I don’t think for a single second that this would’ve been possible with Heberty still at the club. You know what they say, though: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. After departing Port, there was supposed interest from China (I’m calling bollocks on that one), before perennial under-achievers Bangkok United decided to sign him. Considering he looked miserable to be playing for a club with a stadium atmosphere that’s almost unrivaled in Thailand, at least there’ll be no fans at the Thammasat Stadium to be disappointed with his apparent lack of enthusiasm to be at their club.

Also, with the way that their players behave on matchday, he should fit right in, but in a completely different way, which I guess will make a nice change for neutral viewers that are searching for new reasons to not like Bangkok United. Just watch the way they attempt to intimidate the referee, scream bloody murder when they dive and don’t receive a penalty: you’ll be given plenty of reasons to not like them within the first 30-minutes.

 

This one I can understand. I’d have a bit of a strop on too, if I’d just had to take a big pay cut.

 

Shopping Boli

With the departure confirmed, a foreign spot has opened up, and the rumours say practically unanimously that it will be filled by Ivorian striker Yannick Boli. If Boli is to arrive it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Nelson Bonilla, who has looked incredible since his return from injury. If we’re to sign Boli, and keep Bonilla, I’m honestly excited by the goal-scoring options that we’d have on our books. Throw Adisak into the equation (sorry Tom) and there’s depth that is probably unrivaled league-wide.

Also departing the club, as mentioned in a previous article, is the incredibly likeable and all round good guy Josimar. I’ll never forget his goal last season against the Scum, as I was on an eight hour ferry ride back home. I’m surprised that I didn’t wake anyone with my celebrations of the goal, and I envy every person that was in Zone B for that special moment. I hope he’s picked up by a fellow T1 side, so that we can give him a proper send-off and express our gratitude.

 

Dolah In The Bank

In much brighter news: Elias has re-signed with the club! I was quite concerned that we were going to lose him, and I’m pleased that we’ve locked him in for the next two-and-a-half years. That goal-line save in the derby on Wednesday was a nice reminder of just how important he is to us and may be the catalyst for inspiring a big second-leg for him. If Nishino wants to win a few things with Thailand, he’d be wise to drop the ticking time-bomb Manuel Bihr and start Dolah ahead of him. Just my two cents!

With the mid-season window ahead of us, I’m sure there’s plenty of excitement [and possibly a cluster-youknowwhat] around the corner that will have us all scratching our heads. With the team looking fantastic at the moment, I’d like to see minimal changes, though I expect we may see a few of the fringe players depart on loan-deals at the very least.

With vendors allowed back at PAT for the recent FA Cup game, and performances on the pitch consistently good: there’s plenty of reasons to be excited.

 

Note From The Editor

We know plenty of you liked Heberty, so if you’d like to write a riposte with a different opinion on his time at Port, get in touch. If you like you can do it without your name appearing, as this author did.

 

see ya grumpy

 

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!

 

FA Cup Final Moved to Leo Stadium

 

The Thai FA have upped the stakes in their quest to make as much of a mess as possible of the FA Cup Final, today announcing that the game will be moved from Army Stadium to BG Pathum Thani’s Leo Stadium. Yes, the Chang FA Cup Final will be held at Leo Stadium. Whatever will we drink?

If you’ve been frantically searching Wikipedia for details on the new location, don’t believe your lying eyes. Leo Stadium did used to have a capacity of roughly 16,000, but since renovations changed it to an all-seater stadium that capacity is now just 9,000. There’s no word on exactly how much the allocations will be, but you can be sure that with such a small capacity, a big chunk of Port fans will not be sitting in the Port ends.

The one thing the Thai FA haven’t yet managed to muck up is Port’s opponents, though. We’re still playing Ratchaburi, and that means we’re still big old favourites to lift the cup, and playing in front of 3 stands and a small forest in Pathum Thani doesn’t change that.

The relocation gives us a chance to revisit a watering hole we haven’t seen in more than a year; The Rabbit Bar had better stock up, because Port fans are coming and we’re thirsty.

Now that we’ve had our stadium moved, we can expect tickets to be on sale any day now. although of course there’s still no official word on when. We’re keeping our ears to the ground, and we advise you to do the same. See you in Pathum Thani on November 2nd!

 

Playing Ratch-up: Ratchaburi FC vs. Port FC Preview

 

Port face their worst crisis this season, having suffered their third loss on the trot last Sunday. Before we get too down on ourselves though, it’s also worth pointing out that it’s our only crisis this season. Port had enjoyed the best start to a season in recent memory, and until just three matches ago, were top of T1. Having been beaten by champs Buriram – predictably if you weren’t getting swept away with the unlikely predictions that we would be champions – the next loss against high-flying Samut Prakan hurt more, and the third against a particularly objectionable Chiang Rai side more still. But remember, all three of these sides are currently in the top 4. Yes, we lost 3 consecutive games, but it’s not the end of the world. We’re not going to be champions, but an AFC place is very much still within our reach.

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Three is the Magic Number: Port FC 3-2 Ratchaburi FC

 

Saturday 24th February saw Port in a strange scenario. What’s the scenario? Top of the league and two wins from two games. We all know two games into a season you can’t tell that much about a team, but more important than the two wins has been the style of the victories. Port have fought and looked good in both matches. PAT all too often a field of screams is turning into some sort of Klong Toei gangsta’s paradise for Jadet’s geto boys.

The immediate pre-match talk was about the absence of Kim Sung Hwan (8). When I heard the news, I was definitely thinking oh shit I’ll be missing you, and our midfield will be missing you too. Against Muangthong, Kim showed he can marshal the midfield and give Siwakorn (16) the freedom to distribute the ball and sett up Port’s attacking moves like a grandmaster of Chessboxin’. So the team news saw Port’s first knock back of the day. Fitting on a day that was to see Port switch from Jim’s high enthusiasm to Hockers’ high anxiety every other minute.

I thought we might see a defensive Ratchaburi tie up Port and try a Whodini escape from PAT with a point. So I was shocked by the frenetic pace of the first five minutes. Port were impressive, but Ratchaburi were raising their game as they were out to impress. They were all well aware that their new coach was in the stands and everyone was trying stake a claim for their spot in the team. The first shock came with the first shot from Ratchaburi. It came on 12 seconds with the ball being blasted into a defender. Ratchaburi had come here to play. 25 seconds later Nitipong (34) was scythed down by Satsanapong (35). The ref chose not to go for a yellow and waved away the Port protest delegation. This terrible decision set the tone for the game and saw 10 minutes of players thinking “Well if he’s not going to give a yellow for that, what will he give a yellow for?” Tackles flew in like it was the wild wild west and each player pushed the definition of the phrase ‘shocking yet legitimate tackle’.

Unfortunately the number 1 chief shocka of the first 10 minutes was Suarez (5). After being fouled by Sami (3) he seemed to slap the hand of the referee away. Was Suarez trying to point something out to the referee with his hand and just ended up hitting him by mistake? Or was he saying, I’m gonna knock you out? This could be seen as a mistake, or assault. With this ref no one was sure which way he would go. The only thing to come Suarez’s way was a rebuke and an audible sigh of relief reverberated around me in Zone B. As the game unfolded, most fans would see a gentle slap of the arm as scant punishment for a refereeing performance that could generously be called erratic and honestly be called slapworthy.

On 6 minutes Rosima Amancio (90) who goes by the name of “Bill” showed Port he has a few South American skills, even if his nickname is more South London. An interesting character with moves as smooth and deadly as Bushwick Bill’s rhymes, but in sporting terms his physique was more mid 70’s snooker legend Bill Werbeniuk. His jinking run was desperately blocked by Dolah (4) hitting him high and Rochela (22) hitting him low. The run set off more alarm bells in the Port defence, with some thinking maybe we could just shoot em up. I’m sure the ref would only give a yellow for that today.

Port and Ratchburi both continued creating and missing chances: Boskovic (23) scooped the ball high into Zone D and Ratchaburi hit a shot straight at Worawut (36). Finally about 10 minutes in the number 16 clattered into a player and he went flying into the air. To the surprise of everyone it was the Ratchaburi  number 16 Gionata Verzura that managed to get his name in the book first, with waiflike Siwakorn being the one upended. Role reversal for Siwakorn who has been a lot more careful with his fouling in 2018: Kim is a good influence on him.

Port’s best early chance came on ’13 with a Pakorn (7) free kick drifted in to Suarez (5). He trapped and turned sweetly to beat the keeper, but not the post. 3 minutes later Pakorn would hit the woodwork again with a trademark inswinging corner that swung too much too soon.

Hitting back, Philip Roller (33) drew a spectacularly exaggerated, yet still needed save from Worawut. The following corner was put over the bar and another shot from a corner was blasted wide of Port’s goal soon after. Port might rue their chances going astray, but they could be equally happy Ratchaburi were squandering their chances too. The attacking right back vs. attacking left back, Kevin (97) vs Roller, was a one of the mini battles going on all over the pitch that made this game so fascinating, the two young players sniping at each other for 90 minutes.

The game saw another one-two punch of missed chances with Menezes (20) putting the ball over the bar and Boskovic having a one on one with the keeper. He tried to drill it in, but only found the keeper’s outstretched leg. Next it was the ever industrious Nurul (31) having a go. Rather than the keeper Nurul managed to hit Siwakorn’s head and the crowd wondered how on earth this game was still 0-0.

On ’35 Kang Soo-il (10) went for a theatrical dive trying to get hardworking Adisorn (13) booked. When a yellow card didn’t come he cupped his ear and asked Zone C for a bit more noise. I’m sure Kang grew sick of the constant booing that followed him around for the next hour. You asked for it Kang, so you got.

Two more Port free kicks resulted in nothing and it felt like this half didn’t want a goal. Then an exquisite move saw Bill (90) tap the ball with the outside of his boot, dissecting 3 Port defenders on the edge of the box. Then a sweet back heel from Chuitpol (7) to cue up Pathomchai (31), and he slotted it into the bottom corner past Worawut. At least it was a great goal that spoiled Port’s 220-minute clean sheet.

Speaking of exquisite goals, after a ricocheting free kick fell to Chutipol (7) I’m sure he thought all was well with the world, and he would just hoof the ball away. Not so when you have Ninja Nurul next to you. Nurul picked Chutipol’s left pocket and tapped him on the right shoulder, and before Chutipol knew which way to turn Nurul was guiding that ball into the far corner. As the keeper fell to the ground Nurul was completing his celebration somersault, handing out notes to novice ninjas, stamping fans tickets as they left for half time and posting Ask Nurul Ninja videos on Youtube. This little man can do everything. It’s great to see Nurul putting in an early claim for goal of the season. And it’s no more than he deserves. Nurul works his arse off, somehow channeling the spirit of Genki’s work ethic and Saruta’s ball skills and then sprinkling in some ancient Ninja magic. He is the Nine Carat Gold Ninja – is that a thing? I don’t know. If it isn’t it should be.

For readers who would like to make their own “Nine Karat Gold Ninja” flick book we have provided pictures.

 

 

1-1 at half time, and everyone walked out thanking god for Nine Carat Gold Ninjas. Everyone also knew Port and Ratchaburi were going to come out looking for more goals in the second. The second half started with Ratchaburi trying to take back the initiative with a few chances.

 

The Shook Ones Part II

The Kevin vs. Roller battle that had been raging all day was set off again by a good quick throw in from Pakorn down the left wing. Roller tussled with Kevin hacking at his ankles and pulling his shirt. Kevin held him off, then strong-armed him just enough to give himself some room. He fed the ball through Roller’s legs onto Suarez running in at the near post. Suarez thumped the ball in. On a day when players needed to stamp their authority on their part of the turf Kevin and Suarez delivered the perfect counter punch to their opposite numbers. Port up 2-1 and Roller left scratching his head as to how to stop a player who doesn’t fall down at any given opportunity. Kevin stood up and looked Roller square in the eyes and said “it’s my turn, I demand my respect, Give me my burn, or get slammed in your neck” (yes, he definitely said that, I heard it).

Before the next corner with Chutipol receiving treatment, Suarez wandered over to drink some of the water by Ratchaburi’s goal. He picked up two bottles, one for himself and one to throw into Zone B. It’s often small things that turn a crowd for or against a player. Kang Soo-il (10) had cupped his ear and was still getting boos every time he touched the ball. With Suarez’s gesture he managed to deprive Ratchaburi of some water, and give the crowd a laugh and one kid a souvenir of the game.

 

 

As more space opened up for Pakorn on the right Suarez picked him out twice with brilliant cross-field passes. One move did create a chance for Nurul, with the ball looping up in the air the whole crowd held its breath. Nurul tried an audacious Ninjaesque bicycle kick. Surely he can’t score such a goal? Yes, you’re right he couldn’t – it went wide proving he is a ninja but still human.

 

 

Always a bright sign the crowd saw Bodin (10) warming up on the sidelines. I thought Pakorn was coming off, but it was Suarez who would eventually make way for Bodin. Then Boskovic broke through the midfield and Port had a great chance. Even with two defenders chasing yards behind him and one coming across to meet him I would still have put money on Boskovic shooting and indeed scoring with such a good sight on goal. However Boskovic looked up and played the percentages. He calmly squared it to a wide open Suarez who sided footed it causally in to the back of the net making it 3-1 to Port. Time for everyone, bar Hockers, to relax and breathe a bit easier knowing a two goal cushion was in place.

 

 

As I was explaining to Hockers that a two goal lead with 20 minutes to go was something to be enjoyed with carefree happiness, he explained joy has no place in football ’til the final whistle. As I was mid speech extolling the joys of life, Ratchaburi hit the post, reminding everyone, bar Hockers, this lead could still fall apart. Chances continued coming ten a penny, but fortunately none were going in.

On ’72 Suarez exited to cheers from all zones and even Tim (just polite applause from me – Ed). Bodin entered into the fray with Ratchaburi having another pot shot at the Port goal, and Hockers tutted at the other 7,999 fans who had happily thought this match had been put to bed. Menezes who had created so many chances for Ratchaburi found Kang Soo-il to deliver his own dose of My Medicine to Port. 3-2 and the thought that Port might let a good lead slip away like so many 2017 games reared its ugly head.

At the restart the ref called Captains Sami and Rochela into the centre circle. He made them shake hands to try and foster a bit of peace in a tense game. As they were shaking hands I’m sure they were both shaking their heads too, thinking this game would be a lot more peaceful with a decent ref.

The last ten minutes of the game saw both teams slow down a bit, looking like two prize fighters who had been beating the hell out of each other for 127 rounds. Nurul had a good shout for a penalty on ’86. After re-watching it oddly the ultra-biased Port eyes had it spot on. 100% nailed-on penalty. As Port ran out winners today it will be forgotten pretty quickly, but had Ratchaburi scored a late equaliser this report would have been a 3000 word dissertation on the incident and the sad tale of how Port were robbed of 3 points. It wasn’t, we weren’t. The last minutes saw the Grandmaster Flash himself Terens Puhiri (28) make a two minute appearance. It would be good to see the Flash for the last 10 minutes of a game to see if he can convert his pace into some genuine chances for Port. I hope Jadet gets the message.

At the end of the day it was three that was the magic number for Port: 3 goals tonight, 3 points in the bag again, 3 wins in a row.

Maybe you can subtract it
You can call it your lucky partner
Maybe you can call it your adjective
But odd as it may be
Without my 1 and 2 where would there be my 3

 

Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

My 3 of the night would be Suarez, Nurul and Kevin. Siwakorn also had a great game, the defence held up well against a tough attack. As it’s man of the match not men of the match, I’ll have to go with Suarez. On a day when Port needed battlers he battled and delivered two goals. He also delivered a free bottle of water for Zone B – nice touch.

 

(Just in case you wondered, it’s the Kool Moe Dee’s wild wild west, not the Will Smith version, just so you check yourself before you wreck yourself.)

 

Run Christian, Run! Port FC vs. Ratchaburi, 24 February 2018

 

There is a bible story that talks of a young German Christian (Ziege) manager taking the first steps on his assent to the footballing promised land, who traveled far to the lands east, for a fat bag of gold coins (one suspects) to lead a mythical sugar dragon and is confronted by a league full of strange beasts, disorganisation and interfering megalomaniac owners. In this very strange league lived a mighty lion who once was shabby and downbeat, even taking on at times the form of a horse and a rather camp dolphin but had recently risen to the top of the local footballing mountain. With the help of its sidekicks the dragon, the flash, the grumpy Spaniard, the calm happy Spaniard and 1990’s Will Smith, the lion had set about slaying all who dared to cross its path. The strange footballing land also had a bunny, a bat, a beetle, a horrible lizard, a shark, a not so camp dolphin, and an elephant amongst others. However, it was the mighty Lion that had recently come to be most feared. First it met the dolphin and with three blows the dolphin was slain. Next was its sworn enemy the lizard. The lion had waited a long time for this moment and savoured his victory, he had won victories over the lizard before but they were bruising affair, this was to be a total victory, tearing the helpless lizard limb from limb, even toying with the poor little lizard as the life faded from it on a glorious Saturday, and the howls of the lion’s famous followers did ring around its den, for although the battle did occur at the lizards dwelling, it was a place no wise man was permitted to visit. Some say that with the battle won and the followers of the lizard falling silent, as they realized that the lion had risen and was again undeniably mightier than their lizard, the roars of the lion’s followers could be heard even though the two dens are many miles apart and even if they couldn’t, it’s on YouTube.

The young manager was filled with fear having seen the lion slaughter the lizard and began to question if this really was the place for him. So, with just days to go before his dragons (none of whom were as mighty as the lion’s dragon, who was the mightiest dragon in the kingdom), were due to face the lion in its den, the young manager asked the lord to help him escape the mighty lion and his now ultra-professional sidekicks. “Save me from the lion’s mouth; From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.” (Psalms 22.21). (The oxen had been cast out by the other animals for being a bit crap at football and told to spend 40 fixtures and 40 weeks trying to prove itself). The young manger decided to further ponder his position whilst listening to some banging tunes. Luckily being a very modern god, Spotify is the savior’s current go to medium of communication, so the lord did answer the young manager at a crossroads and via shuffle the lord did declare: “dreaming of that perfect home by the sun…Run, Christian run,” for the lord was wise and chose the finest Welsh psychedelic band to have ever walked the earth* to inform the former left back who had traveled as far as Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Milan and some of footballs smaller missionary stations before heading east,  that it was time to high tail it to Suvarnabhumi and see how quickly Lufthansa could get him back to the Fatherland. Thus ends the story of the Christian and the sugar dragon.

Its one of the lesser known bible stories due mainly to having been entirely made up by me in an attempt to make up for having to bin nearly all of the preview I’d finished yesterday. So a series of poor Christian and lions jokes will live forever unused alongside the excellent Captain (playa de las) Americas pun that, given the slim chances of a return to Klong Toey for Asdrubal combining with Super Power making like the son of God at Easter for a game I preview, will never see the light of day in any useful way.

 


 

Or in plain language, Port play Ratchaburi on Saturday at the PAT, 20:00 kick off or if you can’t make it’s on True 4U, True Sport HD2 and various dodgy streams. Ratchaburi had appointed Christan Ziege to be their manager in the close season, however, at some point this week, having already left once, it was decided by the club and/or him that things weren’t working out and his contract with the club was terminated. Oh, and we’re top of the league, having played Muangthong off LEGOLAND Park. We’re also yet to concede a goal this season, and we’re eight games unbeaten in the league including the finish of last season. The last time Jadet took charge of a home defeat was the 6th of May 2017 when Pattaya beat us two nil. So we have nothing to fear. Kinda like being two nil up with ten minutes to go, and we know how that generally turns out for Port!

Ratchaburi

 

Its hard enough to draw any conclusions about teams two games into the season; it’s even harder when they’ve changed manager and when that manager leaves the club, you’re pretty much at a total loss.

 

Christian Ziege

 

Sooooo, Ratchaburi started the season with the least desirable fixture on offer, away at Buriram on a Friday night. Giving a good account of themselves, they kept the scores level ’til the hour mark, before two goals in seven minutes took the points for the champions, despite a consolation penalty scored by Felipe Mendez (20).  Round two saw Air Force Central visit Ratchaburi, again the game was scoreless well into the second half before an own goal was awarded to Chutipol Thongthae (7) for being vaguely nearby when the ball was sent goalward by the Air Force player, securing the win for Ratchaburi.

The Ratchaburi squad underwent somewhat of an overhaul in the closed season as Marcel Essombe moved to Port, who sent him to the BEC Police home for unwanted players and from there he has moved to pastures as yet unknown. Thai national team left back Kevin Deeromram made the same move on deadline day.

They have been replaced by “Bill” (90) a striker from Brazil who has spent the last four years (transferring each season) in the second tier at home, scoring 9, 15, 2 and 10 goals (the 2 occurred while only making 9 appearances). On two occasions he’s been with the champions, only to be moved on without getting the opportunity to play in the top tier. He’s yet to score in the Thai league, but appears to possess a powerful shot. South Korean Soo-il Kang (10) also arrived in the closed season, from Thespakusatsu Gunma who were relegated from the second tier of the Japanese league. A skilled dribbler, he had the most fruitful season of his career last season, scoring 10 goals. Kang too has drawn a blank in his time at Ratchaburi playing on the right, hopefully Deeromram learnt enough in the time they spent together in preseason to keep him in check.

 

Bill and Kang

 

Further attacking options are offered by two half Thai players, Thai-German Phillip Roller (33) who has been used further up the field as a right winger than full back where he started and Thai-Italian Gionata Verzura (16) who arrived from Super Power via Ubon, they’ve started one game each this season. The final foreigner in the group is another Brazilian Felipe Menezes (20) who scored the penalty at Buriram. He will look to exploit the space between Port’s defence and midfield.

 

Roller and Verzura

 

Also arriving was keeper Kittipong (1) on loan for the season from Bangkok United. He was first choice for the Angels last season, but has been moved on in the post cup final shake up. He’ good at getting himself to shots and crosses but somewhat questionable at collecting them. Whilst Pakorn may not enjoy much joy with his shoot on sight policy, others may following up.

The back four has been fairly stable for some time with Wattayuchutikul, (35) who was involved 19 times last season being asked to replace Deeromram at left back. Congolese centre back Joel Sami is captain. He seems a competent foreign leader of a defence, but hopefully we be found wanting against Boskovic and his many helpers.

Port

 

I can see only two spots in the team where a change is possible. Firstly in goal, whilst the decision to make Worawut (36) man of the match last weekend was somewhat of an overstatement of his performance, he was in great form out at LEGOLAND. Combined with a solid performance in the opener, it seems implausible that he’ll be dropped. So even if Rattanai (17) is back to full fitness, I expect his fragile frame will be spending a few more weeks toughening itself up on the bench.

Which brings us to Port’s other man made of biscuits. Todsapol (6) was carried off with what has been reported as a muscle injury, that early in the week was reportedly not serious enough to stop him starting come Saturday or would keep in out for two weeks according to another source midweek.  Dolah (4) came on for the last hour and coped well with all that Herberty and Jaja asked of him. I suspect the weekend comes to soon for Todsapol to start. Thereafter I expect it to be the same team as last week.  Nitipong (34) and Kevin Deeromram (97) have been excellent at the back and equally impressive going forward, Deeromram looked more at ease for a second week of training with the club and enjoyed exploiting the space offered by our out of position right wingers, cutting in. Nitipong (34) thankfully appears to have figured out that defensive side of the game he used to struggle with against all but the weakest of opponents.

 The foreign spine of the team appears to be the real strength of the set up. We know what we get from El Capitan David Rochela (22) and in front of him is Kim Sung Hwan (8), who was superb in the Slum vs. Scum derby, not just with his play but with his organisation. Along with Boskovic (23), these players offer more than just their ability as individual players, as they organise and encourage those around them. The sight of Jadet in discussion with Kim and Deeromram over the tactics board bodes well. We now have players with knowledge and the strength of character to put their thoughts out there mid match.

As noted above Ratchaburi have made it to the hour mark in each of their games this season scoreless. This might be the game when the strength of the Port bench is called to turn the game in our favour late on.

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

*The Super Furry Animals for the heathens amongst the readership

 


 

The match will be shown live on True 4U, True Sport HD2 at 20:00 on Saturday 24 February, 2018. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match with sound if you ask them nicely. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount.

 

Down the Ratch! Ratchaburi FC vs. Port FC, 18 November 2017

 

Saturday’s trip to Ratchaburi will bring the curtain down on an eventful 2017 season for Port. We’ve had the usual ups, downs, managerial mayhem and transfer tomfoolery. Along the way we’ve beaten our biggest rivals, been thrashed by a team who got relegated and done just about everything in-between. There were goals-a-plenty, brave come-backs, leads thrown away, more penalties than most shoot-outs and enough yellow cards to make Big Sam blush. So, what should we expect on Saturday? Well, more of the same would be a safe bet. Expect goals, penalties, cards, ridiculous substitutions and maddening tactical maneuvers. Expect good, bad and ugly football, beautiful skills, inexplicable errors and shameless cheating. Expect passionate support, emotional farewells, soppy speeches and most of all a very unhealthy amount of photos. Expect Port to be Port, because that’s just all we know how to do, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Anyway, before I start getting too sentimental, there’s an opposition to dissect. Scalpel, please…

 

Marcel Essombe (18) enjoyed a superb first half of 2017, banging in 13 goals in 14 starts and being among the highest scorers in the league. He has slowed down a little in the second half of the season, scoring 6 times in 14 starts, but is still undoubtedly among the best strikers in the league. His height and strength make him a handful for any defence, and he will provide a particularly tough test for Todapol (6) if he keeps his place ahead of the more physical Dolah (4). What Port wouldn’t have given for a tall striker as proficient in the air as Essombe this season! Interestingly, Essombe hasn’t started Ratchaburi’s last 2 league games, although he came off the bench to provide a crucial late assist during Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Honda.

In a truly comedic twist for Port fans, the man who has taken Essombe’s place up front in the last 2 league games is former Port ‘striker’ Sompong Soleb (14). Yeah, that’s right, I can’t even bring myself to highlight his name. That’s how bad he is. Combine the work-rate of Tana, the skill of Weera, the strength of Siwakorn, the positional discipline of Panpanpong and the sportsmanship of Suarez, and you have Sompong. He’s like the Frankenstein’s monster of shit footballers. With 6 goals (and no assists… #teamplayer) to his name in 2017 you could argue that he’s less awful than Tana, but I’d take issue with that. Yes, this guy is that bad!

Alharbi El Jadeyaoui (10) is a French-born Moroccan who plays on the left wing. He’s tall, rangy and looks pretty dangerous, although with just 5 goals and 7 assists in 2017 he probably doesn’t do as much damage going forward as he should. Expect the much taller Alharbi to give Nitipong (34) a tough test on Saturday, but be hit-and-miss with his end product.

 

Marcel Essombe, Sompong Soleb and Alharbi El Jadeyaoui. Sompong is as accurate with his water bottle as he is in front of goal.

 

Half-Thai full-backs Kevin Deeromram (23) and Philip Roller (33) have had breakthrough seasons in 2017. At just 19, Kevin is one of the youngest players to feature regularly in T1, and has provided a goal and 8 assists so far in 2017. He is superb on the ball, and one of the best crossers around. Philip has also looked excellent since joining Ratchaburi for the second leg, but has not been nearly as productive from the right. Playing about half his games at full-back and half in midfield, Philip has notched up just 2 assists. If the 23 year old can sort out his final ball, he will be a real handful.

In their opening-day encounter, Port were frustrated by a superb performance from centre-half Santos. Port fans will be happy to hear that the Brazilian has now moved on, although the main man at the back on Saturday will be the bigger and possibly scarier Joel Sami (3). I haven’t seen much of this 1.91m Congolese centre half, but he seems to tick all the boxes for a top foreign defender in the Thai league.

 

Kevin Deeromram, Philip Roller and Joel Sami

 

Ratchaburi will likely introduce dynamic youngster Montree Promsawat (14) in the second half. This 22 year old right winger is mighty pacy, and will be the last thing a tiring Panpanpong (19) wants to see. Former national team player Rungrath Poomchantuek (11), who was linked to Port mid-season will also likely start on the bench and look to make an impact late on.

 

Form

 

Ratchaburi come in to Saturday’s game on a tidy run of form, having secured 4 wins and suffered 2 losses in their last 6. The wins came against Sisaket, Suphanburi, Navy and Honda, with the defeats against Bangkok Utd and Buriram. Port are in even better nick, though, having won 4, drawn 1 and suffered 1 defeat. The defeat came in Zico’s final game in charge against Chonburi, meaning Jadet has an unbeaten run to defend. Wins against Pattaya and Nakhon Ratchasima were followed by a draw with Muangthong, after which Port dispatched Super Power and Sisaket with ease in their last 2 games. Both teams have been scoring for fun, and neither has kept a clean sheet in their last 5 games.

 

Port FC

Starting XI

 

Usually these Starting XIs are pretty straightforward, but on Saturday pretty much nothing would surprise me. Could the old guard be given one last hurrah? They certainly could. Ittipol (7), Pakasit (2), Wuttichai (14) and Tana (99) – none of whom should be at the club next season – could very well be called upon. Could those who have barely made it on to the pitch be given a sympathy run-out? Watchara (66) in goal perhaps, Pakasit and Anisong (15) at the back and Narakorn (29) and Siwapong (97) in midfield? I can see that happening. Equally, foreign stars Josimar (30) and Genki (18) could be given game-time in a Port shirt for the last time, and home-town boy Ekkapoom (8) could be made captain for the day. And what about the youngsters? Could Meechok (20) and Yossawat (28) get starts at fullback? Who knows? The one thing that’s almost certain is that if I make fantastical predictions then Jadet will almost certainly pick his best XI and I’ll look like a plum. Or the reverse. So, let’s just say this almost certainly isn’t going to be who Jadet will pick.

 

 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 2 at 18:00 on Saturday 18 November, 2017. For those who can’t make it to Ratchaburi, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound if you ask them nicely. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount while you’re at it!

 

Rumble In Ratchaburi: Punishments Handed Down

 

Both offending parties from the Rumble in Ratchaburi have had their punishments handed down by the FAT. Former Port striker Thiago Cunha has been given a 5 match ban and a 50,000 baht fine, while Ratchaburi manager Tanawat Nitikanchana, also known as Fluke, has been given a three month ban and a 60,000 baht fine. Additionally, Ratchaburi have been fined 100,000 baht and told to submit an improved security plan, but Chonburi escaped punishment despite their players walking off the pitch.

The Melee at Mitrphol started when Fluke, son of the Ratchaburi owner, came on to the pitch to protest the officials as they walked towards the tunnel at half time of their home clash last week with Chonburi. Professional troll and occasional footballer Thiago then sprayed water at the raging Ratchaburi manager, who responded by punching Thiago in the back of the head. Thiago then emptied the rest of his water in to Fluke’s face and all hell broke loose.

 

 

At some point in the insanity that followed, Thiago was sent off and then punched in the face – reportedly by a security guard. Fluke made a quick dash for the exit, and Thiago came back out on to the pitch with blood pouring from his face. At this point the red mist really descended. Thiago ran down the touchline shouting obscenities and pushed over a security guard before finally being restrained by teammates and more security. Eventually, he was escorted from the pitch, but play did not resume for another 45 minutes or so as the Chonburi players walked off the pitch, came back again and then the officials tried to make sense of what on Earth had just happened. I’ve watched videos, and I’m still not exactly sure of the sequence of events, so apologies if there are any inaccuracies in my timeline.

Those who read our last piece about Thiago will recall that the Barmy Brazilian was at the centre of a brawl in India last December. In the ruckus that followed the final whistle of the Indian Super League semi-final, Thiago drop-kicked an opponent before pegging it towards officials for protection. At Port he also taught the dressing-room door a thing or two about getting in his way after being substituted. Ratchaburi boss Fluke has some form in this area, too. I’m not as well acquainted with incidents he has been involved with, but have seen footage of him shoulder-barging an opposition player who was trying to take a throw-in. Charming!

All in all, what we have here is a spat between two pretty unsavory characters who are either unwilling or incapable of controlling themselves for the good of their team or the game in general. There are differences of opinion on who should be attributed more blame for the incident. I personally think that much more fault lies with Fluke, who initiated the actual violence, but Thiago is obviously at fault for his rampage up and down the touchline in the aftermath. The punishments seem pretty reasonable to me, although the pitiful fines are a bit redundant.

Will we see Crazy Cunha again in Thai football? Only time will tell. If he returns to the Chonburi side immediately after his ban ends, his comeback could be at PAT Stadium, although this depends whether or not cup games are included in the 5 game ban. Don’t worry Thiago, I’m sure the Port fans won’t try to wind you up or anything, and I for one will most certainly not be kitted out in full Muay Thai gear!