Posts

Time to Climb the Table – The World Is Not Enough: Chiangmai Utd 0-2 Port FC

 

After a ‘Slum vs Scum’ derby, you could almost excuse the few people who found our round 6 fixture against new boys Chiangmai United a bit anti-climactic. Not much is known about the team from up north, but what’s been shown so far this season: it’s been up and down. You’ve got to give them credit for the way that they’ve recruited for their first season in T1, and although they haven’t picked up as many points as they might’ve hoped, it hasn’t been catastrophic from them either.

If there’s something that I can compliment all of the teams that were promoted from T2 for, it’s that they’ve not gone down the path that Rayong took: they’ve gone out and signed some good players. Almost every foreign player on the books of the promoted clubs MOONWALKS into the Rayong side from last season, so at least there’s been a jump in the quality of the promoted sides. It’s almost as if they’re learning from the mistakes others have made: who’d have thought that!

For Port, we came into the game having to make [at least] two changes to the squad, due to the injuries sustained by Tanaboon and Kannarin in the derby. I wish the both of them a speedy recovery, and it was nice to see the starting 11 make the following gesture to Kannarin in the picture below. Coming into the starting-11 were Worawut Baresi [#24] and Jaturapat [#15], with Tanaboon [#17] going out of the squad altogether, and Nitipong [#34] dropping to the bench. Taking Kannarin’s place on the bench was Elias Dolah [#4], who hadn’t been a part of the past two matchday squads. It was a welcome return in one way, but it’s now up to the Thai international to force his way back into the starting-11, and show the ability that made him a much loved figure on the terraces, and go on to earn a place in the national team set-up. Simply put: his performances haven’t been up to scratch for a while.

 

 

Fast Starts: A View to Kill

We’ve shown time and time again this season that we’re able to hit the ground running from the offset, though the fact is that our opposition [typically] get the first opportunity of the match. That wasn’t the case today, and with just 2:02 on the clock we nearly took the lead. What a start that would’ve been!

A long, diagonal ball was [inexplicably] allowed to bounce by the Chiangmai United defender, with Roller [#33] getting onto the ball, and breezing by the fullback. I have a feeling that it was Muangthong loanee Saharat that was out there on the wing with him, though the available camera angles couldn’t confirm whether it was or wasn’t him. If it wasn’t: my apologies, Saharat. Regardless, Roller had breezed by, and his delivery into the 18-yard box was pretty damn good. Suarez was rushing into the ball to attack it, and usually when he’s left unmarked to attack the ball the ball is in the back of the net moments later.

It wasn’t to be this time around for the Spaniard, but it was a great bit of play from all of the Port players involved. I’ve no doubt that the next time things play out in the same way: Suarez will be running off to celebrate with his teammates.

 

 

The next goalscoring opportunity for us came after a horrible collision between former Port stalwart Tossapol [#6] and Brazilian defender Evson [#30], with Nelson Bonilla [#9] attempting to latch onto the loose ball and go one-on-one with the Chiangmai United goalkeeper. To his credit, Nont Muangngam [#20] got off his line quickly, and got the ball away from danger. The whistle was quickly blown so that both Tossapol and Evson could receive medical treatment, with the Brazilian definitely the player that came out of the collision worse off. If either player is reading this: best wishes in your recovery. It’s never a nice sight to see someone suffer a serious head injury, and if I don’t see another one this season I’d be quite a lot happier. Tossapol was [somehow] able to continue playing on, but Evson was replaced by Sirisak Faidong [#15] on the 22-minute mark.

The next effort [and I’m not sure you can call it that!] that we had on goal was with 25:00 on the clock, with Pakorn taking a set-piece that certainly wasn’t a cross, but it wasn’t much of a shot either. Some… “interesting”… goalkeeping from Nont saw the ball go out for a corner, though we weren’t able to do anything from the resulting corner. We were [clearly] in the ascendancy, though at the same time we really didn’t look like scoring either. It was quite weird to watch if I’m honest, but I still had faith that we’d find a breakthrough. The lads were cutting through the Chiangmai United players like they weren’t even there at times, but at the end of the day you have to put your chances away to get the 3-points.

With 29:26 played, we did have an effort on goal, though the linesman flagged a bit too quickly in my opinion. There’s no doubt that Bonilla was offside in the lead-up play; he was, by at least 2-3 yards. The thing is, by the time the cross was played in, it looked like he MIGHT have gotten himself back onside, and had a headed attempt cleared off the line. Imagine if we had technology, like VAR for instance, that could go back and disallow the goal if he was actually offside!? The goal-line clearance had only gotten as far as Go [#8], only for the whistle to be blown due to the linesman’s flag. It was all a bit of a mess to be honest, and this was a case where VAR might’ve been useful.

Having said that: the implementation of VAR in Thailand has been a catastrophe, and it probably would’ve taken them 8-10 minutes to come to a decision… but only after watching 329 replays. For what it’s worth, having watched it a few times, I think the right decision was made, I just think the decision was made somewhat prematurely due to the fact that Bonilla had been in an offside position in the lead-up play.

Regardless, the clearance from Tossapol had been a good bit of play from him, and if he could save good performances for anyone but us, that’d be much appreciated!

 

 

It took until the 31-minute mark for our hosts to get a strike off on goal, with Saharat having an effort that would’ve earned applause in a rugby game as a successful conversion attempt. Minutes later, Chiangmai United were back at it, with a through ball from Escudero [#26] giving Melvin de Leeuw [#9] an opportunity. He did quite well to hit the target with his half volley, and even though it was fairly straightforward for Worawut [#36] to save: he still made a bit of a meal of it. Worawut seemed to have something to say to the match officials, but I’m not quite sure why.

The game had lacked controversy, much like the derby had, but that all changed just before the 37-minute mark, when an out-swinging corner from Pakorn [#7] made its way into the box. The ball had glanced off the head of either Suarez or a defender, with it then making its way towards Baresi. It’s pretty damn obvious that the Chiangmai United defender has a handful of Baresi’s jersey, and anywhere else on the pitch, it’s a freekick. So why isn’t it a penalty? What makes it worse [for me] is the fact that he’s not even trying to track the player he’s supposed to be marking, he’s just holding on for dear life instead. Minutes later we had yet another VARcical decision from a T1 match official.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the match officials just aren’t up to standard in Thailand, and it had [yet again] been shown a night earlier in the Khonkaen United-Nakhon Ratchasima game. VAR had been correctly used to give a red card against a Khonkaen United player, but it had made a mistake in disallowing a goal from Ibson Melo in the first-half. If anyone knows the reason that goal was disallowed, please drop a comment on The Sandpit tweet where this is published.

The shirt pull in this game should’ve been a penalty, and was yet another example of why VAR is a pointless tool to have when the people tasked with using it don’t know how to use it properly.

 

 

There’d been 6-minutes in added time for the first-half, due to the injury to Evson, and the VAR farce, with it allowing us a final effort on goal. Jaturapat had received the ball from Go, crossed from deep, with Suarez attacking it. He got a bit fortunate with the ‘pinball’ that went on, which saw him receive the ball in a great position. Korrakot [#77] did a magnificent job to deflect the Spanish maestros effort for a corner, and he’d certainly atoned for his mistake in the seconds leading up to the half volley. Suarez was frustrated to have not scored: Korrakot looked like he’d just found a new source of energy!

It meant we went into the half-time interval at nil-all, and I was certainly intrigued by what our second-half game plan would be.

 

 

An Attacking Second-Half? Die Another Day!

I’ve commented a few times in previous reports that I’ve felt a little underwhelmed by our second-half performances in the attacking-third so far this season, so the one benefit of going into the interval at nil-all was that we’d HAVE to attack in the second-half. A point away to Chiangmai United wouldn’t be an acceptable result in the slightest, but it’d be such a Port thing to do: a great result against the Scum, followed by dropping points to the league new boys.

The first attack of the second-half belonged to our hosts, with them breaking forward whilst the referee waved for an advantage, due to their being a shirt pull. I thought pulling your opponents shirt was okay!? Anyway, the ball ended up at the feet of Jaturapat, who had an absolute ‘mare with his clearance, with the ball finding itself at the feet of Saharat. The effort from the man on-loan from Muangthong was pretty damn awful, and I’ll admit that it made me chuckle for a bit. I think it ended up halfway between the post and the corner flag, and he won’t be watching the replay too fondly in the match review meeting with his teammates.

Our hosts were most certainly in the ascendancy during the start of the second-half, and they had a few good moments in the 10-minutes after the second-half had kicked off. Ultimately: their efforts were for nothing. There was plenty of effort and energy, but without Yannick Boli in the line-up: they looked a bit lost. From what I watched, a simple 4-4-2 would be perfect for Chiangmai United, because a duo of Yannick Boli and Melvin de Leeuw is going to find you the goals to win games. They had 3 or 4 chances to take the lead against us in the opening 15-minutes of the second-half, and if you don’t take your chances, picking up points becomes a hell of a lot harder.

 

 

Whilst I wasn’t too pleased that it took us over 15-minutes to carve out our first proper attack of the second-half, I was quite pleased with the way that we’d handled the pressure that Chiangmai United had been putting on us, and you could sense that we were picking our moment to land the first blow.

An outside of the right-foot pass from Suarez had found Bonilla, and my goodness was his first touch horrendous! He burned his defender for pace quite easily, but the odds were heavily stacked in Nont’s favour to make the save, and although Bonilla got to the ball first, he was never looking likely to score this time around. It was a missed opportunity, and it was a truly poor first-touch from our star striker.

It was the final warning that we would give our hosts.

Just minutes later we took the lead. A cross-field pass from Bordin was expertly controlled by Pakorn [that’s how you do it Nelson!], with the midfield monk in acres of space. The Chiangmai defender [Sirisak] moved across to close him down, but he was nowhere near tight enough to be effective in killing off the danger. Pakorn played a lovely low cross in, and Nelson ran straight onto it: unmarked! He had no qualms in smashing the ball into the back of the net, before making his way towards Pakorn, who’d made yet another magnificent assist. It was a great piece of play from Bordin, Pakorn, and Bonilla, and I couldn’t help but think “I hope we push on for a few more!” to myself.

 

 

The goal had sparked us into life, and a few minutes later we were back at it. Bonilla got his first touch right this time around, after receiving a lovely ball from Siwakorn [#16], and went through towards goal. The defender marking him forced him a bit wide, and rather than being selfish he laid the ball off for Jaturapat to run onto. Jaturapat took a shot, rather than taking another touch, with Nont getting quite a strong palm to it. I thought Pakorn did quite well to get the ball under control again, with him laying it off for Go to have a strike on goal. There was plenty of power on the strike, but it lacked direction, and rocketed towards the running track.

We were well and truly in the mood now, and minutes later: we scored one of the best goals scored in the league so far this season. If any other club had scored it, it’d be all over social media, and people would be losing their minds. It was a thing of absolute beauty!

Bordin picked up the ball in his half [around the left-wingback area of the pitch], and played the ball forward to Suarez. Suarez, sensing that there was an over-zealous fullback headed his way, played a first-time ball to Bonilla, who completed the ‘one-two’ to Suarez: who’d continued his progress forward. This is the part of the pitch where the Spanish maestro is so damn good, because he sucked in another Chiangmai United defender, before playing a perfectly weighted ball for Bordin to run onto. Bordin was gliding down the left-side of the pitch, and rather than trying to do too much: he played a first-time cutback towards the penalty spot.

Who was there? Go! The Korean central-midfielder kept his composure, and thrashed the ball into the back of the net, to double our lead. I could watch this goal on a continuous loop; it was fantastic. It’s the kind of goal that you show a young kid when you’re talking about how important off-the-ball movement is, and every Port player involved in this sequence of play should take a bow.

 

 

After the goal had gone in, our hosts used their second substitution window, with Surawich Logarwit [#16] replacing Khapfa Boonmatoon [#54], who’d been booked in the first-half, and Kittipat Wongsombat [#8] replacing Boworn Tapla [#32]. A minute later: Saharat was booked, in what had been quite a miserable night for him. Things just hadn’t clicked for him, and he doesn’t look anything like the player that had been so dangerous for PTT Rayong. Maybe a move to Korat to reunite with Teerasak Po-on might do him some good?

We were dealt an injury scare around the 77-minute mark, with Baresi having to be withdrawn, with the towering Elias Dolah [#4] taking his place on the pitch. Since the mess that occurred on the opening day of the season, our defensive unit has looked quite good, and it’s of little surprise that we’ve not been coughing up too many goals. I’ll admit to being a bit nervous about Dolah coming on, but I was hopeful that he’d be the Dolah that we all know and love.

Minutes later we had another dangerous attack! I was loving that we were attacking so much in the second-half, and a pass down the line from Roller to Pakorn had the midfield monk weighing up his options. He played a smart pass inside to Bordin, who took a touch, and lashed an effort at goal. Nont parried the shot quite well, and having both scored already: both Bonilla and Go got in each others way! Bonilla took control of the ball, played a pass to Bordin, who did a bit of a song and dance: trying to get himself in enough space for another effort on goal. He played the ball back out to Pakorn, who seemed a bit indecisive this time around, with his cross not dangerous at all.

A minute later our hosts nearly halved the deficit! My god it was heart in mouth stuff. A corner that wasn’t defended well saw a header from Tossapol [I think] hit the post, Sirisak Faidong then hitting the crossbar with his rebound. It was a complete lapse of concentration from the lads, and we very nearly made the final few minutes of the game an end-to-end battle. Thankfully we cleared the ball, and preserved our cleansheet. A ‘get out of jail free’ card had been used by us, and it was now up to Dusit to reorganize the troops, and make sure that it didn’t happen again.

Both teams then made their final substitutions for the night, with Chiangmai United bringing on Phongsakon Seerot [#14] and Kantapong Bandasak [#11] on for Sergio Escudero [#26] and Saharat Kanyarot [#18]. I honestly don’t think much of Escudero: he gives off Gorka vibes for me. That being said: Gorka produced a hell of a lot more during his time in Thai football, and I can’t see Escudero being able to get the same amount of goals or assists as the lumpy Spaniard.

Meanwhile, the substitutions we made were: Charyl Chappuis [#6] and Tanasith Siripala [#11] replacing Siwakorn [#16] and Bordin [#10]. Both Siwakorn and Bordin had played well, and could take their place on the bench knowing that they’d both played a strong part in us getting the 3-points.

There was still enough time for a bit of “controversy” to take place, with an incisive breakaway from Bonilla, Chappuis, and Tanasith seeing us have a potentially dangerous moment in front of goal. It was a perfectly weighted ball from Bonilla to Chappuis, with the midfielder having a… not so good first-touch. It almost killed the odds of him having an effort on goal, and with him trying to make up for his mistake: he somewhat launched himself at the ball. He kept a hold of it, before having a strike on goal that was deflected out for a corner by a defender.

Next minute: VAR check! What I’ll say on it is this: it was touch and go. Could he have been given a red card? Possibly. Do I think he should’ve? No. The problem for Artit Daosawang [#92] wasn’t the contact from Chappuis, it was the way that he’d launched himself to try and make the defensive block. He was trying to contort his body in multiple different directions, and it’s no wonder he came out of it feeling worse for wear! There was definitely contact, and it’s a moment that Chappuis will learn from no doubt. With that being said, and how awful VAR is in the Thai League, I wouldn’t have been surprised at all if they’d sent him off.

Thankfully, common sense prevailed. The full-time whistle was blown not long after, and the lads could begin their trek back to Khlong Toei with the 3-points in the bag! Well done!

 

 

My Thoughts – Chiangmai United

Chiangmai United tried hard, and they’re not exactly a bad side, but they’re not a good side either. We haven’t played Nongbua Pitchaya just yet, but of the 3 sides that have come up this season this is the side that I’m least impressed by so far this season. Whilst I understand that they were missing Boli, who’d destroyed Samut Prakan City just 5-days earlier, the defensive unit wasn’t quite the same once Evson went off, whilst their midfield undoubtedly lacks any real quality. Escudero isn’t good enough to be able to drag them out of a mess; I’ve seen tumbleweeds move faster than him, and that’s without any wind. This side appears to be destined to go back down, and what did they do when they were promoted? They hired a coach that seems to specialize in getting teams relegated!

They’ve got big decisions to make in the next transfer window, and I’d be very surprised to see either the head coach or Escudero last the whole season at the club. I hope that Evson isn’t seriously injured, and wish him a speedy recovery, as the longer he’s out: the more trouble his club is in.

 

My Thoughts – Port FC

This was our first proper 90-minute performance of the season. In the 5 games prior, we seemed to have been good in the first-half, only to be a lot more cautious/reserved in the second-half. That certainly wasn’t the case tonight, and it was extremely pleasing to watch.

The lads that had come into the starting-11 had justified their selection, and I thought that Jaturapat was fantastic in his return. He was someone that I considered for the ‘Man of the Match’ award below, and he was quite unlucky to miss out in my opinion. I thought this was quite possibly our best defensive performance of the season, albeit we were up against a newly promoted side, but it was pleasing that we didn’t allow complacency to creep in, like it might’ve in seasons gone by. Defensively, we looked quite well organized, bar the blip late in the game from that corner. I hope that Baresi’s injury isn’t serious, because if we can have the same back-4 start for the next game against Buriram: I’d be very happy with that.

Our midfield was quite tremendous too, as was the attacking trio of Pakorn-Bonilla-Bordin, and if it’s possible to name an unchanged line-up next time out, we should do it. It appears that certain players have shaken off any rust that was in their games, and I thought that Go had his best game for the club in a long while. He ran the show at times, which was great to see considering he’s been quite lacklustre at times in the games previous. There was a bit more urgency to his game, and I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to this standard of performance from now on. There’s no doubting that when he’s on-form he’s one of the best AFC quota players in the league. The big question is: at 35-years old, can he do it frequently?

Buriram United is our next game, with it to be played at PAT Stadium on Sunday at 7pm. Will fans be allowed? Your guess is as good as mine. I’m hopeful that they will be, and if we can try to create a bit of a raucous atmosphere for them to come into I think we stand a chance. On our day, we’re just as good as anyone in this league, and with Bonilla regularly finding the back of the net, we’ve currently got the ‘Golden Boot’ capable striker that we thought we were getting when we first brought him to the club.

There’s a lot to be pleased with at the moment, and don’t forget, if you’re not able to watch the game at PAT Stadium on Sunday, you can always watch the game at The Sportsman!

 

Man of the Match – David Rochela

 

 

I think that I’ve made my opinion on Rochela quite clear since I began writing for the site, but the one thing that I’ve always said is that he’s a proper professional, and I have a lot of respect him for everything that he’s done for the club. Do I think that he’s the type of defender that will help us challenge for a top-2 finish? No, I don’t. But there’s no way that you can’t admire him for the way that he’s navigated through his 6-season spell at the club. There are plenty of players/agents that would’ve thrown their toys out of the pram in some of the instances, but Rochela just knuckled down and kept going about his business. He’s a great ambassador for the club, and although I do think that we will need to move on from him in the near future, I’m quite content to have him remain for the time being.

Getting back to his actual performance now, he didn’t put a foot wrong in the game. He’s been very consistent so far this season, and although he’s had a few ‘iffy’ moments: they’ve been a bit less frequent too. I think that he must be such a calming influence for his defensive partner, and I actually think that Baresi and Tanaboon are much more suited to playing alongside him than Dolah is. Only Buriram United, BG Pathum United [both 4], Nongbua Pitchaya, and Ratchaburi [both 5] have conceded less goals than us so far this season, though BG Pathum United have the benefit of having played 2 less games at the moment, whilst Nongbua and Ratchaburi have both only played 5 fixtures.

Dusit appears to have sorted our defensive frailties that we seem to show every season, and Rochela has shown fine form during the start of the reign of his new manager. Keep it up!

 

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

 

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

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

 

A glorious evening at the PAT

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Brace buddies, scorers Freeeeeeeeeee Nelson Bonilla and another for Adisak

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

MOTM: Nattawut Sombatyotha

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

 

All pictures: Allie Suwanrumpha  Captions: Sandpit Monkeys

 

Rochela Scoops Second Player of the Month Award

 

El Capitan David Rochela becomes the second Port player to win The Sandpit’s Player of the Month award twice, joining Josimar Rodrigues who won in April and May. Rochela won the inaugural award in February, and has now secured the July award with an impressive 60% of the vote.

 

 

 

Port did not have the best month results-wise in July, but as usual the Spanish skipper did his utmost to keep Port in contention with his solid defensive performances. He also scored a rare goal from the spot against Chiang Rai, taking his penalty tally to 3 out of 3 for the season. Congratulations, David!

In second place was the star attacking performer Pakorn Prempak. Pakorn won the June award, and again underlined his stunning resurgence in the second half of the season by picking up 26% of the vote in July. Pakorn has always been known for his set-piece delivery and his crossing from the right, but in the last two months his decision making and tracking have improved markedly. Pakorn is getting closer and closer to being the full package.

 

 

In third place was Spaniard Sergio Suarez, who garnered 11% of the vote. Suarez shone against Chiang Rai and had two excellent performances in the cups against Ayutthaya, notching a few crucial goals in the process. If Suarez can continue to perform consistently for Port then we fully expect to see him winning one of these awards sooner or later!

 

 

Ittipol Poolsab came fourth in his inaugural appearance on our shortlist, with Andrija Kaludjerovic in last place with 0% of the vote. With the Serb’s departure being exclusively announced by The Sandpit today, I think it’s fair to say that Kalu won’t exactly be missed judging by the amount of fans who turned out for him in our poll!

An honourable mention must also go to Elias Dolah.  A few people quite rightly chastised me for not including the big Thai-Swede on the shortlist despite some excellent performances in July. Clearly I underestimated the ever-growing list of fans Dolah is accruing at Port, but you can be sure I won’t make that mistake again!

 

The Sandpit’s Port FC Player of the Month for March Is…

 

Voting for The Sandpit’s Player of the Month competition for March has now closed and the winner, incredibly by a single vote is…

The Skinny Wizard – Siwakorn Jakkuprasart!

 

 

Siwakorn, as Port fans know, is often the unsung hero in the midfield engine room. With his box-to-box midfield play, he is just as adept at starting attacks from deep as he is breaking them up when the opposition get the ball. The home games against Navy and Buriram in March were classic examples of excellent Siwakorn performances where others were largely given the plaudits. Keen observers that The Sandpit’s readers are, though, they have picked the midfield maestro to be their Player of the Month for March, albeit by a margin as skinny as one of Siwakorn’s arms! 73 votes ultimately gave Siwakorn 36% of the total, edging out…

 

David Rochela

Photo by Singhphanakon on TV

Always popular when it comes to a fan vote, Rochela’s army of supporters came up just short this time. El Capitan, as usual, marshaled his defence superbly in the two home wins, giving Port 6 points out of a possibly 9 this March. 72 votes for 35% of the total were not quite enough, though, meaning the Rochela fan club will have to redouble their efforts next month. Their main man will doubtless keep churning out the excellent performances we are all accustomed to seeing, so it would be a shock if he wasn’t on the shortlist again next month.

 

The Rest of the Nominees

 

Rattanai Sangsongchan was thought by many to be the favourite for this month’s competition. Having kept two clean sheets in his only two games, and missing the Honda disaster altogether, Rattanai had a flawless March. Whilst he leaped out to an early lead, he was slowly but surely reeled in, finishing with 13% of the vote. In order to scoop our prize in future months, Rattanai will have to become as adept at organizing his fans as he is at organizing his Port defence!

Nitipong Selanon was one of only two Port goalscorers in March, with his winning goal against Navy giving Port a potentially very important 3 points. Whether he meant it or not we don’t know, but the fans continue to appreciate Nitipong’s performances, as he picked up 11% of the vote.

Pakorn Prempak was this month’s other goalscorer. Surprisingly dropped for the away clash at Honda, he came on with his side already down 4-0 and curled in a masterful free kick to give Port’s traveling fans something to cheer about. If Pakorn wants to get more than the 4% of the vote he picked up in March, he is going to have to start performing more consistently.

Adisorn Daeng-rueng was not nominated by The Sandpit’s panel by virtue of the fact that he played just one game in March. He sat out the games against Navy and Honda, so we felt that despite his Man of the Match performance against Buriram, we couldn’t include him in our competition. Thanks to all those who asked us why he wasn’t there. If he nails down that midfield spot and keeps playing like he did against Buriram, he’ll be in the running soon enough!

 

Thanks to all 203 voters, and congratulations to Siwakorn and all the other nominees.

 

The Sandpit’s Port FC Player of the Month for March – Voting Closed

 

Voting opens today!

Every month, The Sandpit is going to choose the Port players we think have played the best, and let our readers decide who should be named Player of the Month.

In March Port secured their first clean sheet with a 1-0 win at home to Navy, before succumbing to a miserable 1-5 thrashing away at Thai Honda. The final game of the month saw Port host giants Buriram at home, where they upset the odds to hold on to a 0-0 draw.

Here are the nominees in order of squad number…

 

Pakorn Prempak (9)

Siwakorn Jakkuprasart (16)

Rattanai Songsangchan (17)

David Rochela (22)

Nitipong Selanon (34)

 

ร่วมโหวตที่นี่

 

 

,

The Sandpit’s Port FC Player of the Month for February Is…

 

Voting for The Sandpit’s inaugural Player of the Month competition has now closed and the winner is…

El Capitan David Rochela!

 

 

In a vote that was tied just hours before the deadline, a late surge of support for Port FC’s captain propelled him to victory, adding February’s Player of the Month Award to his Player of the Year award from 2016.

Rochela produced a rock solid Man of the Match performance in Port’s opening day draw against Ratchaburi and then a strong showing in the victory over Suphanburi. The final game of the month saw Port visit Bangkok Utd, where Port conceded 6 and Rochela was far from his best, but 25% of voters adjudged that his first two displays were enough to merit him taking home the award.

In online discussion about the vote, Tommie Duncan commented “Aside from his play on Sunday, Rochela kept us in the first two matches. He was superhuman. Gets my vote.” And James Clarke, although he did not vote for the Spaniard, said “If he’d not played a minute of the season, I think we’d have 0 points, can’t make that case for anyone else.”

Siwakorn Jakkuprasart

Photo by Patikamol Sukcharoen

 

In second place was the consistent Siwakorn Jakkuprasart, who was Port FC’s Man of the Match in the away defeat to Bangkok Utd, where he also scored an early contender for Goal of the Season. Whilst he did nothing particularly outstanding in the first 2 games, Siwakorn as always put in solid performances and his all-action midfield displays provided a platform for those around him to flourish. Siwakorn was tied with Rochela with just hours to go before the deadline, but ended up taking 18% of the vote to finish second.

 

The Rest of the Nominees

 

Nitipong Selanon racked up 15% of the vote to finish in third. His attacking displays from full-back really caught the eye in the opening two games, although his defensive frailties were brutally exposed against Bangkok Utd.

 

Tana Chanabut took 12% of the vote after scoring two goals, despite starting just once and coming off the bench twice. As always, Tana is a major goal threat when he’s on the pitch, and he kick-started Port’s come-from-behind victory against Suphanburi with a stunning dipping strike from outside the box.

 

Sergio Suarez also took 12%, but had one fewer vote than Tana. Suarez looked a little overawed on the opening day of the season, but came to life against Suphanburi, scooping The Sandpit’s Man of the Match award, and scoring the winning goal.

 

Rattanai Songcangchan was picked by 10% of voters, who were willing to overlook the fact that the young ‘keeper conceded 9 goals in his opening 3 games. Realistically, Rattanai could be held responsible for just one of those goals, and made some stunning saves at important moments throughout the month.

 

Pakorn Prempak picked up 8% of the vote after providing 2 assists in the opening 3 games. An inch-perfect delivery was met by a Genki header to rescue a point on the opening day of the season, and a deep looping cross deceived Bangkok Utd’s ‘keeper to give Tana a tap-in last week.

 

Thanks to all 218 people who voted before the deadline, and congratulations to Rochela and all the other nominees. 

 

Suphan Main Course: Port FC vs. Suphanburi FC, 19th Feb 2017

 

Port FC face Suphanburi FC at 19:00 on Sunday. Suphanburi finished in a disappointing 10th place in the TPL last year, making them just the kind of team that Port should be looking to take all 3 points from at PAT Stadium if they are going to achieve their goal of a top half finish this season. Here we will take an in-depth look at Port’s opponents before turning our attention to Jadet’s team selection.

Suphanburi FC

Players to Watch

 

Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool (18) is Thailand’s second choice ‘keeper at international level and, even at 34, is still one of the best in the business. He is an excellent shot-stopper, but is better known for charging off his line and is a classic example of a ‘sweeper-keeper’.

Adul Lahso (19) is a disciplined, no-nonsense defensive midfielder who protects Suphanburi’s back four and very rarely loses possession. He played one season in Japan, and has made 34 appearances for the Thai National Team. Adul will likely be tasked with keeping tabs on Sergio Suarez (5), who will be trying to operate between Suphanburi’s midfield and defence.

Charyl Chappuis (7) is a Thai-Swiss central midfielder with possibly the best range of passing in T1. His ability to pick out a 40 yard pass and land it on a 1 baht coin is reminiscent of Scholes in his prime, although Chappuis’ legion of female fans would probably not be too happy with the comparison. Chappuis’ career has been blighted by injury, but after missing the majority of the last 2 seasons, he is now back to full fitness and eager to impress. Chappuis is not one to be intimidated by the famously hostile atmosphere at PAT Stadium, leaving this cheeky comment on Instagram after we warned him what to expect.

Dellatorre (9) was Suphanburi’s top scorer in 2016, netting a useful but not particularly scary 10 goals in 26 games for The War Elephants. The 1.86m striker looks like a bit of a handful, although the way Rochela (22) and Dolah (4) handled the physical side of Ratchaburi striker Marcel Essombe’s game last week, his size shouldn’t prove too much of a problem.

Thanasith Siriphala (11) is a quick, tricky left-winger who didn’t start Suphanburi’s first game of the season, but looked electric when he came off the bench. Known as Taodinho, (his nickname is Tao, and the dinho comes from his rather more famous buck-toothed doppelganger) he absolutely terrorized Port last time he came to PAT Stadium, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win for Bangkok Glass. Let’s hope Meechok (20) is fit enough to play 90 minutes at right-back this week, as the prospect of Taodinho running at Nitipong (34) is not one that Port fans will relish.

 

Sinthaweechai, Adul, Chappuis, Dellatorre and Tanasith

 

Form

 

It’s hard to judge form so early in the season, so we will give you a brief account of Suphanburi’s first game of the season. The War Elephants earned a hard-fought 2-1 win against newly-promoted Thai Honda, but looked far from comfortable against a team that is expected to be in the lower reaches of the T1 table. Suphanburi looked good in central midfield with Adul (19) and Chappuis (7) combining well, and dangerous going forward, with Chananan (10), Dellatorre (9) and Madrigal (8) looking sharp. Defensively, however, there was a lot to be desired from The War Elephants, and it was indecision from two defenders that led to Thai Honda taking the lead. They both stood and waited for the other to take control of an innocuous ball across the 6 yard box, and Honda midfielder Peemvit (11) snuck between them to head the ball past Sinthaweechai (18).

Suphanburi always looked likely to equalize though, and it was a peach of a pass that led to the goal. Chappuis (7) showed excellent vision and technique to play a pinpoint ball over the top, and former Thai under 23 striker Chananan (10) did well to beat the keeper with a first time shot from a tight angle.

Suphanburi’s winner came just before half time, as an unmarked Dellatorre (9) did well to connect with a deep corner, sticking a leg out and sending an unconventional finish past Buncha (24) in the Honda goal. Honda will have been disappointed with their defending though, as Dellatorre should never have lost his marker with such ease.

Honda pushed on in search of an equalizer in the second half and the game really opened up, leading to several chances for both sides. Sinthaweechai (18) made a quality save late on to ensure that Suphanburi held on for the win, and they will head to PAT Stadium with 3 points under their belt despite a patchy performance.

 

The Suphanburi Perspective

 

We caught up with Matt who runs the @fcsuphanburi Twitter account to get a feel for how the away side are expecting to do this season.

“This season, for Suphanburi after their poor end to the truncated season last year, a fit again Charyl Chappuis, three Brazilian and one Argentine new imports, there needs to be a lot of samba flair. I am a big fan of second time round coach Sergio Farias. He is a calm and clear tactician who now has at least four members of the squad that he can communicate directly with (his English is very basic). There seems a good mixture of experience (not sure where the 38 year old Rangsan fits in) with thirty year old Adul a stabilising force for the team and keeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool a consummate professional to influence the younger players. The preseason has not been great, but a come from behind win against Thai Honda with Dellatore bagging the winner showed some promise. It is time for him and Chananan to show what they are capable of. Both flattered to achieve last season. Fourth is the new first, so I expect the best case scenario to be that. Title winners are Muang Thong, dark horses are Scott Cooper’s Ubon and a good cup run and fighting for an AFC place would be a good step forward for Suphanburi after the frustrations of last season.”

We also asked Matt to pick out one key player to watch from both sides. From Suphanburi he chose Brazilian striker Dellatorre.

“For Suphanburi, a slimmer Dellatorre has plenty of skill and, if he can improve his work rate and consistency, he will always prove a threat. His ability has never been in doubt, but his fitness and application have let him down in the past. Fitter and thinner, a good run in the team supported by the “Syrian” duo  [Ed – Brazilian duo Marcelo and Gilson have both recently acquired Syrian passports] might, finally, bring out the best in a player of undoubted ability.”

Unsurprisingly, his player to watch from Port was captain and last week’s Port FC Man of the Match David Rochela.

“For Port, I have always felt David Rochela is a touch of class. He has the football intelligence to keep the younger players in a more disciplined frame of mind and the temperament to cope with the febrile atmosphere at the PAT. He should score more goals in a season from set pieces, but he is a real defender’s defender.”

 

Port FC

The Starting XI – Selection Headaches

 

Jadet has some key decisions to make after Genki rescued a point for Port last week against Ratchaburi.

Rattanai (17) should retain his place in goal after an excellent performance on Saturday, while Rochela (22) and Dolah (4) will continue in central defence.

If Meechok (20) has fully recovered from the knock he picked up in pre-season, it’s a no-brainer to bring the youngster in for Nitipong (34) at right back. Whilst Nitipong got forward well against Ratchaburi, his defensive struggles mean he is very likely to be back on the bench.

There is another slightly trickier decision to be made at left back. Piyachart (23) played OK against Ratchaburi, but also seemed to prioritise attack over defence. Panpanpong (19) replaced him in the second half and played with more discipline, but looked poor going forward. With the less-than-inspiring options Jadet has available to him, it is perhaps unsurprising that the club have chosen to dip in to the loan market to snap up Surachet from Chainat on a 1 year deal. We’re unsure whether Surachet will be considered for selection this week, and we are also not certain if Jadet intends to play him in defence or midfield. With Surachet having been at the club less than a week – and attack-minded Suphanburi the opponents – it seems likely that the more defensive Panpanpong will make his first competitive start for Port.

The biggest head-scratcher from the Ratchaburi game was Jadet’s central midfield selection. Siwakorn (16) and Suarez (5) were of course expected to be starting, and it wasn’t a complete surprise to see Piyachat (88) get the nod, but I doubt that a single person in PAT Stadium expected to see Adisorn (13) come off the bench. Is there a reason that Tatchanon (39) or Wanchalerm (40) were not even in the squad? Both impressed far more than Adisorn in pre-season, with Tatchanon in particular looking like a class act in the holding midfield role. With Piyachat injured until the end of the month, we will be very interested to see who Jadet picks. If you’re reading, Jadet, anyone but Adisorn, please!

Pakorn (9) and Genki (18) combined to rescue a point for Port last week, and will surely continue on the wings, but Jadet could ring the changes up front. Kaludjerovic (10) looked a little off the pace against Ratchaburi, despite finding the net several times in pre-season. With new signing Josimar (30) likely to be in contention for a place in the side, Jadet could consider making a change, although we think he’s much more likely to stick with the Serb for now.

 

Predicted Starting XI

 

 

The Key Battle

Suarez vs. Adul

 

 

Suarez will likely be in the same advanced midfield role he played against Ratchaburi, while Adul will be sitting in front of his back four trying to track the Spaniard’s forward runs. If Suarez can find space and time on the ball, and make Adul’s life difficult when Suphanburi have possession, then it could well give Port the upper hand. Alternatively, if Adul can nullify the Suarez threat and dictate the pace of play, then Suphanburi will likely control the game.

 

 

Thanks to Matt from @fcsuphanburi for contributing. 

 

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.

Dolah In The Bank

 

Thai-Swedish centre-half Elias Dolah has reportedly signed with Port. The 6 foot 5 defender was born in Lund, Sweden to a Thai father and a Swedish mother, meaning he will be able to bring his experience of European football to Port without taking up one of the five foreign player slots.

Elias Dolah, 23

23 year old Dolah played 21 games for local third tier side Lunds BK before moving to FC Rosengard and then Songkhla United in the TPL. He made 23 appearances for Songkhla last season, scoring one goal.

Dolah looks to be a shrewd signing, bringing much-needed physical presence to a Port squad that was somewhat lacking in height and strength last term. His arrival will increase competition for places in the Port back-line, where Todsapol (6) formed a solid partnership with Rochela (22) last season. He could also add a goal threat from set-pieces, giving Pakorn (9) a target for his pinpoint crosses.

Welcome to PAT Stadium, Elias Dolah!

 

MATCH REPORT: Port FC 4-1 Thonburi University

Port got pre-season up and running with a low-key friendly win against Thonburi University on Saturday. The Sandpit, along with a couple of hundred fans, watched Port run out 4-1 winners in an unusual match played over three thirds.

Trialist Saër Sène opened the scoring for the Khlong Toei Army in the first period, before Todsapol (6) and then Ekkaphum (8) profited from the excellent wing-play of Pakorn (9) to put Port 3-0 up. Thonburi fought back with a smart freekick, before Sène capped a successful trial by rounding off the scoring in the dying minutes.

imag4552

In the first period of the match, Port fielded a combination of trialists and squad players. Young ‘keeper Rattanai (17) enjoyed a meteoric rise last season, winning a starting berth and making his debut for the Thailand Under 23 team. He looked comfortable, despite not having much to do, as Port controlled the game against their unfancied opponents without ever really looking likely to score. It took a mistake to break the deadlock. Thonburi passed the ball dangerously across their own goal and Sène pounced, intercepting the ball and showing composure in front of goal to give Port the lead.

In the second period Port fielded what looked like Meelarp’s first choice team. A front four of Sène, Genki (18), Ekkaphum (8) and Pakorn (9) turned up the heat, playing with more fluidity and creating chances consistently. Pakorn showed his class midway through the period, when he earned a freekick and delivered an inch-perfect cross which Todsapol (6) met with a textbook downward header, leaving the Thonburi ‘keeper with no chance. Port soon made it 3 as Sène flicked a clever pass through to Pakorn who, instead of opting to shoot from a tight angle, squared to the better placed Ekkaphum. On his weaker right foot, the fan-favourite made no mistake with a cool side-footed finish.

imag4561

Thonburi, determined not to go home empty-handed, scored a clever goal that they will remember for a while, but Worawut in the Port goal will want to forget. The Thonburi midfielder shaped to cross, but curled a delightful lob over the head of the Port ‘keeper, who was caught out of position. The ball ricoched off the far post and into the net, ensuring that the visitors could celebrate a goal if not a positive result.

15272343_1475582245789796_4163520404342404121_oIn the final period Meelarp sent out a Port team comprised of mostly trialists who played out an uninspiring 30 minutes until Sène once again underlined his credentials with a goal in the final seconds of the game. Unfortunately, all we can tell you about the goal is that it was well-applauded by the home fans, as we were on our way off to The Sportsman, where we would bump in to Captain David Rochela.

One of the stars of last season’s successful promotion campaign with his consistent rock-solid defending and invaluable leadership, Rochela proved to be as nice a guy off the pitch as he is a formidable defender on it.

We will be bringing you more pre-season match reports in the coming weeks in preparation for February 11th, when the long-anticipated 2017 season is scheduled to get under way.

 

Photos by Tim Russell