Posts

Port 1-0 Sukhothai “It’s Never Too Late”

After being dumped out of the FA Cup in midweek Port returned to the business of trying to keep the title race alive against Sukhothai, at a once again empty PAT stadium. Serving up the kind of match that would have seen the stadium rocking under normal circumstances, as Port snatched all three points with an injury time winner.

Coach Oud rang the changes making 7 alternations to the starting 11. The most striking of which saw Suarez (5) omitted from the matchday squad having completed the full 120 minutes against Buriram. Pakorn (7) having gone off injured was a less surprising absentee, while Nurul (13) who left the field on a stretcher was amougst the substitutes.

 

Worawut returned to the starting line up

 

Sukhothai arrived with just one win in over 100 days or 8 games to be slightly less dramatic. However, no matter how bad your form is when you have John Baggio and Ibson Melo amongst your number you always have a chance. Which pretty much summed up the attacking plan for Sukhothai, park the bus, keep men behind the ball and try and get the ball to your two attacking stars and see what they can do.

That though would be enough to earn them a surprisingly even split of possession though out the game. While chances were heavily in Ports favour, early on Boli (94) and Chappuis (17) passed up opportunities to give the home side the lead. Before Baggio sent a free-kick from the edge of the box over the crossbar and into zone D. As Sukhothai in an empty stadium, had seen fit to make Port attack their less preferred end in the second half and give their keeper the slightly easier time offered by the empty seats in zone D.

 

Adisak with an attempt on goal

 

On a number of occasions Port had good chances to take the lead before half time. Chappius had the ball in the net, collecting the ball in an offside position after it had come off a defender. VAR had a look and decided the defender hadn’t done enough of whatever the current reading of the rule is, to consitiute the defender having played the ball. While both Boli and Adisorn (20) would find themselves unable to get anything on to crosses unmarked at the back post, with the goal unguarded.

So it would continue into the second half as chances were passed up or well saved. From a corner, Tanaboon (71) on for the Adisorn, who suffered an injury its reported will end his season,  skyed a shot at the back post, when with the keeper stranded. You hoped that Port would find a way through but without the cauldron that the PAT becomes on such nights or the spark of creativity so often provided by Saurez, it seemed increasingly likely that Sukhothai would hold out for a point.

 

Not that they were without chances themselves. Later on, Worawut/Baresi in a moment very similar to that which saw him give away a penalty in Ports previous home game against Ratchaburi, stretched to divert a cross, resulting in the ball bouncing off his leg on to arm. A VAR review followed but despite the near identical events, different results were reached. So the inconsistent application of a bad rule is that we conceded a penalty when 2-0 up that doesn’t change the result and avoid conceding one that would have almost certainly seen Sukhothai collect all 3 here. They’d have every right to feel aggrieved. Not that they were finished, as in injury time as Baggio collected a balled chipped into the box and unmarked with only Worawut/Keeper to beat but fired into the keepers foot trying to cruel the ball into the far corner. The flag was raised but if the ball had found the net, the VAR review would have seen the Madagascan had in fact been onside.

Nothing to see here.

Then in the last minute of injury time, Nattawut (45) from the wide left cruelled the ball near perfectly into the box, where Boli collected and fired home the winner.  At which point the stadium should have erupted and much drinking and flare burning followed outside. Though a beery fuzz Boli’s effort would have drawn comparisons to Bergkamp’s 1998 effort against Argentina.  Sadly those just aren’t options right now. Another late three points. Which makes it 10 goals out of 41 after the 85th minute, 4 of which have won matches*. Up next Buriram in the league.

 

That winning feeling

 

 

 

Man of the Match

Yannick Boli. Score a last minute winner on your home debut and your pretty much assured the award. However the award was his anyway, as over 90 minutes he worked ceaselessly, leading to a number chances and also created a number for others with his selfless play.

 

Match winner and MOTM Yannick Boli

 

*stats from Marco (@mar1878 on twitter).

 

Mind the Gap: Thai Port FC v Sukhothai FC Preview

With three League games to squeeze in before yet another season defining fixture, this time to BG Pathum, Port need to build on the success of their last league outing, one that seemed unlikely after an almost calamitous first half at Chiang Rai. However, with some telling substitutions, a renewed determination and a welcome-back goal for the little marmoset, the gap is now ‘only’ seven points – we can do it, can’t we?

However, the ‘rampant’ Lions were de-clawed on Wednesday, a generally lackluster performance seeing their defence of the FA Cup fizzling out in a sudden-death penalty shoot-out; Buriram just that little more precise. Port had a great chance to win it at 4-4, and maybe, in hindsight, Thanasith was not the best choice to deliver the killer blow, a cooler, more experienced head might have been better, as Nitipong later demonstrated.

On recent form, Sukothai should not present a major challenge, having lost their last five games, including to cellar dwellers Rayong FC. They have supposedly strengthened since the break with, labeled by Transfermarket, some, ‘Winter Arrivals’, including Joshua Grommen (4), a Dutch-Filipino centre-back from Brisbane City, who may partner Myanmar international, Seo Min Tun, unless he’s under house arrest. At the other end of the pitch they have been very much reliant for goals from captain and mascot, Madagascar’s John Baggio (10) and Brazilian, Ibsen Melo (71), who have contributed 18 of the Fire Bat’s 26 goals so far.

 

 

 

However, the player I am going to highlight is one who won’t be playing. Sadly, we will not be treated to the delights of a ‘Winter Departure’; 19 year old, Anglo-Thai, Leon James, who has moved to Barcelona, the first Thai player ever to do so. Yes, that Barcelona. James joined Leicester City as a 6 year old and, having watched a highlights clip of his performances with Leicester Under 18’s, the boy is clearly a ‘bit special’, as they say. He should be, if you believe Wikipedia, who have him down as making one appearance for Sukothai and scoring 15 goals!

 

 

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman, it is ‘reported’, has compared him to a young Lionel Messi. Eat your heart out, Chanatip. If only he had stayed a week longer; on second thoughts, James, a central midfielder, would have been facing Sivakorn. Ouch! Sorry Ronald.

 

 

Assuming all players will be available, and, with now, seemingly nothing to lose, why not throw caution to the wind and go for a bold, madcap, attacking 3-5-2 formation – we’re not really going to catch BG Pathum Utd are we?

 

 

The match kicks off at 1800 Thai time at The PAT Stadium but games will continue to be behind closed doors. Channel 5 are broadcasting it.  Or why not join some of the Sandpit regulars at The Sportsman on Sukhumvit Soi 13 to watch the game.

It’s Grim Up North: Sukhothai FC 1-2 Port FC

 

Port made it three wins out of three in their first away game of the season, but where wins one and two featured goals galore and champagne football, win three was gritty, ugly and somewhat fortunate. What with Sukhothai on a Wednesday being one of the least accessible fixtures on the calendar, the Sandpit crew watched the game from the comfort of The Sportsman, accompanied by the dulcet tones of a loud American (a tautology I know) relating the plot of long-forgotten 1980s Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor comedy See No Evil, Hear No Evil to an audience of baffled Thai girls. Thanks for that.

Read more

Port Four Play Leaves Bats A-Flutter: Port FC 4-1 Sukhothai FC (Chang FA Cup R32)

 

 

When Port were drawn against Sukhothai in the FA Cup round of 32, the tie had the look of a potential banana skin about it – despite their lowly league position, the Firebats have one of the best defences in T1, and until Buriram’s visit last Sunday were the only team to have beaten Port all season. Fortunately for Port, but unfortunately for those of us who were hoping for a competitive game, Sukhothai are clearly prioritising T1 survival and put out a second string side, making this little more than a training exercise for Port’s first XI.

The floodgates opened as early as the 8th minute, when Pakorn (7) hit a freekick from the left of the penalty area, which former Port keeper Wanlop helpfully palmed into the net; but then Sukhothai sat back and defended resolutely, holding out against intense Port pressure until the 34th minute, when Pakorn curled in his second freekick of the night. The Midfield Monk loves playing against lowly opposition, but I wish he could find this kind of form when the big boys are in town. On the stroke of half time Bodin (10) scored a third but I’d already gone out for a cleansing ale by that point so can’t tell you what happened.

Predictably, the second half began with the usual Toby Time goal. Nurul (31) was upended in the area and Cap’n Rochela stroked home the pen to give Port an unassailable lead. Sukhothai got a consolation goal with a 75th minute penalty, but that was it for second half action and the gentle workout was just what Port needed before Sunday’s tricky trip to face MK Dons. The only black cloud was Go (8) going off late in the game with a knock, closely followed by the arrival of an ambulance at the stadium. Let’s hope it was just a precaution, as the last thing Port need now is to lose their midfield general.

**UPDATE**

Go suffered a bang on the head & the ambulance was just a precaution – he’ll be fit for Sunday’s game at Samut Prakhan.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Pakorn

Two fine goals. No contest.

 

Shameonya: Sukhothai FC 3-1 Port FC

 

 

Port travelled north to face another unbeaten side in the form of Sukhothai FC yesterday, in a game which, on paper, should have been an opportunity for 3 valuable points. Sadly a combination of dubious refereeing, some appalling behaviour from certain Port players, and a bizarre second half substitution from Jadet handed Sukhothai one of the easiest wins they’ll have all season.

Read more

Top of the Lake: Sukhothai FC vs Port FC Match Preview

 

Sukothai head into this game as only one of four teams unbeaten this season. To nicely balance things out, they are also one of only four teams not to have won this season, their four draws producing, on average, a goal a game, so whatever we get at the picturesque, lake-side Thalay Luang Stadium (Capacity 9,500) will be well earned.

Sukothai F.C. have only been in existence for ten years and in that time have had a remarkable rise from the Northern Regional League to be now competing at the highest level. They even had a dip into the AFC Champions League play-offs when they ‘won’ the F.A. Cup in 2016, by virtue of being drawn out of the hat ahead of two other semi-finalists, the competition having been cancelled due to the late King’s passing. Chonburi, the fourth semi-finalist, either in a fit of pique or protest, had earlier withdrawn from the lucky dip.

Today’s opponents met at a similar stage last season when the Fire Bats shared a top three place with Port but they faltered badly mid-season and, for a while, with five teams due for the drop, slipped into the relegation zone. They rallied to finish a respectable 11th, largely on the back of Nelson Bonilla’s 25 goals. Port, in particular, will be glad to see Bonilla shifted off to Bangkok Utd – he put 4 past us in League and Cup games last season.

Having watched highlights of Sukothai’s two home games, it is clear they will not be easy to beat, particularly backed by their usual, large and loud, partisan home crowd.

 

John Baggio

 

With Bonilla gone, the spotlight quite rightly falls onto their diminutive captain, John Baggio, or to give him his full title, John Baggio Rakotonomenjanarahy (10), a name, in length at least, reminiscent of some of those picturesque, rural Welsh railway stations, and not one to be included in any terrace chants, or on the back of your shirt for that matter. Baggio was also a thorn in Port’s side last year and this year he seems to have developed a good understanding with tall Montenegrin striker, Petar Orlandic (9). Bosko’s fellow countryman has good pedigree, having spent 3 seasons at Red Star Belgrade where he enjoyed a promising partnership with Serbian international, Luka Jovic. He certainly looks menacing: strong and powerful in the air, with quick feet, yet, despite getting on the end of numerous chances, he has yet to score. Philippine international, Iain Ramsay (7), makes up the front three while Joel Sami (3), Congolese international, acquired from Ratchaburi in the close season, should provide some physical presence at the back.

Port will look to come back from a disappointing and frustrating draw with PTT last week. Jadet’s experiment with his two full back clones operating down the left wing didn’t really work for me and it was only when Bodin came on in the second half and started to run at the retreating PTT defence that we started to create genuine chances. Our attacks now follow the familiar pattern of getting it out to the wings followed by a cross, which is fine as long as the crosses clear the first defender or actually end up in the box, and not sail into the crowd or over the opposite touch line for a throw-in. Kevin’s crosses of late have been particularly overshot, although to be fair, two nearly led to goals last week thanks to good retrieval work from Suarez and Dolah. On the other side, Nitipong invariably turns on to his weaker left foot giving defences that vital few seconds to re-organize. Bosko has become the great ditherer and should really have converted at least one chance last week.

However, luck was not on our side, with the PTT penalty box at times looking like the Alamo, with Victor, in full-blown John Wayne mode, repelling all-comers and, at one point, having denied yet another attack, standing in the box letting out a full throated roar of triumph like King Kong about to bite the cockpit off a passing plane.

On the positive side, we are still unbeaten, nobody is really setting a pace, although Buriram’s win over Bangkok Utd will have sent a warning, and a win at Sukothai should consolidate a top three spot.

Port will also be hoping that the injury jinx which has hit them since the beginning of the season will soon pass. Rochela and Nurul will most likely be missing but Sumanya is fit again and will be very useful against a solid Fire Bats team. It will also be good to see Kevin restored to full back duties. The defence picks itself really but there are numerous options ahead of them. Siwakorn has impressed so far this season while Go adds stability and a delightful range of passing. Bodin added much needed penetration last week but Jadet is likely to go for Pakorn, so Port may line up like this in a formation of Jadet’s choice.

Worawut: Nitipong, Todsapol, Dolah, Kevin; Pakorn, Go, Sumanya, Siwakorn; Suarez, Boskovic.

Subs: Watchara, Worawut, Panpanpong, Athibordee, Adisorn, Anon, Pinyo, Bodin, Arthit; but I’m just guessing now.

Prediction: A gritty 2-1 win for Port, surviving a last 5 minute blitz.

 

Sukhothai FC vs Port FC

Saturday 30 March 18:00

If you can’t join us in Sukhothai, please support our sponsors and watch at The Sportsman on Sukhumvit soi 13. Big screen, sound, and drink discounts for all Port FC fans!

 

Jeepers Keepers! Port FC 2-2 Sukhothai FC

 

On a typically chaotic night at the PAT, Port rather fortunately earned a point against 10-man Sukhothai, in a game decided by goalkeeping that went from the ridiculous to the sublime and back again. Before the game a draw would’ve been seen as two points dropped, but in reality Port were lucky not to lose a game that exposed how shallow the squad is.


Thanks to some surprise results on Saturday night, Port went into the game knowing that a win would take them above Bangkok Utd into second and also put them six points above the Forces of Evil; however we also knew that, with Suarez still injured, Kim suspended and Sukhothai’s forward pairing of Bonilla & Baggio no doubt looking forward to running rings around Port’s defence as per usual, this would not be as easy an encounter as the league table might suggest – and so it proved.

Port have had enough previous warnings about Bonilla’s threat in & around the box, so it was very surprising when, after just 4 minutes, a pass found him unmarked in the area, and he had all the time in the world to curl a peach of a shot past a despairing Rattanai (17) into the far corner to give the Fire Bats a shock lead. Sukhothai were clearly here for the win and were passing the ball around beautifully, testing Rattanai on a couple more occasions with Port’s defenders alarmingly static. Things were little better up front, with Siwakorn (16) and Nitipong (34) blazing good chances over the bar, Pakorn (7) having one of his all too frequent off nights, and Boskovic (23) unable to impose himself on the game. The best chance of the half fell to Dolah (4) on the half hour mark, but his cheeky backheel was saved by Sukhothai’s keeper Pairote, whilst the excellent Bodin (10), revelling in his attacking midfield role, tested the keeper on a couple of occasions and found him up to the job.

Port finally got the better of Pairote in the 39th minute, when a delicious ball over the top from Siwakorn left Boskovic in a one-on-one, only for Pairote to hack him down on the edge of the box. The ref, after needlessly consulting VAR, rightly produced a red card, which was the spark for around 7 minutes of protests from Sukhothai who, despite their recent change of coach, still show little respect for the laws of the game and should have seen a few more cards. Once order was restored, Pakorn stepped up and selfishly fired the free-kick into the side-netting. We say it every week – his selfishness is hurting the team and in my opinion it’s time to cash in and move him on.

At half-time Jadet brought in Todsapol (6) for the ineffective Adisorn (13) and moved cap’n Rochela (22) into midfield, as Port set about getting back into the game. And it nearly paid off in the first minute of the second half when Kevin (97) put the ball on a plate for Boskovic some 10 yards out but inexplicably he shot wide of the goal when you’d have put your shirt on him to score. For the next 30 minutes a familiar pattern took hold, with Port launching attack after attack, and Sukhothai trying to catch them on the break, with both Baggio and Bonilla coming close to making it 2-0, the latter only denied by a superb save from Rattanai.

Eventually however Port’s relentless pressure finally told, when Arthit (29) fed Siwakorn, whose wonderful cross eluded Sukhothai’s reserve keeper Kittikun and was accidentally turned into his own net by a defender. 1-1, and the momentum was most definitely with Port, with Kittikun making point-blank saves from Nurul (31) and Arthit. But the Bats were still dangerous on the break and with just 2 minutes remaining Madagascan midfielder Nijva broke into the box, provoking an insane charge off his line from Rattanai who brought him down for a clear penalty. Quite why the Port keeper saw fit to come out so far is a mystery, but it looked like costing Port the game as that man Bonilla stepped up to give Sukhothai the lead.

But the late cave-ins of 2017 are a thing of the past and the 2018 Port are made of sterner stuff, and they came right back at Sukhothai. In the very last minute, a speculative Siwakorn shot from outside the box was inexplicably ushered into the net by Kittikun, who looked like he was allowing Port to score. It definitely had a very fishy smell to it, though I hope that was just the dried squid seller setting up his stall in the sandpit.

2-2 it finished, after a thrilling second half from two teams intent on playing good attacking football. Port were poor, with little to offer from the bench (though you can’t help thinking we could’ve used Terens’ pace late on); Sukhothai looked much better than their league position and will stay up if they keep playing like this. An opportunity missed to go second, but in the end a lucky escape.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Bodin

MOTM contenders were pretty thin on the ground tonight. Siwakorn with an assist and a goal should get a mention but he squandered too many chances and misplaced too many passes to get the nod. So the award goes to the Fresh Prince himself Bodin, who showed just how wrong Jadet has been to leave him on the bench so often. His passing was sublime and his workrate was unusually intense, and he staked a very strong claim to being the future of Port’s midfield.

 

 

Dire Bats: Port FC vs. Sukhothai FC, 8 July 2018

Looks like I’m on Sukhothai duty again.

Last time Port were set to face the “Fire Bats,” I raved about this weekend’s opponents, and more specifically their foreign attacking trinity who have 27 league goals and 63 name-letters between them. Since then, my “pundits curse” has hit them where it hurts and they have sunk into the relegation zone, and are already on their third manager of the season. Thank goodness I’m not old enough to gamble.

 

Baggio Rakotonomenjanahary, Nelson Bonilla and Njiva Rakotoharimalala

 

In their previous encounter, both teams didn’t get the memo that the League Cup is irrelevant and went full throttle at each other’s throats, ending in a 4-3 victory for the home side. The game will be remembered for the amount of time wasted by the Sukhothai players as they rolled on the floor (despite being a goal down), and of course the slightly odd attempts at Spanish swearing directed at Salvadoran striker Nelson Bonilla.

Bodin Phala (10) starred in the last game in an attempt to impress Jadet and earn a starting place, and may once again get the chance to do so as Nurul (31) could potentially move into the middle to compensate for the injured Sergio Suarez (5). The Spaniard was crucial in that last game, playing through balls from deep to beat Sukhothai’s high defensive line. His eye for a pass and fluid movement are something rarely found in the Thai League, and will surely be missed in this game.

I would like to think that, given the valuable three points at stake, Sukhothai would approach the game a little more rationally, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems as if the provincial side have already accepted that their defense is an incurable mess, and intend to rely solely on their forwards, who appear to have the combined height of the angry white man screaming on Port’s touchline (who I am told is the goalkeeping coach, which makes the situation even funnier).

In doing my research for this game (which includes at least seven different Wikipedia pages), I came across a description of Sukhothai’s new manager, Chalermwoot Sa-ngapol, which claimed he was the “Glenn Hoddle of Thai Football.” My hopes were quickly deflated when it became apparent that the comment was a reference to his playing style and not his management, which makes me even more confused as to why Glenn Hoddle is the first man to come to mind to demonstrate a player capable of “precise passes.”

 

 

Regardless, Khun Hoddle’s CV isn’t entirely horrible. He did impressively to lead Osotspa to 7th in 2013 keep Sisaket from the drop in 2014 and 2015, but he was somehow involved with both Sisaket and Super Power Samut Prakan in their abysmal 2017 campaigns which saw them both relegated. His last managerial job was Muangthong United B’s…I mean, Udon Thani’s T3 promotion campaign.

In terms of how Port can get at Sukhothai, it seems very clear that this weekend’s visitors are lacking defensive cover. Neither of their center-backs looks particularly impressive; no surprise given that the Fire Bats have the third worst defensive record in the league. Malaysian/Australian midfielder Curran Ferns, who debuted in Sukhothai’s last visit to the PAT Stadium, was supposedly brought in to reinforce the midfield.

In fact, none of their local contingent can really be considered to have any real quality. Nelson Bonilla has won more international caps with El Salvador than all of his Thai teammates have with their nation combined, which speaks volumes at the team’s reliance on foreign players.

However, on their day, the 63-letter forward line can be devastating. 3 goals at PAT Stadium, 3 goals at the SCG, wins over Chiang Rai, Chonburi and even Buriram United – they are a side that shouldn’t be underestimated. Port will need to be on their guard if they want to continue their chase of an AFC Champions League berth, and fans should probably expect a goal-fest once again.

 


 

The match will be shown live on True4U and True Sport 2 at 19:00 on Sunday 8 July, 2018. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

Cats vs Twats: Port FC 4-3 Sukhothai FC (League Cup R1)

 

On another night of thrills at the PAT, Port booked their place in the last 16 of this season’s League Cup with a dramatic win against a Sukhothai side who combined eye-catching forward play with a level of cynical shithousery not seen since Ubon stank the place out in March.


Despite rumours to the contrary, Port started with a near-first XI after La Pang told Jadet in no uncertain terms that she wants some silverware this season. Panpanpong came in for Kevin, Worawut started instead of Rattanai, Todsapol replaced Dolah, and Bodin got a rare start at the expense of Nurul; otherwise it was the same team that dominated Muangthong at the weekend.

Since their surprising start to the season, Sukhothai have been in freefall and Port started the game with understandable confidence, and with two early goals it looked like a rout was on the cards. The first came in the 9th minute when a lovely pass from Kim found Siwakorn (16) down the left, and he fed the ball to Boskovic (23), who calmly slotted the ball into the far corner. A couple of months ago the big striker would probably have looked for a pass and it’s great to see he’s got his mojo back.

Six minutes later Bodin (10), who had an excellent game, found Suarez (5) in the box. The Spaniard tried to chip the ball past his marker and clearly had his shirt pulled but the ref, who was awful throughout, wasn’t having any of it.

But Suarez didn’t have to wait long to get his goal, and on 18 minutes a lovely cross from Nitipong (34) on the right landed right on his head, and his header looped into the far corner.

So, 2-0 within 20 minutes and it should’ve been game over, but this week we’ve seen some of 2017’s lack of concentration start to creep back into Port’s game and with our old scourge John Baggio pulling the strings for the Firetwats, Port’s grip on the game loosened alarmingly quickly. It was the Microscopic Madagascan who set up Sukhothai’s first on 36 minutes, crossing to the far post where Nelson Bonilla rose unchallenged to nod in. The Malgasy Midget was at it again 7 minutes into the second half, crossing from the right and Korean midfielder  Jung Myung Oh nodding home he equaliser. And 10 minutes later Port’s defensive collapse continued when Bonilla left Todsapol (6) for dead and his shot deflected off Rochela and over Worawut into the back of the net.

This was the queue for Sukhothai to embark on an extended campaign of diving, fouling and feigning injury, their goalkeeper being the worst offender, staying down for 5 minutes after Suarez’ boot came within a foot of his head. But needless to say Port had the last laugh. On came Nurul (31), and within minutes of his arrival he was hacked down just inside the box, Boskovic stepping up to convert the penalty. 3-3, and suddenly the Direbats were regretting wasting so much time – even more so in the 81st minute when a Pakorn (7) corner was headed home by an unmarked Todsapol to make it 4-3.

The ref rubbed salt in the Fireprats’ wounds by only adding on 4 minutes of injury time (when there should have been at least 10), and they spent most of it acting like spoiled toddlers, a free-kick having to be taken 3 times due to some penalty area handbags involving Boskovic and assorted Sukhothai forwards. The handbags continued at the final whistle, and when the Bats wandered over to Zone B for the traditional wai the foreign contingent let them know the error of their ways.

Far from Port’s best performance of the season, and it’s worrying that the defensive chaos of 2017 is starting to rear its ugly head again; but nevertheless a deserved win against truly horrible opposition and Port will go into the last 16 confident of progressing further.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Dragan Boskovic

Suarez was his usual busy self; Kim’s passing was a joy to behold; and Bodin staked a claim for a regular start. But for me Boskovic was last night’s MOTM. The big fella is back to his best, finishing with aplomb, grabbing the ball to take a penalty, and generally being a massive irritant to Sukhothai’s defenders. If he continues this form throughout the rest of the season, he’ll surpass the 20-goal mark with room to spare.

Cats vs Bats: Port FC vs Sukhothai FC (Toyota League Cup R1) Match Preview

 

While Tottenham Hotspur coach Mauricio Pochettino may not think very highly of the League Cup, silverware is silverware, and Port’s potentially “rotated” lineup belies their true ambition to win the competition. It is certainly true that the FA Cup holds more significance in that it comes with the added bonus of Champions League qualification, but the Klongtoey side will be looking for something to fill the trophy cabinet as soon as possible to vindicate Madame Pang’s winter shopping.

Port’s opposition, however, are likely to make no secret of their desire for a good cup run. Sukhothai sat in the Champions League places after matchday five, and were looking to put together their best ever Thai League season…before everything collapsed around them and their coach was obviously and inevitably scapegoated with an unjustified sacking.

That being said, Sukhothai still present a threat, especially going forward. Witnessing them recently in an enthralling 7-goal encounter at the SCG Stadium, it is clear that the Bats’ (is that what they’re called?) biggest strength lies in their ability to beat defenses at breakneck speed, soaking up pressure and counter-attacking to devastating effect.

Their front three, which consists of Malagasy forwards Njiva Rakotoharimalala and John Baggio (whose actual name is Baggio Rakotonomenjanahary, for those already having trouble), as well as El Salvadorian striker Nelson Bonilla. It’s a forward line that is very unique, and not just because of where the players hail from. Aged 26, 25 and 27 respectively, Sukhothai’s foreign contingent are amongst the youngest in the league and are reaching the prime of their careers, not helplessly sliding past it on the way to obscurity.

As for how Port should deal with this, their experience from approximately 96 hours before kickoff should help them greatly. While Jaja has struggled to hit a barn door this season, and continued that woeful struggle at the PAT Stadium, Heberty’s constant runs stretched the Port defense in a similar way to how the three forwards with a combined 63 letters in their names might do. Despite racing to a lead in their recent encounter with Muangthong, they eventually ran out of steam and surrendered all three points.

Under previous coach Pairoj Borwonwatanadilok (just when you thought surnames couldn’t get any more complicated), Sukhothai aim to play a high defensive line, as they did at the SCG Stadium, closing the spaces for the opposition’s creative players and making it easier to play long, sweeping out-balls to the pacey forwards. Assuming they do this again, this could be a good tactic to frustrate Port’s creative talents in advanced midfield positions. However, this relies on high pressing midfielders and defenders who can track back at pace, something that will take a toll on the team by the time the second half rolls around.

As such, this probably isn’t a game where Suarez, Pakorn or Nurul are likely to have a happy outing. In a move that could double as an energy-saver for Saturday’s trip to Ratchaburi, Port should instead opt to fight fire with fire by deploying pacy wingers Terens Puhiri and Bodin Phala, with only one of the “creative trinity” (have Port fans ever called them that?) needed to drop deep and pick up the ball when the forwards’ desire to press begins to wane.

Unfortunately, the side may have very little option but to play Dragan Boskovic down the middle, given the lack of viable backup options. Port should have considered keeping ahold of Bajram Nebihi, even if only for cup games, as he could offer coach Jadet a very different approach, in order to catch teams off-guard in these crucial one-off matches.

In terms of defense, Nitipong tucking in alongside Rochela and Elias Dolah should be enough to contain the three forwards, with Kim Sung-Hwan shielding the area between them. Kevin was cancelled out at the weekend by Tristan Do, but with Njiva playing on his left and Baggio habitually drifting into the middle, he should have very little hindrance in bombing up the field as he does on his best days.

In action, Port’s formation could look a little something like this…

 

Solid Line = Runs

Dotted Line = Passes

Circle = Occupy Defenders

Tim’s description of Port’s most recent game against Muangthong as a match that “had started out as a cagey tactical battle descended into the pure chaos of an U11s game,” may also apply to their next encounter…but this time, that breakdown may be something Port can ill-afford.

If they play their cards right, Port should have enough quality to sweep Sukhothai away. However, the attacking talent the visitors possess absolutely can’t be underestimated, even by the strongest teams in the division.

 

Port FC vs Sukhothai FC, Toyota League Cup R1 – Wednesday 13 June, 19:00 at PAT Stadium. Televised on True Sport 6.