Buriram United are just one win away from their fifth Thai League (T1) title in six years after easing to a 3-0 victory at bitter rivals Muang Thong United.
Bangkok United ensured the champions would have to wait at least another week as they won 4-2 at Chonburi to remain nine points behind with four games left.
Here are five things we saw on T1 Matchday 30.
- Buriram close in on title
As usual, a lot of hype preceded the clash between Thailand’s two biggest clubs at the SCG Stadium. But Muang Thong United started the game 18 points behind the league leaders and Buriram demonstrated why they had opened up that gap.
Without being completely dominant, the visitors stepped up a gear when they had to and scored at crucial times.
The opener came in the 39thminute after a nice break down the right from Sasalak Haiprakhon, with Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri’s shot from 12 yards deflected in. The second arrived with just over 20 minutes remaining as Jakkaphan Kaewprom split the home defence and Osvaldo ran through to fire home.
The hosts battled gamely but could not find a way through the Buriram defence, well marshalled by Pansa Hemviboon, until they were awarded a penalty in the 90thminute after a VAR review. It seemed a ridiculous decision as Jaja Coelho threw himself down after minimal contact.
Heberty Fernandes saw his penalty saved by Siwarak Tedsungnoen and substitute Yoo Jun-soo fired home a third in added time to pile on the misery for the home side.
Defeat almost certainly sees the Kirins unable to finish higher than third as they are now 12 points behind second-placed Bangkok United.
- Ratchaburi and Sukhothai the big winners in relegation battle
All seven teams from 9th to 15thplace remain in danger of filling the final two relegation slots – assuming Navy FC don’t stage a remarkable recovery.
Five of those teams failed to win at the weekend, allowing Ratchaburi and Sukhothai to leapfrog the teams above them.
Having conceded several late goals and lost 2-1 in their last four games, it looked the same old story for Ratchaburi when Chainat equalised through a deflected Marco Ballini strike in the 90thminute after Nerijus Valskis had given the Dragons the lead. But the Lithuanian struck again in added time to see his side rise three points above their opponents.
Sukhothai had an equally vital victory but it was achieved with much less drama. Nelson Bonilla and John Baggio destroyed Pattaya United in the first half at the Thung Talay Luang Stadium, racing into a 3-0 lead in the first 45 minutes.
Bonilla struck a double and Baggio added the other before Sansern Limwattana made it 4-0 in the second half. The Firebats edged out of the relegation zone but they have a tough run of fixtures coming up before they end the season at home to Air Force United.
- Tero’s water slide towards T2
When head coach Totchtawan Sripan quit Police Tero following their midweek defeat at Pattaya United, Rangsan Viwatchaichok was put in charge of the team for the second time this season, having also been thrust into the role after Scott Cooper’s departure.
His task was to save the side from the drop with five games remaining and, theoretically, he couldn’t have asked for a better start as they hosted already relegated Air Force United.
But despite an intense rain storm that flooded the pitch, the referee allowed played to go on in farcical conditions. Aided by the conditions and some woeful defending, the visitors scored three times in eight minutes at the beginning of the second half as Greg Houla netted a double and Kayne Vincent notched the other.
Air Force smartly sent the ball over the top and each time, it was held up in the water, making it difficult for goalkeeper Nont Muangngam to read.
Replies from Niran Hansson and Michael N’Dri were not enough to save the day for Tero and they are now three points from safety. Next up is a trip to Buriram United, who will be looking to wrap up the T1 title.
- Ubon go down fighting
Like Tero, struggling Suphanburi looked to have the perfect opportunity to boost their survival hopes as they welcomed an opponent from the bottom end of the table.
Ubon UMT United had to win this one to have any chance of keeping their survival hopes alive and started as if they still believed with Seiya Kojima opening the scoring after just five minutes.
Chananan Pombuppha levelled before half-time and Romulo’s fine finish on the hour mark had the home side celebrating.
But the visitors refused to accept defeat and Jaturapat Sattham made it 2-2 with just under 20 minutes remaining. Rakpong Chumuang’s heroic block from Cleiton Silva secured a point for Ubon but they will be playing in T2 next year despite the fighting spirit on display here.
The War Elephant, meanwhile, remain in the relegation mix ahead of next weekend’s trip to Port FC.
- Missed opportunity for Bangkok Glass
Bangkok Glass were yet another team with home advantage who had the chance to pull away from relegation trouble.
They hosted a weakened Chiang Rai United, who clearly had one eye on Tuesday’s League Cup semi-final first leg.
The storm that affected Tero also flooded the pitch at the Leo Stadium but the teams were led off just before half-time and there was a lengthy delay to clear surface water from the pitch.
While it wasn’t quite the same state as the pitch down the road, when the players re-emerged, there was still plenty of splashing around.
A free-kick from Chakkit Laptrakul agonizingly came back off the bar in added time as the visitors held on for a point in a goalless draw.
Bangkok Glass’ charge up the table has stalled with just one win in four. After seeing Police Tero’s fate, they should be wary of their trip to Air Force United next Sunday.