Swat a Start! Port FC 4-1 Nakhon Ratchasima FC



The day before the game Dom, Tom and I shared our pre-season previews which were unanimously pessimistic about Port’s T1 chances this season. 90 minutes into the season and Port made us all look a little bit silly with a performance of style, energy and panache which, although it was against truly abject opponents, bodes well for the weeks to come.


The opening day festivities included the usual three elements – a frothing, bug-eyed microphone rant from our chairwoman, the unveiling of a piss-poor new shirt, and a mediocre live band; most of us chose to give the stage a wide berth and instead concentrated on reacquainting ourselves with the PAT’s beer vendors. Ah how we missed you all.

Port lined up fairly predictably, with Rattanai (18) replacing the injured Worawut, and youngster Kannarin (31) replacing the injured Siwakorn. Heberty (37) & Suarez (5) started as a front pairing and dovetailed very well from the off, combining very well and causing the Swatcats’ creaky defence all manner of problems. And we were still in first half Toby Time when Port took the lead. Pakorn (7) swung a free-kick into the near post, the inrushing Dolah (4) beat our old friend Cunningham to the ball & knocked it to Bodin (10), who chipped the ball to the far post where an unmarked Suarez nodded it in. A delightful set-piece routine and the perfect way to calm those opening day nerves.

Dolah almost doubled the lead ten minutes later, heading narrowly over from six yards, before the Swatcats almost equalised, Dennis  Murillo’s header hitting the bar from a free kick, the same player heading narrowly wide just minutes later. The ease with which one of T1’s most limited strikers was winning headers in the Port box should be a big concern to Choke – a better side could easily have gone in at half-time with the lead.

Instead it was Port who went further ahead on the half-hour, when Suarez set Bodin free down the left, and his perfect ball found Heberty at the far post for the prolific Brazilian to score on his debut. 2-0 at half-time, and whilst NR had had a couple of chances, it was really no more than their sparkling attacking play deserved.

And it took Port only 10 minutes of the second half to score a third in farcical circumstances. Bodin was fouled by Murrillo, and as the Divine Manbun sulked about the decision rather than getting back into position, Kevin (23) spotted that he was playing Heberty onside and played a quick freekick, which Heberty gratefully slotted past a bewildered (is he ever anything else?) Cunningham. The goal was initially disallowed but, following a VAR check so lengthy you could’ve wandered up to Sukhumvit & done a bit of shopping while it was going on, the ref pointed to the centre circle. 3-0 to Port.

Port then took their foot of the gas and allowed Korat to dream of an unlikely comeback when, on 62 minutes, a corner fell to Amadou on the edge of the box and he drilled home past Rattanai to make it 3-1. 20 minutes later and it almost got worse for Port when another corner made it to the far post, where Chichanok headed wide when confronted with an empty net, and shortly after Korat had a penalty turned down following another lengthy look at VAR.

Instead it was Port who scored the final goal of the game in the 88th minute, and what a beauty it was, a sublime pass from Heberty releasing Suarez, who squared it to the far post where Adisak (9) couldn’t miss.

So a superb start to the season for Port, whose attacking flair was simply too much for the Swatcats. Admittedly few of Port’s opponents this season will be this poor, and pretty much all of them will have better goalkeepers than the woeful Cunningham, but you can only beat what’s in front of you and with Suarez looking better than ever, Heberty getting off to a flyer, and Pakorn playing like a man who knows his place is more under threat than ever, our pre-season doom-mongering is already looking somewhat misplaced.


The Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

As is well known I’ve been fairly critical of Suarez during his time at Port, but last night the Spaniard was at his absolute best, scoring one, assisting another and teeing up a third, and playing like a man whose name is engraved on a T1 medal somewhere. His partnership with Heberty already looks lethal and Samut Prakan’s staff will have a few sleepless nights this week as they prepare for next Saturday.


Picture courtesy of Nig Dammusig/Humans of Thai Port


Tim Russell

Tim Russell

The founder and editor of The Sandpit, Tim has been in SE Asia since 2003 and in Bangkok since 2012, where he runs a travel tech business. Tim has followed Port FC since 2014, and is also a fan of his hometown club Coventry City, and French club AS St-Etienne. He has written for the likes of Football365, ITV.com, NME and The Quietus, and is a regular contributor to God Is In the TV. He's a keen photographer and his work can be seen on his website.

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