Chiang Rai United sealed a place in the 2018 Thai League Cup final by beating Nakhon Ratchasima 3-1 in a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw at the Supachalasai Stadium in Bangkok.
Chaiyawat Buran gave Chiang Rai an early lead as the Beetles dominated the first half. But the Swatcats fought back and deservedly equalised through Leandro Assumpcao’s second-half penalty.
Nakhon Ratchasima missed three of their four penalties and Chiang Rai now face Bangkok Glass in the final on October 20thafter Anurak Srikerd’s side pulled off a stunning upset to beat Buriram United 2-1 in the other semifinal.
Despite being just one match from a cup final, the Bangkok venue in midweek did not make it an easy trip for the sides from the north and northeast of the country.
Supachalasai Stadium should have been a sea of orange, but it was less than a quarter full at kickoff, with Chiang Rai emerging in their black away shirt while the Swatcats stuck to their usual orange.
Chiang Rai had the first effort on goal in the sixth minute when Phititwat Sukjitthammakul tried his luck from 20 yards. But the midfielder pulled his low shot well wide of the target.
The Beetles opened the scoring five minutes later when Bill collected the ball 25 yards from goal and rolled the ball into the path of Chaiyawat, who fired beyond Tossaporn Sri-rueng.
Bill had a go himself in the 21stminute but Tossaporn managed to beat out his shot on the turn from 18 yards.
Chiang Rai were the dominant team throughout the first half-hour, with the Swatcats unable to penetrate their well-drilled back four and create anything of note.
There were 35 minutes on the clock when Milos Joksic’s side finally gave the fans something to shout about. Kritsada Hemvipat’s mishit shot bounced up for Leandro to execute an overhead kick from 12 yards but it looped over the bar.
But Chiang Rai missed an excellent chance to go two-up before the break when Bill headed over from Suriya Singmui’s deep cross from the left.
After Nakhon Ratchasima had started the second half brightly, Chiang Rai again came close to their second in the 57thminute when Siwakorn Tiatrakul started a move that ended with Suriya cutting the ball back to the winger whose powerful shot was saved by Tossaporn.
At 1-0, the tie remained in the balance with just 20 minutes remaining but Nakhon Ratchasima were getting on top.
And the Swatcats were rewarded as they won a penalty in the 72ndminute when Thanasak Srisai brought down Leandro. The Brazilian took the kick himself and fired low into the corner to level the score.
With Chiang Rai rattled, Jakkit Niyomsuk slotted home at the far post in the 78thminute but the flag was up for offside.
But the Beetles came back into the game and finished the stronger as they probed the Swatcats defence, looking for a way through.
Bill teed up Suriya for a shot from the edge of the box that Chatchai Budrpom gathered at the second attempt before Sivakorn drove forward and fired wide from distance.
These were the last chances of the 90 minutes and the game headed to extra time.
Chiang Rai took the initiative in extra time and Victor Cardozo broke free to head Sivakorn’s free kick on target but it was a comfortable save for Tossaporn.
There was little more action of note in the first period as the sides already seemed to be accepting the possibility of a penalty shootout.
The Swatcats started the second period of extra time the stronger and threatened several times down the left thanks to Pralong Sawandee’s driving runs.
With just three minutes remaining, another Pralong run looked set to pay dividends when his cut-back was met by Leandro but the striker could only divert the ball over from six yards.
And Leandro had another chance to seal victory in the final minute when he turned and shot from 12 yards out but his effort went straight at Chatchai.
The game went to a shootout and Akarin Sawasdee struck the winning effort to seal a place in next month’s final against Bangkok Glass.