Buriram hold off Bangkok United challenge to stay top of T1

Buriram United clung on to the top of the Thai League (T1) table by holding Bangkok United to a hard-fought 1-1 draw on Matchday 19.

The champions’ winless turn stretched to four games but they remain leaders, ahead of Samut Prakan City on goal difference.

Meanwhile, Port FC’s defeat at PTT Rayong spelled the end of head coach Jadet Meelarp’s reign, while Suphanburi remain bottom despite a fourth game unbeaten.

Here are three things we saw on T1 Matchday 19.

  1. Bangkok United fail to take their chance

There may never have been a better chance to beat a vulnerable Buriram on their own patch, with their two new strikers still struggling to find their feet and Bozidar Bandovic’s men failing to hit consistent form.

In 2018, the Thunder Castle dropped just 15 points across a 34-match season. So far in 2019, they have dropped 22 points in just 19 games. However, Bangkok United have chosen this of all years to be equally profligate. They have already let 24 points slip – just seven points fewer than in the 34 matches in 2018.

On Sunday, Bangkok United’s failed attempt to play out from the back put them in trouble and Nacer Barazite opened the scoring for Buriram. Everton Saturnino’s thumping header levelled the score on the stroke of half-time and set up what promised to be a thrilling second half.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

But the second 45 minutes didn’t match the quality of the first half and moves broke down with misplaced passes and poor decisions, or when there was a whistle from an increasingly erratic referee.

As frustration spilled over after yet another dubious call in added time, Pokklaw Anan was sent off for his second yellow card in the space of a minute, apparently both for dissent. Given the amount of dissent that referees routinely tolerate, it seemed a strange decision, especially given the absence of aggression from Pokklaw.

The outcome leaves the title face wide open, with a two-point gap between Buriram and Bangkok United remaining, while even crisis-club Port FC remain firmly in contention despite their wretched form.

Buriram travel to face surprise joint leaders Samut Prakan City next weekend in a clash that will surely have a significant impact on the outcome of the season.

  1. Murillo magic sinks slumping Port

On May 29th, PTT Rayong beat Chonburi to take a much-needed three points, and earn just the third win in their first 12 T1 games of the season. On the same day, top-of-the-table Port FC defeated Chiang Mai 3-1 for their eighth victory.

On Saturday, a wonder strike from Dennis Murillo was enough for PTT to seal a 1-0 win in a tight game. It was the home side’s sixth victory in the last eight games, pushing them just two points behind their opponents. Port, meanwhile, have failed to win a single T1 match in the six fixtures since that win over Chiang Mai.

It could be argued that the rot had set in before the club started making some interesting recruitment decisions, but surely no one can seriously consider Tanaboon Kesarat as a better option at centre-back than David Rochela.

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Photo credit: Port FC

And would it not have been better to keep Dragan Boskovic and play him alongside an out-and-out striker rather than putting all the pressure on the veteran to rediscover the scoring form of 2017 before dropping him from the squad?

This latest defeat was the final nail in head coach Jadet’s coffin and he makes way for Choketawee Promrut. It is not exactly an inspiring choice given Choketawee’s very modest CV but things clearly weren’t working under Jadet, who is known more for his affable nature than his coaching ability.

Time will tell if Port can recover from this mid-season slump and at least match last year’s third-place finish, while perhaps winning the FA Cup. The contrasting fortunes of these two sides demonstrate the crazy unpredictability of this season so far and anything seems possible.

  1. Suphanburi extend unbeaten run but stay bottom

If you are unbeaten in four games and have conceded just one goal in that streak, you might expect to be doing better than joint bottom of the table. Suphanburi seem to have rediscovered their early season form in defence but their continued failure to score goals may yet see them relegated.

The War Elephant conceded just once in their first four games this year, but proceeded to ship 10 in the following three matches. The haul of six points in the last four matches equals that earned in the first four games but taking just five from the 11 in between has left them in a precarious position.

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Photo credit: Suphanburi FC

Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Chonburi was their sixth goalless draw of the season. They were kept out by Sintaweechai Hathairattanakool after the goalkeeper made the switch to the Sharks last week. While picking up points at places like Buriram and Chonburi are decent results, they desperately need wins to move them up the table. Dragan Boskovic seems to have turned down a move to Suphanburi and they have turned to another former player – Guilherme Dellatorre – to provide the goals in their battle for survival.

Chonburi, meanwhile, remain just three points above the relegation zone after just one win in five. The mid-season scattergun recruitment drive has yet to pay dividends.

 

 

Bangkok United target long-awaited win over Buriram as title race heats up

Bangkok United will have to end a five-year wait if they are to beat Buriram United and leapfrog the champions on Thai League (T1) Matchday 19.

The Bangkok Angels’ last victory over Buriram came in October 2014, at the beginning of Mano Polking’s side’s rise to become one of the most formidable teams in the country.

Port FC will hope to use the midweek FA Cup win at Muang Thong United to launch a renewed bid for the title when they travel to in-form PTT Rayong, while the Kirins aim for a quick recovery from that disappointment when they host 2nd-placed Chiang Rai United on Sunday.

Here are three things to look out for on T1 Matchday 19.

  1. Bangkok United bid to seize control of their fate

Since Bangkok United’s surprise 2-0 win at home to Buriram United in 2014, the Thunder Castle have been dominant in this fixture. The reaction to this defeat was for Buriram to defeat the same opposition by an aggregate of 12-1 over three matches in 2015.

Even in a miserable year for Buriram, they still remained unbeaten against Polking’s men in 2016, winning one, drawing one and prevailing on penalties in a League Cup tie.

Buriram did the double the following year and 2018 was very similar to 2016, with the side from the northeast winning one and drawing one in T1, while progressing in a cup tie on penalties.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

Earlier this year, Pedro Junior’s late strike earned Buriram a win at the True Stadium and it seems that Bangkok United don’t simply have to overcome 11 players but also a significant psychological barrier.

In terms of quality, there is nothing between the teams and Bangkok United arguably have the better players this season. Last year, they were clearly the better team before falling to a late sucker punch in a 2-1 defeat at the Chang Arena.

Buriram have gone three league matches without scoring, picking up just two points in that run but remain top of T1 due to the failings of the teams around them. They also have a habit of rising to the big occasions as Port FC found out to their cost last month.

Bangkok United remain in title contention despite their inconsistent form and, having edged to within two points of Buriram, victory on Sunday would be a huge boost to their confidence and perhaps instill the belief that they can be Thai champions this year.

  1. Port aim to make most of reprieve

In any other year, a run of one win in eight games would have ended a side’s title bid at this stage of the season. Things have not been normal in 2019, however, as the top five have been incapable of putting together a string of wins in recent weeks.

Based on form over the last five T1 games, Port sit bottom of the table. Over the past 10, they are eighth best. However, they are still just four points off the lead and, with Buriram and Bangkok United facing off, while the two other teams in the top five face difficult away games, Saturday’s match at PTT Rayong is a great opportunity for a renewed assault on the title.

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Photo credit: Port FC

The FA Cup victory at rivals Muang Thong on Wednesday will have lifted morale after the bitter end to last week’s draw at home to Chonburi. New striker Rolando Blackburn got off the mark to seal the 2-0 victory and if he can be more ruthless in front of goal, Port may have picked up a strong signing.

With four wins in five games, PTT are at the opposite end of the form table, edging up to sixth place following a difficult start to the season. In this year’s incredibly compressed T1 table, a win for PTT – relegation threatened just weeks ago – would take them just two points behind Port.

You get the feeling, however, that Port’s midweek victory may just have turned things around for them as we approach the business end of the season.

  1. Muang Thong under renewed pressure

Less than two weeks ago, there was a feel-good factor at Muang Thong United after a stirring 3-2 victory at home to Bangkok United. On a run of four T1 wins in five, it appeared the Kirins had put their early season woes behind them.

That optimism has been somewhat punctured in the last week, however, with two points dropped at Chiang Mai before the cup exit in midweek. Muang Thong remain just two points above the relegation zone and can ill-afford many more slips.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

Chiang Rai United visit the SCG Stadium on Sunday, a five-game unbeaten run putting them just a point behind leaders Buriram. A victory could put the Beetles clear at the top of the table – a huge incentive in a match against vulnerable opponents.

Muang Thong head coach Alexandre Gama knows his opponents well, having managed them in 2017 and 2018, and he will need the perfect game plan to help his side move further away from the bottom three while inflicting a significant blow to the title hopes of his former club.

Port fans lose patience while Bonilla rescues Bangkok United

Another weekend, another disappointing result for Port FC as Chonburi held them to a 2-2 draw at the PAT Stadium on Thai League (T1) Matchday 18.

There was even a rare show of dissent from the Port fans, especially when winger Pakorn Prempak showed his displeasure with them.

Muang Thong United had their growing momentum punctured by Chiang Mai, while Samut Prakan City suffered a shock 3-0 defeat at home to PTT Rayong. And Bangkok United managed to overcome Trat to move two points off leaders Buriram United, who drew 0-0 for the second week in a row.

Here are five things we saw on T1 Matchday 18.

  1. Worachit shines as Port struggle again

Port’s latest bout of transfer activity was presumably designed to prevent their fading title hopes from being completely extinguished. The arrivals of strikers Rolando Blackburn and Chenrop Samphaodi were a sign that the club was not satisfied with the depth of the squad, despite having also brought Tanaboon Kesarat, Martin Steuble and Josimar Rodrigues on board.

Of this quintet, only Josimar and Steuble started Saturday’s match against Chonburi, and it was the visitors’ attacking midfielder Worachit Kanitsribampen who stole the show as the Sharks, coming off six away games without scoring, took the lead twice in the opening 45 minutes.

Worachit’s opener was a wonderful effort, his first touch on the turn putting Elias Dolah off balance, before skipping past Tossapol Lates and firing into the corner. Chonburi could have been 2-0 up after just 11 minutes as Worachit’s perfectly-timed through ball put Panupong Phonsa through on goal, but the midfield man’s effort struck the post.

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Photo credit: Chonburi FC

After Siwakorn Jakkuprasat had levelled the score, Worachit laid the ball into the path of Caion to put the Sharks back in front with an excellent strike before Sergio Suarez equalised just two minutes later.

There was no further scoring in the second half but it was notable for the discontent that echoed around the stadium when Bordin Phala was replaced by Nurul Sriyankem. The unrest grew when Josimar was withdrawn and Port reverted to the 4-6-0 formation that had failed in last week’s draw at Ratchaburi. There was then incredulity when, with Chenrop and Blackburn on the bench, defensive midfielder Tanaboon was brought on as the final substitute with Port needing a goal.

Finally, Pakorn’s gesturing further enraged an already frustrated home support. They may remain just four points off top spot, but one win in eight games is relegation rather than title winning form and Port’s next T1 clash is a trip to in-form PTT Rayong.

  1. Bonilla brace helps Bangkok United close in on Buriram

As has been the case in many games this year, Bangkok United did not have an easy time in a fixture that looked a safe bet for three points.

At home to Trat FC, they fell behind early in the second half and had to rely on a Nelson Bonilla double strike to earn a much-needed win. Without regular wing-backs Tristan Do and Peerapat Notchaiya, the hosts lacked the width that often forms part of their attacking arsenal.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

The winning goal came from a straightforward ball over the top that was brilliantly taken down and finished by Bonilla.

With Buriram United dropping more points in a 0-0 draw at Prachuap, Bangkok United can now leapfrog the current league leaders with victory at the Chang Arena next weekend.

Incredibly, just four points separate the top five teams in T1, so the title really could be won by any team in that group.

  1. Chiang Mai bring Muang Thong back to earth

Muang Thong United’s three-game winning streak ended on an emotional occasion as Chiang Mai played at their home stadium for the final time this year.

The Lanna Tigers were looking doomed a matter of weeks ago but a three-match unbeaten run has given them hope that they can still survive. On Friday evening, Chotipat Poomkaew put them in front with a beautiful shot on the turn and when Adisorn Promrak was red-carded before half-time, it looked like a huge upset was on the cards.

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Photo credit: Chiang Mai FC

But this is not the Muang Thong of earlier in the season and they got to grips with the game in the second half, finally equalising through substitute Sanukran Thinjom in the 86th minute. Such was the pressure on the home side towards the end, the team with 11 men were the more relieved to hear the final whistle as they claimed what could be another precious point.

However, Chiang Mai make the move to Chiang Rai for the rest of the season as their stadium is upgraded. While it may be almost 200km away, the surroundings will at least be familiar to the many players on loan from Chiang Rai United.

Next week, they travel to Ratchaburi for a huge match against a side that is also in the thick of the battle against relegation.

  1. Aris in blunderland as Samut Prakan exposed 

Given the nature of the club’s establishment, Samut Prakan City’s unlikely title challenge can hardly be considered a potential fairytale but their consistent form marked them as dark horses in a season in which the usual challengers have been unusually vulnerable.

But when PTT Rayong visited on Saturday, Samut Prakan’s pretensions were ruthlessly exposed as centre-back Aris Zarifovic had a night to forget. With goalkeeper Patiwat Khammai and skipper Peeradol Chamratsamee injured, Saharat Kanyaroj gave early indications of the visitors’ burgeoning confidence as his effort from his own half had Anurak Chompoopruk scrambling to push the ball wide before the same player smashed a shot off the bar from the edge of the box.

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Photo credit: Samut Prakan City

When Zarifovic headed into his own net, it was down to a misunderstanding with Anurak, though the defender was clearly the one to blame. Zarifovic then fluffed a clearance to allow Saharat to prod home the second minutes later.

The Slovenian’s nightmare continued when his headed backpass fell for PTT’s Apiwat Pengprakone and the in-form striker’s lob made it 3-0.

Samut Prakan remain very much in contention, but any more performances like that will see them lose more often than they win between now and the end of the season.

  1. Leandro joins the century club

In his ninth year in Thailand, Leandro Assumpcao netted his 100thThai League goal as Nakhon Ratchasima fought back to claim a crucial point in a 3-3 draw at home to Ratchaburi.

It looked as if his strike would be in vain as, after having levelled the score following Lossemy Karaboue’s sensational strike for the visitors, Steeven Langil’s double put the Dragons 3-1 ahead.

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Photo credit: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

But Henri Doumbia’s 90th-minute strike unsettled Ratchaburi and Amadou Ouatarra took advantage of some tired defending to smash home an equaliser in added time.

Leandro became the fourth Brazilian to make it to 100 T1 goals, following in the footsteps of Cleiton Silva, Diogo Luis Santo and Heberty Fernandes. The Swatcats are the 33-year-old’s sixth Thai club and, in a country where clubs are wary of recruiting foreign players edging towards their mid-thirties, he still has plenty to offer.

Desperate times call for desperate measures as Port fight to stay in title race

After a week of drama at Port FC, Jadet Meelarp’s side hope that the upheaval will be worth it in their desperate attempt to maintain a challenge for the Thai League (T1) title.

Port take on Chonburi, with some new faces on board, having apparently decided to sideline another of their top players to leave during the transfer window.

Buriram United and Bangkok United will also hope to get back to winning ways after two disappointing weekends.

Here are four things to look out for on T1 Matchday 18.

  1. Port hope for a fresh start

It’s out with the old at Port FC as a dithering management team throw money at their poor run of form to try and keep them in the title race.

The indifferent performances of striker Dragan Boskovic in the first half of the year prompted the signing of Josimar Rodrigues in an attempt to provide more of a cutting edge. However, just one T1 game into his second stint at Port, it seemed that Josimar may be surplus to requirements following the arrival of Panama striker Rolando Blackburn.

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Photo credit: Port FC

But it now seems that the foreign player to make way will instead be centre-back David Rochela, who prior to this year’s injury-hit campaign had arguably been the club’s best player over the previous three years.

Port have also acquired the services of once promising striker Chenrop Samphaodi. Now 24, the former Thailand U23 skipper has become better known for the physical side of his game and his poor goal scoring record and it is hard to see him as anything other than the solid squad player he was at Muang Thong United.

Chonburi visit the PAT Stadium on Saturday after a difficult week of their own. They have lost their top scorer Lukian, and last weekend’s defeat at Samut Prakan was their fifth straight away loss without scoring. As the Sharks attempt to stay away from the drop zone and Port try and end a four-match winless streak, it promises to be a night of drama.

  1. Battle of the top strikers at Bangkok United 

The top scorers in T1 face off at Thamassat Stadium on Sunday as Trat’s 13-goal Lonsana Doumbouya meets Bangkok United’s 12-goal Nelson Bonilla.

Both sides are in desperate need of a win, with title-chasing Bangkok United having let five points slip from winning positions in the last two matches, while Trat’s three-game losing streak sees them back to just four points above the relegation zone.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

It all looked so different for these two clubs just a few weeks back when Trat were on an eight-match unbeaten run and the Bangkok Angels were on a winning streak.

One thing that has remained consistent has been the form of Bonilla and Doumbouya but their teams now need their goals more than ever as one tries to stay in contention for the title and one tries to steer clear of relegation trouble.

  1. Misfiring Buriram aim to make the most of their luck 

Only the inability of the teams around them to sustain a consistent run of form is keeping champions Buriram United at the top of T1. For the past two weekends, four out of five Top Five teams have failed to win, with Buriram failing to score.

The Thunder Castle travel to Prachuap FC to face an out-of-sorts side who have taken just four points from their last six games. It looks like the best possible time for a trip to the seaside town where they were one of only two sides to win a T1 match in 2018.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

Prachuap have taken just one point from their last three home matches so the fear factor has very much gone from the Sam Ao Stadium.

Buriram’s new strike pair of Nacer Barazite and Rasmus Jonsson failed to find the target last weekend but head coach Bozidar Bandovic needs them to provide the firepower and take full advantage of the faltering form of their title rivals.

  1. Samut Prakan’s big chance to ‘do a Leicester’

From Matchday Three to Matchday Eight, Samut Prakan City took just three of the 18 points available. Their form since then sees them top of the form table and just one point behind leaders Buriram.

There is no better time for a complete underdog to lift the T1 title, with the usual suspects all below par. Samut Prakan’s rise has been remarkable given they have only existed since the start of the year, albeit with the foundation of a decent Pattaya United side as their backbone.

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Photo credit: Samut Prakan City

Unfortunately, as they prepare to take on PTT Rayong at home, they have lost skipper and inspirational midfielder Peeradol Chamratsamee to injury, while goalkeeper Patiwat Khammai is set to miss the rest of the season.

PTT Rayong have found their feet in T1, winning four of their last six games to move away from the relegation zone. Along with Buriram and Bangkok United, they are one of just three teams to have beaten Samut Prakan in T1 and they will hope for an unlikely double that hinders Samut Prakan’s chances of ‘doing a Leicester’.

Heberty the hero for Muang Thong as the top sides slip up yet again

Heberty Fernandes struck at the death to give resurgent Muang Thong United a 3-2 victory over Bangkok United on a weekend that again saw four of the Thai League’s (T1) Top Five sides drop points.

It is starting to look like the T1 title that no one wants to win as Samut Prakan City were the only Top Five club to earn three points and it took them until the 93rd minute to grab a winner at home to Chonburi.

Buriram United were held 0-0 at home to Suphanburi, while Chiang Rai United could only manage a 1-1 draw with Nakhon Ratchasima.

Here are four things we saw on T1 Matchday 17.

  1. Heberty keeps Muang Thong recovery on track 

Muang Thong United are clearly a different proposition from the despondent side that Alexandre Gama took over last month. They twice went behind to Bangkok United and twice hit back to level the score before a dramatic final 20 minutes in which both sides hit the woodwork and had chances to win.

As the game approached added time, Vander Luis looked set to hit the winner but aimed his shot straight at Dang Van Lam in the Muang Thong goal. The Kirins went up the park and Heberty struck the winner from 25 yards out. It could turn out to be a crucial moment but the damage for Bangkok United was limited by the failures of their immediate rivals to take three points.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

However, Bangkok United’s failure to take the opportunities given when their rivals drop points seems ominous. They twice led and were twice pegged back by an opponent that just wouldn’t give up.

Despite a wretched start to the season, Muang Thong are now a mere nine points behind Bangkok United after four wins in five games. It would be outlandish to suggest that they could still win the title but top five certainly isn’t beyond them on current form.

  1. Port’s struggles continue 

Port FC’s mid-season slump continued with a lacklustre 1-1 draw at Ratchaburi. Despite being brought back to the club to provide goals, Josimar Rodrigues was left on the bench as the Port Lions opted to start without a striker as Sergio Suarez was apparently given the role of False 9.

The visitors took the lead against the run of play when David Rochela scored from a penalty won by Suarez. But instead of using the goal as a platform to recover the swagger of earlier this year, Port continued to play a cautious game and were blunt in front of goal.

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Photo credit: Ratchaburi FC

Fortunately for them, Ratchaburi failed to do much with their possession. The referee tried to even things up by awarding the Dragons a penalty for a non-existent foul but Yannick Boli saw his spot-kick saved before he atoned for the miss with a close-range finish to equalise.

Port still have the quality to finish the season strongly but head coach Jadet Meelarp’s lack of tactical flexibility has been repeatedly exposed in the last month, leading to his side falling from first to fifth in the table.

Chonburi visit the PAT Stadium next Saturday in what promises to be another stiff test for the side from Klong Toey.

  1. Chainat survive despite Teerath’s moment of madness

Relegation-threatened Chainat need every available point as they battle to earn another season in T1 with one of the smallest budgets. When you are 3-0 up with just under 30 minutes to play, it helps to have all of your team keep their discipline.

Goalkeeper Teerath Nakchamnarn inexplicably decided that this was the time to elbow Trat’s Adefolarin Durosinmi in the face, apparently unprovoked, and earn himself a red card. It was an extremely rash and selfish attack and it could have proven very costly.

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Photo credit: Chainat FC

Teerath’s replacement Kritsana Kongkot managed to save Durosinmi’s resultant penalty but was then at fault for failing to stop the same player’s low, long-range effort before Lonsana Doumbouya’s last-minute strike.

Chainat held on to inflict a third straight loss on Trat but they will have learned that they have a goalkeeper they can’t really count on in the battle to beat the drop.

  1. Pairot denies former club to give Chiang Mai hope

Pairot Eiam-mak’s move from Sukhothai to Ratchaburi soon turned sour at the beginning of the season when he had an error-strewn start to his time at the Dragons. He lost his place in the starting lineup to Ukrit Wongmeema and was allowed to join Chiang Mai at the start of the transfer window.

Pairot seemed to be inspired on his return to Sukhothai – the club where he spent four years. After Chiang Mai had taken a shock 2-0 half-time lead with fine goals from Ekanit Panya and Wanmai Setthanan, it was down to Pairot to keep his new team in front.

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Photo credit: Sukhothai FC

As Sukhothai attacked in waves, Pairot denied them time and again, including a spectacular save from John Baggio’s volley. It would have left a sour taste had the Malagasy star been able to influence the result at a time when he should have been off the pitch for kicking Evson off the ball.

The Fire Bats finally scored through Kittikai Juntaraksa but thanks to Pairot, the visitors held on for a 2-1 victory.

There is still a long way for Chiang Mai to go, but they became just the second team to win at Sukhothai this year, the likes of Bangkok United, Buriram United, and Port FC having failed. If Pairot can perform like this week-in, week-out, they will have a fighting chance.

Title-chasing Bangkok United aim to stall Muang Thong recovery

Bangkok United face one of the biggest tests of their title credentials when they meet Muang Thong United at the SCG Stadium on Thai League (T1) Matchday 17.

Mano Polking’s side earned a rare T1 win over the Kirins earlier this year and will be desperate for a repeat to keep the pressure on leaders Buriram United.

Elsewhere, Chiang Mai will look to avoid becoming isolated at the bottom of T1 when they travel to Sukhothai, while Port FC have a tricky match in Ratchaburi as they look to end their slump.

Here are four things to look out for on T1 Matchday 17.

  1. Bangkok United’s test of nerve 

A matter of weeks ago, a match against Muang Thong United would have been seen as an excellent opportunity to pick up three points as the four-time T1 champions struggled in the bottom three.

Much has changed, however, with the arrival of a new head coach and the signings of several new players. Following six defeats in an eight-match winless streak, the Kirins have won three out of four to finally move out of the relegation zone.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

Bangkok United were on a strong run of their own until Sukhothai dented their title bid by taking a point from them last weekend.

The stage is now set for a clash that could make or break Bangkok United’s ambitions. A victory could provide a huge morale boost ahead of the crucial match in Buriram in a couple of weeks. A defeat or a draw could see them slip five or six points behind the champions and dim the belief that this is their year.

With Alexandre Gama in charge and striker Derley looking like a valuable addition to the squad, Muang Thong certainly won’t make life easy for the Bangkok Angels.

  1. Chiang Mai on borrowed time 

Chiang Mai put up a spirited display to hold high flying Samut Prakan City to a 2-2 draw last weekend but they still slipped to the bottom of the table and many would expect them to stay there.

Usually by this point of the year, at least one T1 team is a relegation certainty and perhaps it’s time for Chiang Mai to start preparing for life in T2.

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Photo credit: Chiang Mai FC

News that yet another Chiang Rai United player – Brazilian striker Cuque – had joined Chiang Mai on loan reinforced the impression that this is not a club that stands on its own two feet. With a temporary move to share Chiang Rai’s stadium coming up, the conflict of interest becomes even more stark.

Ownership issues aside, Chiang Mai do not look to have the quality to survive and a visit to Sukhothai on Saturday seems likely to bring about another defeat.

Chiang Mai have won just one of the last 11 games and, with the Fire Bats having lost just once at home this year, you would not expect an end to that run of form.

  1. Slumping Port look to the past for inspiration 

Having taken just one point from four recent matches against fellow Top-Five sides, Port FC’s title aspirations have taken a huge hit. Last weekend’s 4-1 loss at home to Chiang Rai United seemed to wipe out any lingering hope that this could be Port’s year.

Nevertheless, the side from Klong Toey remain just four points off the top of T1 and Saturday’s trip to Ratchaburi may be the perfect opportunity to halt their three-match losing streak. The Mitr Phol Stadium was a fortress for a while after it opened in 2016 but it has since become a soft touch for visiting sides.

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Photo credit: Chiang Rai United

Port swaggered to a 4-1 victory in Ratchaburi in 2018 and the Dragons have already lost four times at their home stadium this year. Marco Simone’s side have been reinforced by the addition of striker Javier Patino but they will need to raise their game to prevent yet another home loss.

Port simply cannot contemplate another defeat. Victory could even see them back in second spot in an extremely unpredictable season.

  1. Swatcats on the slide?

Nakhon Ratchasima made a very encouraging start to the 2019 season and the feel-good factor has resulted in the highest average crowds in T1. The additions of Amadou Ouatarra and Henri Doumbia transformed the Swatcats from a stodgy hard-to-beat side to one with genuine attacking flair.

That flair has deserted them in recent weeks, as Milos Joksic’s side have scored just three times in five games, winning just one of them. Consecutive defeats to sides below them in the table must be a cause for concern ahead of a difficult run of fixtures, starting with the trip to in-form Chiang Rai United on Sunday.

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Photo credit: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

In a very congested mid-table, the Swatcats sit in a comfortable-sounding seventh place but that is just five points above the relegation zone. The suspension of Leandro Assumpcao will not help them this weekend, though that is somewhat countered by the absence of Bill from the Chiang Rai lineup.

Given the positive developments off the field, it would be a shame if this year turned into a relegation battle instead of a push towards the Top Five. To prevent this scenario, Nakhon Ratchasima have to rediscover their scoring touch.

Debut delight for Chonburi and Muang Thong as strikers hit the ground running

Caion’s late strike handed Chonburi a well-deserved 1-0 victory over Buriram United as the Top-Four sides all dropped points on Thai League (T1) Matchday 16.

Caion was not the only Brazilian debutant to come up with a winning goal as Derley did the same for Muang Thong United.

Port FC lost for the third time in a row, while Bangkok United failed to make the most of Buriram’s defeat as they were held at home by Sukhothai.

Here are five things we saw on T1 Matchday 16.

  1. Chonburi rise to the big occasion again

Chonburi have had another inconsistent season to date but they have developed a habit of troubling the biggest sides and they handed out another bloody nose on Sunday with a battling display at home to the league leaders.

It looked slightly ominous for the hosts as they approached the final 10 minutes with the score at 0-0. There was a growing feeling that Buriram might do what they often do and sneak a barely deserved win with a late goal.

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Photo credit: Chonburi FC

But it was the Sharks who finally broke the deadlock when Caion marked his debut with the winner. Chonburi have now taken four points from Buriram, as well as beating Bangkok United and Muang Thong.

It is now up to the players to show the same appetite in tough matches at Samut Prakan City and Port FC in the next two weeks.

  1. Port FC lose again as title bid crumbles

In contrast with Chonburi’s habit of beating the big guns, Port FC’s title challenge has crumbled in the space of three weekends, with three consecutive defeats against top-five opponents. Add to that the draw at home to Bangkok United last month and it gives a strong impression that Port are flat-track bullies rather than serious title contenders.

Sunday saw a second-half capitulation at home to Chiang Rai United as the side from the north scored three unanswered goals to seal a 4-1 victory.

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Photo credit: Chiang Rai United

It hadn’t been a one-sided game and but for a spectacular save from Apirak Worawong from Go Seul-ki’s header, Port would have made it 2-2 before Piyaphon Phanichakul’s looping header made it 3-1 with seven minutes remaining.

Port’s frustrations boiled over and Pakorn Prempak was incredibly fortunate to be given just a yellow card for a nasty kick on Bill. The Brazilian striker had his revenge by adding the fourth goal in added time and Port head coach Jadet Meelarp’s lack of tactical nous was exposed once again by a competent opponent with a plan.

  1. Dream debut for Derley 

It didn’t take long for one of Muang Thong United’s new signings to make an impact as the Kirins finally climbed out of the relegation zone. Former Benfica striker Derley came off the bench to net the winner as Muang Thong beat Prachuap for the first time in a T1 fixture.

Amorn Thammanarn had given the Killer Wasps an early lead before Adisak Kraisorn levelled the score. Having replaced Adisak in the second half, Derley then pounced on a rebound from Heberty Fernandes’ free kick and rolled the ball into an empty net.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

The Brazilian almost added his second in added time but Prachuap goalkeeper Kwanchai Suklom made sure he didn’t with what appeared to be a foul that was not penalised.

Nevertheless, it was another encouraging night for Muang Thong, who have now won three of their last four T1 matches and are surely headed for a finish in the top half rather than a relegation battle.

  1. Jung dents old boss Mano’s title hopes

Sukhothai’s Jung Myung-oh played under Mano Polking at Army United back in 2013 and the Brazilian took the South Korean defensive midfielder to Suphanburi the following year. On Saturday, it was Jung who scored the equalising goal that halted Bangkok United’s building momentum.

Following John Baggio’s opener for the visitors, it was Jung who levelled for Bangkok United when he diverted Tristan Do’s hopelessly miscued shot into his own net. Anon Amornlerdsak then put the hosts ahead as they looked set for their fifth successive T1 victory.

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Photo credit: Sukhothai FC

However, Jung hooked in from close range to atone for his own goal and to deny his former head coach as his side’s title challenge faltered again.

Results elsewhere actually meant that Bangkok United moved one point closer to leaders Buriram but this was a missed opportunity to take full advantage of Buriram’s slip at Chonburi.

  1. PTT and Suphanburi get the luck they need

It is often said that you need the breaks when you’re at the wrong end of the table and PTT Rayong and Suphanburi certainly benefited from a bit of luck as they earned vital wins at the weekend.

PTT Rayong required an inspirational performance from goalkeeper Peerapong Ruenin and some poor finishing from Nakhon Ratchasima to escape from Isaan with a 1-0 victory. Poompreecha Jarunai’s strike ensured that PTT took their third win in five games to move towards mid-table safety.

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Photo credit: Suphanburi FC

Meanwhile, Suphanburi’s winning goal in a huge match at home to Chainat came courtesy of a Kim Sung-hwan header that was clearly offside. Given Chainat’s survival in T1 last year came courtesy of a highly dubious refereeing performance in the same stadium last year, Suphanburi fans can be forgiven for feeling that this was just reward.

The War Elephant remain second bottom of the table, but their first victory in seven games at least gives them hope that they can turn things around.

Chonburi count on experience as they prepare for Buriram test

Chonburi host Buriram United in the standout fixture of Thai League (T1) Matchday 16 as the club that has gone from contenders to also-rans attempts to upset the odds again.

On Matchday One, the Sharks held the champions to a 2-2 draw in the northeast and on Sunday, they will be hoping a few new players are about to enjoy an Indian summer in front of an expected capacity crowd.

Elsewhere, Muang Thong United hope to earn a first T1 over bogey side Prachuap FC, while Port FC will be desperate to avoid another costly defeat when they welcome Chiang Rai United to the PAT Stadium.

Here are four things to look out for on T1 Matchday 16.

  1. Chonburi’s trip down memory lane

Many eyebrows have been raised at a Chonburi mid-year recruitment drive that has seen the arrival of four fading talents between the ages of 33 and 35.

Left-back Mongkol Namnuad arrives from T2’s Nongbua Pitchaya while Bangkok United midfield legend Witthaya Madlam has recently had an unsuccessful stint at BG Pathum United. Another midfield legend – Datsakorn Thonglao – was at T3 side Simork before joining Chonburi a while back and Teerathep Winothai has been second or third choice striker at Bangkok United for three years.

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Photo credit: Chonburi FC

The Sharks may be looking to add depth to their youthful squad in the shape of these four veterans but, with the possible exception of Teerathep, it is difficult to see them getting much game time. Chonburi proved in February that they can be a match for the best side in the country but now sit 14 points behind Sunday’s opponents.

Buriram United visit the Sharks, having replaced Brazilian striker Pedro Junior with former Arsenal youth Nacer Barazite. They will hope to maintain or extend their lead at the top of T1 and are unlikely to fear the addition of four players in the twilight of their careers.

  1. Port turn to old friend 

In their time of need, Port FC are hoping that the player they let go 18 months ago can help revive the club’s title bid.

For much of this year, Port had set the T1 pace but just one win in five games has seen them caught by Bangkok United and Samut Prakan City, and they have fallen four points behind leaders Buriram United.

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Photo credit: Police Tero

Josimar Rodrigues has returned to Klong Toey and will be expected to provide the focal point for an attack that has been without an out-and-out striker. Having spent the first half of the year at Police Tero in T2, he should be able to hit the ground running in what looks another tough match at home to Chiang Rai United.

It is the third consecutive match against a Top-5 opponent and a third consecutive loss would surely indicate that this will not be Port’s year. A Josimar-inspired victory, on the other hand, may well be the timely boost required to restore the necessary confidence to fight for the title.

  1. Last chance for Marco?

When Marco Simone was named as Ratchaburi head coach in March, many thought he might not even make it to the second leg of the season given the club’s recent history of hiring and firing.

But the AC Milan legend has come through 11 games, featuring memorable performances against Muang Thong United and Chainat, dismal displays against Prachuap and Chonburi, and a huge sense of injustice in the 2-1 defeat at home to Buriram.

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Photo credit: Ratchaburi FC

Simone’s side have lots of ability but no consistency and this has led to the first murmurs about his job security. Sunday’s trip to Trat takes on added importance and it is not a fixture that the Dragons are likely to relish.

Trat’s defeat to Muang Thong last week ended an eight-match unbeaten run and this will encourage Ratchaburi. However, it is difficult to know what to expect from a side whose form has constantly fluctuated during Simone’s brief reign.

  1. Fourth time lucky for Muang Thong?

Since Prachuap FC were promoted to T1, they have faced Muang Thong United three times in league action and taken nine points. Their 6-1 victory in March 2018 famously led to the resignation of Totchtawan Sripan, and their 1-0 win at the SCG Stadium on Matchday One of this year set the Kirins on course for their worst ever start to a season.

One of Muang Thong’s best performances this year came in a 3-0 FA Cup victory at Prachuap and this will give them confidence coming into their latest trip to the seaside town. Last weekend’s comfortable win over Trat will have added to the growing belief that Alexandre Gama can lead them to safety.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

The signings of Brazilian striker Derley, Brazilian midfielder Bruno Gallo and Filipino full-back Daisuke Sato have added to the optimism and perhaps the time is right for Muang Thong to earn a T1 victory over Prachuap at the fourth attempt.

The Killer Wasps may be able to call on the services on new strikers Jean-Philippe Mendy and Maurinho as they try to keep Muang Thong waiting for that first win.

Muang Thong move off bottom spot while Bangkok United march on

Muang Thong United earned a vital three points as they eased past 10-man Trat FC to give head coach Alexandre Gama his first Thai League (T1) victory with the club.

The Kirins won for just the second time in 11 games in a match that may have seen farewells to Lee Ho and Mario Gjurovski (again), while Aung Thu struck his first T1 goal weeks after his future at the club was thrown into doubt.

Elsewhere, Bangkok United kept up their winning run and moved into second spot, while Port FC suffered another damaging defeat.

Here are four things we saw on T1 Matchday 15.

  1. Relief as Muang Thong move off the bottom

As Muang Thong struggled to shake off their early season troubles, the prospect of a relegation battle became increasingly plausible. Even the arrival of Alexandre Gama as head coach could not prevent a 2-0 defeat at Chonburi last week, leaving the Kirins rooted to the bottom of T1 after 14 matches.

But in Saturday’s home game against in-form Trat, they came up against a side shorn of three first-team regulars due to the fact that they are loan players owned by Muang Thong.

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Photo credit: True ID

Gjurovski had set up Heberty Fernandes for the opener before a second reckless challenge saw Kriangkrai Pimrat red-carded for the visitors.

There were a few nervy moments in the second half before substitute Sanukran Thinjom made it 2-0. Aung Thu, who has scarcely featured this year, came on to add the third in added time.

Lee Ho appeared to be saying goodbye to the fans at the end of the game after two-and-a-half years at the club. The 34-year-old former South Korea international will be fondly remembered for his contribution to the AFC Champions League campaign in 2017. Gjurovski also seems to be on his way out after a brief return to the club where he spent four outstanding years.

With Brazilian striker Derley arriving along with Philippines international full-back Daisuke Sato, there will be new faces to try and lead the club to mid-table safety as soon as possible.

  1. Bangkok United’s surge is underway

A slow start, a mid-season purple patch and an uncertain ending. This is how Bangkok United’s seasons seem to go and 2019 is beginning to look very familiar.

Between Matchday Four and Matchday 11, the Bangkok Angels won just twice as their much-anticipated title bid floundered.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

However, Sunday’s 4-1 victory at PTT Rayong was their fourth in succession, taking Mano Polking’s side into joint second place alongside Port FC and Samut Prakan City. The spread of four different goal scorers was also highly encouraging in the absence of Nelson Bonilla (on international duty) and the suspended Vander Luis.

With a home match against Sukhothai next up, a fifth win in a row would surprise no one. Matches at Muang Thong United on July 7th and at Buriram on July 21st will then go a long way to deciding if Bangkok United’s title challenge is the real deal.

  1. Samut Prakan’s early blitz compounds Port misery

Seven days is a long time in football and if ever a cliché fit the circumstances, it very much applies to Port FC’s recent misfortune.

On June 16th, Buriram United visited the league leaders at the PAT Stadium. A win for Port would have put them five points clear of the champions, but a 3-1 reverse saw them a point behind.

Sunday’s visit to Samut Prakan City was always going to be a tricky fixture but no one would have expected the hosts to be 2-0 up after 10 minutes, with Ibson Melo and Teeraphol Yoryoei doing the damage.

Sergio Suarez missed a penalty and Port were handed another lifeline when Samut Prakan defender Sarawut Kanlayabandit was red-carded early in the second half. But it was not until the last minute that Port pulled one back through Suarez and it proved too little, too late.

The side that were hoping to move five points clear at the top last weekend, now find themselves four points behind and sharing second spot with two other teams.

  1. Baggio bullet sinks Swatcats

While his country Madagascar were preparing to make their Africa Cup of Nations debut against Guinea, John Baggio was leading the Sukhothai attack at home to Nakhon Ratchasima.

It may be a long way from Egypt to northern Thailand, but Baggio showed he was thinking of his compatriots when he celebrated a stunning winning goal by displaying the Madagascar flag.

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Photo credit: Sukhothai FC

It is surprising to most T1 followers that Baggio was not selected for the Malagasy squad, particularly given that his former Sukhothai team-mate Njiva Rakotoharimalala – now with Samut Sakhon in T2 – has made it to Egypt.

But Baggio brushed off any disappointment by netting a goal of the season contender in a game that was otherwise short on highlights. The 27-year-old’s sixth strike of the year reinforced his status as the Fire Bats’ talisman and moved his side further away from the relegation zone.

Muang Thong aim to end Trat’s winning run and start their own recovery

Muang Thong United will be desperate to move off the bottom of the Thai League (T1) with victory over in-form Trat FC on Matchday 15.

As the season reaches its halfway point, it is time for the Kirins to show signs of life or risk a fraught end to the season and a struggle to beat the drop.

Port FC travel to Samut Prakan City as they attempt to bounce back from last week’s defeat to Buriram United, while Bangkok United will hope to keep their winning run going at PTT Rayong.

Here are three things to look out for on T1 Matchday 15.

  1. Muang Thong hope to avoid Trat fall

Coming into Saturday’s clash at the SCG Stadium, one side has won four in a row, is on an eight-match unbeaten run and sits fifth in the T1 table. The other has won just one of the last 10 T1 matches and is dead last.

You would have got extremely long odds on Trat sitting 11 places above Muang Thong at this stage of the season but the promoted side – freshly cobbled together with many new signings, veterans and loan deals – have surprised everyone. The four-time champions, meanwhile, have endured a shocking first half of the campaign.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

The arrival of Alexandre Gama as Muang Thong head coach inspired much optimism but it was punctured by defeat at Chonburi last weekend. Still, it is early days for the serial trophy winner and Saturday’s home match may be the perfect opportunity for him to make his mark.

The hosts should be helped by the fact that Trat will likely be without their three Muang Thong loanees – Nukoolkit Krutyai, Wongsakorn Chaikultewin and Chenrop Samphaodi. All three have been regular starters and their absence will weaken the visitors.

Having had more time to work with his new squad and having overseen a morale-boosting 4-1 FA Cup win at Singburi in midweek, Gama will hope the recovery starts now.

  1. Port need to bounce back 

Port FC remain just one point off the top of T1 but last weekend’s deflating defeat at home to Buriram felt like the end of the title challenge to some, such was Buriram’s superiority.

To ensure that the title bid goes on, the players will need to quickly rally in a difficult match at Samut Prakan City. The club formerly known as Pattaya United sit just three points behind Port and have lost just one of their last nine matches. Last weekend’s loss means that Port have won just one of the last four as they begin to stutter.

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Photo credit: Port FC

Both sides have suspensions at the back, with Elias Dolah missing for Port and Aris Zarifovic sitting it out for Samut Prakan. Rumours abound that this could be the final match for one of the finest T1 defenders in recent seasons, as David Rochela may be on his way out to make room for the return of striker Josimar Rodrigues.

It has the feel of a pivotal match for both sides, with Port needing to win to ensure they don’t run out of momentum, while a win for Samut Prakan would suggest they can battle for a top-3 finish.

Few would be surprised if the match ended in a share of the points.

  1. Ratchaburi test for struggling Prachuap

It has taken a while but second-season syndrome is starting to kick in for Prachuap FC. The surprise package of 2018 won four of their first six games this year to suggest that may not suffer the significant drop in performance that can strike many promoted clubs in their second season.

However, the Killer Wasps have won just one of the last eight as they slip down the table and towards potential danger. The visit to Ratchaburi on Sunday looks tricky as Marco Simone’s side look a match for most sides, with the electrifying talent of Steeven Langil a threat to any defence.

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Photo credit: Ratchaburi FC

Ratchaburi’s poor start to the year saw them change their head coach after just four games, but the Dragons can move above Prachuap with victory in this one. Simone has defied some expectations by holding onto his job until now and if he can make the team more consistent, they could finish in the top half of the table.