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Balls & Bats: Port Draw Sukhothai in League Cup R1

 

The draw for round 1 of the Toyota League Cup was made this afternoon, and the balls have dictated that Port will host fellow T1 side Sukhothai FC. A few weeks ago this might’ve been a somewhat tricky fixture, with Sukhothai getting off to a flyer, but times have changed since then and after a poor run that has seen them slip from 3rd to 10th, the Fire Bats became the 10th T1 club to part company with their coach yesterday.

With Buriram & Bangkok Utd looking like they’ve already made the top two spots their own, the cups are Port’s best hope of silverware this season, especially if the top two prioritise the league (and AFC qualification) over cup competitions.

The game will take place at the PAT on Wednesday 13 June, KO 19:00. You can see the rest of the R1 draw below:

Krabi FC vs Police Tero

Ranong United vs Ratchaburi FC

Trat FC vs Bangkok Glass

Nakhon Pathom FC vs Navy FC

Rayong FC vs Pattaya FC

Samut Sakhon FC vs Bangkok United

Nong Bua Pitchaya FC vs Ubon UMT United

Prachuap FC vs Suphanburi FC

Kasetsart FC vs Airforce FC

Port FC vs Sukhothai FC

Sisaket FC vs Nakhon Ratchasima FC

Trang FC vs Chainat FC

Army United vs Chiang Rai Utd

Udon Thani FC vs Muangthong

Lampang FC vs Buriram United

Khon Kaen FC vs Chonburi FC

 

 

Fencegate, Fetishes and Marauding Malagasy: Sukhothai FC 2-2 Port FC

 

 

Two of the surprise packages of the T1 League season met at the picturesque, lakeside Thung Thalay Luang Stadium on Saturday for a game that turned out to be anything but placid, especially on the terraces. Port, still smarting from a dismal first half away display at Bangkok Glass knew that they would have to dredge up all of their reservoirs of strength and shore up the defence if they were to navigate their way out of this one.

The first half demonstrated just why these two teams have started so well. Both played pacey, incisive, neat football with the Fire Bats looking to release 6 goal Salvadorian striker Bonilla, while Port were relying heavily on Nurul (31) and Pakorn (7) setting up the chances for Boskovic (23) to use his superior height and power against the Bats’ classy captain Yuttapong, who spent most of the game with his head heavily bandaged after a nasty collision following a corner. Whether Bosko was the culprit was difficult to tell. It was unlikely to be Nurul.

With Bonilla generally well shackled by Rochela (22) and Aithbodee (35), it was left to the diminutive Madagascar international John Baggio to torment the Port defence with his trickery and pace, ably supported by fellow Malagasy, Njiva Rakotoharimalala (try getting that on the back of your shirt). As early as the 8th minute, Baggio whipped a left foot shot narrowly wide of the post, while Boskovic had the ball whipped off his feet at the other end just as he was about to pull the trigger.

Then, just before half-time, it all kicked off. The ball had gone out for a Port throw and was retrieved by a Firebat player who was reluctant to hand it over to Kim, who was equally keen to get the game going. Kim tried to wrestle the ball from his opponent, with what seemed like minimum force, but it was enough for virtually the entire white-shirted Sukothai bench to surround Kim in what can only be describe as an aggressive manner. The nearest Port players came to Kim’s rescue, quickly followed by a few home players intent on rescuing the coaches. It was vaguely reminiscent of the fall-out from a drunken stag party picking a fight with a motor-cycle taxi driver. Calm was eventually restored and at least two Sukothai coaches were banished to the stand. All spiffing fun really.

(Editor’s note: a combination of beer & distance have led to Hockers’ confused view of the incident. Actually it was Sukhothai’s head coach who came on the pitch to angrily hit the ball with his hand, at which point Kim quite reasonably pushed him out of the way so he could get on with the game, at which point it all went off, and the Sukhothai coach was quite rightly sent to the stand…)

However, up in the away end, this was all a bit too much for some of the watching Sandpit contingent, who looked for the nearest defenceless object on which to vent their spleen, which, oddly enough, was actually a fence, one of two separating Port fans from the ‘enemy’. One fan who shall remain nameless, no doubt testing to see if it was made of real Sheffield steel, was the first to give it a rattle; the Brit, followed, as always in a battle, by an American who had to go one better with a more vigorous shake, just to prove once again that although we may start things, they will saunter in when it is nearly all over to claim victory. This commotion did not go unnoticed by the Sukothai supporters sitting next door and an ugly confrontation was only averted by the swift action of the Port mediators and security guards. All a storm in a teacup really but it was to have a severe impact on what was unfolding on the pitch at the time.

Inexplicably, while we were distracted by all this wire-mesh excitement, Sukothai had somehow worked the ball from our bust-up throw-in to a threatening position to the left of our box. Whether the Port defenders were distracted by what was going in the stands behind remains to be seen but it clearly upset Rochela enough to see his clearance ricochet off Bonilla into the path of the one player we did not want anywhere near the ball at this stage, Baggio. The next few seconds seem to take place in slow-motion, with an extended Nooooooooo! screaming inside your head as Baggio prepared to pull the trigger. 1-0. Minutes later, another thrilling run by Baggio finished with a lofted pass to Bonilla who fired over. At the other end, Siwakorn (16) should have done better with a header on the edge of the six-yard box or taken the better option of control and shoot. Possibly the most exciting 5 minutes, for all sorts of reasons, of the season!

An analysis of the exciting action was conducted over yet more beers at half-time and somebody also brought up the football.

Njiva went close for the Fire Bats early in the second half before, on 59 minutes, a mistimed headed back-pass in the Sukothai box was chased down by Boskovic on the touchline, to flick back to Suarez (5), who turned it in past the flailing keeper – an excellent opportunistic goal which inspired a flurry of Port action, culminating, ten minutes later, in one of the most bizarre but quite thrilling goals you will ever see and will need a whole paragraph to itself.

 

At last! Bosk doubles his tally for the season – Nurul shows his, er, appreciation

Nurul, cutting in from the left, hits a fairly harmless, speculative shot, which the keeper spills at the feet of Boskovic, who works the ball free for a shot. In quick succession, shots or headers from Suarez (3 times), Nurul and Boskovic are blocked, cleared off the line or hit the bar, before Boskovic finally lashes home. It was reminiscent of those mass games in the school playground when both teams are kicking into the same goal. The Port fans go wild but the fence remains intact.

Two minutes later Fire Bat Ekkasit was sent off for a wild kick at Kevin and Port seemed to have all the omens in their favour for a famed away win. This illusion was to last 5 minutes; Bonilla ghosting past a static Nitipong (34), no doubt overly keen not to give away yet another penalty, and passing to Njiva whose shot was in turn palmed by Worawut (36) straight to Baggio, who gleefully volleyed it home. The home crowd roared, the away crowd wailed, and the fence cowered.

There was still time for Siwakorn to miss another sitter, blasting over from inside the box with Boskovic better placed. He really does need to stay behind after school for some shooting practice.

All in all, it was a cracking day out. An action-packed match played in a proper football stadium, friendly home fans, in spite of the fence rattling, a fantastic atmosphere, enriched by the impressive Port contingent, and probably a fair result.

The evening was spent in convivial chat, covering such topics as travel stories about navigating the Pacific Rim; cooking tips on the best way to stuff a chicken, and creative ways of using a straw, although some were a bit hard to swallow. Keith, Phil and Mike shared pictures of their pets on the way home and a bloody good time was had by all! Away Days – you can’t beat ‘em. Thanks to all of you for your company.

Port remain in third place, level on points with Sukothai, just three points behind perennial leaders Buriram. Prachuap Khiri Khan and Nakhon Ratchasima make up a rather unusual top 5. Next up for Port are Air Force and Police Tero, games that should consolidate our position before a difficult run of three top 6 challengers.

Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

The consensus was Suarez, scoring again and coordinating the line well. Pity he hadn’t still been on the pitch to take the late chance that fell to Siwakorn.

 

Contenders or Pretenders? Port FC vs Sukhothai FC, 17 March 2018

 

Saturday 17th March 2018
7.00 p.m. Live on True Sports 6

It’s 2nd vs 3rd this week. You would’ve got fairly long odds if you’d suggested this fixture would be 2nd vs 3rd at the start of the season. Both teams splashed some cash pre-season, but so did Air Force and they are rooted to the bottom of the table with 0 points. Port and Sukhothai have managed to turn their purchases into points. Both sides have managed to do it scoring goals, averaging two goals per game. So we should see a game full of goals this Saturday (cue a 0-0 draw).

The Fire Bats’ Form
Sukhothai have beaten Chiang Rai 2-0 in this season so their 12 points haven’t all come easy. Their only loss came last week against 4th placed Korat in Korat. In Nelson Bonilla (a real number 9 with 6 goals) they have the T1 top scorer, which has to be a bit of a worry for Port. Everyone is talking about the top goalscoring sensation. However Port must understand Sukhothai are far from being a one man band. The left winger Njiva (7) has 4 goals, and match him up with Baggio (10) coming in on the right and Sukhothai have a scary foreign trio.  The whole defence will need to keep one eye on Nelson, and still have an eye on Njiva and Baggio. Effectively the Port defence needs to have 3 eyes each. Is their a Triclops available in the mid season transfer window?

Both teams have shown good form then lost away to a decent side. Form would suggest a home win and an away loss..

What do Port need to do to change this on Saturday ?

I still have a lot of faith in this team, I don’t think there needs to be any changes; we just need to convert more of the opportunities we create. Kevin needs to forget about being bogged down in Bangkok Glass and remember the battling performance he put in against Ratchaburi. Boskovic (23) needs to remember as long as the team is scoring he’s doing well. He showed this putting Suarez (5) through on goal. You get the feeling Dragan is linking up well with his team mates, but missing the free flowing football and free flowing goals of 2017 Bangkok United.

I’d like to see a bit of variation occasionally trying out two strikers at some point in 2018. But we all know Jadet; he is not likely to change his 4-5-1 system away, or at home, or ever in his life. With this team playing 4-5-1 I still think we have a good side. With Nurul (31) we will always have chances; we just need to be more clinical when the opposition are being cynical. Yes Ubon, I’m looking at you. I think Sukhothai will be after 3 points from this game. Port have to take the chances they will be given by an attacking team. Athibodee (35) had a good game in central defence last week and I think he did enough to stay in the starting lineup. Unfortunately Port will face a tougher test than 11 men lying down glancing at the clock this week.

Worawut (36)

Nittipong (34) Aithbodee(35) Rochella(22) Kevin (97)

Nurul(31) Suarez (5) Kim(8) Siwakorn(16) Pakorn (7)

Boskovic(23)

Key match up
Bonilla v Rochella ? This would suggest itself as the key match up. However all the more dangerous is Njiva coming in from the left wing being picked up by Athibodee (or Dolah 4) or Todsapol (3).

Bonilla celebrating, but don’t forget Njiva.

Njiva v Athibodee
If Port focus too much on Bonilla they could get caught out. I like Athibodee but this Saturday will test his defending credentials.  We have seen Port go down early away from home. The Fire Bats need to be kept in check early doors. If Port can do that then they can exploit the space that should come their way.

Prediction: Sukhothai 2-3 Thai Port (All goals scored in the first half, so myself and the other Port fans with Doug Stanhope tickets can enjoy the goals then nip off to see some top quality standup.)

The Sportsman on Sukhumvit Soi 13 will be showing the match live on Saturday.

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season 2018: Week 6

 

Apologies for the absence of a Song of the Season for last week’s Ubon game as I was freezing my wuttichais off in Berlin. But this week normal service is resumed as Port face a crucial game away at fellow second-placers Sukhothai FC, aka The Fire Bats.

Hopefully Port will follow Captain Beefheart’s advice and pull the chain on the Bats’ title ambitions, consigning them to the watery U-bend of T1 along with other turds like Muangthong & Ratchaburi.

 

 

Appetite for Self-Destruction: Port FC 3-3 Sukhothai FC

 

Is there any point writing these match reports any more? Once Port went 3-1 up the outcome of this game was so predictable it could have been written by Barbara Cartland. I may as well simply copy & paste any one of half a dozen match reports from this season. Anyway, to sum up, in what was undoubtedly an entertaining game for the neutrals (of whom there were plenty in Zone B – a night at the PAT seems to have become a leading Bangkok tourist attraction) Port drew 3-3 with struggling Sukhothai after being 3-1 up with 10 minutes to play, conceded a late penalty, blah blah fucking blah.


Zico made one change from the 0-0 draw at Bangkok Glass, a result that was celebrated at the time as if Port had won the League, the FA Cup and the Nobel Prize for Physics all in one evening, bringing in Panpanpong (19) for Yossawat (28). I can only assume Yossa was injured or otherwise unavailable as the change made no footballing sense, and seasoned Panpanpong watchers were not in the least surprised when, in the 4th minute, he fluffed a defensive header which went straight to former Port star Maranhao who, with a sublime backheel, set the miniature Madagascan John Baggio free down the right to cross right onto the head of an unmarked Boonma to put the visitors a goal up. Simply appalling defending from Port who have now conceded 48 goals in 26 games – the worst record of any team outside the bottom 3.

 

Chompoo & set (piece)

 

Port thankfully weren’t behind for long, and in the 9th minute a superb cross from Genki (18) landed right in the path of Suarez (5), and the Spaniard buried his volley in the bottom corner to put the home side back on terms. And it got better 4 minutes later when the Sukhothai defence failed to properly clear a corner, Nitipong (34) being first to the ball on the edge of the box and firing home through a crowd of players to put Port 2-1 up.

The early rush of goals led to a thoroughly absorbing first half with both sides going all out. Suarez hit the bar for Port, whilst Sukhothai’s front two of Maranhao and Baggio were causing all manner of problems for Port’s creaky defence. The former was clearly fired up on his return to the PAT and his skill, pace and guile, contrasted with Port’s moribund front line, sent out a clear message to the Port hierarchy and stung Worawut’s palms on several occasions; whilst Baggio, a man so small he makes Saruta look like Peter Crouch, was a continual irritant, as well as finding himself on the receiving end of some rough stuff from the likes of Pakorn and Nitipong, who were both clearly delighted to finally have someone smaller than them to pick on. Nevertheless Port were overall the better side and Sukhothai would’ve gone in at half time fully relieved to only be a goal down.

 

 

Their relief lasted just 13 minutes into the second half. Pakorn (9) broke into the box and was unceremoniously scythed down by a defender for the clearest penalty you’ll see all season, with El Capitan Rochela (22) dispatching the spot kick with his usual aplomb. 3-1 to Port, and with the home side largely on top, all those neutrals in the crowd were no doubt thinking it was game over. But those of us who follow the team week in week out know that Port are the last team you’d trust to walk your dog because…(drum roll)…THEY’RE INCAPABLE OF HOLDING ONTO A LEAD!!! I thang yew. And it was with a mounting sense of dread that we watched the inevitable disaster unfold, beginning with possibly the most inexplicable substitution I have ever seen at the PAT. Now I think it’s well known that I’m no fan of Sergio Suarez; however Port do look a much better side with him in it, he gives Josimar (30) someone to play off, and he was having one of his occasional good games, so why Zico chose to take him off is a mystery, and why he replaced him with the utterly dreadful Siwapong (97) is one for Mulder & Scully. It was the turning point of the game: it left Port toothless in attack and limp in midfield, and Sukhothai would’ve been delighted to see the Spaniard leave the field. The later removal of Pummared (41) for Adisorn (13) further weakened Port’s midfield and would ultimately have disastrous consequences.

True to the usual script, Port began to unravel in the 81st minute, Maranhao (again) feeding a winger down the right who popped a cross into the edge of the six yard box. Dolah (4) failed to track Baggio’s run into the area and the wee fella stuck it into the back of the net to make it 3-2. And seven minutes later, the prophecy was fulfilled. Baggio skinned substitute Jetjinn (51) on the edge of the box, only to be clumsily body-checked by Adisorn, and yet again Port had given away a late penalty. Maranhao grabbed the ball – clearly noone else was ever going to take this one – and buried it past Worawut to put Sukhothai level, celebrating joyously with the away fans as well he might.

So yet another late cave-in by Port against inferior opposition. It’s very fortunate that the team amassed so many points in the first half of the season because right now they’re playing like relegation contenders, with little creativity up front and a defence that is leaking goals and giving away penalties with alarming regularity. A win at Police Tero next Saturday is needed to calm the nerves, with tough games against Chonburi and red-hot form side Pattaya to follow, and one hopes Yossawat will return to the side. I’d also think about freshening up central defence by giving Dolah a rest and bringing in Tossapol or Pravinwat to partner Rochela, or even switching to a fashionable back 3, because with the amount of goals Port are leaking, something has to change. Whatever happens, the jury is still out on the Zico Revolution and I don’t think anyone can honestly claim that we’d be doing any worse under Jadet.

 

Man of the Match – Rodrigo Maranhao

Yes, I know this is supposed to be a Port player but fuck it, Mazza should still BE a Port player. Whilst there were some good performances in the home ranks – Nitipong, Suarez, Genki and Pakorn all deserve honourable mentions – this was Maranhao’s game. The young Brazilian had a hand in all 3 of Sukhothai’s goals and was a lively and creative presence throughout, the kind of player that Port’s attack has been missing all season. Whilst I was gutted at the late equaliser, I also enjoyed the sight of Maranhao giving the middle finger – metaphorically at least – to the watching Port management and once again reminding us how utterly clueless our club’s recruitment strategy is.