Chiang Rai’s slip gives Buriram and Port a lift as title race nears finishing line

Chiang Rai United blew their chance to stay clear of Buriram United as a battling Bangkok United side held them to a 1-1 draw on Thai League (T1) Matchday 27.

Facing a tired and weakened Bangkok Angels, the Beetles had a great opportunity to maintain the two-point gap at the top but instead saw Buriram draw level on points after they beat Chainat 1-0 24 hours later.

Port FC moved back into the title race with a win at Chiang Mai while there were some big results at the bottom of the table.

Here are five things we saw on T1 Matchday 27.

  1. Vander dents former club’s title bid

Chiang Rai United travelled to face Bangkok United with high hopes of the win that would take them three points closer to the T1 title. With Bangkok United having run through mud for 120 minutes on Wednesday, only to lose their FA Cup semifinal on penalties, it did not seem unreasonable to suggest that the Beetles would be clear favourites.

When the teams were announced, Bangkok United were without the injured Tristan Do, Mika Chunuonsee and Nelson Bonilla, while playmaker Vander Luis started on the bench. The loss of four key players heightened expectations of an away win and an early and well-deserved Bill goal meant all was going according to plan.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

But the introduction of Vander at half-time changed the complexion of the game and gave Bangkok United much better attacking options. The Brazilian equalised from the penalty spot and was instrumental in the hosts’ attacking efforts as they went for the win.

Both sides had chances to take the three points but it was Chiang Rai who ended the match with a greater sense of regret. Having dominated the early stages, they will feel that they should have put the game beyond their opponents before Vander came back to haunt them.

  1. Suphanburi strike pair stun Ratchaburi

Ratchaburi seemed to be continuing to bask in the glory of their midweek FA Cup semifinal win over Buriram United when they were given a rude awakening by Suphanburi on Saturday.

The War Elephant – in desperate relegation trouble – were 2-0 up after just four minutes through goals from Cleiton Silva and Guilherme Dellatorre. The Brazilian duo have struggled to find the scoring touch they need at times but they delivered when it really mattered as time runs out in the battle to stay in T1.

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Photo credit: Suphanburi FC

In what was a bad-tempered clash marred by a waterlogged pitch and player indiscipline, Suphanburi added a late third to ensure that the FA Cup finalists’ feel good factor was punctured and they stayed in with a chance of continuing their stay in T1.

The War Elephant face Chiang Rai United at home on the final day of the season. As things stand, we could see a battle between a team that needs to win to stay up and a team that needs to win to lift the title.

  1. Muang Thong inspire 2020 vision

If you had to name the title favourite for 2020, based on everything we have seen in the second half of the T1 season, it would have to be Muang Thong United. While Port FC have become their bogey side, they have beaten Buriram United, Chiang Rai United and Bangkok United in a run of 10 wins in 13 matches. They are the only side this season to have strung together such an impressive and consistent sequence of results.

They faced a tough match at relegation threatened Sukhothai on Saturday but overcame the loss of the opening goal to lead 2-1. Dang Van Lam then saved John Baggio’s penalty to preserve that lead before Oh Ban-suk’s header made it 3-1. The Kirins then kept out the home side after Jung Myoung-oh’s goal ensured a nervy finale.

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Photo credit: Sukhothai FC

If Alexandre Gama can keep this group of players together and add a couple of signings to enhance the overall quality, Muang Thong should again be in a position to challenge for the title they last won in 2016.

Sukhothai, meanwhile, face three huge matches as they try and secure a fifth season in T1.

  1. Late show saves Swatcats 

When Ibson Melo’s fine volley put Samut Prakan City in front at Nakhon Ratchasima, it looked like the Swatcats were about to blow a huge opportunity to pull four points clear of the relegation zone.

With Sukhothai, Chainat and Chiang Mai all losing, Nakhon Ratchasima had the perfect chance at home to a team that had lost five of its previous seven matches. But a penalty was missed and several opportunities were squandered before the way side struck with just 26 minutes remaining.

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Photo credit: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

It was a devastating blow but it took just three minutes to equalise before an anxious wait for a second. Leandro Assumpcao’s volley from the edge of the box found its way through several bodies and into the net in the 85th minute and two more goals quickly followed in a late blitz.

With matches against title chasing Port FC and Buriram United followed by clashes with struggling Chainat and Sukhothai, it was absolutely vital that the Swatcats took the three points in this one. New head coach Chalermwut Sa-ngapol now has a bit of breathing space as he attempts to lead the club to safety.

  1. Port get back in the title race 

After a chastening 3-1 home defeat to Buriram United in June, few Port FC fans dared to believe that this would be their year. That loss seemed to puncture burgeoning hopes of a title triumph and a slump in form followed.

But the incredible inconsistency of the top sides in the league has allowed Port to stay in contention even though all has seemed lost at several points.

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Photo credit: Port FC

Sunday’s 2-0 win at Chiang Mai was not achieved with the swagger of potential champions but it ensured that, should they beat Nakhon Ratchasima at home on Friday, they will be just two points off top spot with three matches to play – one of them at current leaders Buriram.

A thrilling end to a chaotic season is in store. The T1 champions will emerge as the best of an average bunch with no side managing to look consistently good throughout the year.

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