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Out Of Leo: Chiang Rai 5-3 Port (after penalty shootout)

 

Port exited the pre-season Leo Cup in the first round, as Chiang Rai showed more composure at the death to win 5-3 on penalties. In a match that you could have been forgiven for thinking would be a battle between two of the top strikers in Thai football – last season’s top scorer Boskovic and all-time top scorer Cleiton – neither side could break the deadlock, despite Port having the better of the action for most of the game. As there weren’t a great many incidents of note, I won’t bother with a blow-by-blow account of the action but rather give my impressions on some of Port’s key men.

 

Suarez or Nebihi?

Jadet went for a curious line-up in the first half, picking four foreigners who will not be allowed to play together in T1 next season. Rochela (22) and Boskovic (10) are of course nailed on certainties to be in the T1 squad next season, but only one of Nebihi (14) and Suarez (5) will be joining them. Jadet picked both – presumably to see which one would stake the stronger claim – and Nebihi responded just the way his manager would have hoped for. A natural number 10 if there ever was one, Nebihi was gliding past defenders at will, his long strides and robust frame presenting a problem the Chiang Rai defence could only really answer by fouling him. Whilst his final ball looked a little rusty – as did pretty much everyone’s – he did as much as Port fans could have hoped for to suggest that he will be an important addition to Port’s attacking arsenal. Suarez also looked lively, putting in a lot of strong challenges and showing some fancy footwork, but it was clear that his impact on the game was not as marked as that of Nebihi.

 

The Strikers

Boskovic didn’t have the debut he will have been hoping for, but there was really very little in the way of service for him to dig his teeth in to. Given a few more games to get his scoring touch back, Boskovic will find that extra yard and hone that first touch to hopefully become the deadly force he was in 2017. Fellow new signing Arthit Butjinda (29) similarly had very little to play with up front after he replaced the Montenegrin. He converted his penalty in the shoot-out with minimum fuss.

 

Kim Sung-Hwan

 

 

So that’s what a proper defensive midfielder looks like. Kim (8) was a rock in the centre of the park, showing spot-on positioning, quality passing and communicating well with his teammates. Not only does he look technically very sound, he also looks to be a natural leader, something which Port’s midfield has been severely lacking for the last few seasons. Going by the early evidence, Kim should be one of the very first names on Jadet’s team-sheet.

 

Siwakorn Spills Leo Cup

 

 

Not one of his finer afternoons. Siwakorn (16) was comfortably out-shone by both Suarez and Kim, got in to a scrap with an opposition player and then stepped up to take a penalty which more or less everyone except him thought he was going to miss. It’s going to be an interesting year for the man who is so highly thought of by his teammates. With Kim looking like a dominant, reliable defensive presence and Nebihi looking like the creative fulcrum of the team, Siwakorn has to carve himself out a role. Will he flourish alongside more accomplished teammates in the coming season, or struggle to justify his place in the team? It’s time to show that you belong at a top-5 club, Siv!

 

The Wingers

Port started with Pakorn (7) on the right and Nurul (31) on the left. Pakorn did as Pakorn does, delivering some dangerous balls, and shooting at every conceivable opportunity. Nurul looked very lively, but his touch deserted him a few times in promising positions, and he picked up a silly yellow card for a Siwakornesque shirt-pull. Expect much, much better from Nurul in coming friendlies.

 

 

In the second half, new Indonesian dynamo Terens (27) replaced Pakorn on the right, and Bodin replaced Nurul on the left. Bodin (15) played a part in some promising breaks, but was a little slow to release the pass at times. Terens had one chance to stretch his little legs, and gave Port fans an exciting glimpse of his frankly ridiculous pace. He should be a regular feature off the bench in 2018.

 

The Defence

Not much to report here, and that is probably a good thing. Nitipong (34) looked as tough and energetic as ever, Rochela and Todsapol (6) were pretty solid despite a couple of lapses of concentration which went un-punished, and Panpanpong (19) was… well, Panpanpong. There was the usual wondering forward and leaving space behind, which may well be a very bad idea indeed in 2018. With either Nurul or Pakorn likely to be on the left wing, Panpanpong must understand that he can’t afford to leave 5 foot 4 Nurul or own-goal maestro Pakorn to do his dirty work for him. Surprisingly, Jadet replaced Panpanpong with Jetjinn (11) rather than Yossawat (28) in the second half. We don’t know what Yossawat has done to deserve being consistently overlooked, but his treatment by management is beginning to remind me an awful lot of Tatchanon last season. Jetjinn’s most notable contribution was an absolutely abominable freekick which flew a good couple of meters above everyone’s head and out of play.

 

The Penalty Takers

1) Rochela. The only surprise was that he put it in the bottom left rather than the bottom right.

2) Suarez. His second cheeky penalty in as many games. Went for the Panenka and dispatched it with aplomb.

3) Arthit. Sent the ‘keeper the wrong way, so the fact that he didn’t find the corner didn’t matter.

4) Siwakorn. Hands up if you thought Siwakorn was going to miss. Yep, me too. Next time let players who can actually shoot do the shooting, eh Siv?

5) Kim. You don’t need to be able to speak Korean to understand an extremely confident nod when asked if you’re going to take a penalty, and number 5 to indicate that you’re fine with a bit of pressure. Unfortunately his penalty was not required, with Victor dispatching Chiang Rai’s decisive spot-kick to end the tie.

 

Port FC Man of the Match

 

 

He may have only played half the game, but what a half it was. Nebihi will add strength, height, guile and no little amount of skill to Port’s forward line in 2018. Honourable mentions go to Kim, who didn’t put a foot wrong in defensive midfield, and Nitipong who looks like he’s spent his holiday training even harder than usual.

 

You Know the Rules, & So Do I: Sisaket FC 2-2 Port FC

 

As is so often the case, a cracking away trip was rather let down by a football game taking place in the middle of it – not a bad game as such, one of the better ones we’ve seen this season in fact; but one where, once again, rather than coming away celebrating a win, we’re left talking about poor quality refereeing and Port’s inability to see out games against inferior opponents. A pattern is beginning to emerge.

At some point, back in the mists of time (yesterday morning in fact, but it seems so long ago as to almost belong to another era), our select away gathering convenes at the Don Muang branch of McDonalds for that cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast, a round of Sausage & Egg McMuffins. Duly muffined, we board our Nok Air flight to Ubon Ratchatani, where we are greeted by our advance party (Hockers), who is waxing lyrical about the delights of the local taxi services, and introducing us to our driver for the day, Mr Somchai. After waiting for Kenny to receive his luggage (“Liquids” he mutters gnomically) we’re soon aboard the Somchai-mobile and heading off to our first stop, the rather worryingly named Rapeepan Ville Hotel in Ubon – heartily recommended at around 800BHT per night including breakfast, and boasting not one but two ponds should any Port fans fancy a post-match dip.

 

Port take over the Ubon Irish Pub

 

For lunch we head to the Ubon Irish Pub, an excellent choice for many reasons, one of them being that it is somewhat steeped in local footballing culture – not only is the barmaid the girlfriend of Ubon UMT’s physio, but it seems the place is owned by Ubon and former Buriram coach Scott Cooper. It’s a marvellous little spot with a well-maintained draught Guinness that puts many Bangkok bars to shame, and the barmaid does a wonderful job of preparing lunch for all 8 of us – and the fish & chips were well worth waiting for.

 

Like a Thai Honda midfielder, we left the Port team in our wake

 

Then we head off on the 65km drive to Sisaket, stopping en route to load up on the obligatory beers (both Tom and I can confirm that Singha’s new premium brand U Beer is very nice indeed) and passing the Port bus on our way. Alcohol of course often leads to ill-advised choices and for some reason, after singing Singh Chao Ta and the Genki Nagasato song, someone – possibly James – suggests listening to Rick Astley, so we eventually pull up at Sisaket’s charmingly ramshackle, rural stadium with Never Gonna Give You Up blasting out of the van.

After procuring beers from a beer stall for some reason situated on an ants’ nest, and being duly bitten, we meet up with other Port fans and head into the away end, which quickly fills up with several dozen locals who turn out to be Wuttichai’s family, which explains why the no14 was making a rare start and wearing the captain’s armband (note to Jadet: this isn’t a school team and you can’t pick a player just because his mum & dad are in the crowd). Wuttichai’s dad is a top fella and kindly shares his beer with me after the stall outside runs out. Siwakorn’s dad is also in attendance and there’s a touching scene when Hockers prostrates himself at the feet of his hero’s father.

 

Yours truly with Wuttichai Senior

 

After Sisaket’s extravagantly-horned Kouprey mascot comes over for a wave – to be greeted with drunken chants of “You’re extinct, and you know you are” and a less than note-perfect rendering of late 90s handbag house classic Horny by Mousse T ft Hot & Juicy – the game kicks off and – whisper it – but it rapidly looks as if Port are going to boss this one, with the Koupreys looking less than Dangerous and restricted to the occasional counter-attack. But as usual Port are having difficulty turning their possession into scoring chances with Wuttichai (14) non-existent and Pakorn (9) having another one of “those” games where he looks like a man nervously confronting a football for the first time.

Nevertheless, it’s Pakorn – sort of – who puts Port ahead on 42 minutes when a vicious inswinging corner is comically palmed into the net by Sisaket’s keeper. Where would be we without shite Thai goalkeepers eh? In the bottom half, for sure. Wuttichai nearly makes it 2 on the stroke of half time when Nitipong (34) puts in arguably his best cross of the season, only for the ageing striker to head it over the bar from just 6 yards out.

But we don’t have long to wait for a second, as 4 minutes into the second half a Pakorn free-kick bounces into the Sisaket area and onto the foot of Siwakorn (16), and the Thin White Duke buries it into the back of the net. But hold on, what’s this? The referee, who has had little to do at that point other than allow Sisaket to kick Josimar (30) every time he has the ball, rules it out, then consults with his assistant, and then allows it again, sparking lengthy protests from Sisaket which result in a red card for their coach and 7 minutes of injury time, which will – sadly – end up punishing Port.

So, 2-0 up and Sisaket struggling and it looks as if Port have this one in the bag. But as we know of old, Port are not the best at managing these situations and on 70 minutes the game changes, as a fairly tame Sisaket cross from the left is watched by an alarmingly static Dolah (4) and Rochela (22), allowing former Reading striker Leroy Lita to head it into Worawut (36)’s bottom left corner. 2-1, and the Koupreys have most definitely got The Horn and at that point you just know Port are going to let this slip.

The moment is a long time coming, but in the 95th minute Sisaket throw a free-kick into the mixer, Meechok (20) grapples with soon-to-be Muangscum striker Leandro Assumpcao who, no doubt fully aware of the referee’s desire to even things up after Port’s second goal, throws himself down in the box, and the man in green points at the spot. Yet another penalty given away and, as Leandro thumps it past Worawut, yet another lead thrown away. Just as the ball hits the net, the heavens open and we take this as our cue to vacate the premises and head back to Sisaket. During the journey it rapidly becomes apparent that, what with the levels of drunkenness on the bus, our plan to find a bar and watch the FA Cup Final isn’t going to happen. So after enjoying Keith having a goodnight Skype call with his dogs (captured by Linny for posterity should anyone want to hear it, though you’ll have to outbid Keith), we return to the Rapeepan and either watch the game in our rooms or pass out.

 

A rumble with the enemy at Ubon Airport

 

Sunday offers little to report other than almost universal hangovers, a cracking Isaan lunch at the airport and a photo session in the departure lounge with a random Muangthong fan. The late penalty really has taken the gloss off the weekend.

Still, this result completes a run of 8 points out of 4 games, including two tricky away trips to Isaan and a visit to the SCG, and with Port sitting in 7th on 28 points at the halfway point of the season, things are panning out better than most of us would’ve expected. It’s just a shame that, due to defensive lapses, a lack of attacking invention and the usual dodgy refereeing, it could be so much better. But we’ll be reviewing the first leg of the season in more detail shortly so I’ll stop here.

 

Man of the Match: Siwakorn

With Port playing a 4-4-2 for a change, the skinny genius had more scope to get forward and he revelled in the role, bossing the midfield and spraying passes out to the wings with efficient regularity, and of course notching another goal. His was the standout performance on a night when Port were solid but unspectacular and were crying out for some spark up front, which – hopefully – Maranhao and/or Asdrubal will provide after the restart.

 

 

Sandpit April Player of the Month: Josimar Wins But UN Observers Claim Irregularities

 

Voting closed last night in our April Player of the Month poll, and as Tuesday wore on it became apparent to the Sandpit’s admins that shenanigans were afoot. Normally our POTM polls get around 2-300 voters; this month we had over 1800 (that’s more than many T1 teams get at home games) and our hit count went through the roof.

Initially Josimar, deservedly so as he scored 5 goals in April, took the lead, only to be pegged back by perennial favourite and commander of a loyal social media army, El Capitan himself David Rochela. At which point the voting went into overdrive with a suspicious spike in traffic from, of all places, Brazil. Then Worawut and Sivakorn suddenly shot up in the voting too.

By 9pm, I was sitting at my desk waiting for the brown envelopes to show up and planning to buy a new house, but sadly it seems any skullduggery was of the purely digital kind, with tech-savvy voters using all manner of hacking skills to support their favourite players. Rest assured that we at the Sandpit take a dim view of such things, especially when we aren’t benefiting from them financially in any way, and so next month’s poll will be tightened up and there will be a heavy military presence at the booths to defend our integrity.

Anyway, the people have spoken, and I suspect the result is the same as it would’ve been before the hackers showed up, so here are April’s top 3:

 

Josimar Rodrigues – 39% (733 votes)

With 5 goals in April – and a memorable interview with the Sandpit – Josi was favourite to win April’s POTM and he didn’t disappoint. After a promising but goal-free start to his Port career, the likeable Brazilian got his season rolling with the winner against Ubon and hasn’t looked back since, scoring 5 in 5 games. Port finally have the Scary Foreign Striker we’ve been craving for the last 3 years.

 

Siwakorn – 25% (477 votes)

It was very tight for 2nd place with only a handful of votes in it, but the Skinny Genius just shaded it. Whenever we meet Port players and ask them who their best teammate is, they invariably reply “Siwakorn”, and the tiny midfielder is really coming of age this season with a string of dynamic, creative and destructive performances.

 

Worawut – 25% (472 votes)

The recent injury to Rattanai means Worawut has regained his place between the sticks and has taken the chance with both hands (rather than punching it away like he usually does). His penalty save at Chiang Rai particularly sticks in the memory – not only was it a great save in itself, but it arguably turned the game. At 2-0 down Port would’ve been dead; instead it was 1-1 a few minutes later and the momentum completely changed in Port’s favour.

 

Here are the final results in full:

 

Thanks to all who voted, and look out for May’s POTM vote!

 

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 Season So Far: The Pit Pundits’ Picks

 

Following my recent review of the season so far, the Sandpit team got together and selected our highlights of the first six games – best player, best match, best goal. Here are our choices – feel free to share yours in the comments or on Facebook.

 

Dominick Cartwright

 

Best Player: Rattanai (17)

Not my first choice for keeper at the start of the season. I would have gone with Worawut (36). But Rattanai has proved me wrong, and Tom right. Even in our dismal away games he has offered a sterling last line of defence. Those dismal defeats could have been even worse. He’s really shown his mettle not letting his head drop in defeat, and being there to shore up the points when we have a chance at some.

Also Keith has come up with a song for him, so I want him starting every game to give us a chance to sing a new song:

Rattanai’s in the goal, what is he gonna do?

Rattanai’s in the goal, what is he gonna do?

He’s gonna save that shot, That’s what he’s gonna do

He’s gonna save that shot

 

(To the tune of Rat in me Kitchen by UB40)

 

Best Match: Suphanburi Home (3-2)

Why do I love football? It’s unscripted drama. If you wrote this game as a script, it would not be convincing at all, just not realistic enough. 1-0 up and the Port faithful are celebrating 3 points already. Then the home crowd are stunned by 2 Suphan goals. Then Tana’s great equaliser. (See best goal pick for a description). Then my favourite moment of the game – all the other players were celebrating the excellent equaliser, meanwhile Suarez was running to the net, he picked up the ball and brought it back to the centre circle for the restart. He wasn’t happy with 1 point; he wanted the win. Then the man who has shown he wants it most, steps up and gets the winner. You couldn’t write a better ending.
 
 

 
 

Best Goal: Tana vs Suphanburi

Tana (99) is not everyone’s favourite striker; he has his faults. But for me I’d give him 45 minutes of any game – he can create chances when there’s not much on, and he always seems to be in the right place. Against Suphanburi he was loitering outside the area, Genki (18) saw him and teed him up well. Tana deftly curled the ball into the top corner, giving us a chance of 3 points in that game. I’m biased on this one, because I was standing right behind the top corner of the goal in Zone D. I genuinely had a moment of disbelief as the ball sailed in. Was that in or just over? Oh it’s in, lets go fucking mental!

 

Tom Earls

 

Best Player: Rattanai (17)

This is a tricky one, but I’m going with the man who I voted for in February’s Player of the Month competition. I was in the minority then, and expect I’ll be in the minority again here, but I just can’t get enough of Port’s baby-faced boy wonder Rattanai. Yes Rochela has been excellent, and yes he brings more to the team with his leadership and guidance than anyone else, but Rattanai has come up with some outstanding performances which have undoubtedly been worth a few points to Port already this season. One mistake against Suphanburi (which fortunately ended up not costing Port) aside, Rattanai has caught everything that has come anywhere near him, shown excellent decision making and has made some lightning-fast reactions stops.
 
Probably the best example of Rattanai’s importance to the team came when he was dropped for the 5-1 drubbing at Honda. Whilst comparing him to Weera would be about as useful about comparing him to a boiled egg, it gave Port fans a glimpse of what it would be like not to have a reliable keeper between the sticks. Scary stuff. Please don’t leave him out again!

 

Best Match: Buriram Home (0-0)

It may not have had the twists and turns of the epic 3-2 win over Suphanburi, or the last minute drama of the 1-1 draw with Ratchaburi, but this was a high intensity, high quality game where Port proved they can compete with anyone on their day. It was Roy of the Rovers stuff. Man of the Match Adisorn couldn’t get a game in central midfield in Division 1 last season, yet had probably the best game of his career, coming out on top against Buriram’s star-studded midfield. Todsapol came in to the side having not played a minute of competitive football in 2017, and looked outstanding against two of the most dangerous forwards in T1. Port, who flopped to a 5-1 defeat at Thai Honda just 4 days earlier and got thumped by the same scoreline last time they hosted Champions Buriram in 2015 were not expected to even be competitive, but defied the odds with a performance full of heart. Port could even have won if not for a miraculous point-blank save from the Buriram keeper. All in front of a sell-out crowd of *ahem* 6,900 people who turned PAT Stadium in to a cauldron where Port just refuse to lose in 2017!
 
 

 
 

Best Goal: Siwakhorn vs Bangkok Utd

For me, there can only really be two candidates here. Siwakorn vs. Bangkok Utd and Tana vs. Suphanburi. Siwakorn’s screamer came at 3-0 down in a 6-2 mauling whereas Tana’s thunderbastard drew Port level in a game they ended up winning 3-2. The skinny wizard’s moment of magic may have been to no avail, but I’m giving it to him for the way he glided past the defender before curling it over the keeper’s head. Tana’s was an outstanding goal, but I think he had slightly less to do when he picked the ball up.
 
 

 
 

Tim Russell

 

Best Player: David Rochela

When Spit claimed in a pre-season article that Rochela was underrated, we scoffed. How could the guy who’d won the 2016 Player of the Year award with a landslide possibly be underrated? But now I think I know what he meant. Rochela is so good, week in week out, that we take his excellence for granted and barely notice it any more. So far this season he’s been as consistent as ever, mopping up at the back, reading the game well and intercepting header after header, and his performances against Ratchaburi and Buriram in particular were little short of heroic. God help us if he ever gets injured or moves on.

 

Best Match: Suphanburi Home (3-2)

If Ratchaburi was a relatively gentle reintroduction to the delights of T1, Suphanburi was a classic all-action balls-out thriller, the kind of game we missed during our brief sojourn into the lower leagues last season. Yes, Port rode their luck at times and benefitted from Adul, who had been Suphan’s star player up to that point, getting a red card; but the intensity and workrate of the Port players was something to behold, particularly Suarez, who grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck in the later stages and scored the winner in what was his best performance so far in a Port shirt. Simply one of the most exciting games I’ve seen at the PAT.

 

Best Goal: Genki vs Ratchaburi

OK, technically and aesthetically it may not be Port’s best goal of the season, but in terms of determination and timing it was perfect. 0-1 down after 94 minutes in their first game back in the TPL – and their first home game for nearly 6 months – Port won a free kick to the right of the Ratchaburi box. Pakorn swung it into the box and Genki threw himself at it Keith Houchen-style to head it in, sparking scenes of utter delirium on the terraces and the first ever airing of the Human League “Genki Nagasato” chant. Best moment of the season so far.
 
 

 

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. 

 

Hells Angels Take Port for a Ride: Bangkok Utd 6-2 Port FC

 

Port’s first away game of the season ended in a crushing 6-2 defeat at the hands of last year’s runners-up Bangkok United. Port never looked competitive, suffering from poor team selection and a slew of under-par performances. Whilst Port were not expected to get a result at Thammasat Stadium, the manner in which we lost was discouraging to say the least.

 

Team Selection

Firstly, team selection was once again baffling. In a bizarre and totally unexpected move, 34 year old Suchon (11) made a rare start at left back. Whilst left back had been a problem position all throughout pre-season, defensive-minded Panpanpong (19) had his best game in a Port shirt last week against Suphanburi and looked certain to retain his place against an attacking Bangkok Utd. Suchon, who to my memory has barely started a game since 2015, looked completely off the pace, and never got close to holding his own against a quick, fluid Bangkok Utd attack.

Nitipong (34) at right back was perhaps even worse. Normally a right-winger, Nitipong has been shoe-horned in to the side at right back, with Jadet apparently being a big fan of his marauding runs forward down the right flank. Did the thought never cross Jadet’s mind that – against the side who finished second last season – picking a defender in defence might be prudent?

In midfield, it was more of the same. Adisorn (13) was once again preferred to Tatchanon (39) and Wanchalerm (40), despite all the evidence seeming to suggest that either of the youngsters would do a far better job at shielding the defence. Adisorn played an energetic but largely ineffectual 35 minutes before being withdrawn to make way for an attacking change with the team already 3 goals down.

Up front, Tana (99) was preferred to Kaludjerovic (10) and Josimar (30). After an impressive cameo last week, scoring a stunning goal and looking dangerous, this was not a complete shock. Tana, as he so often does, found the back of the net, and provided a bit of spark going forward, although he had relatively few chances to shine with Port largely preoccupied in defence.

 

The Action

As soon as the match started, Bangkok Utd showed why they finished second last season, creating chance after chance and looking by far the better team. In the 13th minute, Suchon (11) misjudged a pass which looped right over his head, but Rattanai (17) did well to get out quickly and block Macena’s (10) finish. Just 2 minutes later, Bangkok exploited a gaping hole in the Port defence, playing a well-weighted through-ball between Rochela (22) and Suchon (11) to find Macena (10), who was once again denied by a fantastic reaction stop by Rattanai.

 

Photo by Patikamol Sukcharoen

 

In the 19th minute, Bangkok Utd finally made their dominance count. Nitipong (34) was at fault for Port, trying to play tiki taka football inside his own penalty area and giving the ball away. Rochela tried to intervene with a desperate sliding tackle, but he missed the ball and sent Macena flying, giving the referee the easiest penalty decision he will make all season. Former national team star Leesaw (14) sent Rattanai the wrong way to open his account for the season, and make it Bangkok Utd 1-0 Port.

5 minutes later, Port once again sought to make their opponents lives as easy as possible. Suchon (11) was late on Ekkachai (2) in a position where he didn’t even really need to make the tackle, and although it was slightly less clear that the first penalty, the referee rightly pointed to the spot for a second time. Leesaw again buried his penalty in the bottom left corner, and after 25 minutes it was Bangkok Utd 2-0 Port.

Just after the half hour mark, things went from bad to worse for Port. A mishit shot from Sanrawat (29) found Pokklaw (39) in acres of space inside the Port box, and the Thai national team midfielder had time to take a touch, set himself and pass the ball past a defenseless Rattanai. Bangkok Utd 3-0 Port.

Three goals down and looking dejected, Jadet changed things up, bringing on Kaludjerovic (10) for Adisorn (13) and switching to a 4-4-2. It paid immediate dividends, although the goal was an individual masterpiece rather than a result of the switch. Siwakorn (16) glided past a couple of defenders and curled a beautiful shot over the keeper in to the top right hand corner from the edge of the box. The man who has kick-started Port comebacks in the past had given us some hope, and Port finally started to pick up their game for the remainder of the half. Bangkok Utd 3-1 Port.

Port started the second half brightly, threatening to get right back in to the game in the 57th minute when Siwakorn combined well with Genki (18) on the edge of the area, but Tana (99) sliced the resulting shot wide and soon enough normal service was resumed. Just a minute later Bangkok Utd hit the post after a well-worked move, and just after the hour mark they made it four. Macena (10) juggled the ball past Rochela (22), who could only make a weak mistimed challenge which the Brazilian easily evaded, before pulling the ball back to Leesaw (14) who passed the ball in to the net from 8 yards out. Bangkok Utd 4-1 Port.  

With the game effectively killed off, Port scored a consolation goal through Tana (99). Pakorn (9) played a deep cross which deceived Warut (34) in the Bangkok utd goal, and with the ‘keeper flailing around in no-man’s land Tana slotted the ball in to an empty net to make it Bangkok Utd 4-2 Port.

With nothing else for it, Port brought on Ekkapoom (8) and Wuttichai (14) and bombed forward for the rest of the game in search of another goal. Inevitably, Bangkok Utd exploited the gaps left in the defence to add two more goals, both created by substitute Mario Gjurovski (20). Firstly he played an exquisite outside of the boot pass to give Leesaw (14) his fourth, then crossed from the left for Macena (10) to score the goal that his superb performance merited. Bangkok Utd 6-2 Port

Rattanai in the Port goal looked dejected. Rarely can you say that a ‘keeper who conceded 6 goals played well, but he could not have done better with any of the 6 goals, and he made some smart stops in the first half. The blame has to go to the coach – whose team selection once again raised eyebrows – and most of the players, who simply did not perform.

 

Port FC Man of the Match

Photo by Patikamol Sukcharoen

 

The award has to go to Siwakorn (16), who fought manfully and tried to give his team a chance with his combative play in midfield. The skinny wizard even capped his display off with a Goal of the Season contender, although his fine individual performance had no impact on the outcome of the match.

 

Final Thoughts

Port have a lot of work to do before their crucial home game against Navy on March 4th. Coach Jadet has to start bringing in the players who looked so promising in pre-season, and the team need to perform to their potential week in week out if they are to have a decent season in T1.

 

MATCH REPORT: Port FC 2-0 Nakhon Ratchasima

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

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

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

Siwakorn Is Carried Off

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

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

Rochel-Ouch!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MATCH REPORT: Port FC 3-1 Pattaya United

 

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

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

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

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

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

Spot the scoreboard #fail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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