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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.

 

 

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

 

 

Chocks Away! Port Take On Air Force in League Cup Last 16

 

The draw for the last 16 of the 2017 Toyota League Cup has just been made, with Port facing a trip to fellow Bangkok side Air Force Central FC. The game will take place on Wednesday 13 September at Thupatemi Stadium, time TBC. Some readers will remember the stadium from a sweltering 4pm kick-off against Grakcuh Tabfah FC in the same competition last season, or from Port’s memorable last-gasp 3-2 away win at Air Force that very same season.

Whilst it’s not an easy game by any means – Air Force are currently top of T2 – it’s still a match Port should be confident of winning and progressing to the quarters. And the good news is that, with Muangthong drawn against Bangkok Utd and Buriram facing Chonburi, at least two of the top T1 sides will be going out. Another league cup semi-final beckons?

The game will also see a reunion with former Port striker Kayne Vincent, the mention of whom generally causes people to suddenly look somewhat more fondly on Tana & Wuttichai. Kayne has banged in 6 goals in 23 games this season, making him joint-16th highest scorer in the division. The legend continues.

 

Wats Goin’ On: Ayutthaya v Port FC Match Preview

 

Next Wednesday (26 July, 18:30) Port make the short trip north to face Ayutthaya Utd in R1 of the Toyota League Cup. Now I’m firmly of the view that this competition should, as happens in England, take place during the first half of the season. It would avoid fixture congestion during the second leg, and the final would be a nice way to go into the mid-season break. Obviously as it’s a fairly sensible idea designed to make Thai football more attractive to fans it will never happen, and so after a 3-week break, Port find themselves playing 4 games in 11 days, before a 5-week break.

 

The Opposition

Given that Ayutthaya (aka Ayutthaya Warrior) ply their trade in T3, they may as well be the fucking Illuminati as far as finding out factual information online is concerned. What we do know is that, until 2016, they went under the somewhat less catchy name of Sena Municipality FC before becoming Ayutthaya Utd in 2016, and later merging with the already existent Ayutthaya Warrior FC to form a united Ayutthaya team, hence, one presumes, the name; although there is also an Ayutthaya FC who, to make matters even more confusing, sit one place behind Utd in T3 Upper.

Alan Partridge models the 2017 Ayutthaya shirt

They play in dark blue shirts with a sky blue chevron action flash a la Alan Partridge, play at the Ayutthaya Province Stadium, and were promoted from Central Division last season to take their place in Thai T3 Upper (AKA Euro Cake League Pro). Their star player is former Swatcat striker and Zambian international Noel Chivuta (read an interview with Noel here). They’re currently 4th, 2 pts off promotion, and recently beat Chonburi 3-2 in R1 of the FA Cup, so will fancy their chances of causing an upset against a Port team who aren’t exactly pulling up any trees at the moment.

 

Port Lineup

Since taking over from Jadet towards the end of the last break, Zico has shown little desire to tinker with a generally successful formula and has stuck with the 4-5-1 that has, on the whole, served Port well this season. Cup games, however, offer coaches the opportunity to have a fiddle with the players, as it were, and give a runout to some of those who aren’t otherwise getting much action. So it’s somewhat hard to predict what the lineup will be.

What we do know is that young keeper Rattanai (17) is out after picking up a nasty looking shoulder injury against Ubon, and will likely miss the next 4 games, so we probably won’t see him until after the next break. Worawut (36) would seem the logical replacement, but I suspect Zico will give loyal backup keeper and part-time rapper Watchara (clickety-click 66) a game to get him up to speed should he be needed in the upcoming league games.

Defensively, I fancy Meechok (20) to get the nod at RB ahead of Nitipong, with any 2 of 3 from Dolah (4), Rochela (22) and Pravinwat (55) starting in central defence. I also hope promising new boy Yossawat (28) finally gets a start at LB – it’s probably between him and Jetjinn (51).

Midfield is harder to call – will Zico use the game to get his first choice midfielders back into action after the layoff, or will he give them a break? Your guess is as good as mine but given the opposition I expect him to play a 4-4-2 which could see Siwakorn (16), Pakorn (9), Genki (18) and possibly Ittipol (7) starting; new boys Pummared (41) and Jadue (32) may also feature.

Up front Josimar (30), was pictured back in training at the club’s recent camp in Nakhon Ratchasima after his motorbike injury and will no doubt be in contention for a place. Will Zico use the game to ease the Brazilian gently back into action, will he stick with Kaludjerovic (10) who is starting to find his shooting boots, will he give starts to Wuttichai (14) and Tana (99) OH NO PLEASE GOD NO, or will we see a first official appearance for Palestinian forward Jadue? As I said, I think it will be a 4-4-2 and Zico may use the occasion to see if Josi & Kalu can play together, which I believe they can. Kalu isn’t a lone striker but will surely thrive on the service he’ll get from Josi and goals will inevitably flow like the Leo which I hope we will be allowed to drink on the terraces whilst watching.

 

 

Getting There

The game takes place at Ayutthaya Province Stadium which, if Google Maps is to be believed, is only a 5-minute drive from Ayutthaya railway station. So we’ll be letting the train take the strain. There’s a 15:20 Rapid (it’s all relative) train from Hualamphong which arrives in Ayutthaya at 16:56 and costs a bargain 65BHT, then coming back the only option is the 21:42 DRC service which gets back to Bangkok at 22:55 and costs a somewhat pricier 345BHT.

If you want to join us, we’ll be meeting at Hualamphong at about 3pm.