Pedro’s late strike gives Buriram three points in tough battle with title rivals

Pedro Junior’s first Buriram United goal was enough to help his side put title pretenders Bangkok United back in their place as the champions won 1-0 on Thai League (T1) Matchday Four.

In a cagey affair at Thammasat Stadium, Pedro struck with six minutes remaining and the Bangkok Angels were left with a familiar sinking feeling after a clash with Buriram.

Here are five things we saw on T1 Matchday Four.

  1. Same old story as Buriram have the edge again

Bangkok United’s new signings inspired hope that this was to be their year and the 1-0 win over Muang Thong United two weeks ago generated more optimism.

But this match saw tentative performances from both teams and neither side really looked like they were desperate to win. With a draw, the hosts would have been able to maintain their two-point cushion over their biggest rivals for the title, while a point away from home would not have been the worst result this early in the season for Buriram.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

But in the 84thminute, Pedro took down Sasalak Haiprakhon’s cross, skipped inside past a couple of weak defensive challenges and fired into the bottom corner.

Bangkok United sent on towering striker Mike Havenaar and he caused more problems for the Buriram defence in his brief stint on the pitch than his team-mates had caused in the preceding 85 minutes. Siwarak Tedsungnoen pulled off a couple of fine stops from Nelson Bonilla and Havenaar in the closing stages as Buriram again found a way to win in a tight game.

The international break comes at a good time for Bangkok United, who will have to work out how to get their attack firing, having netted just three times in four matches. Injured playmaker Vander Luiz has been sorely missed and with Havenaar now fit enough for action, we may see a different threat in a couple of weeks.

  1. Heberty heroics inspire Muang Thong in the haze

Heberty Fernandes may have made his name as a goal scorer but it was his playmaking skill that earned Muang Thong United their second win of the season.

The Kirins defeated Chiang Rai United 3-2 in the heavily polluted air of the north, with many fans wearing masks to protect themselves in conditions described as ‘very unhealthy’.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

But the teams served up an entertaining clash on the pitch and Heberty was at the heart of three decisive moments for the visitors. His trickery and balance on the ball created space for three perfectly measured passes that led to goals for Korrawit Tasa, Teerasil Dangda and then Adisak Kraisorn’s thumping winner in the 84thminute.

The home side had twice levelled through William Henrique’s excellent solo effort and Lee Yong-rae’s well-placed strike. But Heberty was the man who made the difference and, after failing to find the right balance in attack in the first two games of the season, head coach Pairoj will have been delighted to see three different strikers on target, set up by the Brazilian whose game is about much more than goals.

  1. Reis gets it right at last 

Striker Jonatan Reis was a revelation for Prachuap last season as his goals helped the Killer Wasps to a surprise sixth-place finish. He was targeted by a number of clubs in the close season but Suphanburi were apparently the only one that would agree to his allegedly extravagant wage demands.

For the first three games of this season, Reis drew a blank and rarely looked like he would become worth the significant salary he is said to be making. Against Chonburi, the Brazilian missed a series of early chances but at least he was getting into the right positions – something he had rarely done in the previous three weeks.

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Photo credit: Suphanburi FC

He finally hit the target with half-time approaching, curling a shot into the top corner from the edge of the box. Cleiton Silva added the second early in the second half and Reis rifled in his second in added time to make it 3-0.

Having scored just one goal in the previous three games, it was a relief for Suphanburi to finally see their attack find another gear. But for Chonburi, it was another dismal episode leaving them rooted to the bottom of the table.

  1. Apiwat the unlikely hero for PTT again

In a side boasting the attacking talents of former Arsenal starlet Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Costa Rican international Ariel Rodriguez, 30-year-old journeyman striker Apiwat Pengprakone might not be the player you look to for goals.

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Photo credit: PTT Rayong

However, for the second week in a row, Apiwat provided an excellent finish to give PTT Rayong an important goal. Last week, he struck the winner at home to Samut Prakan City and on Sunday he surged through a couple of half-hearted challenges to fire home the equaliser at Port FC after Kevin Deeromram had given the hosts the lead.

The 1-1 draw in Bangkok was another encouraging sign for PTT, after having lost the first two games of the season.

  1. Prachuap’s home comfort sees them go top

Another club took the arduous journey down the coast and returned with nothing as Chainat became the latest victims of Prachuap’s strong home form. Only five sides left the seaside town unbeaten in 2018 and just two visiting clubs won at the Sam Ao Stadium.

Chainat were the second side to travel to Prachuap this year and followed PTT Rayong in leaving with nothing to show for their efforts. The hosts were 2-0 up by half-time through Caion’s double. Ricardo Santos pulled one back for the visitors but Chitpanya Tisud slammed home from 20 yards to seal a 3-1 victory.

The three points put the home side top of T1, a point above Buriram and Port FC. Not many clubs will be relishing the thought of a trip to Prachuap this year as they continue to prove that they are not going to be one-season wonders.

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