Samut Prakan City’s Sarawut Kanlayabandit hit the self-destruct button as his red card helped Buriram United to a 4-1 victory on Thai League (T1) Matchday 20.
The surprise title contenders were 1-0 down but still well in the game when a moment of madness from Sarawut gave Buriram the edge and allowed them to pull three points ahead of their opponents.
Elsewhere, Bangkok United dropped two vital points, while Muang Thong United continued their recovery and Port FC finally won again.
Here are four things we saw on T1 Matchday 20.
- Sarawut sees red and Buriram go clear
Samut Prakan City had started their match at home to Buriram on the front foot as they looked determined to make the most of their opportunity to become T1 leaders going into the final third of the season.
Even when 16-year-old Suphanat Mueanta opened the scoring against the run of play, the underdogs were not discouraged and continued to take the game to the champions.
However, the complexion of the game changed completely in the 39th minute. After Sarawut’s challenge forced Nacer Barazite to the floor, the defender inexplicably stamped on Barazite’s knee, prompting the referee to give a straight red.
Photo credit: Buriram United
There were predictable protests but replays were damning and, on the club’s biggest game yet in front of a sellout crowd, Sarawut had effectively handed the game to the opposition.
Suphanat soon added a second and, while Ibson Melo’s goal early in the second half came as the hosts rallied impressively, goals from Supachok Sarachat and Barazite finished things off.
Samut Prakan remain just three points off the top of the table but they will be disappointed that they didn’t make more of this opportunity with 11 men on the field.
- Mano’s gamble backfires as Swatcats take point
With Tristan Do and Peerapat Notchaiya injured and Pokklaw Anan and Mika Chunuonsee suspended, it was a brave move from Bangkok United head coach Mano Polking to rest four more regular starters following the 120-minute League Cup battle against Buriram United last Wednesday.
It showed faith in the depth of the squad with a tough run of matches to come but, having fallen five points behind Buriram United, a victory was absolutely imperative when they hosted struggling Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday.
Even considering the risk of starting with a weakened lineup, there was no legislating for the misdirected header that gifted Henri Doumbia the opening goal before naive defending from Puttinun Wannasri gave the Swatcats a penalty that Doumbia converted to make it 2-0.
Photo credit: Bangkok United
Vander Luis and Nelson Bonilla had both come off the bench by the time the second goal had gone in, but it wasn’t until the 81st minute that Chananan Pombuppha pulled a goal back. Just three minutes later, Bonilla made it 2-2, setting up a barnstorming finish.
A winner for the home side seemed almost inevitable as the game entered seven minutes of added time but a combination of determined defending and inspired goalkeeping from Samuel Cunningham ensured that both sides took a point.
Bangkok United have now won just one of the last five and a season that promised so much seems increasingly destined to end in disappointment.
- Muang Thong close in on Top Six
Since Alexandre Gama’s losing debut as Muang Thong United head coach, he has taken 16 points from six games to move his side from relegation threatened to Top Five and maybe even Top Three contenders.
While the current Top Five have been unable to string together a strong run of results, Muang Thong have made their move up the table with a string of efficient but unspectacular victories.
On Saturday, they overcame Ratchaburi 2-1 in a fractious affair that saw the visitors’ star man Steeven Langil sent off before the hour mark. The referee had his hands full as the tedious spectacle of bad player behaviour was on show once again.
Photo credit: Muang Thong United
In the end, Muang Thong could look back on a job well done and the difference Gama has made has been significant. He has given Charyl Chappuis a regular start in midfield and has been rewarded with a string of impressive performances that may put the Swiss Thai in line for a recall to the national side.
Gama has also selected players based on form rather than reputation and this saw experienced internationals Teerasil Dangda, Sarach Yooyen, Adisak Kraisorn and Adisorn Promrak start Saturday’s match on the bench, while youngsters Patchrapol Intanee and Saringkan Promsupa started alongside the unsung Wattana Playnum and Sanukran Thinjom.
Now that the players know they cannot take their team in the lineup for granted, this Muang Thong side look like finishing the season strongly and setting themselves up for a much better 2020.
- Dolah puts Port back on track
It was hardly the resounding return to form that new head coach Choketawee Promrut might have hoped for but the result was always the most important thing. Elias Dolah ensured that Port FC won a T1 match for the first time in two months as his second-half header was enough to see off Sukhothai.
It is too early to talk of a renewed title bid but it was extremely important for Choketawee to make a winning start following the lacklustre form towards the end of Jadet Meelarp’s reign.
Photo credit: Port FC
Port remain fifth in T1, five points off top spot, so there is still plenty to play for as the season approaches the final stretch. There are a couple of trips to the seaside ahead with matches at Trat and Prachuap before what promises to be a crunch match at home to rivals Muang Thong United on August 11th.