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The Sandpit’s Player of the Month for February is…

 

Finally, it’s back! Port Player of the Month features are returning to the Sandpit this year, with a new and improved formula.

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Drawbridge Lowered at Thunder Castle: Buriram Utd 1-1 Port FC

With a return flight and accommodation paid in full to travel to Buriram, I was forced to make the reluctantly adult decision to forfeit any sunk costs and remain in Hua Hin as the preparations for my impending move back to the cold Baltic shores of my native Sweden left me strapped for time in a way that didn’t allow for dedicating two full days to attending what suddenly became the final game for Port fans to see our beloved lions in action before the great eastern beer virus of 2020 reduces human society to its final post-apocalyptic state. Despite the promising start to the season I took comfort in the fact that we usually don’t come close to beating Buriram anyway, especially away from home where having the audacity to even threaten to do so is likely to be resolutely dealt with by the officials. Instead I sat down in front of a screen to watch it in the same manner as most working stiffs unable to take a Monday off even for a game of this stature.

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A Moment’s Silence: Port FC vs. Nakhon Ratchasima FC Preview

 

Port kick off their 2020 campaign with what looks to be the ideal kind of fixture. A home match against Korat, who are expected to finish mid to bottom half this season, may well allow an under-performing Port to still eke out victory, which is what we need after a less than promising pre-season. Rather than labouring this point once again, I will point you towards Dom’s, Tim’s and my 2020 Previews, which examined our off-season shortcomings in excruciating detail.

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The Sandpit’s Goal of the Season 2019: Suarez Cashes In Chip

 

Sergio Suarez’ nonchalant chipped finish against Trat has earned him his second Sandpit award in as many years, following up his Player of the Year award in 2018 with the Goal of the Season gong in 2019.

 

 

1st Place – Sergio Suarez (38%)

 

 

It may not have been one of the more important goals, but boy was it stylish. The Spaniard is well known for being one of the most talented foreign stars in the league, and he showed off his incredible vision and technique with a high, looping finish which 38% of Sandpit voters chose as their pick of a very competitive bunch. The Trat ‘keeper was about as close to keeping it out as any of the other goals on our list were to catching Suarez’ strike: nowhere near.

 

2nd Place – Bodin Phala (14%)

 

 

There’s an understandable history of Port goals against Muangthong faring well in our polls, so it is perhaps unsurprising that Bodin’s wonderful long-range strike in the away fixture against Muangthong picked up 14% of the vote, which was good enough for second place. It was a goal of great import in that it gave Port the lead against their bitter rivals in a game we would go on to win, but it has to settle for second best in our poll.

 

3rd Place – Sumanya Purisay (12%)

 

 

Taking the final spot on the podium with 12% of the vote was the best goal from Port’s memorable FA Cup run. Scored in the 3-2 victory against Chiang Rai by a player who didn’t stand out all that often in 2019, but put in an absolutely outstanding performance on the day: Sumanya. Picking the ball up in the centre circle, Sumanya bamboozled Chiang Rai’s midfield and defence, scything straight through them before wrong-footing the ‘keeper with a calm right-footed finish. It ended up being a crucial strike, with Port almost letting a 3-0 lead slip, but doing just enough to hang on for the win, thanks in large part to Sumanya.

 

The Sandpit’s 2019 Port FC Goal of the Season Poll

 

Port’s most successful season this millennium saw us top-score in T1 with 55 goals, while a further 17 were netted on the road to FA Cup glory. Add in 2 more goals in Port’s short-lived League Cup campaign and The Sandpit’s Goal of the Season panel finds itself with 74 goals to narrow down in to a short-list of just 10.

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BG’s Saturday Night Fever: Port FC vs. Ratchaburi (FA Cup Final Preview)

 

It has been a season of thirds. A triple layer hamburger, topped and bottomed by a light and fluffy, expertly toasted bap, laced with a tasty, tangy sauce and garnished with an innovative leafy salad, seasoned with a hint of balsamic. In the middle, though, an unappealing, flavourless patty, stodgy in places and miserably failing to satisfy that initial promise. This has been Port’s season in a cardboard box. An explosive start, a laboured, clueless middle, redeemed by a late, often thrilling bid for a first League title. And now comes the dessert, a dish to sweeten the Port season and one which they must devour with gusto.

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It’s Bodin Well For A Title Challenge: Port FC 3-2 Suphanburi FC

Games like that win titles”, Tommie Duncan and I agreed, managing to conduct a relatively calm discourse, panting breath restored, after the absorbing drama we had just witnessed. Port have made a few statements of intent over the past few weeks: 14 goals in 4 consecutive wins, including an assured away victory over bitter, ailing rivals, Muangthong, but perhaps none more so than this: a comeback (twice) victory over a resolute Suphanburi team, won, gloriously, with a thrilling breakaway goal from Boskovic in the 87th minute. It was significant that last year, in a game that Port had dominated for an hour, Supahanburi struck twice to establish a lead that was then never threatened. This Port team is made of sterner stuff.

I have to admit that this game did concern me. Suphanburi, in spite of their lowly position, still carried a threat; their twin, Brazilian strike force of Jonatan Reis (7) and Cleiton Silva (23) one of the best in the League. Goalkeeper and Captain, Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakul (18), who defied Port so frustratingly last season, was restored to the team after injury. The War Elephants would also have been buoyed by their 3-1 win over Nakhon Ratchasima last week. Port, not for the first time, were missing key players, and, once again, this was largely self-inflicted. Pakorn had been injured needlessly in a mid-week friendly while both Nitipong and Go were suspended after receiving 4 yellow cards in 7 matches. 4 in 7 – that is some going and this indiscipline has and could continue to lose Port points. Rochela is still not fully match-fit while Nurul was on the bench.

 

 

This meant, of course, that the mercurial Bodin, quite rightly, kept his place. It will be interesting to see what Jadet’s first XI is when all players are fit but for the moment the ‘Fresh Prince’ is undroppable.  Arthit made his first start of the season, Suarez was restored to the midfield and Adisorn replaced Nitipong. We have a strength in depth this year that I can never previously recall and a team that has grown together with the just the odd tweak or two to strengthen. Certainly, a solid base upon which to build a title challenge, but first Suphanburi had to be swept aside.

Suarez was to be a major influence in this game and, on 7 minutes, taking a lofted cross from Bodin, he cut inside from the left to force a De Gea style, foot-save from Sinthaweechai (Sintha from here on). On 22 minutes, the silky Spaniard set off on a mazy run into the heart of the Suphan defence before setting up Sumanya, whose left foot shot was brilliantly turned around the post by Sintha. With the ex-National keeper in this form, Port fans worst fears were confirmed when, 5 minutes later, Reis worked his way onto the edge of the box following some sloppy defending down the line, and turned inside Kevin to smash an angled drive past a despairing Watchara.  A goal very much against the run of play but the War Elephants were on the rampage now and spurned two golden chances to increase their lead before half-time; Reis firing over the bar from inside the box and Silva shooting wide from an even better angle after slipping between a static Dolah and Todsapol, like a hare, long ears flapping in the wind, dashing for cover between two hesitant hounds. Two goals down at half-time would have left even this Port with a mountain to climb.

It was clear that Port needed an early second half goal and the Lions did not disappoint. After Siwakorn had tried his luck with a speculative long-range lob, fairly comfortably dealt with by Sintha, Port got the break they needed on 48 minutes; Bodin scoring with a towering, powerful header from a measured Suarez cross.

The lead was to be short-lived. In the 56th minute Reis got behind Kevin in the box to put in a driven cross which Watchara could only parry for Silva to smash home. The deadly duo had struck.  Port’s nerve was to be put to the test, or ‘bottle’ as they put it nowadays.

But, bottle they had in crates. Within a minute, Bodin calmly brought down Adisorn’s cross, 10 yards out, only for his carefully aimed, side-foot shot to be headed off the line. In the 63rd minute, another Adisorn cross was headed over by an unmarked Arthit, waiting inside the 6-yard box. He should have done better. It was his final contribution to the action, instantly replaced by Nurul. ‘Pele’ has worked wonders as an impact sub this season when teams are tired and stretched by his energy and tireless running but he maybe lacks the guile to be a starter. This had been the only real chance he had got on the end of.

Ten minutes later came the game-turning goal, setting up the grandstand finish. Suarez, once again cleverly finding space on the right hand side of the box, popped over another delightful, left-footed cross for the imperious Bodin to calmly side-foot into the corner with his left foot. That is three goals in a week from Bodin and a perfect goal-scoring trinity: right foot, left foot, head. There is a kind of mystical serenity around Bodin when he receives the ball, even in a crowded box. He seems to have the ability, that all really good players possess, of ignoring all the distractions around him to calmly deliver, as if he is on his own down a back alley knocking the ball into a circle chalked on the wall, headphones on, listening to Ed Sheeran, while his mum is calling him in for his tea.  His first touch doesn’t just kill the ball, it subjugates it, bending it to his will, before he proceeds to caress, almost fondle it, lavishing the ball with protective devotion, like Gollum and his ‘precious’ ring. At times like this, he is an absolute joy to watch. Oh, and that scoop!

2-2 and the stadium was on the boil, matching the temperatures earlier in the day. On 82 minutes Athibordee replaced Sumanya and five minutes later came the destiny defining (we hope) moment. Suarez, on the half-way line, picked up a loose ball, looked up, before threading a slide-rule pass between two flailing Suphanburi defenders to set an on-side Boskovic free. Bosko advanced into the box while the crowd held its breath; the Montenegrin had not scored a goal from open play all season and had been especially profligate when one-on-one. Sintha advanced, arms and legs spread-eagled to narrow the angle, but Bosko’s aim was unerring, side-footing the ball to nestle just inside the post.  A volcanic roar resounded throughout the stadium as grown men, women and children (we’re a community club) hugged each other in unbridled joy.

There was still enough time for Bosko, Kevin and Bodin to interchange passes by the touchline to the exultant sound of ‘Ole, Ole’ from the crowd before the referee’s whistle brought this compelling football match to a close.

Port still top the League, at present, 4 points clear of Buriram who have a game in hand. It is all building up nicely for an epic encounter at the PAT on June 16th. After the FA Cup tie against Samut Sakhon on Wednesday, there is a break for the Coronation and then we face a tricky away fixture at Chainat on Sunday, May 12th.

 

The Sandpit’s Men Of The Match

 

 

This just has to be shared between 2-goal Bodin and 3-assist Suarez, both at the top of their game. Suarez, at times, was unplayable, while Bodin is confirming every week the originality and drive he brings to the team. A special word also for Siwakorn, who is becoming more and more influential as the season progresses. He truly is back to his best, constantly dropping back, demanding the ball, linking and changing play, whilst offering his trademark ‘challenges’, for which, sadly, he was booked again. Dolah also received a yellow card.

The Future is Orange and Blue.

 

The Portlist 4: Reality Check

 

Port overcame Ratchaburi at home, before succumbing in worrying fashion to Bangkok Glass away on Sunday. After spending the first 3 weeks of the season in pole position, it’s now time to see what this squad is really made of. Port B also slipped to their first defeat of the season, giving them 6 points from their opening 3 games.

The main feature of this list, though, is a mad goalkeeping scramble, with Port’s three first team ‘keepers all injury doubts for next week’s clash with Ubon.

 


 

1 (4) Sergio Suarez

It’s impossible to ignore Port’s top scorer right now. He’s scoring the kind of goals that seasoned strikers make a living off, using the movement of Boskovic to find space and punish the opposition. His miss against Bangkok Glass was a reminder that he’s not a natural striker, but with 4 goals in his first 4 games, we can hardly complain. Keep it up, Sergio!

2 (1) Dragan Boskovic

Dragan hasn’t kept up his scoring form, but he has undoubtedly made a huge contribution to Port’s early success. In occupying the opposition defence Dragan has allowed Suarez to flourish, and has a goal and two assists to his name. He really should have buried that late chance against Glass, though.

3 (3) David Rochela

Not particularly at fault for goals in either of Port’s last two games, but not at his vintage best, either. Nevertheless, Port’s captain is and will continue to be the key man at the back.

4 (2) Kim Sung Hwan

Kim has only played two out of the first four games, and only one of them was a performance of merit. As good as he was against Muangthong, Kim needs to stay fit and stay on form if he’s going to have the impact on Port’s 2018 season that we know he can.

5 (6) Siwakorn Jakkuprasart

He’s been very consistent, and he seems to have kept the work rate up, while turning down the aggression.

6 (5) Pakorn Prempak

That first half corner against Bangkok Glass was indicative of Port’s performance as a whole, and particularly Pakorn’s. Needs to keep working hard and keep producing if he wants to stay near the top of the Portlist, and keep himself in Port’s first XI.

7 (7) Kevin Deeromram

Kevin was magnificent in his duel with Phillip Roller against Ratchaburi, but had an absolute stinker against Bangkok Glass. Still likely to be a big player for Port though, with his superb raids forward providing a balance to the team that hasn’t been seen for some time.

8 (8) Nitipong Selanon

Still performing consistently. Must have been quite a shock to have found himself as part of a back 3 for 15 or so minutes against Bangkok Glass. He was primarirly a winger just a couple of years ago!

9 (9) Nurul Sriyankem

Once again it’s one performance out of two for Nurul. His fantastic curling finish just before half time against Ratchaburi was the key moment in the game for Port, but he has largely anonymous against Glass, and did less than his fair share defensively.

10 (11) Todsapol Lated

Todsapol ought to have been sliding down this list after picking up the injury we all knew was coming and missing the last two games, but we really missed him against Bangkok Glass.

11 (12) Bodin Phala

In putting Bodin in 11th, I’m not saying the Fresh Prince is favourite to start, just that he’s coming off the bench first in every game, and I have absolutely no idea what’s going on with Port’s goalkeepers.

12 (15) Rattanai Songsangchan

Rattanai got his chance in the second half against Bangkok Glass, and didn’t have much to do. He made a couple of regulation saves and his distribution was pretty lackluster, and then – surprise surprise – he picked up a knock after a clash with Frederic Mendy. All three of Rattanai, Worawut and Watchara are supposedly injury doubts right now, so with all 3 equally injured, I’m picking Rattanai because… well, read on and find out.

13 (10) Worawut Srisupha

Four goals conceded in two games, and a frankly outrageous display of selfishness in Port’s defeat to Bangkok Glass. Worawut should have been off the pitch the first or the second time he was treated. The bench indicated to him that he should come off, but he stayed on, clearly unable to move freely. In the highlights he can be seen telling the bench that he’s indeed not able to continue just as a tame shot, which he got nowhere near, rolled wide of his post in the 43rd minute. If his selfishness had cost Port a goal, he would be much lower on the Portlist.

14 (14) Adisorn Daeng-rueng

Put in an excellent performance against Ratchaburi, before Kim put in a poor performance against Bangkok Glass. He’s very unlikely to win his place back if Kim stays injury free, but he’s giving himself the best possible shot.

15 (16) Arthit Butjinda

Got a few minutes against Bangkok Glass, indicating that he’s one of Port’s go-to men when a goal is needed.

16 (13) Elias Dolah

Played well against Ratchaburi, but didn’t look like himself in the first half against Bangkok Glass. Dolah struggled for balance, didn’t use his strength as effectively as usual and looked nervous on the ball. That’s not the way to make a claim for a starting berth.

17 (20) Worawut Namvech

Dolah’s shakiness could open the door for this young man to push for a starting place if Todsapol doesn’t return to fitness in time for Ubon next week.

18 (17) Terens Puhiri

After writing about Port’s new Indonesian winger last week, I want to see this guy succeed more than ever. Unfortunately, all Terens has had in his first month with Port is a couple of injury time run-outs and no touches of the ball. #PassToTerens

19 (18) Meechok Marhasarunukun

With Nitipong performing so consistently, Meechok is a distant second choice at right back.

20 (19) Panpanpong Pinkong

As is Panpanpong at left back.

21 (20) Athibordee Atirat

Athibordee came on to shore up the midfield against Ratchaburi, and din’t do much wrong. He gets told to warm up an awful lot, indicating that Jadet feels comfortable sending him on.

22 (25) Watchara Buathong

I’m not sure if Watchara should be higher or lower on this Portlist. Both goalkeepers ahead of him are struggling with injuries, but at the same time he is struggling with an injury. Terrible timing for Watchara.

23 (NE) Anipong Kijkam

Port B’s young goalie could just be in line for a shock call-up this week against Ubon, with all 3 first team stoppers being injury doubts.

24 (23) Chakrit Rawanprakone

Scored in a Port friendly, although he was with the second string and playing out of position up front. Still, he scored…

25 (22) Pummared Kladkleep

Quiet times for Pummared.

26 (24) Jetjinn Sriprach

And Jetjinn.

27 (26) Chaowala Sriarwut

Chaowala continues to impress for Port B, and played nearly a full half of football alongside Port’s first team in a friendly. He looked pretty damn useful, too!

28 (27) Partchya Katethip

As did Partchya, who got an assist in that game.

29 (29) Chanayut Jejue

From the last Portlist: “Will need to rack up some goals to stay on the Portlist.” Chanayut scored for Port B, although they slipped to a 2-1 defeat last week.

30 (28) Danudet Treemongkonchok

Port B’s captain is the next one who is going to have to show something special to keep his name up here.

99 (99) Tana Chanabut

You know what Port’s criminally awful first half performance reminded me of? Tana.

 

Super 8: Port Punish Pre-season Opponents

 

Port romped past two pre-season opponents early this week, scoring 8 goals and showing plenty of attacking promise. On Monday, Jadet’s first choice XI took on J1 side Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who have signed Muangthong striker Teerasil on loan, and recorded an excellent 5-2 win. Then on Tuesday, the second string faced off with Samut Sakhon – AKA The Proud Junk Ship – and cruised to a 3-0 victory.

First up were Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who ought to have presented a very tough test for Port. A J1 side – albeit one who struggled to a 15th place finish – would be expected to have the upper hand against Port, but Port showed a lot of attacking intent and some improved finishing to take a decisive first-half lead.

 

 

The first goal came courtesy of an appalling error by an opposition centre half. In attempting an ambitious pass forward, the defender only succeeded in finding Siwakorn’s (16) stomach, or where his stomach would be if he had one, and the ball fell kindly for Suarez (5). The Spaniard, whose selection with the First XI was surprising given that he started a riot in his last appearance, laid it off to Boskovic (10), who calmly side-footed home from 12 yards.

Next came two goals which upon further review I still have absolutely no idea who should be credited with. Both came from Pakorn (7) crosses which were delivered right in to the danger zone by Port’s dead-ball specialist. The first, a corner from the left, was turned home by either Suarez, Rochela (22) or a defender from a couple of yards out, then the second, an inswinging free kick from deep, was directed goalwards by either Suarez or a defender.

At half time Hiroshima made some changes, and seemed to have brought some quality off the bench. They got right back in to the game with a quick-fire double, with both goals following a very familiar pattern for Port defensively. Two crosses from the Port left, neither under any real pressure from a defender, found teammates in the middle who found the back of the net. For the first at least the goal-scorer was being marked by Rochela, although he couldn’t stop the ball being poked towards goal. Worawut (36), who looks certain to start the season as Port’s first choice ‘keeper with Rattanai (17) seemingly still not 100% after a string of injuries last season, will be disappointed not to have kept it out.

The second was a free header, with the attacker peeling away from Todsapol (6) in to far more space than there should have been just 8 yards away from the Port goal. Are Port ever going to address their painfully obvious left-sided issue? Four goals in two games have been conceded from there, with neither Panpanpong (19) or the left-sided midfielder taking responsibility for stopping crosses coming in. Last season it was clear there was a problem, although with Genki ahead of Panpanpong the damage done by his positional indiscipline was perhaps not as bad as it could have been. This season Port seem likely to be lining up with either Nurul (31) or Pakorn on the left hand side of midfield, and as much as they bring to the team on the creative side, they will not immediately be thinking about filling in for their left-back when they see him bombing forward. With pre-season almost at an end, though, Port have given very little game time to either Yossawat (28) or Jetjinn (51), who ought to have been given the opportunity to make a case for first-team inclusion.

Port were soon back on the offensive though, with Siwakorn once again putting enough pressure on his opponents to force a mistake. A loose pass in midfield was pounced on by the Thin White Duke, who rode two challenges before releasing Suarez who played in Boskovic. The Montengrin had the beating of the centre halves, who both simultaneously brought him down in the area. The referee pointed to the spot, despite the utterly ridiculous appeals of the defenders, and El Capitan Rochela stepped up to do the business. If pre-season is anything to go by Port will not be bottom of the penalties-awarded list this time around!

The final nail in the Japanese coffin was created by another typical Nurul incursion in to the box. Nurul had been busy throughout, often being on the receiving end of some robust challenges, and on this occasion was just about to pull the trigger when he was fouled. After being fed by Nitipong (34), the diminutive Southerner turned smartly in the box and his swinging boot was impeded from behind. The referee once again awarded Port the spot-kick, but this time Kim (8) was determined to show off his goal-scoring credentials. The Korean’s penalty kick looked well-practiced, meaning that in Rochela, Boskovic and Kim, Port seem to have three very capable options.

 


 

In Tuesday’s game, which your correspondent didn’t make it to by the way, Port faced off against T2 side Samut Sakhon FC. The ambitious Proud Junk Ship, who have finished first in their division for 3 consecutive seasons, were facing Port’s second string, with Jadet taking the opportunity to give a final audition to those still looking to break in to the First XI before the season opener two weekends from now.

 

 

The man most in need of a star turn was of course German Bajram Nebihi (14), who is locked in a head-to-head battle with Suarez for a place in Port’s 2018 T1 squad. Other contenders are Bodin (15), who is pushing Pakorn (7) and Nurul (31) for a spot on the wing, Dolah (4), who is in contention with Todsapol (6) in central defence, and Jetjinn (51), who purely by virtue of the fact that Panpanpong (19) is still in the team must not be far behind.

With the only video posted by the Port Facebook page today being a clip of Terens Puhiri attempting to sing, we have nothing to go by other than the list of goal-scorers and a couple of comments from those who watched the game.

New striker Arthit (29) opened the scoring, getting on the end of a pass from Bodin and putting Port one up just before the interval. About 5 minutes after the restart, Nebihi got the goal he desperately needed. He converted a freekick from about 20 yards out, and according to our sources it was the least he deserved for an excellent all-round performance. All we know about the final goal was that it was scored by Dolah and assisted by Chakrit (9), who had replaced Bodin just a few minutes earlier.

So, Nebihi did what he needed to do, and it will be very interesting to see who Jadet chooses for Friday’s final friendly against Suphanburi. Bodin will be pleased to have notched an assist, and Dolah will also be happy with a clean sheet and a goal to his name.

 


 

Port conclude their pre-season campaign against Suphanburi on Saturday 3rd February at 17:00. See you there!

 

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: Port FC 2-3 Suwon FC

 

What should have been a laid-back pre-season friendly ended up being a hard-fought 5-goal thriller involving a mass brawl following a spat centred around Sergio Suarez. Port ended up coming out on the wrong side of the 3-2 scoreline, but with some more clinical finishing the result could easily have gone the other way.

 

 

 

Jadet went with something pretty close to his first XI, with the two eyebrow-raisers being that Suarez (5) was preferred to Nebihi (18) and Bodin (15) to Pakorn (7). The first half, while it lasted, was a pretty even affair, with both sides having a few attacks and winning a penalty each, although we weren’t convinced entirely by either of them. Suwon were first up, as their left-winger ghosted past Nitipong, who the referee adjudged to have pushed his opponent in the back. From what we saw the Korean tripped over the ball, but Nitipong (34) – who regardless of whether or not he committed the foul was completely caught out by his opponent – may well have helped him on his way down. Suwon’s resident Brazilian hit the top corner, with Worawut (36) going the wrong way.

Then it was Port’s turn up the other end, with Boskovic (10) being sent through down the middle. The Montenegrin, who had largely been starved of service up to that point, looked to have delayed his shot too long, although his blushes were saved when a sliding challenge came in from his right, and he took a tumble which convinced the referee enough to point to the spot. From our angle it looked like a questionable decision, but we can’t say we’re not happy to have a forward with enough about him to win the penalty if he’s not going to score the goal. Boskovic handed the ball to captain Rochela (22), who still seems to be on spot-kick duty despite the arrival of his record-scoring teammate, and El Capitan dispatched it in to the top right corner with the usual ease.

What was a pretty low-key affair was about to turn very ugly indeed, though, and the man at the centre of the big first-half controversy was Sergio Suarez, who may well have bought his own ticket away from Khlong Toei with the way he reacted to a bit of handbags from an opposition player. Suarez came in with a late challenge which sent both players to the turf, then the Korean player appeared to throw a little slap in his direction. Suarez got up quicker than he ever has done in his Port career and proceeded to kick out at his opponent. Now, I’m not talking a Beckham-versus-Argentina little flick of the foot here but a full on studs-first attack designed to hurt his opponent. In an instant at least 3 Koreans were aiming myriad martial arts kicks at Suarez, who was forced in to a hasty retreat. Within seconds there were dozens of people on the pitch, with a fair few players pushing, shoving and having to be restrained by teammates and staff on both sides. Dolah (4) was summoned from the bench to remove Suarez, who was sat down and given what looked to be a pretty stern talking to by Madame Pang. Reports that Nebihi was seen grinning like a Cheshire cat are unconfirmed but almost certainly accurate!

Eventually, with Rochela, Kim (39) and Nitipong mediating on the Port side, peace was restored and incredibly the referee agreed not to send anyone off, but presumably insisted that both sides sub-off all of the offenders in a bid to restore sanity. Suarez, Todsapol (6) and Bodin went off for Port, but it was a long time before replacements Nebihi, Dolah and Pakorn saw any action. The first half was stopped, despite there having been about 30 minutes played, and there was a longer-than usual half-time break for all of the players to regain their composure. It seemed for a moment as if the Koreans weren’t going to be returning for the second period, with all their equipment disappearing from the side of the pitch, and the whole squad in the dressing room. Eventually they did reemerge to play the second period though, and within just a couple of minutes were back in the lead.

The move came down Port’s left, with a Suwon attacker getting the wrong side of his marker to head his team back in to the lead. Port tried to get back in to the game, with Pakorn and Dolah combining a couple of times from set-pieces to threaten the Korean goal, but despite the Thai-Swede’s significant height advantage he couldn’t find the target with his headers. There was also a moment of interest for fans of Delap-era Stoke City, with Kim (39) unveiling a very useful-looking long throw, although his teammates were not best positioned to take advantage of it. Now, I’ve never really seen a Thai team set up to try and attack a long throw, so Port may be best served letting Kim take a training session himself and teach his teammates how to wreak havoc in the opposition box with these deliveries. Port could well have a dangerous attacking weapon on their hands that few opponents will be prepared to defend against if they play their cards right.

Suwon had a few useful attacking ideas of their own, too, and just a few minutes after scoring their second they got a third. The attack once again came down Port’s left, which most Port fans will be used to with Panpanpong (19) ‘defending’ that side of the pitch. He was soon replaced, with Jetjinn (51) once again being preferred to Yossawat (28) as back-up in that position.

With the Koreans perhaps content with their two goal lead, though, Port really ratcheted up the pressure, and it was Nebihi who was at the heart of most of it. The ungainly German almost always seems to be about to lose the ball, before one of his long legs flicks it around a defender. At times he was embarrassing his opponents, with a superb piece of exhibition skill featuring a couple of cheeky nutmegs down the right between him, Pakorn and Nitipong drawing numerous cheers from the rowdy foreigners in Zone C.

The other star performer was Kim who, aside from his long throws, also impressed with his long passing. On a few occasions, searching passes from deep were aimed either forward at Boskovic, whose movement was excellent throughout, or wide to Pakorn, whose control and crossing was of the standard we’ve come to expect from The Midfield Monk. If Boskovic had been able to convert a one-on-one chance against the keeper, where the bounce of the ball seemed to foil him, or a simple volleyed chance from a Pakorn cross, then Port would have been victorious. He did get on to the score sheet late on, though, as Port were awarded the least controversial penalty of the night for a clear handball. This time, Boskovic stepped up to take the spot-kick, and rolled the ball home impudently, sending the ‘keeper helplessly in the wrong direction.

 

 

The final incident of note came from a freekick which Port were awarded just on the edge of the area in the dying seconds of the game. Boskovic, having just converted the penalty, was determined to take it, but Pakorn isn’t used to being challenged in this sort of position. Nevertheless, the fire-breathing Dragan got his point across and was allowed to take responsibility. His effort looked in for a second, but some combination of the gigantic Korean ‘keeper and the crossbar kept it out, denying Port a draw, which after the amount of chances they created in the last 20 or so minutes, was the least they deserved.

So, what did we learn today? Pre-game, Suarez had earned the right to start ahead of Nebihi, but quickly shot himself in the foot with his karate kid antics. If Nebihi was behind Suarez for the final foreign player spot, he has most certainly moved ahead of him with another superb 45 minute performance. Port are very dangerous going forward, but the defensive frailties are far from a thing of the past.

 

Port FC Man of the Match

 

 

Nebihi may have impressed again, but my Man of the Match this time was Kim in central midfield. We haven’t seen vision and passing as good as Kim’s at PAT Stadium for quite a while, and that long throw could come in handy, too.