Buriram flex their muscles to put Port in their place

Buriram United sent out a message to their Thai League (T1) challengers as they saw off Port FC with a clinical performance on Matchday 14.

A 3-1 victory put the champions top of the league in the middle of a season in which they have rarely looked at their best.

Meanwhile, Alexandre Gama’s Muang Thong United reign got off to an awful start as the Kirins lost at Chonburi.

Here are three things we saw in T1 Matchday 14.

  1. Buriram take the sting out of Port

Momentum had been building at Port FC as the club from Klong Toey sat on top of the table and stirred hopes that this could be their year.

It took less than two minutes for Buriram to puncture that momentum on Sunday when Andres Tunez slotted home a penalty. There were further near misses around the home side’s goal in the opening five minutes as Buriram served notice that they had come to Bangkok to teach Port a lesson.

In a breathless first half, Port fought back but struggled to create clear chances as Buriram’s high energy pressing forced them into mistakes.

Sergio Suarez’s equaliser at the start of the second half offered hope, but Buriram quickly responded with strikes from Pedro Junior and Chitipat Thanklang.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

Port continued to fight valiantly but they were undone by their own slackness in the final third or by some dubious refereeing decisions which saw them denied at least one clear penalty. Buriram had several chances to add a fourth on the break but that would have painted a misleading picture of the match.

Nevertheless, Buriram always looked the stronger team and, despite some poor performances this year, they are clearly still the team to beat. Sunday’s match suggested that another T1 title will be on its way to the northeast.

  1. Muang Thong back at the bottom 

The appointment of head coach Alexandre Gama was supposed to give Muang Thong United the spark they needed to work their way out of the relegation zone. It was new boss but same old story, however, as Chonburi defeated the Kirins 2-0. Kritsada Karan’s stunning long-range effort put the hosts in front before a neat finish from Panupong Phonsa sealed the three points.

The Sharks’ new head coach Sasom Pobprasert may have been a less eye catching appointment but the veteran Thai managed to lead his talented but inconsistent side to victory.

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Photo credit: Chonburi FC

Gama still has time on his side to instill the defensive discipline and fighting spirit that his team will need to rise to safer ground but the troubles clearly run deep. The transfer window will be an important opportunity to bring in players who can inspire an upturn in fortunes.

The current squad is not short of talent but Gama will need all of his powers to ensure that they do not go the way of Bangkok Glass last year.

  1. Vander shows what has been missing 

Vander Luis looked sharp at the start of the season and his partnership with Nelson Bonilla was set to be a key feature of Bangkok United’s campaign. However, an injury sustained on Matchday Two put him out of action for almost three months.

His return has come at a crucial time for the Bangkok Angels and he delivered when it mattered on Sunday, with Bonilla on international duty. After a testing first half at home to Ratchaburi, Vander’s calm strike put Mano Polking’s side ahead.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

A late second secured the three points and demonstrated just what the club have been missing in his absence. Bangkok United stay in second place, gaining three points on second-placed Port and now sitting just four points off top spot.

You wonder how different things might have been in the tight matches they have drawn and lost if a flair player like Vander had been around.

Port ready to prove title credentials while Gama aims to start Muang Thong revival

Port FC face a pivotal moment in the Thai League (T1) title race when they host champions Buriram United on Matchday 14.

Port have taken advantage of slow starts to the season from their rivals to lead Buriram by two points and Bangkok United by six.

The outcome of Sunday’s match will give a strong indication of Port’s title credentials going into the second half of the season.

Sunday also sees Alexandre Gama take care of relegation-threatened Muang Thong United for the first time as he attempts to lead a recovery beginning at Chonburi.

Here are three things to look out for on T1 Matchday 14.

  1. Port’s big day arrives

We have yet to reach the halfway point of the season but Port FC’s clash with Buriram is set to be one of the most important matches of the year.

The side from Bangkok used to revel in their reputation as rough and tough anti-establishment underdogs from the mean streets of Klong Toey. The stadium – having apparently failed to receive any investment despite their recent-found wealth – may be as rough and ready as ever, but they shed the underdog status when moneyed Nualphan ‘Madam Pang’ Lamsam took over the club four years ago.

Her arrival may have been too late to prevent a slide into T2 in 2015 but since they returned to T1 in 2017, there has been significant investment in the playing squad, which culminated in a third-place finish last year. The shrewdest signing has probably been Sergio Suarez, with the former Las Palmas midfielder rescued from the relative obscurity of T2 to play a huge role in Port’s revival.

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Photo credit: Port FC

With Tanaboon Kesarat already recruited for the second half of 2019, there is a strong feeling that this could be Port’s year, with a collection of players who have a good blend of youth and experience, and many in their mid-20s.

They will have to do without the services of Go Seul-ki – who is on loan from Buriram – on Sunday and the attacking thrust of injured left-back Kevin Deeromram will be missed.

But Port should have no fears of a Buriram side who took just one point from recent visits to Chainat and Sukhothai. The Thunder Castle may have found their scoring touch with a midweek thrashing of PTT Rayong but Port should see this as an excellent opportunity to prove that their title challenge is the real deal.

  1. Bangkok United must close the gap

It was Bangkok United rather than Port FC who most people considered as the main contenders to Buriram this year.

After a troubled start to the season, the Bangkok Angels have started to show a bit more consistency and are now unbeaten in five. This recent form has kept them in touch with the league leaders and Sunday gives them the perfect opportunity to close the gap on one or both of their rivals.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

They face an unpredictable Ratchaburi side that possesses some great attacking talent and whose defence has tightened up, conceding just once in the last three games.

But Bangkok United know what victory means with the two main contenders clashing elsewhere. Anything else may suggest that we have a two-horse race on our hands.

  1. Gama hopes to make it third time lucky

Muang Thong United parted ways with head coach Yoon Kong-hwan in midweek and the widely anticipated arrival of former Buriram and Chiang Rai United boss Alexandre Gama was almost immediately confirmed.

Gama is the Kirins’ third coach of a season that has seen the four-time champions reduced to relegation strugglers. The Brazilian’s time in Thailand has seen great success, with his rugged style at Chiang Rai noted for the cup wins of a side that could rise to the big occasion.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

Muang Thong must string together some results that have them heading up the table and away from the potentially disastrous consequences of a relegation. Victory at Chonburi on Sunday would be a huge step in the right direction and would see them move just one point behind their old rivals.

Chonburi also have a new head coach in position, though the appointment of Sasom Pobprasert has failed to generate much enthusiasm. Sasom is a veteran of many jobs but his best days at Thai Port were a long time ago.

A Chonburi Vs Muang Thong United clash used to be at a different end of the table but both may already just be looking to get to the end of this season unharmed and start again next year.

Vietnam take bragging rights but ASEAN’s best dish up disappointing spectacle

Thailand’s uncertain form on the international stage continued as they were beaten 1-0 by Vietnam in the semi-final of the 2019 King’s Cup on Wednesday.

A calamitous last-minute error from goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan handed the visitors victory at the Chang Arena in Buriram after an even and bad-tempered affair.

It was further evidence that Thailand are no longer the dominant force in the region and that the War Elephants look ill-prepared for the start of the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifers later this year.

Here are three things we learned from Wednesday’s match.

  1. There is little between Thailand and Vietnam

Vietnam have certainly bridged the gulf in class that existed between the two sides the last time they met back in 2015. Four years ago in Hanoi, Thailand eased to a 3-0 victory, as Kiatisuk Senamuang’s side demonstrated their free-flowing game with a wonderful goal from Theerathon Bunmathan.

It was feared that the roles would be reversed in Buriram, with Vietnam now AFF champions and having been the more impressive side in January’s Asian Cup. Thailand were again without their mercurial talisman Chanathip Songkrasin and top striker Teerasil Dangda, while Kawin was taking tentative steps after several months out injured.

The above trio, along with Theerathon, had missed last year’s AFF Suzuki Cup, leaving a slight asterisk over Vietnam’s triumph, with Thailand unable to field their four best players. With two of them starting Wednesday’s match, it was a chance for the Vietnamese to prove their superiority.

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Photo credit: @Changsuek

However, it was more of a spiteful slug-fest, with little quality on show from either side. Vietnam are certainly a more cohesive unit and their pressing forced the Thais into many errors as the home side constantly surrendered possession.

But the energetic Thais also kept their opponents at bay in a game broken up by numerous fouls and tedious flare-ups.

Thailand can point to the fact that they struck the post through Supachai Jaided, had a goal controversially disallowed and should have been awarded a penalty when Theerathon was clearly fouled by Nguyen Trong Hoang.

With Vietnam’s winning goal coming from a goalkeeping howler, it’s fair to suggest that the AFF champions had their share of luck.

Fans are keen to claim that the balance of power has shifted in Southeast Asia. While Vietnam have certainly caught up, on this evidence, they on a par rather than clearly superior. The worry for Thailand is that Vietnam have youth on their side.

  1. Thitipan’s star continues to rise

Midfield dynamo Thitipan Puangchan’s Thai League form earned him a move to Oita Trinita in Japan and he has made a solid start to life in the J League, with his club flying high.

If we can put a foolish slap to one side, his performance against Vietnam again showed why he has become one of Thailand’s most important players. His energy was in stark contrast to Sarach Yooyen – a player who has gone backwards while Thitipan has risen to new heights.

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Photo credit: @Changsuek

Thitipan came close to giving his side the lead when a typical piece of harrying ended with him stealing possession and volleying just wide from 20 yards. If Thailand are to have a strong World Cup qualifying campaign, they will need him fit, in-form and disciplined.

  1. Indiscipline rears its ugly head again

Followers of the Thai League are accustomed to seeing mass shoving matches, horrendous playacting and poor refereeing. One of the teams may have been from Vietnam and the referee may have been Japanese, but we saw very much the same three features.

The Japanese referee started off seemingly determined not to book anyone as Nguyen Van Toan threw an elbow and Adisorn Promrak committed a cynical foul and escaped with warnings.

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Photo credit: @Changsuek

With things getting progressively nastier, Do Duy Manh placed a sly boot in Supachok Sarachat’s posterior after fouling him and it all kicked off. Thitipan seemed to initially be trying to calm things but when Doan Van Hau pushed him back, he responded by slapping the defender. Van Hau collapsed as if flattened by a Mike Tyson punch and Van Toan ran to the referee like a school kid running to the teacher.

At the end of it all, Theerathon and Van Toan were the only two yellow-carded, while Thitipan and Duy Manh escaped.

More nasty fouls followed, with both sides losing their cool and Pansa Hembviboon’s horrific challenge on Nguyen Cong Phoung earned just a yellow card – another example of refereeing cowardice / incompetence.

This nonsense is a big enough turn-off for Thai League fans and it was discouraging to see it on the international stage as well. It will do neither side any favours in their ambitions to go beyond being ‘Kings of ASEAN’.

Chainat stun Buriram while Muang Thong rediscover scoring touch

Chainat gave hope that this year’s Thai League (T1) battle would not become another one-horse race as they stunned champions Buriram United in Matchday 13.

Ricardo Santos struck in added time to seal a 2-1 victory, halting what looked like Buriram’s ominous progress towards the top of the league.

Bangkok United came up with a big win of their own at Chiang Rai United, while Muang Thong United ended a run of eight T1 matches without a victory by beating Sukhothai 2-0.

But Port FC went six points clear at the top with a straightforward 3-1 win at home to Chiang Mai.

Here are three things we saw on T1 Matchday 13.

  1. Chainat claim another big scalp

Chainat’s form coming into Matchday 13 had been woeful. They had gone five games without a win and lost the previous three by an 8-0 aggregate. Buriram, meanwhile, had won three-in-a-row in second gear and had yet to suffer a league defeat.

Jaturaphat Satham’s opener for the home side threatened an upset but Andres Tunez struck on the stroke of half-time to apparently restore order.

The champions continued to struggle in the second half but Pedro Junior won a late penalty and it looked like Buriram would once again find a way to win without playing well. But Teerat Nakchamnan saved Pedro’s spot-kick before Santos broke clear to strike a dramatic winner.

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Photo credit: Chainat FC

Not only did Chainat halt an alarming slide towards the relegation zone, they also highlighted how Buriram could be beaten with a hard pressing game.

Incredibly, Chainat’s three wins this season have come against three of the country’s biggest clubs – Bangkok United and Muang Thong United the other two.

There is hope again that it isn’t simply a matter of time before Buriram hit their stride and cruise to another title.

  1. Bangkok United keep their cool to crush Beetles 

It has taken a long time for Bangkok United to look like a side that could challenge for the title. Away results have been poor and home defeats to Buriram and Chonburi have been damaging.

However, they have finally started to click into gear and two victories in four days have transformed the picture. Samut Prakan City were defeated on Sunday and Wednesday’s trip to Chiang Rai United looked pivotal, with the Bangkok Angels sitting three points behind the Beetles.

Pokklaw Anna’s excellent finish put the visitors ahead and, while Bangkok United’s temperament has been suspect at times, it was the home side who lost their heads in this one. Tanasak Srisai was responsible for sparking a bout of handbags but escaped without a booking.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

Everton put Bangkok United 2-0 up before Tanasak got involved again before a corner kick. Although all eyes were apparently on him, he floored Tristan Do with an elbow at the second attempt but incredibly escaped with a yellow card.

There were some more meaty challenges going in as the hosts tried to literally fight their way back into the game. When Phitiwat Sukjitthammakul pulled one back, Bangkok United didn’t panic and substitute Vander Luis struck a third goal with the help of a deflection to seal the win.

To compound Chiang Rai’s misery, Decha Sa-ardchom received a straight red card for a last-man foul on Nelson Bonilla.

Bangkok United now sit in second place, five days after being seventh. They are on 22 points alongside Buriram, Samut Prakan and Chiang Rai, but the momentum is very much with them.

  1. Teerasil and Heberty end Muang Thong goal drought

It was getting on to 320 minutes without a T1 goal when Teerasil Dangda gave Muang Thong United the lead against Sukhothai as half-time approached.

Fifteen minutes later, Heberty Fernandes struck to leave Muang Thong fans wondering why scoring had become so difficult in the first place. Following eight matches without a win, the overwhelming emotion at the SCG Stadium was one of relief.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

In those eight winless games, the Kirins scored just four times despite having some of the best attacking talent in the league.

The 2-0 victory leaves Muang Thong still in the relegation zone and they are second from bottom, above Suphanburi on goal difference. However, they now have a two-week break to work on putting things right before taking on Chonburi on June 16th.

Buriram make their move as T1 battle heats up

Buriram United moved ominously into second place on Thai League (T1) Matchday 12 as a late Sasalak Haiprakhon goal earned them a 1-0 win at home to Muang Thong United.

With Port FC dropping points for the second week in a row and Chiang Rai United losing, the champions now sit three points off the top with two games in hand.

Here are four things we saw on T1 Matchday 12.

  1. Buriram have top spot in their sights

It has been a slow start to the season for Buriram United and after 10 games, their form is still somewhat indifferent. But still far from at their best, Buriram did enough to defeat bottom side Muang Thong United 1-0.

After a scrappy and physical first half, the hosts took control in the second 45 minutes and Sasalak’s deflected shot found the net in the 79th minute to seal the three points.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

With no AFC Champions League to distract them, Buriram are now back in control of their own fate in T1, with leaders Port dropping four points in the last two games. Wins in Wednesday’s match at Chainat and Saturday’s rearranged fixture at Sukhohtai would take them level on points at the top at the very least.

The league had been giving the illusion of close competition. The next few games will certainly reveal if we have a true battle on our hands or if Buriram are going to run away with their sixth title in seven years.

  1. More penalty pain for Port

Last weekend, Port FC were at the wrong end of one of the season’s worst refereeing decisions as they received a free-kick for a foul that took place well inside the penalty area. On Saturday, they conceded an added-time penalty for a foul that took place outside the box.

It was far from as clear-cut as last week’s shocker but the league leaders could again rue a decision that cost them two points. Henri Doumbia slotted home the Swatcats’ penalty after Pakorn Prempak’s deflected free-kick had given Port the lead.

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Photo credit: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

But Port cannot feel too hard done-by on balance. Elias Dolah’s blatant handball offence in the first half should probably have led to a penalty for Nakhon Ratchasima, with another question mark over whether or not it was in the box. And while the visitors had luck on their side, as Pakorn’s heavily deflected free-kick ended up in the net, Leandro Assumpcao saw his deflected strike come back off the post in the first half.

Overall, a draw was probably a fair result but Port head coach Jadet Meelarp was moved to suggest that VAR should be reintroduced to prevent more of the kinds of errors that have been so costly in the last two weeks.

  1. Bangkok United shoot up to fourth

Things looked grim for Bangkok United at half-time as they were 1-0 down to Samut Prakan City. They had been denied a penalty when Anon Amornlerdsak was chopped down and seen two efforts come off the woodwork. There had also been several missed chances, with Anon and Pokklaw Anan particularly guilty before Ibson Melo took advantage of some lax defending to open the scoring.

When Everton’s header crashed off the bar early in the second half, heads might have gone down. But Nelson Bonilla’s 11th goal of the season pulled them level before Tristan Do tapped into an empty goal to complete the turnaround.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

The victory has the potential to be a huge turning point for Mano Polking’s side as they went from seventh to fourth in the table, gaining two points on both Port FC and three on Chiang Rai United. The Bangkok Angels have blown hot and cold all season but they are still in with a shout of the T1 title ahead of a potentially pivotal fixture at Chiang Rai United on Wednesday.

  1. Durosinmi shines as Trat destroy Chiang Rai

Trat FC had a complete overhaul of their squad when they were promoted to T1 and the recruitment strategy appears to be paying off as the team has made a trip to the eastern town something to fear.

Chiang Rai United arrived on the back of a seven-game unbeaten run in which they had conceded just three goals. They were 3-0 down by half-time on Saturday as a double from Adefolarin Durosinmi and a goal from top scorer Lonsana Doumbouya put them in complete control. Chiang Rai managed a late consolation but it is now Trat who have an unbeaten run to defend.

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Photo credit: Trat FC Fanclub

Trat haven’t lost since a 4-1 defeat at Port FC on Matchday 6 and have been beaten just once (by Bangkok United) on home soil. Their last three home victories have been won by an aggregate score of 11-1. Durosinmi and Doumbouya have been key players in this run, along with the third ‘D’ in attack – Bireme Diouf. They now look more like a top 8 team than the relegation favourite they were just three months ago.

Buriram hope to keep Muang Thong in their unfamiliar place

Buriram United host Muang Thong United in unusual circumstances on Thai League (T1) Matchday 12.

Over the past 10 years, this has generally been a clash between two of the top teams in the country, with one of them going on to become champions. On Sunday, Muang Thong kickoff in Buriram at the bottom of T1.

Leaders Port FC also have a trip to the northeast as they take on Nakhon Ratchasima on Saturday.

Here are four things to look out for on T1 Matchday 12.

  1. Buriram set to inflict more pain on Muang Thong 

There is no love lost between Buriram and Muang Thong and the home side certainly won’t be showing any mercy as they bid to stay close to top spot. Buriram sit five points behind Port FC but with two games in hand. Another three points here would keep them in a very strong position.

The Thunder Castle will have been boosted by a positive end to a disappointing AFC Champions League campaign in midweek as they took a point at Jeonbuk Hyundai despite resting several players.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

Meanwhile, Muang Thong have endured a week of speculation around the future of head coach Yoon Jong-hwan. There have been rumours that the South Korean will be replaced by former Buriram boss Alexandre Gama as the Kirins seek to find their way out of trouble. They have also been rocked by the news that Myanmar striker Aung Thu is set to cancel his contract with the club.

All is not well at Muang Thong and Buriram will do their best to prolong the suffering.

  1. Swatcats in good shape ahead of Port challenge 

Nakhon Ratchasima have become a force to be reckoned with on home turf. Since a defeat to Chiang Rai Utd on Matchday 2, the Swatcats have been undefeated in five games in their own backyard and have won the last three by an aggregate score of 11-3.

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Photo credit: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

This is not the side that ground out low scoring draws and wins in 2018 and Port FC will know they are in for a tough match. Sergio Suarez’s suspension hurts the visitors and the hosts will hope that the trio of Amadou Ouatarra, Leandro Assumpcao and Henry Doumbia can provide the attacking flair to hurt Port at the back.

Having dropped two points at home to Bangkok United last weekend, Port FC will not want their rivals to close the gap at the top of the league. However, the Bangkok side will need a strong performance to come away with three points.

  1. Bangkok United aim to reel in rivals 

Seventh place is not where Bangkok United would have expected to be at this stage of the season. Two wins in eight matches is certainly not the form of champions.

However, they have gone on impressive winning runs in previous years and this Sunday would be a good time to start. The Bangkok Angels can nudge ahead of Samut Prakan City on goal difference with a victory on Sunday.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

They will, of course, have to do it without Sanrawat Dechmitr after the midfielder was hit with an eight-match ban for striking the referee in last week’s match at Port FC. The general behaviour of the Bangkok United players will be under the microscope as every week seems to see them lose their heads in frustration.

Good form and good results will help that frustration go away and perhaps Sanrawat’s punishment will encourage them to focus more on maintaining their discipline, which may ultimately have a positive impact on performance.

Samut Prakan have a suspension of their own to deal with as midfield general Peeradol Chamratsamee misses out.

  1. Something has to give as Trat FC host Chiang Rai 

Chiang Rai United have edged into second place in T1 with a series of narrow victories that have highlighted their ruthless efficiency. They have won 16 of the last 18 points to suggest that they might just be challengers in the most open league in years.

But the Beetles will have to win games like this to ensure they don’t end the season out of the top three again. It will not be easy against a Trat side that is unbeaten in five games with a team that has gelled well despite being put together more or less from scratch at the start of the year.

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Photo credit: Chiang Rai United

Up front, Lonsana Doumbouya will provide the biggest threat as usual, while veteran Bireme Diouf will offer his usual nuisance value. However, Chiang Rai have managed to overcome stiffer challenges than this and it would be no surprise to see them come away with three points.

Storm at Port as referee turns Angels into Demons

Port FC and Bangkok United battled to a 1-1 draw in Thai League’s (T1) biggest game of Matchday 11 but it was the bungling referee who made most headlines with a baffling performance.

The man in the middle – Arkhom Charoensuk- sent several players into meltdown and Sergio Suarez and Sanrawat Dechmitr were red-carded for their reactions to two preposterous decisions.

If the refereeing incompetence beggared belief, player behaviour was downright obnoxious as boorish intimidation culminated in physical aggression for Sanrawat’s red card.

There is no doubt that this season has seen refereeing standards strike a new low and player behaviour has followed that downward trend. Saturday’s referee at the PAT stadium has been indefinitely suspended – a bold statement – but it is going to be impossible to apply that standard consistently.

Here are three things we saw on T1 Matchday 11.

Honours even as ref steals the show 

The evening started with sombre tributes to five Port FC fans who tragically lost their lives in a road accident. The home side then started the match against the Bangkok Angels with furious intent, forcing Michael Falkesgaard into three saves in the first 10 minutes.

Elias Dolah’s opening goal seemed inevitable, but Nelson Bonilla hit back immediately to completely alter the momentum.

Lost in the feverish pace of the game were the persistent refereeing errors, with Tristan Do lucky to escape a booking when he pulled back Adisorn Daeng-Ruang early on and Bordin Phala also fortunate not to be booked for a similarly cynical challenge. These are the kinds of decisions that seem straightforward according to the rule book.

Suarez then did his best to get Pokklaw Anan sent off with a series of rolls and the referee really started to make a name for himself at the end of the half when Nelson Bonilla was cleaned out on the left wing and nothing was given. The Honduran reacted furiously and in any normal world should have been booked for dissent but there was no penalty.

A minute later, Dragan Boskovic nudged Peerapat Notchaiya over in a similar position and again the referee allowed play to continue.

A week after being on the wrong end of another horrendous refereeing display in Chiang Mai, Bangkok United players really started to let their frustrations get the better of them.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

The tempo dropped in the second half after an action-packed first 45 minutes but the referee then outdid himself with just over 10 minutes remaining. Suarez tumbled in the box and a penalty seemed to be the result but a free-kick was awarded instead. Suarez lost the plot and threw the ball at Peerapat’s head. The wing-back’s dramatic drop to the floor was an embarrassment and the Spaniard received his marching orders.

The final act in a sorry tale came in added time when Bonilla rampaged forward with intent but was caught by Dolah. Bonilla stayed on his feet but the chance was gone. Instead of calling play back, awarding a free kick and booking Dolah, Port were allowed to break forward.

Manuel Bihr and Peerapat completely lost it and moved menacingly towards the referee who had to physically push back against the advancing Bihr. Sanrawat then jabbed the referee in the stomach to earn his red card.

The match ended, the referee received his punishment, while Sanrawat shamelessly larked around taking selfies with the Port fans instead of taking his rightful place on the naughty step.

This was an entertaining clash between two committed sides for 75 minutes but it degenerated into farce at the end.

Muang Thong stop the rot

Muang Thong United remain winless in seven T1 games but they at least earned their second clean sheet of the year as they held Suphanburi to a 0-0 draw.

Just as he had been in Bangkok 24 hours earlier, the referee managed to earn himself a dose of infamy when he decided that Tinnakorn Asurin had not blatantly taken Adisorn Promrak out of the game in the penalty box.

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Photo credit: Suphanburi FC

Tinnakorn had the audacity to accuse Adisorn of diving and the Thai international defender was yellow-carded for his angry reaction to another preposterous decision. Referees have a tough job but that was an easy spot for everyone in the stadium and watching on TV. If none of the officials can see a foul as obvious, they are in the wrong job.

Cleiton Silva was none too happy when he received his second yellow card for a clumsy challenge in the second half, having been booked for an innocuous offence in the first. To add to the farce, the referee appeared to have forgotten about the first yellow and it took him a while to produce the red.

With both sides struggling, a point apiece was probably a relief for the head coaches, who at least avoided another potentially damaging defeat.

Chiang Rai close in on top spot

 Chiang Rai United did not have the best start to the year as they dismissed their new head coach and failed to make any significant moves in the transfer market.

But the Beetles’ brand of ruthlessly efficient football continues to earn them results and Sunday’s ugly 1-0 win at home to Chonburi was another example. Somkid Chamnanslip clubbed home from distance on the hour mark to move Chiang Rai into second spot, just two points behind Port FC.

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Photo credit: Chiang Rai United

Chiang Rai have now won five of their last six matches – three times by a 1-0 scoreline. They have also held Port FC and Buriram United to 0-0 draws to prove their title credentials.

Chiang Rai’s football may not match the beauty of the mountainous province that surrounds them, but they are beginning to look like dark horses for the T1 title in a year in which a clear favourite has yet to emerge.

Port FC fans prepare to pay emotional tribute after tragedy strikes

Tragedy casts a shadow over Thai League (T1) Matchday 11 following the passing of five Port FC fans in a road accident on Wednesday.

Tributes have been pouring in for five of the club’s most dedicated supporters since they became the latest victims of Thailand’s treacherous roads on their way to the League Cup clash with Nongbua Pitchaya.

Port’s home clash with Bangkok United on Saturday had been shaping up as a potentially pivotal clash in the title race but the importance of the match has been put into perspective as the club mourns.

Here are three things to look out for on T1 Matchday 11.

  1. Off-pitch tragedy overshadows big match

Port FC sit on top of T1 a third of the way into the season, eight points ahead of Bangkok United – many people’s pre-season favourites.

While the Bangkok Angels have flattered to deceive, Port have shown the value of continuity as the squad that was inconsistent last year has clearly grown into a stronger unit.

This game may have a significant impact on the outcome of the season but the result is not something that too many home fans will be concerned about at this time. It promises to be an emotionally charged occasion as the club pays tribute to five people who represented the best of Thai fan culture.

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Long-time Port fan Dominick Cartwright described what the fans meant to the club and its supporters.

“As a foreign fan these are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met, fans who would walk up to me, tell me it’s good to see me at PAT Stadium, offer me a beer and we’d have a chat before the game,” said Dominick. “I have enjoyed years of following the club and they’ve made me feel welcome and part of the Thai Port family. They were all part of the club and they will all be sadly missed.”

Port FC are donating gate receipts to families of the deceased and there will be a memorial service from 5pm, with fans asked to dress in black for the occasion.

  1. Better days haunt Totchtawan and Muang Thong

It is amazing that just two years have passed since Totchtawan Sripan and Muang Thong United were making headlines across Asia as they reached the last 16 of the AFC Champions League, following some scintillating performances from Chanathip Songkrasin.

Since then, Chanathip has become a superstar with Consadole Sapporo in Japan, while the fortunes of the club and its former head coach have nosedived.

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Photo credit: Suphanburi FC

This Sunday sees Totchtawan’s 14th-placed Suphanburi take on T1’s bottom side Muang Thong in a stunning reversal of fortune.

Despite investment in two of T1’s top strikers, the War Elephant have lost five of the last six games. Muang Thong have taken just one point from their previous six fixtures so both sides come into this with morale very low.

You have to imagine both would be happy with a point just to stop the rot.

  1. Samut Prakan aim to prolong Prachuap travel sickness

Few would have expected to see Samut Prakan City so high in the table at this stage but the club has made light of the upheaval of taking on the licence of Pattaya United and moving to a different province.

Players who came from Pattaya have given the side a solid foundation while the additions of Slovenian centre-back Aris Zarifovic and Brazilian striker Ibson Melo have been inspired.

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Photo credit: Samut Prakan City

With Peeradol Chamratsamee pulling the strings in midfield after missing most of 2018 through injury, Samut Prakan look to have the potential to finish in the top five.

On Sunday, they host 2018’s surprise package Prachuap FC, who sit just two points behind them in fifth place. Prachuap remain a formidable opponent at home but have lost four times on the road this year and were spanked 6-1 (at Bangkok United) and 5-0 (at Port FC) on their last two visits to Bangkok.

Samut Prakan have taken 10 out of 12 points from their home games so the hosts must be favourites to consolidate fourth spot as we approach the halfway point of the season.

Muang Thong suffer new humiliation while Bangkok United lose ground

Muang Thong United’s season hit a new low as they were soundly beaten 3-0 by Samut Prakan City on Thai League (T1) Matchday 10.

The four-time champions remain bottom of T1 and a seventh defeat of the season makes them look increasingly like very unlikely relegation candidates.

Port FC continue to lead the way after an impressive win at Chainat, while Bangkok United slipped up on the road yet again.

Here are five things we saw on T1 Matchday 10.

Muang Thong in meltdown 

When Muang Thong travelled to Prachuap FC and won 3-0 in the FA Cup two weeks ago, it seemed that they were set to put their poor start of the season behind them.

That was proved to be a false dawn as three goals in 15 second-half minutes ensured that Samut Prakan left the SCG Stadium with three points and ensured that the Kirins would spend at least another week anchored to the bottom of the table.

When Bangkok Glass had a similarly wretched start last year, the assumption was that they would eventually extricate themselves from the mess they had created for themselves. They ended up being relegated.

We are still just a third of the way into the season and Muang Thong are far from isolated but form is such that they cannot be assumed to be too good to go down.

Samut Prakan, meanwhile, continue to impress as they remain in fourth spot after five games unbeaten. To add insult to injury for the Kirins, the top player on Saturday was arguably midfielder Peeradol Chamratsamee, yet another promising young player sold by Muang Thong.

Reffing hell for Bangkok United

Bangkok United were understandably furious after yet another woeful performance from the match officials in their 1-1 draw at Chiang Mai. Two key moments came when the score was already 1-1 after Nelson Bonilla’s opener had been cancelled out by Eliandro.

First, Sanrawat Dechmitr was blatantly taken down by Eliandro’s clumsy challenge when through on goal. It should have been a red card and a penalty but the referee waved play on. Minutes later, Peerapat Notchaiya met a cross with what looked to be his chest and found the net. The goal was disallowed and it wasn’t clear if it was for offside or handball but it was certainly well onside.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

More farcical decisions followed, particularly when Manuel Bihr stopped Eliandro in his tracks with a perfectly timed tackle and was penalised.

Putting the refereeing performance to one side, Bangkok United were also extremely wasteful, with some dreadful distribution in the final third, partly explained by a horrendous playing surface. After falling eight points behind next week’s opponents Port FC, they know that only a victory at the PAT Stadium will do if they want to revive their fading title hopes.

Port breeze past Chainat

Port FC made light of what looked a tricky assignment at Chainat as two goals from Dragan Boskovic put them in control before Nurul Sriyankem came off the bench to net an excellent third.

Port not only maintained their four-point lead at the top but they also went eight points clear of stuttering Bangkok United, who they host next weekend. A victory over the Bangkok Angels would surely put an end to title challenge of Mano Polking’s side.

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Photo credit: Port FC

The Klong Toey club have now won five T1 matches on the spin and, with players returning from injury, they are in good shape as we approach the mid-point of the season. At the beginning of the year, most expected Buriram United and Bangkok United to be the main challengers for the title.

Port have certainly ensured that they can be considered genuine contenders.

Xuan Truong takes his chance

Buriram United fans haven’t seen much of Luong Xuan Truong since the first few games of the season, with the Vietnam midfielder usually on the bench. However, with Jakkaphan Kaewprom still injured and Suchao Nuchnum rested, Xuan Truong started the Isaan derby at home to Nakhon Ratchasima and opened the scoring with a wonderful free-kick.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

The 24-year-old put in an impressive performance and it would be a surprise if this did not earn him more game time for a side that has been struggling for consistency. Suphanat Mueanta’s late strike put the game beyond the Swatcats and ensured that Buriram stayed well in touch at the top of the table.

Diouf rolls back the years 

Trat striker Bireme Diouf may soon be turning 35 but the veteran of many Thai clubs showed on Saturday that he is far from a spent force.

The Ivorian struck in added time to complete his hat-trick and earn a point in a 3-3 draw at Chonburi – one of his many former clubs.

Chonburi continue to alternate between the sublime and the ridiculous in the same game and they have now conceded 12 times in the past three matches but nevertheless picked up four points in that run. The Sharks sit in eighth place while possessing the second-best attack and the worst defence in the league.

Port FC aiming to avoid becoming another big-name scalp for Chainat

League leaders Port FC face a tricky trip to Chainat as they attempt to maintain their four-point cushion at the top on Thai League (T1) Matchday 10.

Three of last year’s top five teams have visited the Khao Plong Stadium in 2019 and none have emerged victorious.

Meanwhile, the pressure remains on Buriram United and Bangkok United to stay in touch at the top, while Muang Thong United sit bottom of the table and desperately need three points.

Chainat test for rampant Port

The Hornbills have seen off Bangkok United and Muang Thong United at their home ground this year, while Chiang Rai United could only manage a point. Port were also victims of Chainat’s ability to raise their game against the top sides when they fell to a 2-1 defeat here last year.

But Port look a different proposition to the team whose inconsistency in the first half of 2018 denied them a chance to mount a sustained bid for the title. Victories in matches like this decide titles and three points here would set them up very nicely for the visit of Bangkok United next weekend.

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Photo credit: Port FC

Chainat have lost Leandro Resida for the season, while Gorka Unda will not be fit to return for another several weeks at least. The Hornbills’ morale was punctured by the concession of a last-minute equaliser at Chiang Mai in midweek and this can only help a Port team that have won four in a row, netting 14 times. For good measure, they slammed six past Samut Sakhon in last week’s FA Cup fixture.

If Port can negotiate this match successfully, they can approach their upcoming matches with great confidence.

Bangkok United hope to cure travel sickness

Consecutive home defeats to Buriram United and Chonburi looked set to derail Bangkok United’s title bid but they responded in style with thumping home wins over Suphanburi and Prachuap that included 10 goals.

But to become champions, Bangkok United will have to do much better on their travels, having recorded just one away victory so far – a 1-0 win at Trat FC. Their last T1 trip ended in a fractious 2-1 defeat at Chainat. In the absence of the injured playmaker Vander Luiz, they have also become very dependent on the goals of top scorer Nelson Bonilla, who has netted eight times so far.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

This looks the perfect opportunity to earn another three points on the road, against a Chiang Mai side that has conceded 13 times in the last three T1 games. Despite an indifferent start to the season, the Bangkok Angels still sit in fifth spot – six points behind leaders Port FC. If they can win this and then win at Port FC next weekend, they will be right back in the title race.

Pedro key to Buriram recovery

Despite having a poor season by their standards, Buriram United remain very much in touch with the T1 leaders, sitting just four points behind with a game in hand. The disappointing exit from the AFC Champions League in midweek means they can now fully focus on the league, which must be ominous for those who wish to challenge them.

But things have not looked right at Buriram all year, with only the ACL victory over Jeonbuk Hyundai showing what they can do with the right intensity. Modibo Maiga had his contract terminated, 20-year-old striker Supachai Jaided looks like he needs a rest, while there is no consistency in the centre of midfield, with constant changes of personnel.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

On the bright side, the performance of Pedro Junior really caught the eye in the 2-1 defeat to Urawa Reds on Tuesday. As well as netting Buriram’s goal, the Brazilian put in an energetic shift that troubled the Urawa defence throughout.

If he can repeat that form in Sunday’s Isaan derby at home to Nakhon Ratchasima, Buriram may just earn the victory that they need to stay in a good position. They were very fortunate to win 2-1 at Ratchaburi two weeks ago and they have won just one T1 match by more than one goal in 2019. They will hope to start using more than luck and slender advantages to edge them past their opponents.

Time for Teerasil to lead Kirins out of trouble

The return of Thailand’s top striker to Muang Thong United gave grounds for great optimism at the start of the season, with Teerasil Dangda having spent a year in Japan.

While you might have expected him to hit the ground running, he has hit the net just twice in T1 this year and this is symptomatic of the club’s struggles.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

But last week’s 3-0 FA Cup victory at Prachuap FC was a sign that things may just be turning around for Muang Thong. The 2-2 draw in the previous T1 match at PTT Rayong ended a run of four straight defeats and with Teerasil, Heberty Fernandes and Adisak Kraisorn on target last week, Yoon Jong-hwan’s side appear to be heading in the right direction.

Samut Prakan City visit the SCG Stadium on Saturday and will not make for easy opponents as they sit 12 places above T1’s bottom side. Teerasil and his teammates have underperformed this year and this is an opportunity to prove that they are ready to start climbing back up the table.