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Army Stadium Ready For Battle: Bangkok Utd vs. Port FC, FA Cup Semi Final Preview

 

Port march to Army this Wednesday in what is sure to be a decisive battle. This is a cup tie with everything riding on it for both sides. The Angels have come close to lifting cups in recent seasons, before being vanquished at the death. Their widely acclaimed manager Mano Polking has announced his imminent departure, although we’re not yet sure if a cup success would reverse his decision or encourage the club to go all out to reenlist him. They’re out of touch in the league, meaning it’s do or die in the cup. Meanwhile, Port are considerably closer but still look to be just out of range for an assault on the league title, and after being denied an AFC qualifying berth by a shock FA Cup result last season, have their sights set on redemption.

So, who are the favourites? The league table suggests that Port are the team to beat, having accumulated an extra point in one fewer game than Bangkok. The head-to-head results tell a different story, with this season’s clashes swinging in The Angels’ favor. The historical record is even grimmer reading for Port. Recent form too tells two opposing stories. Port’s form is better over the last 6 games, although our only defeat in the last 6 came against… you guessed it, Bangkok. Player availability is another area throwing us curve balls. The injury lottery has given Port a massive boost with Bonilla being stretchered off after just 8 minutes in the Angels’ 1-1 draw on the weekend. His leg is in a cast, so unless there is an elaborate hoax at hand, he won’t be starting. Meanwhile, Pakorn and Kevin have just returned to fitness for Port. On the flip side, Port will be without two forwards who are ineligible to represent Port in the FA Cup, leaving Rolando as the only recognized striker in the squad.

Enough with the imponderables and maddening speculation, though. Let’s meet the players.

 

Bangkok United

Players to Watch

 

He was man of the match in their last outing, and with Bonilla being unavailable, Michael Falkesgaard (1) could once again be the key figure for the opposition. I tire of singing his praises, but what else can you do when you see the annoyingly handsome stopper get in the way of everything Port send towards his goal? There were a few moments in the last meeting between the two sides where he took risks with the ball at his feet, which is the only thing I can point to as a potential vulnerability. Come on, pull an Enckelman!

 

 

I’m not as much of a fanboy of Vander Luiz (8) as many Thai football observers seem to be. He doesn’t produce enough (5 goals and 1 assist in T1 in 2019), and although he does bring a lot of creativity to the team, if you want to win the league I’m not quite sure that Van is the man to fire you there. Having said that, this is the cup and he won a couple of them with Chiang Rai in 2017. And he was man of the match last time we played Bangkok. So, my opinion that he’s a bit overrated means nothing, and he’ll probably play a blinder.

 

 

As we well know, the star boys have plenty of depth behind then at Bangkok, too. Chananan (20) is cup-tied but Jaycee John (22) is the most natural like-for-like replacement for Bonilla, while young speedster Anon Amornlerdsak (27) is an option in a different system. He’s dangerous on his day. In midfield there’s the likes of Pokklaw (10), Anthony (6) and everyone’s favourite ref-puncher Sanrawat (29). The perennial big game bottler was an unused sub on the weekend, which makes me think Mano is saving him up for this one. Everton (3) and Manuel Bihr (4) are a solid pairing at centre half, and I haven’t even mentioned some other top tier T1 stalwarts like Tristan Do (7) and Mika Chunuonsee (16).

Regardless of which XI takes the pitch, we always know that Mano comes in to matches against Port with a plan, and that usually puts his side a step ahead of us. One thing he apparently can’t plan for is his own team’s ill-discipline, though. Red cards in big games have plagued Bangkok in recent years, so Port’s best shot could be to really take the game to their opponents physically, and see if they have the mental fortitude to keep their cool in the heat of battle.

 

Port FC

El Capitán Regresa

 

As I alluded to earlier, there are a few differences between Port’s squad in the league and cup. The big boon for Port is that El Capitan Rochela (22) will once again take to the field in what could potentially be his last game in Port colours. Whilst Tanaboon (71) has conned most of T1 in to thinking he’s a decent defender, anyone who has watched Dolah (4) make 10 times as many tackles and win 10 times as many headers over the last couple of months knows otherwise. Rochela is available, he will start and Tanaboon will hopefully drop to the bench. We’ll take that. The risk is that Choke tries to crowbar him in at DM, meaning that Go (8), Siwakorn (16) and Suarez (5) are all shunted forward a place with Rolando missing out. I’m not the Panamanian goal-hanger’s biggest fan, but I’m picking him for this one and hoping for the best.

There are also a couple of forwards who aren’t available, and one who is. Josimar (30) and Chenrop (39) are cup-tied after representing Police Tero and Trat respectively earlier this season. With Pakorn (7) back on the right flank, Choke will be able to choose between Suarez and Rolando up top. The Spaniard has played OK, although he hasn’t reached the prolific heights of last season, whereas Rolando has been largely rubbish but has popped up with a couple of big goals, most notably in the FA Cup win over Muangthong. The Panamanian may not be much use in the build-up, but get the defender to pass the ball to him or give him a sniff of goal in the 6 yard box and you see a striker’s instinct that Port don’t otherwise possess.

Kevin (97) approaching full fitness will also give Choke a tricky decision to make at some point, but I think we can all agree that throwing Kevin in for a match of this magnitude after a lengthy lay-off would be a bit mental. Steuble (15) keeps his place for the moment, and we look set to have very healthy competition at left back going forward.

 


 

This may not be one many fans are feeling optimistic about, but remember we went in to the last two rounds against Muangthong and Chiang Rai nervous as anything, yet overcame poor form and ascendant opponents to advance. This team has heart, and we’d be mad to think we don’t have a decent shot of overcoming Bangkok.

 

Predicted lineup

 

 

You’ll notice Rolando’s rather unconventional positioning inside the six yard box. Damn the offside rule Rolando, you’re standing there until the ball magically appears in front of you and that’s that.

 


 

The match will probably be shown live on True Sport 2 or True4U (still awaiting confirmation of the channel) at 19.00 p.m. on Wednesday 18 September, 2019. For those who can’t make it to Army Stadium, 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.

 

Muangthanks: Muangthong United 0-2 Port FC

Port move in to the last 8 of the FA Cup after overcoming rivals Muangthong 0-2, but really it was Port’s opposition who we have to give credit to for the victory, with a couple of suicidal defensive acts swinging a pretty poor game which neither side particularly deserved to win. It’s not every day us Port fans extend heartfelt and genuine thanks to a club with whom we have had so many problems in recent years, but let me, on behalf of all Port fans, do so now: Thankyou, Muangthong.

In the spirit of friendship in which Muangthong so generously handed victory to us last night, I will endeavor throughout my report to treat our red-clad brethren with as much respect as they showed us last night. That’ll make for an interesting change of pace.

 

 

Port lined up in a curious formation which, despite minimal changes in perssonel, represented a significant tactical departure for embattled coach Jadet. Usually a big believer in width, which is emphasized in his favoured 4-2-3-1 system, Jadet this time played a narrow 4-4-2, with the midfield four set up in a diamond formation. Worawut (36), the third goalkeeper Port have used in four games, was a surprise inclusion between the sticks, with the rather more familiar sight, although we won’t be able to say that for much longer, of Rochela (22) and Dolah (4) in front of him. Nitipong (34) and impressive new arrival Martin Steuble (15) manned the full back positions, with a remit to attack even more freely than usual necessitated by Jadet’s narrow set-up. At the base of the midfield diamond was Go (8), while Bodin (10) played to his left and Siwakorn (16) to his right. Sumanya (11) played in his favourite role just behind the forwards, who on this occasion were the familiar Suarez (5) and unknown quantity Rolando Blackburn (99).

The early going was scrappy, with both teams working hard but ultimately failing to create many clear-cut chances. Most moves broke down in the middle of the park, with Sumanya in particular for Port being very wasteful and possession. It was crowded in there, with Siwakorn unsurprisingly showing a proclivity to play more centrally than your average right sided midfielder. Focusing on Port’s shortcomings is only half the story, though. Muangthong, in the spirit of brotherhood in which I’m sure it was intended, were almost entirely unthreatening. Adisak (11), a player who we often malign for… well, everything, was suitably helpful to Port’s cause, and Derley (87) was the epitome of the striker who you want on the opposing team.

Heberty (7) was the only man who looked capable of making Port’s life difficult, but after creating a shooting chance for himself with a fantastic run on 24 minutes his deflected shot was tipped wide by the excellent Worawut (36). The resulting corner, taken by Heberty himself, was also flicked towards the far post dangerously by Oh Ban-suk (4) but thankfully his effort drifted just wide. Heberty took aim himself 10 minutes later with his viciously struck long range freekick well dealt with once again by Worawut.

The best two chances of the half fell to both sides in the last 5 minutes. First, Siwakorn fed Nitipong, whose looping cross found Rolando with plenty of space and time to direct his header, but he was some way out with a poor effort not coming close to troubling Dang Van Lam (1) in the Muangthong goal. Then a cross from Muangthong’s right was half blocked by Rochela, but fell to that man Heberty once again, who really should have done better with his side-footed effort, which went straight to Worawut, who nevertheless held it well.

The second half started quietly, with the quality remaining as poor as ever. Suarez put another wonderful chance on a plate for Rolando on 67 minutes, but the Panamanian was once again off target with a pretty weak attempt. Steuble, covering a lot of ground down Port’s left, tried his luck with his weaker foot a few minutes later but fired well over.

Muangthong were first to call on substitutes, with Brazilian Bruno Gallo (88) and Teerasil (10) tasked with turning to tide. Gallo came close with a well-struck volley which missed by the finest of margins, but it was Teerasil, in combination with another substitute, who would really shake things up. Jadet called on Pakorn (7), notably absent from the starting XI after his run-in with Port fans last week, and with his very first touch the Midfield Monk showed why we tolerate his deplorable attitude. Port win a freekick on the right flank. You know the rest. Or maybe not. Pakorn’s cross was bang on the money, and although the Port attackers failed to get the vital touch, Teerasil was on hand to put Port in to the lead. The Muangthong captain, who has had a very poor season since returning from the J League, wasn’t even concentrating on the ball; he was busy appealing to the linesman. The linesman, his arm probably knackered after giving almost very forward pass offside in the first half, for once stood still as the ball bounced off a confused Teerasil’s thigh, sending Port fans, crowded around TVs all over Khlongtoei, in to wild celebrations. Thanks guys, we couldn’t have done it without you! It was also a fantastic redemption story for Pakorn, who once again reminded his many critics what he brings to the team. Love him or loathe him, this is what he does.

Just a one goal win wouldn’t do, though. Chappuis, inspired by his captain, gave Rolando the chance to make the game safe and make his debut a dream start. Credit must go to the new man for having the awareness to run on to Chappuis’ beautifully weighted through ball, which at once set the Port man free on goal and took a despairing Dang Van Lam out of the game. Precision. Rolando tried his best to make a meal out of the finish, scuffing his shot a little and allowing Dang to get his fingertips on it, but nevertheless the ball found the back of the net and Port had the two goal cushion they needed to put the result beyond doubt. The defence, which has struggled horribly in the last few weeks, were even able to hold on to an encouraging clean sheet.

The result could be massive for Port’s season. Many a time has a cup win inspired improved league form, and with a tricky trip to Rayong coming up this Saturday, the boost in confidence could be the catalyst for a long overdue return to form. Jadet also has some breathing room, quieting some of the calls for his replacement for the time being.

At the end of the day, a tough game has been successfully negotiated and Port are through to the last 8. Almost all of the remaining teams hail from the top half of T1, though. The only team one could really say are an easy draw are Thai Honda, so expect Port to face a tougher test than what Muangthong offered in the quarter finals.

 

The Sandpit’s Man of the Match

 

 

A shared award this time, I think. Both Teerasil and Chappuis provided moments of magic that put Port over the line, and are equally deserving of our gratitude.

Seriously though, Worawut is probably the only Port player who can be entirely happy with his performance, dealing with everything Heberty had to throw at him admirably, although as always looking very punch-happy from corners and crosses. The defence were also solid, although most had the odd heart-in-mouth moment at some point.