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Port Crush Honda: Port FC 3-1 Thai Honda

 

Zico’s tenure at Port finally moved out of first gear with a 3-1 victory over Thai Honda. Port were in cruise control at 2-0 up, Honda pulled within a car-length before Port applied the nitrous to win comfortably. The feeling of relief was palpable at PAT Stadium, as Zico got his first win as boss and Port put a little more daylight between them and the strugglers, going in to a very tough run of games where points will be at a premium. Honda were, as my preview suggested they would be, pretty awful. Rafinha (7) was their only legitimate threat, with new signing Roninho (77) playing like a one man team and Jesus (9) confined to the bench.

Zico chose not to continue with his back 3 experiment, and his switch back to a system that the players are more comfortable with turned out to be the right decision. That’s not to say that a back 3 isn’t a good option going forward – looking at Port’s personnel it could well be – but it takes time for the players to adapt to a new system like this. Zico went with the system most likely to yield 3 points on the day, and it did just that.

 

 

There were a few interesting decisions to be made with the starting XI, mostly centred around what to do about the absence of Josimar (30). Zico chose to go back to the future, employing an almost identical system to the one Port started the season with against Ratchaburi on the first day of the T1 season. The only change from the XI that started that game was the inclusion of Panpanpong (19) ahead of the departed Piyachart (23, who scored a belter of a freekick for Ubon by the way) showing just how much Port’s squad has been improved since the start of the season. Erm, yeah. That would be not at all.

Nevertheless, with the limited options available, Zico acted decisively, bringing in both Suarez (5) and Kaludjerovic (10) from the cold, as well as giving a start to Piyachat (88) who displaced Adisorn (13) from the starting XI for the first time in what seems like forever. With a goal apiece for Port’s two forwards, it’s hard to argue with his decisions.

 

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The game started fairly evenly, with neither side holding back on the attack. Port were the first to create a clear chance, when on 5 minutes a devilish Pakorn (9) cross was flicked on by Kalu in to the path of Genki (18). With about a yard between him and the goal it only needed a touch, but as he did last week against Bangkok United, Genki failed to make contact and the chance went begging.

On 15 minutes, Pakorn fired narrowly over from a free-kick, and 5 minutes after that Kalu almost made a fortuitous breakthrough when he blocked a clearance and the ball ballooned on to the top of the bar and over.

Honda’s next chance was probably the best move of the first half, and it deserved a better finish than the one applied by defensive midfielder Silva (33). Rafinha (7) and Roninho (77)

combined well to send their fellow Brazilian through, and Silva shaped to curl the ball in to the far corner, but struck the ball so poorly that the curl never came and the ball went behind harmlessly for a goal kick. Honda kept the pressure up, with their long-throw expert Meedech (26) showing almost Delap-like technique in his delivery in to the box. He was starved for targets, though, and with Dolah (4) maintaining aerial dominance and Rochela (22) sweeping up everything on the ground Honda could not find a way through.

It was Port who broke the deadlock, but from a very surprising source! Siwakorn (16) received the ball in the middle and played it square to the advancing Panpanpong (19), who looked for all the world as if he was going to cross. I’m sure even his biggest fan wouldn’t have been advising him to shoot, but from all of 30 yards the left-back struck it hard, kept it down and hit the target. The fact that it dipped in front of the keeper made it a little tricky for him, but the ball definitely seemed to be well within reach of Buncha (24) when it went past him. That’s not to take anything away from the left-back, though. It was a superb strike, and is most certainly in contention for a spot in our Goal of the Season short-list.

Port had to be happy with their half-time advantage, but a better performance was going to be needed to secure the points in the second half. Pakorn set about completing the task with some absolutely scorching deliveries. He was finding the danger area with unerring regularity, and more often than not it was Kalu on the end of his crosses. The Serb certainly has a nose for where to position himself to get on the end of balls in to the box, and on 53 minutes he was in prime position to head home a Pakorn free-kick, but somehow contrived to hit the bar from 6 yards.

A minute later Genki made a dog’s breakfast of a half-chance after the ‘keeper got himself in to trouble, leaving him an empty net albeit from a very tight angle. It would have been stunning if he’d found the target, but he should have certainly done better than whacking the ball straight out of play!

In the 59th minute, Suarez almost got a goal worthy of his excellent performance. With fellow midfielders Siwakorn (16) and Piyachat (88) keeping play ticking over, Suarez had been spreading the play well with some superbly struck cross-field passes. The ball sat up nicely for him and he struck a gorgeous volley, which looked to those of us behind the goal to be sailing in to the top corner but for the intervention of Kalu’s back. Having missed a sitter and prevented a teammate scoring, and seemed it was not going to be Kalu’s day.

On 63 minutes, Port went 2-0 up. Another swashbuckling Pakorn delivery caused a headache for the ‘keeper. He seemed undecided whether to block with his hands or feet, and ended up doing neither. The ball fell straight in to the path of Suarez, who calmly slotted home his fourth goal for Port. The visiting group of Suarez groupies wearing Las Palmas shirts erupted in to celebration, as did the rest of the stadium. Unfortunately though, when Port go 2-0 up trouble is usually just around the corner.

 

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This time it took just 5 minutes for Port to blow their two goal advantage. Dolah (4) lost his balance trying to stop a ball coming in from the left, and when substitute Jesus (9) laid it off to Rafinha (7) there was no stopping his quickly taken strike in to the bottom right corner. Honda kept their foot on the gas, creating a few chances from distance, but nothing they could muster troubled Rattanai (17), who gathered everything that came his way calmly.

In the 78th Port did something completely out of character – they made the game safe! It was another cross from the right, but this time it was Nitipong (34) who found the perfect ball in. Kalu was once again in the right place at the right time, and this time headed the ball down, past Buncha and in to the back of the net. He jumped in to Zone B to celebrate with the fans, where he may or may not have been touched by the hands of these particularly loyal friends we spotted behind the goal.

 

The Sandpit’s Rear of the Year cr. Humans of Thai Port

 

Although the outcome was almost certainly decided, there was still time for Honda striker Thawin (10) to miss an absolutely gilt-edged chance. A deflected strike from Jesus (9) fell straight to him, but somehow from 8 yards out he fired wide when it seemed easier to score than to miss. It was to be the last chance of the game, and a big roar of relief greeted the referee’s whistle. It was a must-win, and Port won. Job done!

 

Port FC Man of the Match

 

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Lots of suggestions came my way for Man of the Match, but I’ve decided to go with Sergio Suarez (5). He clearly didn’t have 90 minutes in him, but the quality of his passing when he was on was a joy to behold. Zico-era Port have been switching the direction of play much more effectively than in the past, and Suarez is probably the best passer in the squad on his day. Honourable mentions must go to Rochela (22), who looked in control throughout, Nitipong (34) who put in a typically tireless performance, Siwakorn (16) who took on more defensive responsibility in the absence of Adisorn (13) and Pakorn (9) whose crossing was as good as it’s ever been.

Isn’t it nice to be spoiled for choice? Well played, Port. Let’s carry that momentum in to the tricky run of fixtures coming up. We can beat anyone on our day!

 

Don’t Write Off The Honda: Port FC vs. Thai Honda, 2 July 2017

 

Port host Thai Honda on Sunday, looking for revenge for the 5-1 thrashing inflicted on them in March. It was Port’s worst performance of the season, and a particularly tough one to take for the fans who had traveled to Lad Krabang to watch the car crash unfold. It’s not just a revenge mission on Sunday though, but a key moment in Port’s season. Having suffered second half capitulations in their last 4 league games, Port’s belief that they can continue the form that accelerated them up the table must be taking a battering. Promising first half performances followed by abysmal second halves saw Port lose comfortably to both Suphanburi and Bangkok Utd, and in the other two games Port surrendered two goal leads by giving away late penalties away at both Sisaket and Navy. Port just can’t seem to get in to gear. With 4 tough games coming up – 3 away from home – Port need to bank some points now to avoid reversing down towards the danger zone.

 

Thai Honda

Players to Watch

 

I’ve always thought of Ricardo Jesus (9) as one of the better Scary Foreign Strikers around, but he is having a real stinker in 2017. Jesus’ two goals against Port in March and the winner he scored against Bangkok Glass in April are his only goals of the season, which for a foreign striker in T1 is inexcusable. Quite a drop from being signed for 2 million Euros by CSKA Moskow. His dip in form has led to Jesus playing just 58 minutes in Honda’s last 3 games, and it seems that when they drop him, they really don’t have any decent back-up. 20 year old Sittichok Kannoo who is on loan from Buriram will probably be a good striker one day, but 4 goals in 16 isn’t anything to write home about.

 

Jesus (9)

 

It was winger Rafinha (7) who really ripped Port to shreds in the last encounter, chalking up two assists and looking like the best player on the pitch by a mile, but funnily enough, he has also had a pretty poor season. One goal and five assists is a very unremarkable record for a winger. Do Honda have any decent players?

 

Rafinha (7) and Roninho (77)

 

Well, no, not really. Not that I can find, anyway. They had a couple of decent Thai attacking midfielders in the first half of the season, but they have been picked up by bigger clubs, and Honda really seem to have little else of note. New Brazilian Roninho (77) is probably the best of the rest, having scored an assisted from dead balls against Bangkok United, but that’s about it.

 

Form

 

It doesn’t get any better for Honda when you look at the form table, either. Since their stunning upset against Muangthong, Honda scraped past Super Power by virtue of a late penalty miss, and have suffered 5 league losses on the bounce. They had a bit of fun in the Cup, though, putting 10 goals past Muangkan United, who as far as I can tell don’t play in a league and have no players.

 

Port FC

Starting XI

 

With the switch to 3-5-2 resulting in a draw against Navy, it’s anyone’s guess whether Zico will stick with his new system on Sunday. Whilst it was refreshing to see Genki (18) and Pakorn (9) giving Josimar (30) some real support, the same old problems came back to haunt Port at the back.

Rattanai (17) messed up for the first goal on Wednesday. As far as I can remember it’s his second clanger of the season, after spilling a catch early on in the season against Suphanburi. Shit happens, but he’s still my number 1 ‘keeper.

In defense, Rochela (22) and Dolah (4) were joined by Pravinwat (55) as Zico trialed the back 3 that worked so well for Thailand under his tutelage. Perhaps the difference was that he had Heea Um at left wing back, and we have Panpanpong (19). Panpanpong has had his moments this season, but let’s be honest. He can defend – sometimes – but he’s an absolute disaster with the ball at his feet, and has less than no pace. Surely Jetjinn (51) or Yossawat (28) are better bets in that position. On the other side, however, Nitipong (34) has really found his dream position. More license to attack, less responsibility to defend, and less chance of him being near enough the penalty area to give away penalties. Still, Pravinwat (55) made sure Port still gave up their obligatory penalty. In fairness to him, it didn’t looks like a penalty at all. I think the referee was conned.

In midfield, Adisorn (13) and Siwakorn (16) took up their usual positions, but without the extra midfielder to drop back in to give them a hand they looked more exposed than usual. I’m starting to feel like I did at the beginning of the season again, when I was calling for Adisorn to be dropped and replaced with a more natural defensive midfielder. Unfortunately, Tatchanon (39) doesn’t seem to be getting any more love from Zico than he did from Jadet, so if Adisorn is going to be replaced, there’s probably going to have to be some transfer activity. Piyachat (88) came on for Adisorn in the second half against Navy, but although he may be better with the ball than Adisorn, he’s no defensive midfielder. Ittipol (7) is a more disciplined option, although at 33 that would hardly be a long-term fix.

Going forward, I was very happy to see Pakorn (9) and Genki (18) really given the freedom they need for this system to work. Genki’s goal was a textbook example of how far forward he needs to play to offer Josimar (30) the support he needs, and in the first half at least Port did have some cutting edge. With the Mongkol transfer hanging in the balance, and the proposed deal for Rungrath apparently dead in the water, Pakorn could yet hang on to his right wing berth.

In injury news, Josimar (30) has picked up a nasty knock in a motorcycle accident, and will be out of action for 2-3 weeks, meaning Zico has a real dilemma about who to replace him with. Could Kaludjerovic (10) finally be given another chance? Will available-again Suarez (5) play out of position up top? Will Wuttichai (14) or Tana (99) attempt to lead the line? Over to you, gaffer.

 

Predicted lineup

 

 

Key Battle

 

The Port defence against the referee. My unconventional choice of Key Battle here reflects Port’s unconventional choice of how to defend a lead. This season, the received wisdom seems to be that stopping your opponents by kicking them is the way to go. Unfortunately, the referee’s job is to give a penalty when this happens inside the box. Port’s tactics and the rules of the game are therefore largely incompatible. If they don’t grow up and learn some discipline, Port’s aim for a top half finish is not going to be realized. Sad, but true.

 

The match will be shown live on True Sports 2 at 19:00 on Sunday 2 July, 2017.

 

Christ on a Bike! Jesus Drives Honda to Big Win: Thai Honda 5-1 Port FC

 

This game took place on International Women’s Day, and Port’s players honoured the occasion by playing like girls. Actually that’s a bit harsh – girls would’ve put up more of a fight. For make no mistake, this was a clueless, gutless performance from a disorganised, confused, underprepared team hampered by some utterly baffling team selections.

 

The Team

Weera Duckworth negotiates his return to the team with Jadet

Firstly, if it was Jadet who picked this team, he needs to go now. If it was someone else, they need to step back and let the coach get on with his job. Weera in goal? If Rattanai was unavailable for whatever reason, why not Worawut? Weera hadn’t pulled on a Port shirt for 2 years and proceeded to spend the game showing exactly why. Siwapong for Tachanon? After Tachanon put in one of the best midfield performances of the season against Navy? I said at the start of the season that whilst I didn’t feel Jadet was the right guy to turn Port into a top-half T1 club, he deserved a chance based on encouraging performances in pre-season friendlies and the very obvious buzz and team spirit around the club. But if he was behind last night’s team selection, then I’m sorry big fella but your time’s up.

 

 

The Match

Port started the game like they always do away from home, ie looking as if they’d rather be anywhere else but here. Guys, I get it. I know you love the PAT. We all love the PAT. We have the best fans and the best atmosphere in Thailand. But sometimes WE HAVE TO PLAY AT OTHER STADIUMS. That’s football. Port’s timidity in the opening exchanges essentially told Honda that we were here to lose, and they grasped the game accordingly.

The rout began in the 13th minute, when Honda’s no7 Lima (man of the match and the best opposition player I’ve seen all season) latched onto a through ball into the area, only to have his heels clipped by Panpanpong. The ref pointed to the spot immediately, up stepped Honda’s SFS Jesus, and whilst Weera Duckworth went the right way (the first and last thing he got right all evening), the ball nestled into the corner for a goal.

Following the goal Port had their best spell of possession but were unable to do much with it, due to utterly pitiful performances from every single player in the midfield, particularly Siwapong who resembled a 14-year old boy thrown onto the pitch without ever having seen a football before. Josimar was left stranded up front whilst Honda’s midfield, the same strong, organised and occasionally dirty unit we came up against last season, bullied our players at every turn, aided in no small part by the referee who, when he failed to at least book Honda’s no40 for a shocking tackle from behind on Suarez, sent out a signal that they could be as physical as they liked. Suarez, never one to let things lie, exacted his revenge on Honda’s no19 a few minutes later, and was swiftly replaced by Wanchalerm before he got the red card that the ref would almost certainly have given him eventually, such was his clear dislike of all things Port, and whose performance was frequently critiqued by the Khlong Thoey Army via the medium of song.

If we thought the departure of Suarez, whose all-action style and occasional pretty flicks do a good job of masking the fact that he actually contributes very little, and the arrival of Wanchalerm would shore up the midfield, we were wrong, as Honda doubled their lead on half-time. Some utterly pathetic defending by Siwapong on the edge of the box gave the ball away, leaving no40 Ardchom with only Weera to beat, which is basically as good as an open goal. 2-0.

 

A typically packed Honda home game

 

Jadet made a change at half-time, taking off the pitiful Siwapong and bringing on Elsie Tana. Now, bringing on a player like Tana when you’re 2-0 down is rather like…I was going to say bringing a knife to a gunfight, but knives are sharp and dangerous and offer some kind of threat. So let’s say like bringing a courgette to a gunfight, and so it proved, with the veteran striker wandering aimlessly about for 45 minutes and contributing the sum total of fuck all.

But Port started the half in lively fashion, Josimar finally getting some service and firing a header straight at Honda’s keeper. However, within 8 minutes it was 4-0. Firstly, in the 48th minute, three Port defenders stood awestruck at the feet of Jesus giving him time to turn and slide the ball back to our old friend Ardchom, who fired home via a Dolah deflection; and then on 53 minutes, that man Lima passed to an unmarked Tannamit who again had only Weera to beat, and we all know what happened next. 4-0 Honda. Honda had clearly done their homework on Port’s defence, Dolah in particular, and so avoided Navy’s tactic of putting high balls into the box, instead adopting the devious strategy of PLAYING THE BALL ON THE GROUND. I seriously fear for the big Thai-Swede against Buriram on Saturday.

The introduction of Pakorn for the ineffective Ekkapoom sparked Port into life with several chances being missed, before the talented no9 pulled one back in the 69th minute via a delicious curling free-kick. But any hopes that it might spark an unlikely comeback were snuffed out on 84 minutes, when Weera, in hopefully his last ever act in a Port shirt, made a complete tit of himself dealing with a corner: firstly he palmed it into the path of Jesus, who bundled it over the line; then, realising he’d conceded a goal, he thought he’d better at least act the part of a goalkeeper and did a bizarre comedy dive. Quite what the watching Worawut and Rattanai made of it all is anyone’s guess.

And that was that, 5 goals shipped to a team in 14th place in a performance of such utter ineptitude you struggled to believe you were watching the same team who’d taken 7 points out of 9 at home. With 14 goals conceded in 5 games (11 of those in 2 away games) it’s very clear where Port’s deficiencies lie, and likewise it’s very clear what Port’s best starting XI is; but whoever is picking the team seems to think this is some kids’ Sunday league team and that every boy, even the rubbish ones like Weera and Siwapong, deserves a turn. If this tinkering with the squad continues, and if the obvious psychological issue of away games isn’t addressed, we are in for a long, hard season.

 

Port Man of the Match – THE FANS

I thought long & hard about the MOTM award. Josimar did his best without any kind of service; Rochela tried singlehandedly to put out the various fires that broke out every time Honda crossed into Port’s half and has my sincere sympathy for having to corral a defence of such staggering inadequacy; and Pakorn, when he came on, did more than anyone else to salvage a bit of pride. But it’s impossible to give awards to anyone on the pitch. So the award goes to the fans who, as always, turned out in numbers, even on a Wednesday evening game at one of Bangkok’s least accessible football grounds. They sang and cheered the team throughout, and quite reasonably made their dissatisfaction with the performance known. They’re the reason we all love Port so much, why so many of us farang fans have found a home here, and they deserve much, much better than the shit that was served up to them tonight.

 

Will Port Jump-Start Away Form at Honda? Thai Honda vs Port FC, 8 March 2017

 

Honda away is coming up this Wednesday 7.00 p.m., so the most important part of this preview is the location of Honda’s ground. The 72nd Anniversary Stadium is here.

 

 

If you are heading there try to work out a way to head off as soon as possible to avoid the rush-hour traffic.

 

Head-to-Head History

Port v Honda in 2013 saw unprecedented levels of hysteria at the PAT. Port knocked in 8 goals crushing Honda 8-1. The highest goal tally I’ve ever seen, and I couldn’t find anyone around me who’d seen a game with more Port goals. Heady days, but that was a long time ago and at home. The last time Port played at the 72nd Anniversary Stadium it was Port that looked all at sea as our then new manager decided to play Genki at left back and their Scary Foreign Striker ran rings around a tired defence. Our 2-1 defeat changed a challenge for the Division 1 championship into a scramble for promotion. And it took bloody ages to get out of the car park. Estimates vary, but it was around 45 minutes staring at the back of buses as cars inched through the logjam that always happens on the slip road you take to get to the main road.

 

Form

I put my name down to write this preview in the hope I’d be talking about Honda’s woeful form, and Port’s chances of avenging last season’s defeat. Honda haven’t had a great start losing, away to Navy and Supanburi, but sandwiched between those losses was a 1-0 win over Bangkok United at home. Yes, the same Bangkok United that demolished Port 6-2. That result coupled with Port’s away form does not bode well for Wednesday. Honda were battered 5-1 by Buriram at the weekend so we will see how they react to that. At least we know they are vulnerable. I think a draw would be an OK result on Wednesday.

The Bangkok United fixture had a gate of only 1,300. Hopefully Port can muster enough away support to drown out Honda and make the 72nd Anniversary Stadium feel like home. That would seem to be the key for Port, making this feel like a home game. Tim asked me last week “when was the last time you saw us win away?” and I really had to struggle to think of when. Of course the 1-1 away draw with Muangthong in last year’s cup was a brilliant away result. Our last away win was June 16th 2016 3-1 in the FA cup. That’s a long time without an away win especially as we were in Division One last year where we were a class above most of the sides. We really need to sort out our away form hoodoo, some sort of chicken sacrifice on the way to the game maybe. After the drubbing in the yellow shirts we might see the black 3rd strip get an outing on Wednesday. We need an away win at some point to stop the long barren away spell.

 

Honda’s Key Player

Jesus Walks

Unfortunately there’s no point praying to God, a la Maranhao, as Honda already have Jesus on their side. Anyone at Honda away last year will remember Jesus taking control of the area. Although he didn’t score he looked dangerous throughout and had tons of chances. Jesus is the classic Scary Foreign Striker and got 13 goals last year. He’s very strong in the box and good at getting on the end of crosses. (Inspired – Ed)

 

Key Matchup

Rochela (22) v Jesus, it’s a David versus Goliath matchup, and if Rochela can keep Jesus under control Port can make a game of it.

 

Port Lineup

Port’s last away result was to ship 6 goals, so Jadet may move to a more defensive set up. I hope he doesn’t, and I hope we get the chance to see Josimar trying to snatch an early goal and put some pressure on Honda.

I was great to finally see Tatchanon (39) take up his rightful place as our best holding midfield player. Still a massive mystery why it’s taken Jadet so long to put him there. Tana (99) on the left wing experiment was odd. I’m not a massive fan of Genki (18) or Ekkapoom(8) but either would have been better options. Josimar (30) looks a class player and must have done enough to get in the starting line up again. Our best lineup would be this:

Rattanai (17)

Meechok (20), Dolah(4), Rochela (22) , Pinkong (19)

Pakorn(9) Suarez(5), Tatchanon(39) Siwakorn(16) Genki (18)

Josimar (30)

We could see some rotation with three games in eight days. Changes just to keep people fresh could be Ekkapoom on the left wing maybe Todsapol (6) for Dolah(4). And we could see Piyachat(88) switch with Tatchanon.

 

Prediction

Honest Form Prediction – Honda 1-1 Port

Hopeful I Love Port Prediction – Rochela takes care of Jesus, Josimar pops up to nick a goal. It is possible – Honda 0-1 Port