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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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Storm the Castle: Buriram Utd vs. Port FC Preview

 

Port have had some rotten results against the T1 title chasers this season, but in a league that no one seems to want to win, we’re somehow still in with an outside chance of glory. Two wins for Port, against the champions on Sunday and Samut Prakan the following week, will mean that Chiang Rai can clinch the title if they win their last two games, but if they slip up in either – the second being a tricky trip to Suphanburi – the title will be Port’s. On the other hand, a Buriram win more or less secures them the title, with their final day trip being a dream match-up with Chiang Mai, who will most likely already be down. All three teams have a route to ultimate victory, and all three depend on whether or not Port can storm the Thunder Castle and leave with the only plunder that matters: three priceless points.

 

 

Buriram United

Players to Watch

 

Let’s start with some of the stalwarts. Siwarak Tedsungnoen (1) is in his ninth year between the Buriram sticks, and this year has been rewarded for his longevity by being chosen as captain for both club and country. I remember one stunning performance at PAT Stadium featuring a point blank save from a Genki header that secured a 0-0 draw for The Thunder Castle, but more often than not what you get from Siwarak is consistent, mistake-free goalkeeping. He may be 35, but he’s still one of the top stoppers in T1.

 

 

In defence, Buriram will be led by one of T1’s best and least popular defenders. Andres Tunez (5) is everything that is wrong with Thai football. He turns his size and strength towards aggressive, hateful abuse of officials, before meekly surrendering to any pressure from attackers with pathetic playacting. Think of him as a cross between the physique of Dolah, the temperament of Boskovic and the balance of Nurul. Unfortunately, due in large part to weak Thai refereeing, he is an effective operative, leading the stingiest defence in the league. Buriram have conceded just 23 goals; 8 fewer than Port.

 

 

In midfield, the main man for Buriram has been Hajime Hosogai (7). I’ve been mightily impressed with his work rate, although the Japanese star also shown his creative limitations going forward. He’s just so good at what he does though: harrying, harassing and dispossessing opposition midfielders. In a game where Port’s midfield will be without our leader, expect Hosogai to exert plenty of influence, and make it difficult for the likes of Suarez and Siwakorn to find space in front of the back 3.

 

 

Buriram have shown a lot of faith in youth this season, with the likes of Ratthanakorn (26), Supachai (9) and Suphanat (54) racking up plenty of minutes, but the pick of the young guns has undoubtedly been attacking midfielder Supachok Sarachart (19). He’s netted 10 goals in all competitions, and has made himself an indispensable member of the national team to boot. Supachok can play through the middle or out wide, and has been particularly dangerous cutting in from the left and firing in shots and crosses with his trusty right boot. Perhaps the silver lining for Port could be that Supachok’s exertions across multiple fronts this season really looked to have taken a toll on the young star in the latter stages of the UAE game on Tuesday. He had been kicked all day long, and barely looked to have any gas left in the tank as the game came to a close.

 

 

Supachok’s even younger brother could be leading the line for Buriram against Port, but honestly I have absolutely no idea what Buriram think their best options are up top. They spent massively on Nacer Barazite (39) and Rasmus Jonsson (20), but in the League Cup final it was 17 year old Suphanat Muenta (54) who got the nod, with both foreigners sitting out. In the last 3 T1 games Buriram have gone with three different combinations of the three, with no player starting every game. They may have the element of surprise on their side, but there’s a decent chance they’re the ones who end up being punished for their inconsistency up top. I can just picture Diogo smirking smugly, Malaysian Super League medal in hand, as Jonsson fluffs another shot hopelessly wide.

 

 

Form

 

  • Trat 0-1 Buriram
  • Buriram 6-0 Ratchaburi
  • Buriram 1-1 Sukhothai
  • Muangthong 3-2 Buriram
  • Buriram 1-0 Chainat
  • Korat 2-3 Buriram

 

If ever a set of league results didn’t tell the full story. Their league form may look decent, but add in the stunning FA Cup semi-final defeat to Ratchaburi, who they had just spanked 6-0 in the league, and the League Cup final loss to Prachuap, and you start to see that Buriram just can’t win the big games anymore. Their biggest rivals turned them over in the league, they got dumped out of both cups and now an in-form Port, who haven’t conceded a goal since August, would love nothing better than to snatch the league title from them too. Can they stop the rot?

 

Port FC

No Go Zone

 

Port will be without key midfield man Go (8). The Korean is ineligible as he’s contracted to Buriram, but is also suspended after picking up his eighth yellow card. Besides this though, Port are at full strength. Kevin (97) defied a reported hamstring injury with a lively performance in the 5-1 friendly win against Honda last week, while Todsapol (6) was also fit enough to make an appearance, although he looked a little less comfortable. Todsapol has had plenty of time since then to recover though, and I expect him to start on Sunday, as his inclusion is key to Port’s likely game plan.

It’s a very similar game plan to the one Port employed in the 3-1 defeat to Buriram in the first half of the season to be fair, but with some key changes of personnel. Todsapol and Dolah (4) started in central defence that day, with Rochela (22) deployed out of position in defensive midfield. Port will likely once again shift a central defender in to defensive midfield, but this time we will be moving Tanaboon (71) in to his more natural position, while replacing him with a better centre back. Is it ideal? No, but at least it’s not Rochela in midfield again!

Alternatively, Port could leave Tanaboon in place at the back and try any number of options in midfield. It’s unlikely we’ll see any of Anon (20), Adisorn (13) or Athibordee (35) brought in from the cold, but Sumanya (11) could be given a start with Siwakorn (16) shifted back to a position with more defensive responsibility. This would be a very bold move from Port, especially with Supachok likely occupying the space between defence and midfield. I think we should really have a dedicated defensive player in place there, but going for the throat with an all-out attacking system is another way to go. A draw won’t be enough for Port, so there is something to be said for going all out for the win.

Another sub-plot will be yellow card suspensions, which could mean players missing out on the final day. Siwakorn sits ominously on 7, just one away from his second suspension, whilst Bodin (10) has accrued 3, one away from his first. A yellow for Siwakorn would mean he’s finished for the season, missing both the potentially decisive league game and the FA Cup final, while Bodin – one of Port’s players of the season – would be a massive loss for the visit of Samut Prakan.

 

Form

 

  • Port 2-0 Muangthong
  • Suphanburi 1-3 Port
  • Bangkok Utd 2-0 Port
  • Chiang Mai 0-2 Port
  • Port 3-0 Korat
  • Port 4-0 Chainat

 

Oh, and we won that cup semi-final. Looking good.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

The match will be shown on True 4U at 18:00 on Sunday 20 October, 2019. For those who can’t make it to The Chang Arena in Buriram, 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.

 

Know Your Enemy: Jumbo JET Lands

After an away day for the ages on Friday night, with Port provisionally going top of the league after a stunning comeback victory over Chonburi, it’s fair to say I was not that fussed what the rest of the league did for the rest of the weekend. Of course the ideal scenario would be the rest of the high-flyers to falter, preserving Port’s spot at the summit, with a couple of choice victories at the bottom sending Muangthong bottom. Let’s see what they had in store for us.

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