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Lions Beat Off Feisty Cocks; Nongbua Pitchaya 0-1 Port.

 

 

This weekend gave me a chance to see my first Port away game of the season, and also see the brand new Nong Bua Pitchaya stadium. My friend Gary had driven up from Roi Et, and with Udon Thani being the nearest big city with an airport, I opted to fly up and stay there for the weekend, we made the 1 hour drive from Udon for the match itself.

I’ve been keeping an eye on Nong Bua’s progress since they entered T2 in 2017. “The Project” has become one of those awful buzzwords in football, but in this instance, there has been steady progress on first keeping the team in T2, with a big push made for promotion last season to coincide with the opening of the new stadium.

We arrived there about half an hour before kick-off. We were initially misdirected to the big main stand to buy tickets, only to find out we had to go to the other side if we wanted tickets in the Port end. After going through the “show vaccine” protocols, which did seem a bit better organised than at the PAT, we had to do the same again over at the away side, where the Port Party Bus ™ was parked up on the grass. Luckily, we’re now into dry season as I wouldn’t have fancied their chances getting out of there if the rain had come.

Our tickets were the standard 200 baht for away fans, the away stand was probably about the size, and similar build to Zone D at the PAT, next to us was an uncovered Nong Bua fan section which was also some temporary looking terracing. At least we were on the side of the pitch, and not way out past a running track. The main stand itself though is huge, and wouldn’t look out of place at a European stadium. I’m told the plan is to fill in the rest of the stadium should the club maintain this success. There also appears to be youth pitches over the back so they can hopefully nurture some of their own talents in the future. The club academy is apparently one of the best in Isaan, aside from Buriram. Due to the club being sponsored by Leo, it was also quite easy to score beers of the non-Chang variety, and they could also be taken in inside, which can have its pitfalls, more on that later…

 

 

 

TEAM NEWS

Only one change for Port with Nitipong coming in at right-back, Phil Roller has returned to Germany to hopefully get his knee sorted out during the extended season break.

Notably for Nong Bua, their main goal threat Hamilton Soares would be starting on the bench. He was already on 9 goals going into this game and the player I expected to be the one David and Dolah would have to be most wary of.  Nong Bua were coming in to the match comfortably mid-table. Of the 3 teams promoted this year, they’ve had by far the best start including a home win against BG 3-1 in a midweek game the previous week.

THE MATCH

Port started brightly and Suarez forced their keeper into a slightly “Hollywood” save on 8 minutes with a dipping 30-yard drive. Port continued to look the better of the two sides in the first half, while Nong Bua were definitely lacking a focal point without Hamilton on there to lump the ball up to. Finally on 37 minutes, Port broke the deadlock after Kevin’s corner found Suarez near the back post to nod in and give Port a deserved lead.

Port went in at half time with the match well under control. The only downer had been Pakorn being stretchered off.

Just after half time, Worawut was finally awoken after being a spectator in the first half and scrambled to claw away a cross-come-shot that almost dipped in. Near the hour mark, the home fans suddenly started to come alive as it looked like Hamilton Soares was doing a few stretches. I guess he must have picked up a knock in the previous game because there was surely no reason that he wouldn’t have started otherwise. With his introduction, the mood in the stadium was shifting and there was definitely more noise coming from their main stand (which definitely seemed more than 50% full!). It seemed to filter on to the pitch as Nong Bua began to get their tails up, looking to launch balls in the general direction of the big Brazilian, who Gary quickly dubbed “The Brazilian Andy Carroll” due to similar build and ponytail. It seems they even share the same goal celebration.

 

 

 

Port were still looking dangerous on the break though, on 68 minutes Bonilla broke through in to the box and unleashed a shot that rifled off the underside of the crossbar. No Kazak linesman or VAR needed here though, the ball bounced back into the 6-yard box, a few yards clear of the goal line. Other counter attacks that followed and preceded this usually ended in keystone cops style goalmouth scrambles where nobody seemed to want to have a shot. Nong Bua were continuing to knock on the door with their unashamed Route One tactic of “pump it up to Hamilton”. On 76 minutes, a whipped cross in to the box met the head of Hamilton, his downward header bounced upwards and Wozza channelled his inner Gordon Banks to jump up and tip it over the bar.

On 87 minutes there was a break in play after Siwakorn had committed one of his standard tactical fouls on the halfway line. However, there seemed to be some handbags going on further up the pitch between Suarez and Nong Bua’s defender Airton Tirabassi, and a red card was waved in the direction of the lumbering Brazilian. To the fans in the stadium, we had no idea why, but now I have seen the TV Replays, Airton had decided to recreate Frank Rijkaard and Rudi Voller’s incident from Italia ’90.

 

 

 

With Nong Bua down to 10 men it allowed Port to counter attack more, although it kept falling to pieces once we got into the box. In the 94th minute, Nong Bua had one last chance at an equaliser with a free kick just inside the Port half. Their keeper had also trotted forward to join the melee, although the obvious target was again, Hamilton Soares. The free kick was defended quite easily, allowing Bordin to break free and feed Bonilla in space on the halfway line with only a couple of Nong Bua defenders to beat and the keeper still trying to rush back. Bonilla was able to see off the two defenders as the keeper desperately lunged and missed him to slot in to the empty net from just outside the box. Cue scenes of joy in the Port end as the players ran over to celebrate in front of us,

BUT…..

everybody’s old friend VAR had other ideas, penalising Bordin for pushing over their keeper while he was trying to join the attack for the free kick.

Instead of 2-0 to Port and 3 points in the bag, play had been pulled all the way back so Nong Bua had a free kick on the edge of the Port area with 97 minutes on the clock. This was thankfully deflected just over the bar and the referee decided to blow full-time on that note. Another win for Coach Oud.

 

 

 

On full time, the Nong Bua players were still angry and surrounding the referee, the end result was the referee having beer cups launched in his direction from up high as he made his way back to the tunnel in the aforementioned main stand. While Airton will face further ramifications for spitting, I wonder if Nong Bua will have to reconsider having beers in to the stadium. Something that has not been allowed at the PAT for over 5 years now.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Sergio Suarez – Chipped in with a goal and had one of his better games, I give extra credit for not play acting. The thing I was most surprised about was that Sergio stayed on his feet after the ball of spit hit his shoulder and he didn’t go down like he’d been taken out a water cannon.

 

 

 

Up NEXT

This stop-start Thai season is now on a break for 7 weeks. Port’s next game is vs. Bangkok United at the PAT on 8th January, although kick-off time still unknown and the date will also probably change once AIS Play decide the TV schedules for the second leg. Fingers crossed that more fans will be allowed to attend during games during the 2nd leg.

GET THE MORTEIN, THE KILLER WASPS ARE ON THE WAY

 

After the draw away to Samut Prakan last week, I’ll admit to feeling a bit deflated, whilst also quite frustrated with a few of the players. Our first-half had been dire, there’s no other way to put it, and although we were a lot better in the second-half: we threw away a well-earned lead. I get the feeling that this is going to be quite a tightly contested race this season, so to be throwing away so many points early on in the season, there’s only one way to describe it: not good enough.

If you look around the league, there’s no debating that we’d have assembled one of the most expensive wage bills within, and it’s time for certain players to either justify their exorbitant salary, or be moved on. For a team that seems to be wanting to work towards silverware, we sure as hell know how to handicap ourselves at the same time!

Regardless, it’s PT Prachuap that we welcome to PAT Stadium, and I’m hopeful that we can snap out of our funk, whilst welcome back some of our players from injury. Their form has been equally as patchy as ours, though they’ll be much happier with where they are on the table this season, compared to last. Masami Taki seems to have ironed out a lot of the issues that plagued them last season, whilst some smart recruitment has also seen them bring in some handy players, and allow underwhelming performers to depart.

Take note Port management: poor performers CAN be moved on, regardless of how useful/pretty they might be for marketing purposes.

 

Dusit is the right manager for us: it’s time to back him properly

 

WHAT I’D LIKE TO SEE

Better organization would be nice. I understand that we have injuries, which means that players that typically don’t play, need to come into the starting-11. That’s not really the issue per se. The issue that I have is how far off the pace they are, when you compare them to the player that they’ve replaced. When it’s a youngster, you can handle that, as they just don’t have the experience. When it’s a seasoned pro, it makes it even worse in my opinion, and that’s when you have to wonder what the plan is moving forwards. We currently have a lot of players that, in my opinion, don’t fit with the way that Dusit [ultimately] wants us to play.

Will he be backed in the mid-season transfer window, and allowed to bin off the under-performing players that don’t fit his plans? That’s my big question at the moment.

There’s no doubting that we play good football at times, and when we’re on: we’re on. But there’s also a genuine lack of consistency in some of the players, and we need to be laying down standards that everyone needs to meet. The club has gone through and sacked head coach after head coach for a while now, so, hmm… maybe it isn’t the head coach that’s the issue!?

This is how we lined up last week:

 

 

Simply put: it didn’t work. The backline was, for the large part, somewhat reliable, but at the key moments: they went missing completely. What played out in the moments leading to Zarifović scoring our hosts opening goal was simply unforgivable. A free header, from what… 7-yards!? The second goal we conceded wasn’t as bad, albeit it wasn’t good defending either, but it was easier to accept than gifting a player the ‘freedom of the province’ to nod home.

Our players out wide were nullified in the first-half, but came to life in the second, so there’s no cause for concern for us there. The same can be said about the Go-Siv tandem, that may not be all that spectacular, but is able to get the job done time and time again. It was the attacking-third where we had issues, and I’ll allow you to put 2+2 together to see where a lot of the issues stemmed from. We lacked the vision that Suarez offers, and his ability to unlock opposition defences with a well-weighted through ball, and that was a major problem for us. Bordin and Pakorn weren’t getting a steady supply so to speak, which made their jobs a lot tougher, and we didn’t seem to have that ‘killer instinct’ within the 18-yard box either.

I think Patiño made some good runs over the course of the game, and if he can just become a ‘touch and shoot’ style of striker, and not one that HAS to take his man on, then he’ll score a lot more goals for us. He had a couple of chances to get a shot away, but overdid things, and the chance fizzled away.

 

This is how I’d like us to line up on Sunday:

 

 

Honestly, I’d prefer us to play a different system, but we just don’t have the squad for it at the moment. To me, this isn’t the style Dusit prefers either, having watched him rather extensively in his recent spells at Trat and Bangkok Glass. Having also spoken to players who player for and against his teams in the past, they’ve said as much to me as well. I’d only really ever seen him use a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 in the past few years, bar a few games, though I’m sure that over the course of his career, he’s used other formations. For me, I like that style of football, and I’d really like him to be given the freedom to make a number of ‘biggish’ moves in the mid-season window.

Regardless, the changes I made were Worawut, Jaturapat, Dolah, and Charyl dropping out of the XI, with Rattanai, Worawut Baresi, Thitathorn, and Nattawut coming in. The only forced change in there would be Jaturapat dropping out, with him currently in Mongolia with the Thai Under 23 national team. The other changes are all based on form, or lack of, and I won’t go into detail on it. I’d even be willing to start Nurul instead of Nattawut if necessary, I just think that Nattawut would be of more use to us in a central position.

If you allow Roller to bomb up and down the right-hand side in support of Pakorn, and ask Thitathorn to stay back a bit more to allow Bordin the freedom to “cheat” a little defensively so that we can use him as a quick outlet, I think we’re in a much better place come Sunday night.

Whilst I hope that Bonilla will be back soon, I don’t want us to rush him, and the same can be said about Kevin too. I was delighted to see them both pictured training the other day, and whilst I’m eager to see Kevin back in the line-up, but we have to do it at the right time, or we’re going to see him back on the physios table almost instantaneously. Getting him back would be a real “win” for us, and almost like a new signing in a way. Jaturapat has done well in his absence, so I wouldn’t be against us playing Kevin on the left-wing if I’m honest. Unfortunately, that affects Bordin, and so on. A nice headache for Dusit to have regardless!

 

 

A sight for sore eyes! Kev is back in training, as is Nelson, Tanaboon, and Adisorn.

 

A QUICK LOOK AT OUR OPPOSITION

I’ve only watched our opposition for the full 90-minutes twice this season, against the Scum on Matchday 1, and against Khonkaen United a week later, with the only footage of them I’ve seen since being the highlight packages that come out on YouTube. There’s plenty to like about the way that they play, but with that being said: they’re definitely a team we SHOULD beat. Ultimately, that means nothing, and these are the games that we typically find a way to somehow lose. It’s the curse of being a Port fan! They’re not a free-scoring side anymore, unlike their ‘heyday’ in 2018 when they had Lonsana Doumbouya and Jonatan Ferreira Reis on their books. With Reis currently stinking the joint up in Thai League 2 at Muangkan, it seems that they moved on from the temperamental Brazilian at the right time. What they would do to have Doumbouya back though!

As I said in my season preview of PT Prachuap, I think their current ‘key man’ is central-defender Adnan Orahovac, who does a fantastic job marshalling the backline. Whilst they’ve only kept two cleansheets [so far] this season, they’re also not conceding as many goals as they did last season, with them currently on track to concede 41-42 goals this season if they concede at the same rate for the remaining 22 games. That’s an improvement of 5-6 goals, and when you consider that Orahovac missed the first-leg last season, you then see his importance to the backline in my opinion.

If Patiño can just be a pest and distract him for the 90-minutes, that’ll help us quite a lot.

 

IN CONCLUSION

I apologize if this preview came across as somewhat negative, and that wasn’t my intention. I’ve seen quite a lot this season from the lads that I’ve enjoyed, whilst there’s also things that they’ve done that have frustrated me. The frustration is due to knowing how talented they are, and being disappointed that they’re not performing to the level that we all know they’re capable of. It’s like when your father says to you “I’m not mad son: just disappointed.”

With that being said, I’m going to go out on a limb, and predict a 2-NIL win for us on the weekend. With the attendance still being capped at 25%, you’ll have to act fast to snap up a ticket, and comply with all the restrictions in place. If you want an enjoyable alternative, I really can’t recommend a trip to The Sportsman [on Sukhumvit 13] to watch the game enough, with them showing the game on a big screen.

And, as always: SUSU TARUA!

 

A throwback image from a game in 2015, which was shared by the Humans of Thai Port page.

 

Fans can attend the game, with capacity limited to 25%. Season ticket holders can collect their tickets from 1300 on matchday. The match will be shown live on NNU5 and AISPLAY (possibly limited to AIS network users) at 1800 on Sunday 24th October 2021. If you don’t have a ticket, the best way to watch with fellow Port fans is to head to The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 who will show the match on a big screen.

Dog Day Afternoon; Samut Prakan City 2-2 Port FC Report

 

Port’s dip in form continued this weekend with an entertaining but downright frustrating 2-2 draw with Samut Prakan City. SPC were clearly the better team over the 90 minutes and sloppy defensive errors cost the away team dearly. The home team almost secured the victory at the death but thankfully VAR saved Port’s bacon.

 

 

After our defeat to Buriram I wasn’t only disappointed with the tactical ineptness of the team but also thoroughly miserable by the lack of atmosphere at PAT Stadium. A certain security guard in Zone B made sure all fun was sucked out of the fan experience, constantly harassing us for any minor misdemeanour (and tellingly lenient on Thai fans next to us) so I was apprehensive about a short away trip. Following Port is a bit like heroin addiction – it’s extremely moorish, so on Friday evening I made a U-turn and purchased a ticket for the next day.

 

Our plucky quartet of farang fans took an afternoon taxi to the province next door and arrived to find a decent crowd of away fans at the stadium entrance. The stadium isn’t known for its location but both the club and entrepreneurial Port fans worked together to make it an enjoyable experience. Kudos to SPCFC for both their organization of the match and the facilities they laid on for the away fans (the mobile toilets were the highest standard I have ever had the pleasure of using, 5 star, will visit again). The ticket purchasing, document checks and welcoming attitude were exemplary and in stark contrast to last weekend’s shitshow. The away end was sold out but all fans were in before kick off and permitted to congregate in their small groups, plus food & drink (and amaretto) was allowed in.

 

So what about the football? Well Dusit had to shuffle the pack due to Suarez’s 2 match suspension after his petulant slap and Bonilla’s injury against Buriram.  Meaning part time footballer Chappius and upfront Javier Patino got an opportunity to showcase their talents deputizing from kick off. I won’t set this up for a surprise revelation later in this report but will give it to you straight now: both players were largely useless and definitely not up to the standard required for a championship winning team.

 

The warning signs were abundantly clear from the outset that our defense was not organized at all for set pieces and in the 18th minute defender Aris Zarifovic, with minimal interference from his marker Dolah, powered a bullet header which clearly crossed the line. Worawut smuggled the ball out and play continued for a few more moments until VAR intervened and the goal was awarded. Worawut then pulled off a great save moments later to keep his side in the game. The best Port could manage was Pakorn’s free kick, which seemed to be a slip but tested goalie Patiwat’s awareness. I had already buggered off to use those fabulous toilet facilities and couldn’t resist a cheeky Leo on the way back to delay my return. When your highlight of the first half is a dog running onto the pitch, staying outside for a pint seemed to be the right option.

 

 

Port raised their standards for the second half, with both Bordin and Patino squandering decent chances before the former bundled the ball home from a few yards out in the 60th minute. Captain Rochela then saw his near post header come off the frame of the goal but no one could capitalise on the rebound, and winger Pakorn started to test the SPC defense with a series of dangerous crosses and shots. A corner in the 75th minute saw yet another scramble after Patiwat missed his punch and Go Seul-Ki headed home with his second attempt and received a cheeky, non-intentional head butt for his troubles. The away fans erupted; it had been a long slog to get here but Port were finally in the driving seat.

 

 

Not for long. It only took a few minutes for SPC to find the equaliser. Winger Daisuke had time and space to put a beautiful cross into the box and captain Chayawat outmuscled Jaturapat with ease to bury his header past Worawut. In fairness they totally deserved it; they played the better football and coach Ishii is obviously getting the best out of his squad. Chayawat played classy, intelligent football throughout the match and winger Jaroensak really stood out for me; he looks set for a great career.

 

Thai football wouldn’t be the same without it’s shithouse moments and, lo and behold, in the first minute of injury time Daisuke went down in the box after minimal contact from Roller. The replays show that the winger avoided Roller’s foot but went to his knees after the Port man put an arm across him. It certainly impeded but didn’t obstruct; the winger could have continued his run. Thankfully the referee used VAR to correctly rescind his original decision.

 

 

The bottom line is Port weren’t good enough to win this match, and aren’t good enough to win the league with this squad of players. Many have become far too comfortable and there is not enough depth in the squad to challenge them to fight for their place in the starting XI. SPCFC should be applauded for the effectiveness of their football, and the spirit in which they played it. Port seemed disjointed for large parts of the game and only battled for the points in the second half. It was great to celebrate taking the lead but oh so disappointing to see them throw it away moments later.

 

Finally it’s great to have away days back. Both sets of fans did their best to generate a rousing atmosphere, and standing on terraces with your mates while cheering/hurling abuse at the top of your lungs once again was great fun. Our team might not be up to much this season but this was the best matchday I’ve experienced in a long time.

 

Man Of The Match: Pakorn Prempak

Tricky one this as no one really deserves it but for his second half efforts, and being the most dangerous player over the full 90 minutes I’ll give it to the midfield monk. Honourable mentions go to Bordin, Go and Worawut and dishonourable mentions to just about everyone else.

All right, Port, give me a showstopper – Chiangmai United v Port Preview

Now we’re rolling. After the slip up at Suphanburi, Port avoided a banana skin on an absolute dog of a pitch in the Bangkok derby, which saw plenty of individual slips but collectively the team stood tall and proud running out one nil winners. However, there was little time to enjoy the victory, with the first midweek round of the season meaning we find ourselves heading up to Chiangmai for a Thursday night encounter with the White Elephants.

As it stands, with two games played on Tuesday night, Port sits third in the table with a return of 8 points from 5 games, two points behind current leaders Buriram, who we face this coming Sunday at The PAT.  Suddenly it’s not looking like such a bad start to the season.

So what to expect of our encounter with the newly promoted side…..GOALS. Only Chonburi games (4.33 ) are averaging more goals than our hosts (3.4), while only Khon Kaen United (14) have conceded more than Chiangmai United’s 10. Also, there’s a fair chance they come early, nobody in the leagues is averaging more first half goals than Port games. Adding weight to the theory that Dusit looks to defend the lead when he gets it, our games also see very few second half goals, infact there have been just two, with only NongBua Pitchaya matches, with a solitary second half goal producing less.

 

Chiangmai United.

 

Yannick Boli – he wont play but l like him and have the picture saved

Last time out the White Elephants bagged their first win of the season travelling to Samut Prakan Dons, as Port loanee Yannick Boli (7) starred in a 3-1 win. In a game that looked to go in spells of dominance for each team, Chiangmai were initially under the cosh before taking the initiative in the latter part of the first half. A momentum they maintained into the second half. Which was just a couple of minutes old when Boli was picked out with a though ball that allowed him to skip past Zarifovic and with the aid of a deflection, fire home. A slice of luck he probably deserved having created numerous chances in the game. The momentum then switched again as Dons went in search of an equalizer, but it was Boli who would score next, getting on the end of a cross to head home. The game was kept alive, as the fragile Chiangmai back line was denied its first clean sheet of the season when Eliandro pulled one back. However, there was to be no comeback as Boonmatoon (54) scored a second headed goal for the visitors to end the match as a contest.

Whilst that result will have come as a shock to many, the rest of the Chiangrai results have gone the quite predictable route, as having taken the lead against Bangkok United in round 1 they went on to be defeated 2-1, their other meeting with one of the expected contenders was somewhat more one sided, as a trip to Buriram ended in a 4-0 humbling. While they’ve dawn away at Suphanburi 2-2 thanks to an injury time equalizer from ex Port man Todsapol (6). Alongside facing Korat at home in round four. Where they surrendered a lead given to them by Boli in a 1-1 draw.  Who after not starting the first 3 games of the season has forced his way into the side and shown his manager what he was missing with three goals from those two starts.

 

Now with any normal club you’d be thinking great they figured out Boli’s their best attacker a few weeks into the season, it doesn’t really matter as he can’t play against us. However, this is Port and the Thai league, so don’t be shocked if there’s no rule or clause in place to stop him lining up against us and then for full comedy effect scoring the winner (I could probably check but I’m not going too).

 

Nont saves!

 

As for the rest of the team. Big things were once expected of keeper Nont Muangagam (20) and he remains on the books of Chiangrai United, who’ve sent him for another season on loan, having in recent years spend time with Police Tero and the other ChinagMai club before arriving at his current home last season. He’s a bit of a favourite with the Sandpit team as he’s capable of some stunning stops but is held back being equally prone to absolute howlers. He played regularly for the Thai U23 team before becoming too old, at some point hes either going to become really good or forever yoyo between T1 and T2. Expect a few world class saves but you get the feeling that if we give him enough chances he’s more than capable of a Somporn moment.  At the back they have what could become a decent combination of centrebacks including the aforementioned Todsapol, Brazilan Evson (30) and Sirisak Faidong (15).  

 

If Boli misses out the attack will be let by Melvin de Leeuw (9), my expert on T2 recently said of him…”he’s scored a ton of goals in T2 (more than wiki says) but whether he can do it in the top flight remains to be seen”. He’ll be supplied by, midfielders Sergio Escudero(26) , the 33 year old arrives having played extensively in Japan and Korea and Saharat Kanyaroj (18)  who moved from Muangthong n the closed season.

 

 

Port

I don’t expect us to change a winning system too much. The reinvention of Tanaboon (17) was continuing before he limped off in the derby and assuming he’s fit, then l’d stick with his partnership with Rochela who also had a fine game. Given that the team seem to like to get lead and hold it, l’d start the same 11 as the weekend and then rotate later in the game if we get a cushion. Of course with what could be a massive top of the table clash to come on Sunday, Dusit may have other ideas. Regardless in Dusit we trust.

 

Prediction

Surely the kiss of death but I’m going for a nice and comfortable 3-0 win to Port.

  The match will be shown live on AISPLAY (possibly limited to AIS network users) at 1900 on Thursday 7th October 2021. So the best way to watch with fellow Port fans is to head to The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 who will show the match on a big screen.

 

10 Man Port Fight Valiantly: Suphanburi 2-1 Port Match Report

 

It was a wet Sunday night as we travelled to Suphanburi for our matchday 4 fixture, with us coming up against a Suphanburi side that has looked a lot more competent than it has in previous years. They’ve appeared to have gotten their recruitment a bit better this season, though there are still those ‘random’ journeymen that they seem to love to bring in. Regardless for Suphanburi in 2021 its been so far, so good.

We arrived in Suphanburi fresh off the back of a strong performance at home, though there was that underlying feeling of “we should’ve gotten more” the week earlier. 3-points is 3-points at the end of the day, but we’re definitely not hitting our straps just yet. Hopefully, it’s a case of us getting stronger as the season goes on, because otherwise: it’s going to be a long season.

I’m going to cover quite a bit in this review, so apologies in advance!

 

THE GAME ITSELF

We only made the one change for the game, with Tanaboon [#17] replacing Dolah [#4] in the starting-11, with Dolah dropping out of the matchday squad altogether. Considering his performances so far this season, it wasn’t too much of a surprise to see Dolah dropped, though when you think back to Tanaboon’s performance against Police Tero: I was quite fearful of what would play out.

The first chance of the game would fall to our hosts, with the game at just 2:34 on the clock, with Rochela [#22] not making a clear decision whether to challenge for a header with Danilo [#99], or drop off and pick up the flick-on from the Brazilian striker. It meant that the Spaniard was well out of position, with Filipino winger Patrick Reichelt [#11] latching onto the flick-on and running toward the goal. Considering he once played for us, it was very much a case of “when is he going to score against us?” in the pre-game thoughts, which would’ve had him following a tradition of a multitude of players that have achieved the feat in recent years. His early effort was either a dragged shot, or an overhit low cross, but more importantly: no danger to the goal. It was a warning from our hosts: one that we needed to heed.

It took less than 60-seconds for us to fire back an effort of our own, with Bonilla [#9] picking up the ball in our defensive half, and playing a pass to his left. Bordin [#10] feigned and left the ball for Suarez [#5], with the attacking stalwart running across his defender, before playing a diagonal ball to his left to Bordin. His left-footed shot was a bit tame, but Patrick Deyto [#1] could only parry it,  which gave Bonilla an empty goal to tap the ball into. He doesn’t need any more of an invitation than that, and he was more than happy to pass the ball in, and collect his third goal of the season. It was a great bit of play from us, and it showed that when we’re in the mood: we can slice through teams with complete ease. The biggest issue for us is: can we do it more consistently?

 

Given the FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEdom of the Suphanburi penalty box, Bonilla puts Port 1 up.

 

 

A few minutes later, we had the chance to double our lead, with Go [#8] switching the play from the right to the left, with him finding Bordin, who was giving his marker nightmares early on. He looked like he wanted the ball at every opportunity, and he was jinking, weaving, and beating his man time and time again: could he do it for the duration of the game!? His cross found Pakorn [#7] unmarked in the box, though his header was straight at Deyto and an easy save for the shot-stopper. I can’t be critical of Pakorn in this instance, his effort hit the target, and there was no way that he could’ve controlled the ball and had an effort any other way. It was good play from all players involved, though the Suphanburi bench must’ve been wondering how he’d been left so free in the box!

2-minutes later is when the contest was altered. An in-swinging Suphanburi was met by the head of Danilo, who nodded an effort on goal, with his shot striking the arm of Jaturapat [#15] on the line. I’m not contesting that it hit his arm, so you can put your tinfoil hats away! The question is the intent: did he actively make himself bigger? I struggle to see any case for that, and the referee initially said he felt that Jaturapat’s arms were by his side. As shown by the picture below, and if you want the timestamp of the motion in full: skip to 2:10 of the YouTube highlights package.

 

Either the ref is saying arms by his side or doing a Nurul impression.

 

 

To me: it was a penalty. A little harsh, as Jaturapat hadn’t really done anything wrong, but if the shoe was on the other foot, I’d hope it’d be given our way. To then go to VAR, where he needed close to a dozen replays to come to a decision, and then come back and send off the player: unfathomable. I’ll give my proper thoughts on this later on, but this was the first of a number of decisions that seemed a little bit… strange to me. All in all, this VAR incident took well over 4-minutes for them to come to a decision, and once again showed why Thailand has no need for the technology: it just takes too damn long.

By the time the penalty was taken, over 8-minutes had gone by since the initial incident, and Ratchanat [#30] had no qualms with thundering the ball into the bottom-left corner. A well-taken penalty by the midfielder, and it was going to be a tough 75-plus minutes for us to try and get something from the game.

Controversy nearly struck again just 2-minutes later, with Sirimongkhon [#38] taking a tumble in the box after Roller [#33] had nicked the ball off him. It seemed to be one of those instances where the attacker hangs a leg out trying to buy some contact to con the referee, so I was quite surprised that we didn’t see another penalty awarded for our hosts. Credit to Suphanburi: they’ve got enough players and coaches moaning to all of the officials over the course of the 90-minutes, so it’s little wonder that they pick up as many decisions as they do!

Other clubs need to take notice!

There was some nice play from us at the 23:35 mark of the game, with Nelson picking up the ball on the left, and having a run at his fullback. The red card to Jaturapat had seen Bordin drop back to left-back, which was a big loss for us based on his early game showing, so it was mainly Sergio, Pakorn, or Nelson that we saw out wide for the remainder of the half, though Roller got forward a few times still. In this instance, Nelson beat his man quite easily in the end, before trying to square the ball for someone to tap it home. Deyto parried it, and a Suphanburi player rushed in to hack it clear before a Port player could react. It was a moment of promise and would have many fans hoping that we could achieve the improbable.

Our hearts were in our mouths just a few moments later, with a long ball forward from Lossemy Karaboue [#7] finding Patrick Reichelt out wide, with him being ‘touch and go’ regarding the offside. Bordin felt he was, but you could see that his defensive position wasn’t the best [not a surprise!], and it meant that we needed to scramble: quickly. Credit to Worawut for staying big and not making things easier for the attacker, with him being forced wide. His effort rattled the post, and with the rebound landing at the feet of Danilo and an [somewhat] empty goal being in front of him: things weren’t looking promising for us. In what was a great recovery from Rochela, he was able to get across and block the shot, which would keep the scores level: job done, and well done to Rochela for getting there in the nick of time.

 

Last ditch clearance by Rochela

 

 

It was quickly becoming wave after wave of attacks from our host, and if I’m honest: they were unlucky not to go ahead. Danilo had a couple of chances, as did Reichelt, but they weren’t able to find the back of the net… fortunately for us! Reichelt was playing out of his skin, and for me, he was showing why he’s one of the “premiere” ASEAN players that is currently plying his trade in the Thai League 1.

There was still enough time for one final VAR check in the first-half, with a shirt pull on Bonilla in the box not being deemed enough of a hindrance for him to do his job. There was definitely a shirt pull from the Suphanburi defender, and it definitely forced Bonilla into having to change his plan of attack, but it definitely would’ve been a horrendously soft penalty to award too. Considering our complaints towards the match officials over the course of the first-half, I wasn’t surprised to see it waved away, and I think that we can finally put to bed this thought from fans of other clubs that we’re the main beneficiaries of VAR decisions. Watch back our games: we ‘lose’ more than we ‘win’.

To go into half-time at 1-all seemed like a result in itself, though it was going to take a lot of work in the second-half to ensure that we’d bring back a point to Bangkok. Could we do it? Possibly. The odds weren’t in our favour, but the lads had been quite courageous in their performance since the send-off.

 

Nothing to see here. Thai VAR 2021

 

 

Dusit elected not to make any changes to the team during the interval, and I imagine that his message was quite simple too: just keep grafting.

We weren’t going to be getting any favours from anyone, we could only rely on ourselves, and that couldn’t have been more obvious when Suphanburi were awarded a very soft freekick outside the box just after the break. Was there contact? Possibly. I’ve never seen someone get a tap on their foot and grab their Achilles in pain though, so credit to the lad: he conned the referee well. From the resulting freekick, Ratchanat thundered the ball into the bottom-right corner for his second of the night. It was a horror show from all the Port players involved in my opinion. The placement of the wall for starters, the decision to have Siwakorn [#16] separate from the wall initially [only for him to then move towards it when the shot was on its way], and more importantly: it was on the side that the goalkeeper was supposed to be protecting.

Don’t get me wrong: it was a great effort from Ratchanat. Fair play to him for his goal celebration too: it looked quite fun! The main frustration regarding this goal was the fact that we were the creators of our own downfall, from start to finish in the sequence, and that was disappointing. Down to 10-men, 2-1 down, away from home, with around 40-minutes to go: the game had essentially just become ‘mission impossible’ for us.

 

2-1 Suphanburi and the game is slipping away from Port

 

 

More controversy struck just after the 57-minute mark, with an in-swinging corner from Pakorn eventually reaching the feet of Tanaboon, who had an effort on goal from around the penalty spot. It struck a Suphanburi defender, and having seen how the home side had reacted in the first-half: we reacted the same way this time around. It forced a VAR check, but the ball appeared to hit either the back or backside of the Suphanburi player in the replays, and we were instead awarded another corner. Our reaction certainly didn’t endear us any further to the match officials, who possibly had hurt feelings from some of the things that’d already been said over the course of the match, and it meant that we probably weren’t going to be awarded those tight 50-50 calls.

We’d spent a lot of energy trying to get level again, and around the 65-minute mark, that’s when it first started to look like our legs were starting to go. By that stage, the lads had already been playing a man down for at least 50-minutes, and Suphanburi were unfortunate to not have stretched their lead even further. Karaboue had a side-footed effort blocked by Worawut [#24], who’d replaced Bordin a few minutes earlier. Javier Patiño [#30] had also come on, with him replacing Siwakorn, in what would be his debut for the club. It was a somewhat attacking move from Dusit, which I respected, as it meant that we weren’t going to die wondering: bring it on.

Our substitutions meant that we were forced to shuffle the deck so to speak, with Roller heading to the left, and then honestly: I’m not sure what we did further forward. It was a free-for-all of sorts, with the only constants being that Patiño and Bonilla would be furthest forward for us. There was the chance that it’d leave us a bit more vulnerable at the back, but it was worth the risk, and when Danilo was shooting like he was in the picture below: we didn’t need to worry too much it seemed! Considering all his other efforts, this one was particularly bad and forced a chuckle in what had been quite a frustrating match [for me] to watch.

 

Danilo sends one to the moon

 

 

We made our final substitution on 72-minutes, with Nurul [#13] replacing Pakorn, with the thought behind it being to try and use Nurul’s pace to try and get by a tiring Daisuke Sato. Credit where credit’s due: Nurul did quite well in the 20-plus minutes he was on the pitch. He managed to create a few chances for his teammates, he had chances himself, but in the end: it just wasn’t to be for him. He’s such a likeable player to have, even if his end product is quite lacking, and although I think we should consider ‘moving on’ from him in the near future: I won’t begrudge him staying either. He looks like a lad that’s good to have in-and-around the squad, like Athibordee was.

Now: back to the game! Our best chance came with 80:59 on the clock when Roller was able to get by his man after running onto a well weighed through-ball. Considering his goalscoring prowess for Ratchaburi, I’d hoped that he would have shifted the ball to his [preferred] right-foot and shot himself, but he took the less selfish option and tried to cut the ball back for an unmarked Bonilla. Former Port loanee Piyachanok [#5] got his body in front of it though, which meant a promising attack fizzled out. Hopefully the next time he’s in that position, he’ll take the shot on, because he’s shown in the past his ability to regularly find the back of the net. Also, it was yet another fantastic ball from Sergio that had put him in space, with the Spaniard doing a terrific job pulling the strings.

 

It wasn’t to be for Port as they couldn’t quite find an equalizer

 

 

The 83RD minute saw Reichelt finally put the ball in the back of the net with a ferocious left-foot strike but the unfortunate thing for him was that he was offside, and the linesman had [correctly] flagged it. Considering the level of their officiating over the course of the match, it was quite surprising that they’d managed to get something right, so credit where credit’s due.

Suphanburi then had a couple of chances to kill off the game, which they butchered, and though they tried their best to waste as much time as possible: we were still managing to counter them as best we could. In the 91ST minute we were able to fashion out a pinball-esque type effort on goal, with Bonilla having a shot from distance blocked, before re-gathering the ball and crossing the ball in. Of all the people to attack it and head towards goal, I hadn’t expected Nurul to get there, and credit to the pint-sized attacker: he hit the target at least. Unfortunately: it was straight into the arms of Deyto.

It would be the final effort on goal, and considering that there were 3 stoppages for substitutions, so many instances of time-wasting, as well as a VAR check or two: 4-minutes was MASSIVELY ‘unders’ for stoppage-time. The referee had had enough though, and almost immediately after his watch hit the 94:00 mark, he blew his whistle for the final time.

A good win for our hosts, but a lot more questions regarding match officials for some. I can’t fault the performance of either side, and it would’ve been a much more interesting game if it’d been 11v11 throughout the 90. We’ll have to try and square the ledger in the second-leg, but to all the Suphanburi players: good job.

 

Hands up if you’ve had a bad day at work. – because people have shouted at you, what did you think l meant?

 

 

MY THOUGHTS – SUPHANBURI

I was quite surprised by Suphanburi if I’m honest, but it was quite nice to see them not be a complete mess for once. They were well organized, played some decent football, and although that was helped by the fact that they had a one man advantage [some may suggest 2 or 3!], there was enough about them to show that they’ve improved quite a lot compared to seasons gone by. Reichelt was fantastic, as was Karaboue, whilst Sato looks so much better for them than he ever did during his time at Legoland. It just shows that when you get your foreign recruitment right: things tend to go so much more smoothly. With that being said, I didn’t think much of their Brazilian midfielder [Diego Lorenzi], whilst their AFC quota player [Hamed Bakhtiari] didn’t feature either. They’ve made steps in the right direction at least!

It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out for the War Elephant’s over the course of the season, and I’m looking forward to the return game already.

 

MY THOUGHTS – PORT FC

I thought the team battled quite well after the red card, which was nice to see, as in previous years we would’ve gone on to lose quite comprehensively after a decision like that. We’re showing good signs in most areas of the park, but one area that I’d like to see a change made is in central-midfield. As much as I rate the guy, and as good as he’s been in the past, I think Go needs a game or two on the bench to try and spark life back into him. He’s still got all the technical ability that he had before, no question about it, but it’s his mobility at the moment that’s of concern to me. Bring Kannarin in alongside Siwakorn, and watch them either beat our opposition midfield into submission, or both be sent off in the first 20-minutes. It’ll be a fun watch regardless!

In previous match reports, I’ve been quite critical, but overall: I see nothing that’s truly got me worried just yet. There might be minor tweaks that I’d like to see, but nothing substantial where you’re basically going: this isn’t it, let’s start afresh. We don’t need to do that at all.

It’s quite tough to judge a squad after this type of game, and considering the fact that they all grafted like a proper unit after the dismissal: I’m proud of the lads. Hell: Bordin looked like a somewhat competent left-back! Personally, I’d like to see Thitathorn into the starting-11 next week as the replacement for Jaturapat, but once he’s served his suspension: I want him back into the line-up. It’s up to whoever comes in next week to put their case forward to Dusit, and competition is never a bad thing anyway.

 

MY THOUGHTS – THE OFFICIATING

I watch between 4-6 matches across all three tiers [T1, T2, T3] over the course of every weekend during the season, and the biggest thing that I’ve noticed this season is the consistency [or lack of] from the officials. I get that they have a tough job, and I also get that compared to the footballers they’re in charge of: they’re paid quite poorly. But it’s what they signed on for, and to me, the officiating in quite a lot of the games that I’ve watched this season has been… interesting to say the least. There’s other adjectives that should could be used, but that’s not the purpose of these comments. Without match officials, we don’t have a game, so it’s an incredibly important job at the end of the day. So how do we fix the issue? Instead of just rolling our eyes, and accepting it, should we at least try to find solutions?

I think it’s time for the FAT to considering getting rid of VAR [again], because simply put: the current officials just don’t know how to use it properly. On top of that, they’re fortunate that fans aren’t allowed in stadiums at the moment! Can you imagine the atmosphere within a packed PAT Stadium for a VAR call that takes between 4-8 minutes to come!?

A more drastic change could be to drop all the Thai officials down to the lower tiers, and bring in competent referees from abroad. It’s happened in the Gulf in recent years, as well as other leagues within Asia, with the preference being for Japanese match officials to be in charge. Until the referee education courses are at a level where you’re not forced to question a particular person’s competency over the course of 90-minutes: it might be something worth considering.

My first Thai football game was in 2016, and I can [hand on heart] say that the officiating this season has been a hell of a lot worse than what I’ve seen in the season’s gone by.

 

 

 

 

MAN OF THE MATCH – #9, NELSON BONILLA

I thought Nelson was great for us, and the amount of work he put in over the course of the 90-minutes was something that we haven’t been able to see too much since he first arrived at PAT Stadium. Even once we went down to 10-men, he was still grafting, still trying to fashion out chances for himself or his teammates, and to me: it was a glimpse of how important he can be for us. I think Dusit is the type of head coach that will get the best out of him, as no disrespect to Jadet or Oud: they’re just not at the same level. We’re definitely seeing the real Nelson Bonilla so far this season, and I’m going to enjoy it for as long as I can. 3 goals in 4 games is definitely the type of return that we need from our star striker, and I hope to see plenty more goals over the course of the remaining fixtures.

An honourable mention should go to Tanaboon, who I felt was instrumental at the back for us. He’s such a divisive player for all of us on the terraces, but there’s no doubting that when he’s at his best: he’s a quality player to have. The big question is: can he do it consistently? And [perhaps] more importantly: what’s his best position!? Regardless, I’m happy to have seen him do well, and he’s certainly got to have Dusit wondering whether he should bring Dolah back in for the derby next week.

 

Port take the Venom out of the Cobras; Port FC 2-0 Khon Kaen United

 

The weekend was upon us again, which meant just one thing: matchday 3 and the visit of Khonkaen United to PAT Stadium, although the lack of fans in the terraces was still a major miss for our lads. Whilst other clubs may be possibly benefitting, or not even noticing the lack of fans in the stands: it’s a big miss in Khlong Toei. Regardless, it is what it is, and I hope that everyone that’s reading this is doing well, and in good health.

 

This place needs fans back.

 

It was an unchanged Port XI that lined up, and after the performance against Bangkok United, I was hopeful that if they put in a similar shift: a big win would be on the cards. It was our visitors that would carve out the first chance of the game, after less than 60-seconds, with some lax marking at a corner allowing the Khonkaen United attacker Verapat (22) an almost free header from 4-yards. Worawut (36) made himself big, but he was nowhere near the ball, but it was enough to put Verapat off. Bullet dodged: get the action up the other end, please!

We did just that, with some of our lads looking up for it early on. Sergio (5) was menacing, Siv (16) seemed to be everywhere, Pakorn(7) was causing problems: it had the Khonkaen United players at sixes and sevens. A through ball from Roller (33) with 6:29 on the clock had Go (8) in acres of space in the box, although he got the ball stuck under his feet, which allowed Douglas Cobo (30) to make a challenge before our Korean midfielder could get a shot off. It was a missed opportunity, and he should have done better.

 

Marking seems to be optional this weekend in Thailand

 

It didn’t take us much longer to find the breakthrough, with a poor defensive header from Filipino central-defender Josh Grommen (4) going straight to Pakorn, who played a first-time ball to Siv. I’m not sure why the Atthawit (10) felt it was necessary to foul Siv outside the box: he should’ve encouraged him to shoot instead! The foul gave Pakorn the chance to do Pakorn things, and my goodness: it was a thing of beauty! There’s been a real change from the midfield monk this season and although he’s had a few ‘false dawns’ in seasons gone by: I’m truly hopeful that this time it’s for real. There’s never been any doubts surrounding his technical ability, but there have always been questions as to whether he has the hunger/desire to become a top player. I’m not sure if we can give Dusit the credit, but regardless: Pakorn is looking magnificent so far this season.

If you see this as an opposition player: get ready to pick the ball out of the back of the net!

 

You give Pakorn freekicks here, you get punished.

 

Truly, it was a magnificent freekick, and unlike a certain Brazilian who left midway through last season: you can sense there’s a genuine technique to Pakorn’s efforts. It’s not just an “I’m going to hit this as hard as I can, and hope like hell it ends up in the net somehow” type of thought process. The fact that the Khonkaen United goalkeeper KNEW where he was going to hit it, yet still couldn’t keep it out: pinpoint precision. Sorry to wax so lyrical about the goal, but it’s well worth watching on loop for a while… I swear.

The goal allowed the lads to relax, the tricks and flicks, tiki-taka and first-touch football all came to the fray. After a smart press in the heart of the midfield, Go nicked the ball from the Khonkaen United midfield and on to Bordin (10), who took a touch and played the ball back to Go. Once again: he had time and space. This time, he didn’t get the ball caught under his feet, and he hit the ball forward to Nelson Bonilla (9).

It was never in doubt that he’d want to get back onto his right-foot, and after rinsing the Khonkaen United central-defender Apisit (26), he was [kind of] one-on-one with the goalkeeper and sent a luscious dink over the ‘keeper, to put the ball into the back of the net. It oozed class from the El Salvador international, and if he can do this with regularity, it could see him once again become one of Thai League 1’s most feared strikers. A fully fit Bonilla is a striker that will score 20-plus goals over the course of the season, and it’s exactly what we need from him this season.

 

Freeeeeeeeeeeee phone? Bonilla scores for the second match in a row.

 

With just 19-minutes on the clock, it was looking quite precarious for the King Cobras, with our midfield seeming to swarm all over the pitch in search of the ball. After Siv was fouled [again] in the 22nd minute, Pakorn forced yet another save from their goalkeeper from the resulting set-piece, although it was a much more straightforward save this time around. A few minutes later, Bordin won the ball back [after losing it] and received a kick for his troubles, giving Pakorn yet another opportunity to test out Nakchamnan (27) in goal. What followed would’ve been comedy gold if the ball had found its way into the back of the net, but a quick scramble from Grommen got the ball cleared away from danger.

Grommen was involved again a few minutes later, when Roller breezed by him, went down, and earned the Filipino central-defender a yellow card. It earned protestations from the defender, which would become a theme over the course of the 90-minutes, but he should be more frustrated that an opposition player had gotten by him as easily as Roller.

The King Cobras were edging their way back into the game, and a shot from Ibson Melo (71) at 32:39 forced an acrobatic save from Worawut. His matchday 1 performance had been below-par, but his performances last week, and here, have at least given justification as to why the club didn’t sit him on the pine. Regardless: I’m sorry for suggesting it Worawut!

Our next opportunity would come after a through-ball from Siv, with it reaching Bonilla. Unfortunately, it was on his left-foot, and after taking a touch: he could only get a corner. Could he have played a ball back to Jaturapat (15)? Possibly. The goalkeeper was well out of position, and if Jaturapat couldn’t have got a shot off himself: he could’ve at least squared it to someone who could. After watching the highlights again, it would appear that Roller had been unmarked at the back-post. Hindsight is always 20:20 though, and I won’t begrudge Bonilla for attempting to get a second for himself. It’d be our final attacking chance of the half, although our opposition wasn’t done just yet.

Over the course of the match, Ibson was a constant menace, and on another day: he could’ve easily had a first-half brace. We’re quite lucky that Worawut was in such inspired form, and he spared Dolah’s (4) blushes at 43 mins on the dot when he parried an Ibson shot, and then quickly recovered to pounce on the ball. Ibson had gotten by Dolah far too easily, and although his shot seemingly lacked power, it had good placement. In first-half stoppage time, some poor defending [again!] would allow the Brazilian to go one-on-one with Worawut, with the Thai national team understudy once again coming up big for us.

 

Worawut saves, the Cobra’s showed their fangs repeatedly but couldn’t beat the inform keeper.

 

This is where the empty terraces hurt us so much. If you’d had fans at this game, we would’ve been urging the lads to push on to get goals 3, 4, 5 or even more. The opportunity was there: we didn’t take it. It seemed like we went back into our shells, got complacent, and decided that we’d done enough to get the 3-points. It’s such a dangerous way to operate, and we’re very lucky that we weren’t punished for it. It’s up to Dusit to stop this type of complacency creeping into games, and I’m hopeful that in time: he will. It’s still early days from our ‘new’ head coach, and after what played out on matchday 1… it seems that he’s at least allowed to pick his own team, and in the shape that he feels will get the desire results. A head coach picking his own team and tactics? What an intriguing concept!

How long this is allowed to happen? Your guess is as good as mine.

Khonkaen United had made a change during the half-time interval, with Apisit being replaced by Kitsada (7) which saw their captain Douglas Cobo pushed back into central-defence. It’d be the King Cobras that would carve out the first opportunity of the second-half, with a gaffe from Rochela (22) allowing Ibson yet another shot on goal. Fortunately: Worawut was intent on preserving his clean-sheet. From the resulting corner, I honestly thought that Ibson had finally gotten his goal, so I was stunned when the replay showed that Worawut had prevented the WHOLE BALL from crossing the line. Khonkaen United must be disappointed to not have had the same VAR official as Muangthong last week, who’d have without doubt given the goal.

It was more worthy of the “super save” comments that he’d gotten from the commentary team for other saves he’d made throughout the game, although this time: he didn’t receive said comment! What!?!?!?

 

Super save from Worawut to stop the ball from crossing the line

 

We finally carved out our first proper opportunity of the second-half at 56:04, with a cross from Bordin being nodded down to Go by Suarez, with the Koreans effort being blocked by Douglas Cobo. It was a great passage of play from us, and a goal at the end of it would’ve been delightful. Alas: it wasn’t to be.

Just after the hour-mark, Dusit began to make some substitutions, with Nitipong (34) replacing Jaturapat, and Nattawut (45) coming on for Bordin. It meant that Roller moved over to the left-hand side, and although it would make his attacking play a bit more predictable: there’d still be that excitement factor about it too. In truth, the game began to fizzle a bit after the changes, with neither side truly carving out an opportunity that would force either ‘keeper into a save. In the 67th minute, Khonkaen United had made a double save of their own, and we responded again in the 79th minute with another double substitution: this time Nurul (13) coming on for Pakorn, and Kannarin (31) replacing the hero Siv.

The second-half hadn’t produced as many exciting moments as the first-half, bar the save from Ibson by Worawut from the corner, and I found my interest waning at times. A lot of the second-half performances from the Thai League 1 games that I’ve watched so far this season still have that pre-season friendly feel about it, and I’m hoping that it’s something that’ll change in the near future. Ibson forced Worawut into action at 86:31, and with Worawut prevailing once again: the Brazilian attacker must’ve finally realized that it just wasn’t going to be his night. Ibson was fantastic for the King Cobras, as was Douglas Cobo, and if they can both maintain the level of performance from last night: I think that Khonkaen United will surprise a few teams this season.

One final attack from our visitors in the 92nd minute saw Worawut make his ‘final’ save of the night, and he sealed a cleansheet that was well deserved by him. A few minutes later, the full-time whistle was blown, and it was a Port game that was truly lacking any controversy about it. The ‘tinfoil hat brigade’ will have to think of another conspiracy at this rate, though I’m sure there’ll be a decision in the near future that has them screaming their lungs out.

 

MY THOUGHTS – PORT FC

I thought the first-half was pretty damn good from us, so there was a hint of disappointment from me that we couldn’t push on in the second-half and truly capitalize. Whilst I thought Khonkaen United were decent enough, I also think they were definitely there for the taking, and with a bit more intensity from us: we could’ve given our goal difference a real boost. It was a lot tougher for us in the second-half with Douglas moving back into defence, but with us seemingly in second-gear for most of the half… we didn’t exactly help our cause either.

Regardless, it’s 3-points at home, and that’s the name of the game. There’s still quite a lot of improvement to come, but there’s been a noticeable improvement after the disaster that was matchday 1. If we could do some work on our defensive positioning, so that the opposition striker doesn’t get 600 shots a game: that’d be much appreciated! In all seriousness, the defensive unit needs to do a lot better, because we shouldn’t have to rely on our goalkeeper having a ‘worldie’ every week in order to get a result. If the opposition can’t shoot: they can’t score. Get it sorted.

 

MY THOUGHTS – KHONKAEN UNITED

In regard to our opposition. I thought Khonkaen United were quite solid, but a slow start like they had last night was always going to leave them in a lot of trouble. If they can sort that out: they’ll be okay. I’ve watched all of their games so far this season, and they’re a hell of a lot better than the likes of Rayong and Trat were last season, and probably Sukhothai too. Ibson looks so dangerous for them this season, but it’s the backline that’s their biggest weakness at the moment.

There’s some things that they’ll need to fix, probably in the mid-season window, but there’s enough there to suggest that they could secure survival this season. In their two losses [Ratchaburi & us] this season, they faced goalkeepers having great games, whilst Steeven Langil was in inspired form against them too.

Good luck to them, and see you again in the second-leg!

 

Worawut man of the match photo, getting alot of use this season

 

MAN OF THE MATCH – #36, WORAWUT

Was it ever in doubt? Seriously: he’s silenced me with his last two performances. I lost count at the number of times that he saved our bacon last night, and without him: we would’ve been in a world of hurt. An inspired performance from the shot-stopper, and he should be the first name on the team sheet next week. We travel to Suphanburi next week, so hopefully, he can make it back-to-back cleansheets.

Honourable mentions should also go to Nelson, Siwakorn and Pakorn for their efforts, but with the drop-off in performance from the entire outfield: there could only be one winner.

 

Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy -Port V Khon Kaen United Preview

 

 

For their second home game of the season, Port are again the early 1730 Saturday kick off, hosting “Hilux Revo Thai League” newcomers Khon Kaen United. Those of you with a season ticket can once more bask in the glory of its value, as the game is a behind closed doors affair.

Port will be looking for a first win of the season against opposition widely expected to be involved in the relegation battle. Building on a respectable draw away to Bangkok United in round two, that showed many signs of improvement. As coach Dusit displayed a willingness to shuffle the squad and tactics, traits rarely seen from a Port manager in recent seasons. Switching from the back 3/5 that served him well last season, to a back 4 to start the game. In midfield Siwakorn (16) returned for the much maligned Tanaboon (17) and his presence, the change of tactics or a combination of the two meant the gaping hole between defence and midfield, Police exploited so successfully in round one, wasn’t on show. Resulting in another intriguing tussle between Bangkok United and Port where both could feel disappointed to not collect all three points. Bangkok United would have felt the win was theirs when awarded a late penalty but Worawut (36) saved Heberty’s poor spot kick and Port headed back to Bangkok with a well earnt point.

 

 

Dusit comes over a bit Phil Brown at Hull

 

Khonkaen United

 

The King Cobras have started the season with two home matches picking up three points. They opened with a defeat to Ratchaburi, there’s no shame in losing to a side who despite falling away from the highs of their first leg performance last season, remains a very solid T1 (its far easier than using “Hilux Revo Thai League”) outfit, especially when Steeven Langil goes on a slalom run and scores a superb goal. Their second match was one that will inspire hope they can stave off relegation as they beat Prachuap. On one of those terrible September in Thailand pitches, they were victorious 2-1, claiming the points from the penalty spot late on. Thanks to a VAR review with the officials seemingly as eager not to award a clear penalty as their colleagues elsewhere were to award one for a clean tackle.  Converted by Ibson Melo, who is becoming very much the gun for hire in Thailand, as Khon Kaen Utd are his third club in as many seasons. Having previously turned out for Samut Prakan Dons and Sukhothai, the striker has managed a double figure haul of goals in each of those campaigns and Khon Kaen season will benefit greatly from a repeat.

They are managed by Carlos Eduardo Parreira, who’s time in Thailand started working with Gama at Buriram. Before striking out on his own, with spells in charge of both Chiangmai clubs, prior to taking up his current role in the closed season. In both matches, they have used a 3-4-1-2 formation and looked to break at pace. Despite his history, Parreira defence has looked vulnerable. Looking at the squad it appears a particularly weak area, even for a squad that is packed with players whose playing careers are very much yoyo T1/T2 journeyman. That they went out and signed Alef and Grommen to strengthen the backline doesn’t bode well. Alef was a great watch last season playing for Suphanburi, for non Suphanburi supporters, as he was liable to throw in a clanger at any moment. Something we may be denied on Saturday night as the Brazilian season ground to a halt at halftime in the Ratchaburi game. When having been booked for clotheslined Sanarawat Dechmitr, he was subbed off and didn’t feature against Prachuap. Trying to protect the backline is skipper Douglas Cobo who has been with the club as they’ve risen from Thai League 4 via successive promotions. He’ll need to be at his best if his team are to get anything from the fixture. I’m expecting them to look to sit deep and frustrate as we’ve seen teams come to the PAT and do many times and attempt to deliver a killer bite on the break.

 

Other Khon Kaen pictures exist but this remains the best.

 

Port

 

The big question is will Dusit stick with the back four or revert to three, Worwut-Baresi (24) was brought on for the last 10 minutes in Rangsit replacing Jaturapat (15) who took his place on the starter roster (gotta appeal to our Yank readers now and then), although the aim there was too sure up, late in the game. At home with Bordin (10) and Roller (33) as attacking wing backs, going with three is a far more aggressive formation. While Go (8) and Siwakorn in midfield offer the defence more protection, closing down space and the whole group getting better drilled at how to play the system, l feel it will be tried again.

 

 

With everyone in the division having dropped points, Ports return of two combined with a victory here and several matchups featuring teams who sit above us in the embryonic table, hopefully, the weekend brings a victory and a move much closer to the top of the table. I’m expecting that to be the case and will go for a 3-0 win.

 

The match will be shown live on AISPLAY (possibly limited to AIS network users) at 17:30 on Saturday 19th September, 2021.Fans are not allowed to attend the game, so the best way to watch with fellow Port fans is to head to The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 who will show the match on a big screen.

 

(Less) BAD VS. (Close to) WORSE: PORT FC VS. PRACHUAP PREVIEW

Port travel to Prachuap for this evenings fixture, well given that I’m writing this at lunchtime on match day, you’d hope they’d already travelled. Maybe even been rewarded with a night by the sea by the club, for ending a run of six games without a win last time out against Rayong. The game will be part of the first round to allow fans to attend since the most recent restart, with stadiums, allowed 25% of their capacity to be used. Good news for this weekends home match v Bangkok United.

Tonight’s host find themselves in what increasingly looks like a three way battle to escape the last relegation spot along with Suphanburi and Sukhothai. A relegation battle which is looking like a disaster for those of us who like a beach based football away weekends, with Rayong and Trat’s plight looking beyond salvation, the possible of Prachuap joining them would be somewhat of a disaster. Sadly the T2 promotion race offers absolutely nothing in the way of possible coastal replacements.

 

Prachuap Form

Since the league returned at the start of February, they’ve managed 11 points from 7 games. A repeat of which from their remaining 7 fixture would almost certainly be enough to stave off relegation. The highlight of which was a 1-0 home win over Chiangrai United. The Killer Wasp’s sole victory against top 7 teams this season, against whom their record is 1 win 2 loses and 7 defeats so far. Scoring in just 3 of those 10 games. Although that does include their visit to (not) the PAT, as Port emerged victorious 2-1 in a home game played at the Leo Stadium, way back in the floodlight failure period of this protracted season. The last week of February saw a bit of a dip with a 4-0 defeat to the Samut Prakan Dons, followed by back to 1-1 draws with Ratchaburi and Police. The match v Ratchaburi being particularly remarkable, set for 4 minutes of second half injury time, it saw penalties scored in the 98th and 103rd minutes. As you may have guessed the wonder of VAR arrived to once again improve everyone’s match experience, first giving one of its ball to hand penalties to Prachuap converted by Mota (30). There was still time for Ratchaburi to earn a penalty of their own, with Roller’s spot kick saved by Nattapong (13), resulting in a joyous pile on of Prachuap players. Sadly for them, Filiposyan(16) had entered the penalty area before the penalty was taken and given that it was he who hacked the rebounding ball clear, there was no option other than a retake. Converted by Langsil, some 13 minutes after the scheduled end of the game.

Players to Watch.

 

Thin Bill and his little shorts, still striking fear into defenders across Thailand.

To be honest, I’ve not seen a whole heap of Prachuap this season and given the limited time I’ve got to write this preview, I’ll not be diving deep into the youtube highlights. So in classic style its based on a couple of games, one of which is their last match against Port and some outdated opinions from past seasons.
Hence the obvious starting point Wiliam (10) aka Thin Bill the former Chiangrai player. A well know menace to Thai defences, he did miss the last match but if he plays whoever gets the nod in Port’s problem left back role can expect a tough evening. He’s performances appear to have maintained the level of past seasons to the point, l recently saw Prachuap described as William plus 10 others. Fellow Brazilian forward Willian Mota (30) has managed a respectable 12 goals so this season.
Which means the Brazilian striking due have managed 18 out of a total of 27. The next best is Chutipon (6) who is the only other player to score more than once.
Keeping duties have recently been taken over by Nattapong (13), the one game he’s missed since getting his first start, saw the Wasp’s concede 4, while he has conceded once in each of his 3 league starts. However, the real reason for mentioning him is he A) wears a Petr Cech style scum cap and following on from yesterday’s report he is the only keeper to wear 13 to face Port so far this season.
We next come to their pair of hulking centrebacks the earlier mentioned Uzbekian Atyom Fliposyan (16), who signed for Prachuap when they joined T1 in 2018, returning in January this year having departed before the start of this season for Indonesia. Alongside him is Montenegrin Adan Orahovac (22). What you get from these to is classic physical centre back play, such that you couldn’t rule out them continuing their partnership beyond football making a career in low budget action movies credited as henchman 4 and 5.

 

Port

Siwakorn (16) and Bordin (10) picked up yellow cards against Rayong. While Dolah (4) has served his and is available for a return. Will we rotate ahead of the bigger challenge of Bangkok United at the weekend? Should we, given the lack of form shown by some? Do those who offer their opinion and influence on team selection even take these things into account? I’d personally start Suarez (5) and Go (8) on the bench for a bit of a rest and start Nattawut (45) and Kanarin (31).

The match kick off at 1900 Thai time and is being broadcast on T Sports and 1 play. As well as being shown by The Sportsman on Sukhumvit soi 13.

Bol-i Saw Him Standing There – The Beatles (Remastered) 2-1.

Under more normal circumstances a meeting between the reigning League and FA Cup champions at this time of the year would mark the curtain raiser to new a season. However we’re a long way from even Thai league standards of normal, so this game was the final game of the first leg of the season played (5 weeks after the first matches of the second leg took place).  A second leg set to see teams play twice a week for two months. While for Port there’s the potential for four more FA Cup games and six ACL Champions League group games to come up to the first week of May, busy times are ahead.

 

So just days shy of a year since their last meeting in that prelude to the then 2020 season, Port were looking to avenge that match up, in which a better organized Chiang Rai team played to their strengths and put a lethargic and disorganized Port to the sword, whilst at the same time looking to keep the lingering hopes of a title change alive, following defeat at Samut Prakan when a better organized Samut Prakan Dons team played to their strengths and put a lethargic and disorganized Port to the sword.

 

Port made three changes from that last outing with Bodin (10) and Chappuis (17) coming in for Pakron(7) and Siwakorn (16) (both of whom weren’t part of the matchday squad), while Worawut/Maldini (24) dropped to the bench to be replaced by Adisorn (20).  For the hosts, Phitiwat (6) missed out while Ekanit (37) and Felipe (7) were on the bench.

 

Not just a pretty face, a good performance from Chappuis

 

After the disastrous start last time out, you’d imagine Oud had been hammering home the desire to not give them a look in early on. An excellent plan we stuck to for the best part of three minutes before, Korean midfield Cho (8), who’s headband had more than a hint of Daniel Larusso about it, played a ball into space for Suriya (30) on the left, who just got behind Nitipong (34) whilst being played onside by Adisorn in the middle, who in attempting to step back in line allowed Chaiyawat (26) to steal a yard on him. Suriya got to the ball on the edge of the area just before Worawut/keeper (36) and squares it, where Chaiyawat collected and sent the ball past a flailing Adisorn. VAR has offered football few positives but stopping Chiang Rai celebrating a goal is going down as one of them. And so while people in a broom cupboard got their line drawing apps fired up and decided there was no reason to disallow it, we were left with a couple of minutes to discuss if a slightly more rugged defender of the Dolah or Worawut type would have stopped Chaiyawat or got some part of themselves in the way of his shot. Before debate turned to what was going on at Chiang Rai, had they had a fancy dress party pre match? As the goalscorer appeared to be sporting a haircut that was a homage Cruella de Vil, while Sivakorn’s (10) pink effort was surely a tribute to Layne Staley (ask your local old rocker kids).

 

Chiang Rai scorer Chaiyawat and his interesting haircut

 

When the game restarted Chiang Rai went full Mourinho parking their bus and allowing Port to dominate possession. Despite much probing, the one good chance of the half was passed up as Bonilla (99), who was kept quiet till being subbed off, sent Kevin’s (23) fizzing near post ball just the wrong side of the upright. The second half restarted in much the same manner, more Port pressure saw Chappuis hitting the woodwork with our best opportunity.  Eventually Port got their equalizer, as Chappuis found Suarez (5) in space on the edge of the box before being felled. And it was the Swiss, having his best game in a Port shirt, who sent the deadball into the box, where Cho under no pressure, perhaps weight down by that now sweaty headband, jumped under the ball, allowing Adisorn to send a ball to substitute Nattawut (45) who unmarked 6 yards out, slotted home between keeper and near post.

 

The original Natta bags another

 

However much like myself, watching a Mourinho side in an evening kick off, Chiang Rai failed to last the full 90 minutes without nodding off. So whilst the game had opened up a since the equalizer it would be their normally resolute defence (second meanest in the league) who’s error would decide who took all 3 points. With the 90 minutes up, Suarez won a 50/50 ball on the left touchline and releases Boli (99) and with just Sarawut (33) in front of him (one has to wonder where was Brinner (6) ……and frankly who cares), squared the ball to Nurul (13), who with Sarawut closing in, Suriya chasing him down and keeper Saranon (1) advances got to his slightly heavy chesting and prodded the ball home. What follows is close as close to pandemonium as one man in an empty stadium can manage. As the ever popular Nurul with arms flapping, eyes popping and badge kissed gave a last minute winner the celebration it deserves. Only aided by the camera cutting to Suriya, who had drawn Johnny Lawrence in the prematch dress up lottery, looked close to tears before cutting back to jubilation on the sidelines, as Port celebrated an unlikely win.

 

All in all, a rather pleasant return for Thai football.

Who’s a happy chappie – Nurul with a passionate celebration of the winner

 

Man of the Match

This was very much a team performance as nobody really stood out to make the award their own. So I’ll give it to Boli, as a newly signed star striker having started on the bench in both games at your new club, to decide to pass to a better positioned teammate with only one defender to beat isn’t something many would do in injury time with the game level.

 

One touch is all it takes – to win MOTM

 

 

Digital Jumpers for Goalposts: Konami Enters Thai Football

 

Football on the home computer has come a long way since the early days of my childhood playing Kevin Toms’ Football Manager. In that game you could manage any team in the top four divisions but your squad would always be made up of the England 1982 World Cup squad, no matter what team you chose. (Editor’s note: you could actually hack the game and change team & player names. I know one particularly nerdy teenager who created a version with all four divisions of French football **cough**)

 

I can’t quite remember if the 13 for G.Rix was his Stamina rating or the age of his girlfriend

 

Fast forward to the late 90s and Konami of Japan released their first “Winning Eleven” game for the Playstation 1, known in Europe as “International Superstar Soccer Pro”. The game had 16 International teams, and although player names were not licensed, you could easily pick out certain players, eg Italy had a grey haired striker, Colombia’s best player had a huge ‘fro and England’s midfield dynamo had bleached blond hair.

 

In 1997, I don’t ever remember Dave Seaman being on the ‘roids

 

Over the next several iterations of the game they did get licensed player names but team names were still fake. Konami’s big rival in the football gaming arena was the FIFA series produced by EA Sports. In terms of spending power, EA are Manchester City….Konami are Southampton. EA had full licenses and image rights for most of the major European leagues including the English Premiership.

Jump forward another 10 years or so and both the FIFA series and Konami’s game, now known as Pro Evolution Soccer divided the footballing fanbase. While FIFA had better presentation and more licensed content. Pro Evolution was considered a better simulation of the beautiful game. During the Playstation 2 era of the mid-noughties, Pro Evolution was the better game of the two, in spite of the lack of licensed content. The game was built in with a deep editing function that allowed gamers to rename teams such as “East London” and “Merseyside Blue” to West Ham and Everton, as well as being able to reproduce their kits and club badges. This lead to online communities popping up to quickly edit in all the missing licensed content.

When both series moved over the PlayStation 3/XBOX 360, PES (Pro Evolution Soccer) went through a dip in form akin to the one Jadet is overseeing of late and FIFA began to dominate both in terms of sales and critical acclaim. Not only was PES full of hokey teams but the gameplay was going backwards too.

 

 

In recent years Konami have raised their game and began to close the gap in gameplay but licensing has always been the stick used to beat them with. For many years Konami did at least manage to secure a big license with UEFA for the Champions League and Europa League to be included, thus allowing players to play through those competitions. They also added content for the South American Champions League and later the Asian Champions League. Konami are a Japanese company, while FIFA is head and shoulders above PES in the European market, PES still has a very strong presence in Asia. If you go around any shopping centre in Bangkok where they have arcade machines set up. There is usually kids on quite a lot of screens playing PES, outside the Cinema at Terminal 21 being a good example.  

A few months ago EA fired another shot across the bows by nipping in and taking the UEFA license from Konami. Konami were left scrabbling around to try and fill the void for their 2019 game. This is not the first time such shithousery from EA has been used to try and snuff out the competition. In the field of NFL games, EA’s long running Madden series was under real threat from the upstart NFL 2K games being produced by Sega. After Sega released the highly acclaimed NFL 2K5 and sold it for half the price of Madden, EA knew they needed to pull their socks up to bridge the gap, they opted instead  to ink an exclusive deal with the NFL, stopping any other producer from using the NFL license, thus killing the competition dead. Some 14 years later, players still regard Segas 2K5 edition as better than anything EA have produced since. So EA’s snapping up of the UEFA licenses from Konami this year has echoes of what happened in the virtual gridiron arena.

To try and fill that gap, Konami have gone out and snapped up the Turkish, Belgian, Russian, Swiss, Danish and Scottish Leagues. PES2019 was released at the end of August, a couple of weeks later, and slightly left of field, Konami came out and announced through social media that a deal had been reached with the Thai FA to license the Toyota Thai League for the next couple of years. This had been rumoured a few months ago that Konami had been talking with the Thai FA but as the game launched with no sign of a Thai league, it didn’t seem to be happening. Instead it now looks set to launch as a patch update to the game.

We here at the Sandpit (very) often like to bemoan things the Thai FA do but I actually have to give them a lot of credit for this move in terms of raising awareness of the Thai League brand, and potentially putting global eyes onto the league. There I said it….the Thai FA have done something good!

The move is also beneficial for Konami, despite their Asian stronghold, the Thai league will be the only licensed Asian league in the game. Given the games popularity within Thailand, having the Thai league available should further cement its popularity and acts as a great bit of fan service on Konamis part. It has been said Thailand and Brazil are the two largest fanbases for PES outside of Europe. Although some J-League, Korean and Chinese teams appear via the Asian Champions League tie-in, none of their leagues appear in the game. With the Thai League being an added league after launch, it will also pique peoples interest to go and check out the new content once it’s added, even if it’s to scroll through the teams and scoff at how lowly rated the teams are. As an example, the teams are usually rated out of 5 stars and most of the SPL teams are only rated 1-1.5 stars.

As mentioned earlier, due to the AEC license, Buriram and The Scum have already appeared in the game over recent years.  It remains to be seen how accurately the Thai League players will be digitally recreated. While the likenesses of the major European players are bang on, the minor league players only get more a generic look. With that in mind I’m not expecting a very good recreation of Boskos beard.

 

As you can see, Diego got the full treatment, Diogo not so much

 

It is unknown if any Thai Stadia will be added in the update, if any Thai stadium does get added, in all likelihood it will be The Thundercastle.

After an exclusive meeting at Konami HQ that probably didn’t really happen, I can confirm some special modes being added for the Thai league add-on. …

WEERA MODE : No matter what direction you press on the gamepad, the keeper dives the opposite way. After losing 6-0 I returned to the main menu to find I suddenly had enough PES Credits (in game currency) to purchase half the Real Madrid squad….

CHANG MODE: Experience how it is to view a game at Thai stadia where only the Devil’s Piss is on offer before kickoff.

 

PES Chang Mode

 

THAI LEAGUE SEASON MODE: At the start of the season you will see your fixture list, then suddenly the fixtures will all change and the game will lock you out of the game for a month in August. You will start the season with 18 teams but this may change throughout the season depending on any rulings from above, in a simulation I played Ratchaburi were suddenly demoted to T4 because one of the ball boys had a haircut 2mm longer than regulation. Constant rebranding and franchising has also been taken into account, when I got to season 2, Chainat moved to Isaan and are now called the Mukdahan Monitor Lizards.

The game lets you play either 5/10/15 minute halves although this triples if you enable Thai VAR!

All the Thai league 1st/2nd/3rd kits are also fully licensed, at time of writing the digital artists are still working on getting all of Madame’s crushed velvet tracksuits rendered.