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Pangdemonium! Port FC 2-2 Chonburi FC

 

 

Port’s off-field chaos spilled over onto the pitch and the terraces last night as the team played out a pitiful 2-2 draw against struggling Chonburi in an increasingly poisonous atmosphere. Port were simply dreadful in the second half and their cause wasn’t helped by three of the most ludicrous substitutions I’ve seen all season, and their fading title hopes are now surely all but extinct.

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Reality Bites: Port FC 1-3 Buriram Utd

 

Until now, Port v Buriram has always been very much a David v Goliath affair, but this season, with Port top of the league and Buriram struggling for consistency, it had the feel of a T1 title summit, a game that would tell us whether Port’s title bid was the real deal, or whether we were just the lucky – and temporary – beneficiaries of slow starts by the big boys. Sadly the answer wasn’t the one we were hoping for…

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Trat’s the Way to Do It! Port FC 4-1 Trat FC

 

 

Trat FC travelled to Klong Toei looking full of confidence after a comprehensive beatdown of Suphanburi at the weekend. They sported an all white away kit with red and grey stripes running down the front.  This immediately had me thinking of our last three black away kits that even the keenest Port supporter couldn’t tell apart. The two clubs have only had the pleasure of meeting a couple of times. The first came when Port was briefly labeled Singhtarua FC, our mascot a winged lion, Mighty Kiatjaroen the captain and King Leandro the top scorer in the league.  Those were happy times at the PAT and the sight of the “White Elephants” galloping up from the eastern beaches near the bottom of the table couldn’t have come at a better time.

 

Port had struggled to score in the last two league fixtures and there was an uneasy atmosphere at the start of the game from the home supporters. Both teams came out full of energy, looking to take points from a crucial mid week game.  Port were attacking Zone B in the first half and the first chance of the evening came in the fifth minute when Suarez (5) found himself with the ball at the corner of the left goal box. Pakorn (7) was positioned in front of the goal for an easy square ball but the shot from Suarez was easily saved by the Trat keeper (Tossaporn).  

 

The next 10 minutes of action were muted by poor passing but quickly pick up when Port started to move the ball wider to the wings, all three of them.  Pakorn (7) was menacing down the right all night and the play of Bodin (10) and Boskovic (23) was excellent teamwork down the left but often “left” us without a striker in the middle.  Port earned its first corner of the game after 15 minutes and the crowd finally came to life when the defender (40) miss played the Pakorn corner and clearly handled the ball, the ref waved play-on to the dismay of the fans behind the goal.  This was the first of many poor refereeing decisions followed by customary decent that had plagued the team in Sukhothai. Several waves of attacked followed with no result and the frustration of the last home game versus PTT could be felt with chances gone lost.  But the Port faithful didn’t have to wait much longer to “open the door” when Bodin collected the ball at left side of midfield and ran at the defence like a young Ryan Giggs. Kevin made a parallel run down the left wing in support, Bodin cut inside at the top of the box drawing the defence. He looked at goal but pushed the ball to Kevin on the wing, Kevin cut a pass back to a Suarez one timer that finished splendidly in the upper left corner for the first goal of the half.

 

Port were now in control but the referee seemed to be channeling Howard Webb (never trust a cop) and kept blowing the whistle at every chance he could get, thus killing the flow of the game.  Port immediately started complaining and challenged the ref about a foul at midfield. While half the team was bitching about the call, Trat striker (10) took a quick free kick down the right channel to (23) who moved into the box shooting low, the keeper parried the shot but the winger (40) scored on the rebound.  All even and frustration filled the stadium. However, Port’s reaction to the equalizer was fierce, they woke up and were stronger after conceding the goal.  Siwakorn (16) and Go (8) quietly bossed the midfield, distributing nce nice passes to the plethora of wingers selected for the contest. Just two minutes later Pakorn raced down the right side and looked to find Boskovic with a sublime cross. The crowded roared at the second clear penalty shout when the defender (41) clearly handled the ball, again waved off by the ref.  Two minutes later Nitipong (34) made an overlapping run down the right flank, he moved to the edge off the box and slipped a pacey square ball to Suarez who sent a curling chip over the keeper to the left side of the goal. Brilliant strike and a lead for Port going into halftime.

 

Slow starts to the second period are a Port trademark but this game was different. At halftime I imagined the team talk from Jadet going something like this, “Hey guys, we usually start slow but we have the lead so let’s be smart, keep our heads and go on to win this game.” To the contrary the boys came out flying, aggressive and undisciplined.  Five questionable and unnecessary fouls in the first five minutes gave Trat chances they didn’t deserve. A few corners and two free kicks just outside the box had the opposition looking good to equalize early in the second half. Port were not flustered and strong defending from center backs Dolah (4) and Tassapon (6) shut down any Trat attack. Port again started attacking from wide positions.  Boskovic found himself on the right this time and raced towards the goal. He reached the box and sent a weak cross to Suarez who jumped over the ball and tumbled like he had been hit by a car which drew yet another free kick. Pakorn spotted the ball about 25 yards in front of the goal and seconds later sent a screaming shot through the wall for the third goal of the game for Port.

 

Relief for the fans but the pace of the game was still unpleasant. Quite frankly it was ugly, “a horrible game” according to Peter, “The refs not allowing them to play,” said James.  Suarez a yellow card for complaining about a bad foul. By the 75th minute I was frustrated too but Arthit (29) was to come to the rescue. The boy has energy, and every time he’s on the pitch we look like scoring.  He came on for Pakorn which gave us a third option down the left wing. Port then earned a corner with attacking play from a much improved Boskovic. Panpanpong (19) delivered a beautiful ball to the six yard box and Arthit headed a thumping goal to wrap up the game and give Port an emphatic 4-1 home win.  

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match – Sergio Suarez

There were impressive performances all over the pitch last night, notably Dolah, Niti, Go, Bodin, Siwakorn, Boskovic & Arthit, but the MOTM award has to go to the SS, who scored two absolutely sublime first half goals that would’ve had pundits absolutely creaming themselves if Messi or Neymar had scored them. Sergio has been slow to get up & running this season but those two goals, and two yellows in two games for arguing with referees, show that he’s getting back to his best, which can only be a good thing for Port’s title campaign. (TR)

 

The Sandpit Readers’ Player of the Year 2018 Is…

 

The voting is over and the results are in, and we can finally reveal the winner of the 2018 Player of the Year poll! And there’s a new name on the imaginary trophy this year – Port skipper David Rochela won the award in 2016 & 2017, but only finished a distant 5th this time round. That shouldn’t be seen as an indication of the capn’s declining powers; more the fact that there’s a lot more competition this year with Port having splashed the cash & brought in some top quality players. And yet, as you’ll see from the results below, it was an old hand who won the prize…

 

Winner: Sergio Suarez (41%)

Suarez was narrowly pipped to the prize by Rochela last season; this year there was no doubt who would win with the Spaniard winning in a landslide. Suarez was handed a more attacking role alongside Dragan Boskovic most of the season and revelled in it, scoring 18 goals and contributing 13 assists in all competitions. He may have his critics, particularly here at The Sandpit, and it has to be said that those stats could be even better if he was more consistent and less fond of getting into pointless on-pitch squabbles with referees and opponents, but Port would struggle to replace those kinds of numbers if he left.

 

 

2nd: Dragan Boskovic (11%)

Port’s much-vaunted big winter signing started with a bang (that goal against Pattaya), then went quiet, culminating in the unsavoury scenes of Chainatgate, then went on a run form, then went quiet again, and just as we were about to name him as the disappointment of the season, exploded into life late on, scoring 6 goals in the last 2 games to take his tally to 28 in all competitions. To be fair to the big Montenegrin, Port haven’t exactly played to his strengths and he’s had to go looking for the ball far too often, but his late season form gives us hope that, in 2019, we’ll see the best of Bosko.

 

 

3rd: Nitipong Selanon (9%)

The winner of our Writers’ POTY Award also got some love – though not as much – from our readers, finishing 3rd overall. As we have said already, you’re not going to get MOTM performances from Niti but you are going to get 110% effort, and virtually zero mistakes, week in and week out, and in a season when Port’s stars alternated stellar performances with no-shows, that counts for a lot. Niti’s improvement since 2016 has been a joy to watch and 2019 should be the season when the rest of T1 sits up & takes notice.

 

 

Images (c) Shutterstock

 

 

The Decline of Thai Sea Power: Navy FC 0-5 Port FC

 

The headline for this report is derived from the title of the debut album of British indie rockers British Sea Power. A band with more than a passing similarity to Port, at its best a night spent with BSP is a near riotous evening of beautiful noise, with a band of likeminded souls. Its noisy, oddball (random stuffed animals replace Japanese guys in fancy dress) and you’re left with the sense that all those who have forgone the show to consume more mainstream fare (be it Coldplay or Man United at West Ham) have missed out. At their worst you know the people you are watching are professionals, you know they’ve performed together numerous times before, its just you question if since the last time you saw them if they’ve bothered to get together and maybe give it a run though and discuss how the 90mins they’ll be stood in front of their crowd should unfold. Saturday in Sattahip Port put in a performance very much in the former category. As the swagger the team played with though out May and June returned and Navy were gunned down 5-0.

Navy’s recent relegation, alongside Air Force having fallen though the trap door some time previous and Army finishing mid table in the second tier, means next season there will be no military representation in top level Thai football for the first time since records began (well as far back as Wikipedia goes and Hockers remembers, which is good enough for me). However, the weekend’s news from the second tier was generally good as PTT Rayong were crowded champions and Trat and Chang Mai took the other two promotion spots. So, three good away trips should the fixture computer be kind next season. PTT’s arrival will be applauded by the culture vultures who will had feared that the loss of the Navy away trip would mean the end of the annual cultural exchange to Bang Chang. Thankfully it is equally well positioned to act as a base for matches in Rayong as Sattahip so will remain on the calendar.

And it was from Bang Chang that the Sandpit representation arrived, thanks to that rarest of things an honest taxi driver who asked for less than the quoted fare. We made our way around the stadium past what looks like a great little bar overlooking some water that could be worth a visit should Navy return to the big time or draw us in a cup game with an early kick off. And moved past a boule pit similar to our own sandpit, now I’m not saying Navy lack fans, but this place was still being used to play weird French games an hour before kick off rather than as a make shift pub garden. Before reaching the away end where we were met with, thanks to the various thunderstorms of the past few days, a mud pit to enjoy prematch refreshments. The afternoons tour and cultural debate had moved on to when a chain of events is just a series of random events involving a pleasant end and when those events are “serendipitous”. (I think we may have imbibed a little too much holy water whilst on the pre match tour of temples in Bang Chang). Before this debate could be concluded however Ming’s party buses arrived, blasting their theme tune and those who piled off showed us what arriving at the game after one too many really looks like. The majority of those on board had attended the futsal earlier in the day and seemingly drank at a pace more suited to only seeing Port play once in the day.

The Navy stadium is a classic Thai affair with a running track leaving the away fans positioned in a corner about as far from the pitch as possible. Thankfully it does have a roof so had the thunderstorm that put on a more than impressive show of lighting passed over. Jadet made two changes to the starting line up with Dolah (4) replacing Todsapol (6) and Pakorn (7) in for the suspended Bodin (10). Meaning what is generally considered Jadet’s default outfield selections started. What followed was brutal, had It been a sea battle (come on they’re called Navy) the capitulation of the home forces would have taken much less than the 90 mins this one sided affair was drawn out for. You knew something was afoot when within a minute Pakorn had made a run, attempted to beat someone and reacted to being tackled by not sulking for a few minutes but rather making himself available to receive a pass from Boskovic (23), who the ball had broken too, who himself having made the pass darted into the box looking for a return ball. However the midfield monk decided to play the ball to Siwakorn (16) who had taken up a position on the edge of the box and unleashed a shot that was neither high or wide nor was it handsome but at least he had a go, inside 3 minutes Pakorn had rattled the cross bar from a fair distance with a free kick, Suarez (5) was also looking somewhat back to the level we saw a few months ago. Port were buzzing and it was the players who have been most blamed for the dip in form who seemed to have upped their game. Pakorn would show his ability to strike a ball like few in this league in the 13th minute, playing a ball from just inside our half perfectly for Suarez to run onto in the opposition box, the Spaniard played a first time ball across goal to the on coming Boskovic who finished from 3 yards. 1-0 Port and realistically game over. Pakorn would strike the post with a further free kick (which looked more likely to have been diverted by the keeper than the wood work) before the second duly arrived via Siwakorn who beat a man before firing from the edge of the box into the corner of the goal and beyond the hapless Navy keeper. Five minutes later a third was added as Siwakorn, who again looked great against the fodder at the bottom of the table, played a neat though ball for Nural (31) that dissected the heart of the Navy defence and the little man dinked the ball past the on coming keeper from near the penalty spot. There was still time for a fourth before half time as Boskovic found an unmarked Pakorn in an ocean of space who made his way into box and cutback for Kevin (97) to finish from a similar spot to Nural just moments before.

The second half was played out with a sense of merely going though the motions, the little dots at the far end had chances here and there but with the result assured the intensity of the game faded. Suarez was denied the goal his efforts deserved as a small dot in white a few kilometres from the away end cleared off the line. By this stage it was more entertaining to watch trainer Rod warm up Adisorn (13), Terens (28) and “Digger” Arthit (29), who in that order, were one by one recalled to the bench and sent on. It was particularly pleasing to see Terens “running around like a Labrador getting a first taste of the beach after a two hundred mile car journey, turning somersaults, biting his own tail, chasing squirrels up trees”, as Barney Ronay of The Guardian once wrote of David Luiz. With a little more than 10 minutes to go the biggest dot in orange and blue (Dolah (4)) met a near post corner and flicked the ball inside the far post for a fifth. There was time for Vitor Junior (10) to clip the Port cross bar before the end. However even with Port well clear it would have been more than this poor Navy team deserved. As they were seen off across the season 12-1 on aggregate. It’s hard to place the value of playing that well against a team as weak as Navy. However, it was considerably better than the recent showings and with both Chonburi and Pattaya more than safe, hopefully if we can find the same level twice more we’ll have done all we can to take third spot.

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

A tough one. Most of the team played well but Suarez gets the nod for a welcome return to form.

 

Dragan’s Boys Crush Dragons: Ratchaburi FC 1-4 Port FC

 

After consecutive defensive collapses against Muangthong and Sukhothai, Port responded in the best way possible by turning on the style and absolutely destroying Ratchaburi at the Mitr Phol last night. Solid in defence, dominant in midfield and absolutely unplayable in attack, this was by far the best Port performance I’ve seen in 4 years of following the club – and by far the best away following too.


The Sandpit crew rolled up to Ratchaburi to find that things have definitely improved since our last visit. No, the Dragon Bar still isn’t open, but they’ve added a new food & drink zone, and the chicken & chips immediately took pole position in the Sandpit Best Away Ground Food Awards for 2018. The scene was further enlivened by the presence of two leather-clad dancing girls, one of whom immediately endeared herself to us for two particular reasons. Never let it be said that the Sandpit doesn’t keep you abreast of the important matchday incidents, and this is one that will live long in the mammary memory.

 

“They’re real…and they’re spectacular”

 

This was potentially a banana skin for Port, with Ratchaburi just 5 points behind in the league and Rochela & Siwakorn both suspended. In came Todsapol (6) and Jack Russell Adisorn (13), and, in an inspired move, the captain’s armband was given to Boskovic (23), who provided the on-pitch leadership & motivation Port so often lack.

Banana skin? Bollocks to that said Bosko, and after just 45 seconds the big striker dodged a  Ratchaburi midfielder and floated a delicious ball up to Nurul (31) which was just a little bit too quick for the Midfield Marmoset to latch onto. But Ratchaburi had been warned, and on 8 minutes the floodgates opened. Kim (8), enjoying playing in a more forward role in the absence of Siwakorn, set Kevin (97) free down the left, and the young defender, inspired by the boos of his former fans at Ratchaburi, skinned a defender with some lovely footwork before driving the ball into the box where it was met by the inrushing Suarez (5), who couldn’t miss.

 

The best stadium in Thailand

 

Port were happy to let Ratchaburi have the ball for long periods, comfortable in the knowledge that they didn’t have the strikers to hurt Port’s defence. New signing Mark Hartmann is a real Brent McGrath of a striker, whilst big new Lithuanian striker Nerijus Valskis is so wooden and immobile one can only assume they picked him up at IKEA. Surprisingly, failed moustache grower Kang Soo-Il, who has already scored 10 goals this season, was left on the bench. Even when they did break through, they found Todsapol and particularly Dolah (4) in defiant form.

Port doubled their lead on 33 minutes with one of the best team goals you’ll see all season. In a move that started on the edge of their own box, Port worked the ball out to Boskovic, who left Ratchaburi’s left-back on his arse and fed a lovely through ball to Suarez; the Spaniard crossed into the box for Nurul whose sublime first touch took out the one remaining defender and left him with an easy chip into the far corner. We’re not used to seeing Port play on the counter-attack but they’re seriously bloody good at it, and Ratchaburi just couldn’t handle them.

It could’ve got much worse for the Dragons before half-time, with Suarez volleying wide when picked out by a lovely cross from Kevin, and a Pakorn (7) free-kick stinging the keeper’s palms; but 2-0 was a pretty fair reflection of the first half and it was a very happy bunch of Port fans who headed down to the concourse for half-time beers.

If the first half was good, the second half was simply stellar. Once in a blue moon teams suddenly get in the zone and reach a level of football previously thought impossible (England’s 4-1 win over Holland at Euro 96 for example), and that’s what Port delivered. Ratchaburi simply couldn’t get near them and it was as good a display of attacking football as you’ll see in Thailand this season. Kim shaved the post after being nicely teed up by Cap’n Bosko, and then fired narrowly over from 20 yards; A Nurul cross/shot was almost turned in by Suarez; a superb Nitipong (34) cross was almost headed in by Boskovic.

It was only a matter of time until Port went further ahead and on 76 minutes it was that man Suarez again, picking up the ball on the halfway line, running unchallenged into the box & smashing it in off the crossbar for 3-0, sparking mayhem in the away end. And it got even better 9 minutes later – Bodin robbed a Ratchaburi attacker deep in his own half, ran the ball up to the edge of the box and fed Boskovic, who curled a sublime shot into the top corner. The best goal of the night, and cause of some ecstatic scenes in the away end, including a certain Port fan waving a seat in the air.

 

Throw ya seats in the air/Wave ’em around like ya just don’t care

 

It wouldn’t be Port without a bit of late drama of course, and a defensive mix-up between Port debutant Worawut (24) and keeper Rattanai (17) allowed Ratchaburi’s MOTM Yannick Djalo to tap in a consolation goal. Clean sheets? Who needs ’em.

Understandably, the drive home was 2 hours of drinking, singing (including a couple of ditties for absent friends who had inexplicably chosen to go to Chonburi for the futsal) and improving Anglo-German relations – “I just want you to know I don’t mean any harm” said a well-oiled Keith to the backseat German contingent, after a chorus of ‘Two World Wars & One World Cup’. “I’M A GLOBAL CITIZEN!!!” Hands down the best away trip I’ve done in 3 years of travelling with Port.

As for the football, what can I say? This was a stunning win for Jadet’s team, and one of those nights when everything comes together. Dolah & Todsapol made a mockery of our worries over Rochela’s absence; Adisorn & Kim are a much better midfield pairing than Kim & Siwakorn; Nurul & Kevin tore the full-backs so many new arseholes that the proctologists of Ratchaburi will be doing a roaring trade for weeks to come; and Bosko & Suarez were just unplayable, their race for the Port golden boot becoming increasingly fascinating viewing. This wasn’t a 7-1 win against a joke team like Navy; this was a composed, organised, dominant dismissal of serious top 6 contenders, and sets Port up nicely for what should be a thrilling second half of the season. And a special note about the Khlong Thoey Army who turned up en masse tonight, filling the away end and creating a deafening din throughout. “Absolutely amazing support today!” Dolah messaged to me after the game, commenting that they couldn’t hear the Ratchaburi fans at all. One of those nights when being a Port fan is simply the greatest feeling in the world.

 

THIS IS KHLONG THOEY!

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

So many excellent performances I hardly know where to start. So let’s do a top 5 (with honours also going to Adisorn, Dolah & Todsapol). In 5th place, Kevin, who shoved the home fans’ boos right back up their arses with a fantastic performance. In 4th, Nurul – the little winger was at his cheeky best and scored a lovely goal. In 3rd, Boskovic, clearly revelling in his role as captain and scoring one of the goals of the season. In 2nd, Kim, who is a much better CM than he is a DM, and one can only hope that the Adisorn-Kim pairing becomes Jadet’s default setting.

 

Men of the match

 

And in 1st, yet again, it’s Suarez. The Spaniard has had his critics this season and last, myself amongst them, but when he focuses on playing football he’s one of the best players in T1 and tonight Ratchaburi just couldn’t get near him. I had a very tasty serving of humble pie on the bus home.

 

Seven Minutes of Madness: Port FC 2-3 Muangthong Utd

 

 

Last season Port went to Muangthong, banged in 3 goals in 5 minutes, and spent the rest of the game clinging on by their fingernails. Last night the Kirins returned the favour, in one of the most thrilling games I’ve ever seen at the PAT – goals, controversy, shenanigans and one hell of an atmosphere. Football, bloody hell.


Port v Muangthong is undoubtedly the biggest rivalry in Thai football and queues began forming at the stadium around lunchtime. I arrived around 4pm to find the Sandpit already packed, and met up with understandably nervous Muangthong blogger Gian, doing his best to cover up his MTU staff shirt while he interviewed me.

 

The editor with a slightly nervous Muangthong blogger

 

Port lined up as per usual, whilst Muangthong, with Jaja up front and professional model/Instagrammer Chappuis in midfield, were clearly trying to set a new T1 average player weight record.

This was a whole new level for a Port-MTU fixture, finally a clash of equals with Port in 3rd & the visitors in 4th, and as a result the first half was a cagey affair, with Heberty having the first shot on goal after 12 minutes, and Kevin (97) waiting until the 22nd minute to return fire for Port with a rasping shot/cross that MTU keeper Prasit, who let’s face it is certainly no Kawin, ineffectually slapped over the bar.

On 28 minutes, Port were gifted a free-kick just outside the box, but Pakorn (7) fired it straight at the wall then blasted the rebound over the bar, with several teammates in good positions. The winger’s selfishness around the box is becoming a serious issue for Port and Jadet needs to address it – time & again last night he opted to shoot, even from corners, instead of picking out a better-placed teammate, and anyone wondering why he’s not getting national team callups can take last night’s game as exhibit A.

But Port were having much the better of things, and after Nurul (31) tested Prasit with a fairly tame shot from the edge of the box, Port almost took the lead on the stroke of half-time. Nitipong played a long ball up to Suarez whose delicious flick found Boskovic on the right; the big Montenegrin played a perfect pass into the box back to the Spaniard but his shot was spectacularly turned away by Prasit.

0-0 at half-time then, and MTU would’ve been the happier team going into the changing rooms, relieved at having stayed level despite Port bossing the game. They were certainly the happier team within a few minutes of the restart, as they flew out of the traps and stunned Port with 3 goals in the first 7 minutes of the half, leading to a lot of baffled fans returning from their HT beer to find they’d missed 3 goals (or in Toby’s case, 5).

The first went in a mere 30 seconds in, with that man Tristan Do (who indisputably won his much-hyped battle with Kevin) putting in a deep cross which was nodded in by Sanukran, with Rattanai (17) out of position and Port’s defence as a whole still sucking on their oranges. Assuming players still eat oranges at half-time. Probably not. Probably some kind of energy pods or something. Ah, the good old days. Jumpers for goalposts. Isn’t it?

Things got worse 2 minutes later when Heberty skinned Kevin, having by far his worst game for Port, on the edge of the box and picked out Sarach on the 18-yard line, who slotted it into the corner for 2-0. Muangthong’s blood was clearly up and on 49 minutes a pass from the left found Sanukran totally unmarked in the Port area, but luckily his shot went wide of the post. But with Port’s defence in utter disarray, a third goal looked inevitable and it came on 51 minutes when Heberty broke clear, was briefly held up by Dolah (4), and then returned passes with Jaja to create enough space to get a shot past Rattanai.

This was a return to the darker days of 2017, when Port’s defence was leakier than a Welshman’s vegetable drawer; but the 2018 Port side are made of sterner stuff and, spurred on by a crowd whose already considerable loathing for the Pathum Thani bumpkins had just reached new heights, they set about clawing their way back into the game.

And it took them all of a minute, when a blocked Boskovic (23) shot found its way back to Suarez (5), who volleyed it emphatically into the back of the net. The game was well and truly back on and Port set about their opponents in an atmosphere of pure unbridled hysteria. On 55 minutes Pakorn found himself in a great position on the right of the area but, as per usual, elected to shoot rather than pass to a teammate. But 2 minutes later the Midfield Monk finally turned provider when his peach of a free-kick was flicked on by Rochela (22) for Boskovic to nod home. 2-3, and had there been a roof on Zone B, it would well & truly have been blown off by now. And on the hour mark, pure mayhem broke out when a Suarez shot deflected off a defender and found its way onto the boot of Boskovic. 3-3, or so we thought, until we spotted the lineman’s flag aloft. No goal. Bosko stomped over to the touchline, presumably to tell the official exactly what he thought of his flag and make some suggestions as to where it might most effectively be stored, and watching the video afterwards it was clear that Bosko had every right to be aggrieved as he was clearly onside.

The PAT was now in absolute uproar and a match that had started out as a cagey tactical battle descended into the pure chaos of an U11s game, with no pause for breath as both teams, realising that neither could defend, attacked relentlessly. Port almost got their equaliser on 68 minutes when a spectacular Suarez header hit the crossbar; theb on 80 minutes a rasping drive from Kim (8) was parried into the path of Boskovic by Prasit, but the Port striker, faced with an open goal, fired over the bar, his blushes fortunately spared by another incorrect offside flag, and his miss sparing the linesman a difficult exit from the stadium. On 84 minutes an almighty scramble erupted in the MTU box which, in 20 glorious seconds, included a two-footed tackle on Kim that should’ve been a penalty, 2 shots on goal, a spot of Sunday league head tennis, Kim trying to head the ball out of Prasit’s hands, resulting in the keeper indulging in an extended display of injury-feigning right in front of Zone B (his post-game attempt to salute said stand was not well received and I doubt he’ll do it again), and Chappuis rather laughably trying to square up to his equally chunky Korean counterpart during the ensuing handbags. This was exactly what a Port v Muangthong game should be all about and the fans were absolutely lapping it up.

 

Heberty feigns injury; stretcher bearers dump him right in front of Zone C; gets welcome he deserves (pic by Nig Dammusig)

 

Port had one more chance on 88 minutes, with Arthit (29) heading over at the far post when it would’ve been easier to score, but thanks to a combination of canny game management, balls to the wall defending and increasingly desperate shithousery (Heberty, take a bow), the visitors held on for an ill-deserved win. Despite the result, we all partied in the Sandpit like we’d won the league with the result that I have now almost completely lost my voice. I’m exhausted just writing about it, and have lost all feeling in my middle finger (thanks Prasit).

So a first defeat in 6 games for Port but a performance that deserved much better. But for that insane 7 minutes at the start of the second half they defended superbly, attacked relentlessly and bossed the midfield, and really should be celebrating 3 points now. Once again we’re left ruing a lack of streetwiseness, and the absence of some really big, nasty exponents of the footballing dark arts, though Kim showed flashes of it in the game’s later stages. Muangthong played the old Ali rope-a-dope game to perfection, and left Port with just a little bit too much to do in the last 35 minutes, but Port will certainly play worse than this and win.

 

Panpanpong Fanclub AGM

 

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

Whilst this was a good Port performance, there weren’t many standout individuals. Apart from that crazy 7 minutes, Rochela & Dolah had Heberty & Jaja in their pockets (and you’d need pretty big 1970s flares to find a pocket big enough for the latter), and Kim had his best game at the PAT so far.

But the standout man for me was Suarez. There’s nothing the Spaniard loves more than a sense of injustice and trying to drag his team back into the game, and the way he set about Muangthong in the second half was a joy to behold. Yes, as usual he gave the ball away far more than a player of his ability should, but when you’re playing at such a pitch of intensity you can’t always place passes on a sixpence (or a 1-baht). With just a bit more luck he’d have had a hat-trick and an assist to his name.

 

Magnificent: Port FC 7 (Seven) – 1 Royal Thai Navy FC

 

The Lions of Khlong Toey roared to their fourth successive victory, ruthlessly dispatching a woeful excuse of a Navy team, playing the type of football we know we are capable of, but rarely get to see. The result also keeps us at the head of the chasing pack in 3rd, standing us in good stead for the second half of the season. If Bangkok United or Buriram have a dip in form, an on-form Port could well pounce and push on up the table.

This was my first game as a paying supporter since the Chainat 10 incident when I decided to use my GCSE in Spanish to tell Rochela what I truly thought of his and the team’s performance. Since then Port have responded to the criticism with the maximum possible total of points, with certain players putting decent shifts in and not letting their heads drop once they concede. I’ve been on a brief sojourn in Europe since then so it got me wondering if I was the Jonah in the situation and maybe I should stay away from the PAT just in case?

 

 

 

Well, the first 45 minutes truly dispelled the notion that I was cursed with an assured display of attacking football that somehow only finished 3-1 at half time. Within 10 seconds Pakorn (7) was driving towards the full back, who clearly thought defending was optional, setting up Suarez (5) for a tame effort. Minutes later Suarez and Nurul (31) again conspired to miss before Rochela (22) scared everyone by almost putting the ball into his own net. Then in the ninth minute Nurul went for his customary dive when he clearly could have got a shot away. Very quickly it was becoming clear that Navy were lambs to the slaughter, with Pakorn and Suarez dancing around their midfield like they didn’t exist and Siwakorn (16) indulging in a little jogo bonito more than once.

The goals were inevitable and the first came in the 22nd minute with some good work between Nitipong (34) and Pakorn on the right flank. Pakorn’s cross was inch perfect for Suarez to nod in at the near post with the hapless Intharat (19) jumping too late. Navy then started to show a little initiative, especially Amadou (81) and Vitor Junior (10) who asked questions of our defence, leading to a few speculative long ranges efforts, the third forcing a smart tip over from Rattanai. Then came the controversy; a Pakorn free kick from deep found Rochela, who got a bullet header on target but straight at Intharat. Now, to say that Intharat was already having a bit of a stinker would be an understatement, and true to form he spilled the shot under him, but did he manage to get both or one hand on the ball on the goal line before Dolah (4) stabbed it in? TV replays suggest both hands but from my viewpoint, and only 2 Leos deep, I saw only one but you know what? Fuck ‘em; they then proceeded to throw all their toys out of their pram complaining and remonstrating to the referee and his assistant. Chief toy-thrower Intharat then had to suffer the indignity of returning to his besieged goal to receive some choice words from the Zone B crowd.

 

Dodgy ‘keeper number one

 

Port continued to pile on the pressure and were rewarded with a third goal in the 42nd minute from flat track bully Pakorn. Buzzing down the left flank, he cut inside part time full back Chalitpon (35), looked up at goal and fired a lofted shot that looped over the hapless Intharat from 20 yards out. Hold on – have I used hapless already? Ah yes, so let’s go with doomed. There was still time for Navy to pull one back to their credit; Amadou cut into the Port area and worked his way to the byline and delivered a fine cut back across goal that Quak (22) could not miss. So, halftime and with almost all the momentum with Port the half time chatter was more about how many we would score rather than if Navy could pull level.

Now your intrepid reporter was too busy discussing the finer points of the first half outside the stadium to witness the first goal of the second half and Port’s fourth. Kim (8), clearly fancying his chances of getting on the scoresheet, advanced into the box and forced a corner. Pakorn’s delivery found Nurul, whose dangerous flick on flashed across the goal and was volleyed in from inches by Boskovic (23), who up until then had shown a lot of effort but little end product. Sadly, the inept Intharat had been hauled off at half time after his less than stellar performance and was replaced by the equally underwhelming Wanlop (27) who like his predecessor was a mere bystander. Port by now knew that they could make this very ugly for Navy and adjusted their team shape accordingly; as a unit they played 10 yards further upfield, Kim and Siwakorn joining the attack at will, with Boskovic floating deep and out on the wings and Suarez operating as a false 9. The next goal was only 5 minutes away; Siwakorn robbed the ball in midfield and powered forward, releasing Suarez who strode into the box unchallenged and cut back for Boskovic to fire into the net.

Then a profound moment; my American companion with her scant football knowledge asked me if the Navy players are actually sailors or real footballers. It certainly gave me food for thought; maybe these players would be better if they jacked in their day jobs and sailed off to the high seas? Maybe the club should sign some actual sailors? Would they do a better job than this bunch? Navy are easily the poorest team I have witnessed as a relative newbie and many veteran supporters were inclined to agree. One fellow supporter described them as a team of mannequins but I think that’s doing a disservice to all hard working mannequins around the world. For me it was like watching a cemetery but the bodies hadn’t been buried yet. Ubon and Air Force Central should hang their heads in shame for being below this rabble too, and that question was probably my Navy highlight of the second half.

And there was more to come. Pakorn lost possession out wide but won the ball back with very little pressure and sent a cross to the far post which found Rochela, clearly done with his defensive duties for the day, and nodded it in past the flapping Wanlop. By now it was wave after wave of port pressure, with Bodin (10) putting in an impressive 30 minute appearance. He looks a great player and hopefully Jadet will use him more often over the coming months as he’s wasted on the bench. Pakorn, who was substituted soon after, clearly dines out on weaker teams and is a Jadet favourite but Bodin has the skill and talent to become a more complete footballer. Then came the champagne moment that will definitely be among the candidates for goal of the season. Kim, still with an eye for goal, played two one twos (two one twos FFS! You couldn’t make it up) with Suarez, bamboozling the Navy back line and bursting into the box to calmly dispatch the ball into the bottom right hand corner. It was a goal of great simplicity and beauty and a fitting way to wrap up such an exemplary performance.

 

A rare sighting of Thailand’s no1 expat football fan amongst the riff raff

 

So that was that and it was time to the return from Zone D (very nice atmosphere there in my opinion) to the sandpit for the celebrations. Of course there were drums, flares, leo (AKA Khlong Toey champagne), and a rendition of my favourite song (Muangthong hua kuay) but this time there was a bonus moshpit for those inclined to throw themselves about.

So it’s happy days right now. The recent return to form has vindicated Jadet, who has cut out the drastic tactical measures and fine-tuned the shape of the team and the positioning of individual players to get the best out of them. Kim slots into a 3 man central defence with ease and pushes the team higher up the field so Nitipong and Kevin can join the attack without having to worry about defensive duties, giving Pakorn and Nurul more options. The midfield 3 are more comfortable with their positioning, especially with Siwakorn playing a little more to the right of central midfield to allow Kim to surge forward when he feels like it and not crowd out Boskovic and Suarez. Suarez is now thriving as a false 9 and I’m sure bigger clubs will come knocking at some point, plus Boskovic (née Russell) has had a magnificent run of goals with 6 in the last 3 games. He isn’t the number 9 we were expecting and I’m always shouting at him to get into the box but if he continues this form I’ll keep schtum. So next up is a trip to Chonburi, followed but The Scum at home; 2 games we must view as winnable to keep up the chase, and you can guarantee the PAT will be rocking come derby day.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

 

 

A lot of fine performances; Siwakorn’s industry, Pakorn’s tormenting and Bosko’s quickfire double but the man who gave Navy the most nightmares during the match and probably for the coming weeks in their sleep was Sergio Gustavo Suarez Arteaga. Relishing his role as a false 9 and understanding the positioning of his strike partner, Suarez has developed into a player of great quality in recent months, destroying Navy’s defensive set up time and time again, plus two one twos!

 

Suarez, Nebihi & the Maranhao Scale

 

A few weeks ago I came up with the concept of the Maranhao Scale – a measure by which all future Port transfer fuck-ups will be judged, with the 2017 Maranhao/Kaludjerovic debacle earning a maximum fuck-up factor of 10, and other transfer shenanigans rated as follows:

Signing lots of new players for Gary Stevens then firing him before he can use them: 9

Serginho arriving at Port, running over & killing a pedestrian (allegedly), & buggering off back to Brazil pretty damn sharpish: 8

Signing Mathias Jadue on an 18-month deal and never registering him: 7

Manucharyan running away from Ratchaburi on the eve of the 2016 season, turning up at Port, then disappearing: 7

Loaning out Tatchanon for half a season when we don’t have any decent DMs: 6

…and so on.

This time round, Port’s transfer business has been decidedly efficient, timely and, it has to be said, spectacular – the Maranhao Scale has barely been mentioned in recent weeks as Port have signed up some of T1’s top players and built a side that many feel can mount a genuine title challenge.

But in the last week or so the needle has begun twitching, as Sergio Suarez and Bajram Nebihi square off over the last foreigner slot. One source told us that Port signed Nebihi believing he was a striker, and were somewhat surprised when, after putting pen to paper, he told them what everybody in Thailand – apart from, it seems, Port’s management team – has known for a long time: that he’s actually a midfielder. Another source told us that Nebihi arrived at Port believing he was filling the final foreigner slot, only to get a shock when informed that he’d be expected to compete for his job with the incumbent Sergio Suarez, last season’s second-highest scorer.

On the one hand you can see this as Port merely hedging their bets and making sure they start the season with a good foreign AM: on the other, you have the club legally bound to lose one quality player before the season starts; you have Suarez, who might reasonably think he’d done enough to guarantee his place for 2018, pissed off at the club signing a potential repacement; and you have Nebihi, thinking he’d joined Port as one its big swinging foreign dicks, finding out he has to sing for his supper. Right now it’s only a 1 or 2 on the Maranhao Scale but the potential is there for the needle to go into the red.

So who is going to get the nod? It’s a tough one. I’m not Suarez’ biggest fan – it took him half a season to get used to playing at T1 level, he was very inconsistent, and he has a tendency to get distracted on the pitch by running battles with opponents and referees; but he was arguably Port’s best player in the second half of the season and his tally of 13 goals in all competitions was very impressive. Nebihi scored more T1 goals last season, is physically more imposing, and is more of an attacking threat; yet he spent a lot of the second half of the season on the bench and the Ubon fans we’ve spoken to weren’t exactly heartbroken to see him leave.

It all comes down to what Port really need. Nebihi is very much an attacking midfielder, and as such has plenty of competition for his place from the likes of Bodin, and also Pakorn & Nurul who can play in his position. Suarez, whilst he spent much of 2017 shoehorned into an AM role, is happiest in central midfield, where Port have yellow card collector Siwakorn and…not much else. On that basis, and on the basis that he’s a known quantity, Suarez should probably get the nod. But on the basis of Nebihi being a strapping 6’4″ brick shithouse who can more easily fill in for Boskovic as a backup striker if needed, his slightly superior T1 goal record last season, and the fact that Jadet’s sole tactic involves putting in crosses to a big striker (even when no big striker exists) my money is on Nebihi being given half a season to prove himself whilst Suarez either gets loaned out or sits on the bench giving the burly German that smouldering Latin glare that can tighten referee sphincters from 20 metres away.

But whoever gets picked, it’s a nice dilemma for the club to have, and there’s no doubt Port are going to be a lot of fun to watch next season, both on and off the hallowed PAT turf.

 

 

The Sandpit’s Port FC Player of the Year 2017 is….David Rochela!

 

Last week we once again opened the polls for the Player of the Year competition, and voting was very lively with over 600 Port fans clicking on their favourite player. The last couple of days’ voting saw some rather suspicious voting patterns, with 36% of our site traffic coming from SPAIN, which possibly explains why it turned into a two-horse race between Port’s two Spaniards, with the rest of the candidates trailing in their wake.

Voting is now closed, and we can reveal the top 3…

 

1. David Rochela 38%

For the second year in a row, Port’s popular Spanish captain wins the award, though not with the landslide we saw in 2016. David has had another solid season at the PAT, leading by example, playing the game with honesty and respect, and even banging in 7 goals. The naysayers may point to Port’s poor defensive record this season, but it has to be said that without David, our Goals Against column would undoubtedly look even worse. As yet, we have no word as to whether the captain will lead Port in 2018 but our gut feeling says he will. Congratulations David, and hope you’re around to go for the hat-trick in November 2018!

 

 

2. Sergio Suarez 36%

You’d have got pretty long odds on this back in June, when many Port fans – myself included – were calling for Maranhao to take Suarez’ foreign player slot at Port, after the Spaniard had an inconsistent first half of the season. But in the second leg, Sergio was a different player and, had the vote been based solely on the last 5 months, he’d almost certainly have won outright. He’s been a lot more focused, given the proverbial 110% in every game, and weighed in with 14 goals – almost unheard of for a Port midfielder. As with Rochela, we don’t know if he’ll still be around next season but given his late-season form, we suspect he might.

 

 

3. Pakorn 6%

Thanks to the Spanish mafia monopolising the vote, the rest of the candidates are a loooooong way back, with the chasing pack led deservedly by the Midfield Monk himself, Pakorn. This was the season in which the Port winger finally realised his potential and added workrate and discipline to his undoubted talent to become Port’s most productive player with 6 goals and a staggering 18 assists. Sadly we are hearing very strong rumours that he may be returning to his old club Police Tero for next season, which would be bad news for Port and surely a backward step for a player who should be looking to get a national team place before long.

 

 

Thanks, or should I say gracias, to all who voted, congratulations again to David, and watch out for more Sandpit fan polls coming soon!