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.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Buriram flex their muscles to put Port in their place

Buriram United sent out a message to their Thai League (T1) challengers as they saw off Port FC with a clinical performance on Matchday 14.

A 3-1 victory put the champions top of the league in the middle of a season in which they have rarely looked at their best.

Meanwhile, Alexandre Gama’s Muang Thong United reign got off to an awful start as the Kirins lost at Chonburi.

Here are three things we saw in T1 Matchday 14.

  1. Buriram take the sting out of Port

Momentum had been building at Port FC as the club from Klong Toey sat on top of the table and stirred hopes that this could be their year.

It took less than two minutes for Buriram to puncture that momentum on Sunday when Andres Tunez slotted home a penalty. There were further near misses around the home side’s goal in the opening five minutes as Buriram served notice that they had come to Bangkok to teach Port a lesson.

In a breathless first half, Port fought back but struggled to create clear chances as Buriram’s high energy pressing forced them into mistakes.

Sergio Suarez’s equaliser at the start of the second half offered hope, but Buriram quickly responded with strikes from Pedro Junior and Chitipat Thanklang.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

Port continued to fight valiantly but they were undone by their own slackness in the final third or by some dubious refereeing decisions which saw them denied at least one clear penalty. Buriram had several chances to add a fourth on the break but that would have painted a misleading picture of the match.

Nevertheless, Buriram always looked the stronger team and, despite some poor performances this year, they are clearly still the team to beat. Sunday’s match suggested that another T1 title will be on its way to the northeast.

  1. Muang Thong back at the bottom 

The appointment of head coach Alexandre Gama was supposed to give Muang Thong United the spark they needed to work their way out of the relegation zone. It was new boss but same old story, however, as Chonburi defeated the Kirins 2-0. Kritsada Karan’s stunning long-range effort put the hosts in front before a neat finish from Panupong Phonsa sealed the three points.

The Sharks’ new head coach Sasom Pobprasert may have been a less eye catching appointment but the veteran Thai managed to lead his talented but inconsistent side to victory.

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Photo credit: Chonburi FC

Gama still has time on his side to instill the defensive discipline and fighting spirit that his team will need to rise to safer ground but the troubles clearly run deep. The transfer window will be an important opportunity to bring in players who can inspire an upturn in fortunes.

The current squad is not short of talent but Gama will need all of his powers to ensure that they do not go the way of Bangkok Glass last year.

  1. Vander shows what has been missing 

Vander Luis looked sharp at the start of the season and his partnership with Nelson Bonilla was set to be a key feature of Bangkok United’s campaign. However, an injury sustained on Matchday Two put him out of action for almost three months.

His return has come at a crucial time for the Bangkok Angels and he delivered when it mattered on Sunday, with Bonilla on international duty. After a testing first half at home to Ratchaburi, Vander’s calm strike put Mano Polking’s side ahead.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

A late second secured the three points and demonstrated just what the club have been missing in his absence. Bangkok United stay in second place, gaining three points on second-placed Port and now sitting just four points off top spot.

You wonder how different things might have been in the tight matches they have drawn and lost if a flair player like Vander had been around.

Vietnam take bragging rights but ASEAN’s best dish up disappointing spectacle

Thailand’s uncertain form on the international stage continued as they were beaten 1-0 by Vietnam in the semi-final of the 2019 King’s Cup on Wednesday.

A calamitous last-minute error from goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan handed the visitors victory at the Chang Arena in Buriram after an even and bad-tempered affair.

It was further evidence that Thailand are no longer the dominant force in the region and that the War Elephants look ill-prepared for the start of the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifers later this year.

Here are three things we learned from Wednesday’s match.

  1. There is little between Thailand and Vietnam

Vietnam have certainly bridged the gulf in class that existed between the two sides the last time they met back in 2015. Four years ago in Hanoi, Thailand eased to a 3-0 victory, as Kiatisuk Senamuang’s side demonstrated their free-flowing game with a wonderful goal from Theerathon Bunmathan.

It was feared that the roles would be reversed in Buriram, with Vietnam now AFF champions and having been the more impressive side in January’s Asian Cup. Thailand were again without their mercurial talisman Chanathip Songkrasin and top striker Teerasil Dangda, while Kawin was taking tentative steps after several months out injured.

The above trio, along with Theerathon, had missed last year’s AFF Suzuki Cup, leaving a slight asterisk over Vietnam’s triumph, with Thailand unable to field their four best players. With two of them starting Wednesday’s match, it was a chance for the Vietnamese to prove their superiority.

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Photo credit: @Changsuek

However, it was more of a spiteful slug-fest, with little quality on show from either side. Vietnam are certainly a more cohesive unit and their pressing forced the Thais into many errors as the home side constantly surrendered possession.

But the energetic Thais also kept their opponents at bay in a game broken up by numerous fouls and tedious flare-ups.

Thailand can point to the fact that they struck the post through Supachai Jaided, had a goal controversially disallowed and should have been awarded a penalty when Theerathon was clearly fouled by Nguyen Trong Hoang.

With Vietnam’s winning goal coming from a goalkeeping howler, it’s fair to suggest that the AFF champions had their share of luck.

Fans are keen to claim that the balance of power has shifted in Southeast Asia. While Vietnam have certainly caught up, on this evidence, they on a par rather than clearly superior. The worry for Thailand is that Vietnam have youth on their side.

  1. Thitipan’s star continues to rise

Midfield dynamo Thitipan Puangchan’s Thai League form earned him a move to Oita Trinita in Japan and he has made a solid start to life in the J League, with his club flying high.

If we can put a foolish slap to one side, his performance against Vietnam again showed why he has become one of Thailand’s most important players. His energy was in stark contrast to Sarach Yooyen – a player who has gone backwards while Thitipan has risen to new heights.

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Photo credit: @Changsuek

Thitipan came close to giving his side the lead when a typical piece of harrying ended with him stealing possession and volleying just wide from 20 yards. If Thailand are to have a strong World Cup qualifying campaign, they will need him fit, in-form and disciplined.

  1. Indiscipline rears its ugly head again

Followers of the Thai League are accustomed to seeing mass shoving matches, horrendous playacting and poor refereeing. One of the teams may have been from Vietnam and the referee may have been Japanese, but we saw very much the same three features.

The Japanese referee started off seemingly determined not to book anyone as Nguyen Van Toan threw an elbow and Adisorn Promrak committed a cynical foul and escaped with warnings.

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Photo credit: @Changsuek

With things getting progressively nastier, Do Duy Manh placed a sly boot in Supachok Sarachat’s posterior after fouling him and it all kicked off. Thitipan seemed to initially be trying to calm things but when Doan Van Hau pushed him back, he responded by slapping the defender. Van Hau collapsed as if flattened by a Mike Tyson punch and Van Toan ran to the referee like a school kid running to the teacher.

At the end of it all, Theerathon and Van Toan were the only two yellow-carded, while Thitipan and Duy Manh escaped.

More nasty fouls followed, with both sides losing their cool and Pansa Hembviboon’s horrific challenge on Nguyen Cong Phoung earned just a yellow card – another example of refereeing cowardice / incompetence.

This nonsense is a big enough turn-off for Thai League fans and it was discouraging to see it on the international stage as well. It will do neither side any favours in their ambitions to go beyond being ‘Kings of ASEAN’.

Chainat stun Buriram while Muang Thong rediscover scoring touch

Chainat gave hope that this year’s Thai League (T1) battle would not become another one-horse race as they stunned champions Buriram United in Matchday 13.

Ricardo Santos struck in added time to seal a 2-1 victory, halting what looked like Buriram’s ominous progress towards the top of the league.

Bangkok United came up with a big win of their own at Chiang Rai United, while Muang Thong United ended a run of eight T1 matches without a victory by beating Sukhothai 2-0.

But Port FC went six points clear at the top with a straightforward 3-1 win at home to Chiang Mai.

Here are three things we saw on T1 Matchday 13.

  1. Chainat claim another big scalp

Chainat’s form coming into Matchday 13 had been woeful. They had gone five games without a win and lost the previous three by an 8-0 aggregate. Buriram, meanwhile, had won three-in-a-row in second gear and had yet to suffer a league defeat.

Jaturaphat Satham’s opener for the home side threatened an upset but Andres Tunez struck on the stroke of half-time to apparently restore order.

The champions continued to struggle in the second half but Pedro Junior won a late penalty and it looked like Buriram would once again find a way to win without playing well. But Teerat Nakchamnan saved Pedro’s spot-kick before Santos broke clear to strike a dramatic winner.

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Photo credit: Chainat FC

Not only did Chainat halt an alarming slide towards the relegation zone, they also highlighted how Buriram could be beaten with a hard pressing game.

Incredibly, Chainat’s three wins this season have come against three of the country’s biggest clubs – Bangkok United and Muang Thong United the other two.

There is hope again that it isn’t simply a matter of time before Buriram hit their stride and cruise to another title.

  1. Bangkok United keep their cool to crush Beetles 

It has taken a long time for Bangkok United to look like a side that could challenge for the title. Away results have been poor and home defeats to Buriram and Chonburi have been damaging.

However, they have finally started to click into gear and two victories in four days have transformed the picture. Samut Prakan City were defeated on Sunday and Wednesday’s trip to Chiang Rai United looked pivotal, with the Bangkok Angels sitting three points behind the Beetles.

Pokklaw Anna’s excellent finish put the visitors ahead and, while Bangkok United’s temperament has been suspect at times, it was the home side who lost their heads in this one. Tanasak Srisai was responsible for sparking a bout of handbags but escaped without a booking.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

Everton put Bangkok United 2-0 up before Tanasak got involved again before a corner kick. Although all eyes were apparently on him, he floored Tristan Do with an elbow at the second attempt but incredibly escaped with a yellow card.

There were some more meaty challenges going in as the hosts tried to literally fight their way back into the game. When Phitiwat Sukjitthammakul pulled one back, Bangkok United didn’t panic and substitute Vander Luis struck a third goal with the help of a deflection to seal the win.

To compound Chiang Rai’s misery, Decha Sa-ardchom received a straight red card for a last-man foul on Nelson Bonilla.

Bangkok United now sit in second place, five days after being seventh. They are on 22 points alongside Buriram, Samut Prakan and Chiang Rai, but the momentum is very much with them.

  1. Teerasil and Heberty end Muang Thong goal drought

It was getting on to 320 minutes without a T1 goal when Teerasil Dangda gave Muang Thong United the lead against Sukhothai as half-time approached.

Fifteen minutes later, Heberty Fernandes struck to leave Muang Thong fans wondering why scoring had become so difficult in the first place. Following eight matches without a win, the overwhelming emotion at the SCG Stadium was one of relief.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

In those eight winless games, the Kirins scored just four times despite having some of the best attacking talent in the league.

The 2-0 victory leaves Muang Thong still in the relegation zone and they are second from bottom, above Suphanburi on goal difference. However, they now have a two-week break to work on putting things right before taking on Chonburi on June 16th.

Buriram make their move as T1 battle heats up

Buriram United moved ominously into second place on Thai League (T1) Matchday 12 as a late Sasalak Haiprakhon goal earned them a 1-0 win at home to Muang Thong United.

With Port FC dropping points for the second week in a row and Chiang Rai United losing, the champions now sit three points off the top with two games in hand.

Here are four things we saw on T1 Matchday 12.

  1. Buriram have top spot in their sights

It has been a slow start to the season for Buriram United and after 10 games, their form is still somewhat indifferent. But still far from at their best, Buriram did enough to defeat bottom side Muang Thong United 1-0.

After a scrappy and physical first half, the hosts took control in the second 45 minutes and Sasalak’s deflected shot found the net in the 79th minute to seal the three points.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

With no AFC Champions League to distract them, Buriram are now back in control of their own fate in T1, with leaders Port dropping four points in the last two games. Wins in Wednesday’s match at Chainat and Saturday’s rearranged fixture at Sukhohtai would take them level on points at the top at the very least.

The league had been giving the illusion of close competition. The next few games will certainly reveal if we have a true battle on our hands or if Buriram are going to run away with their sixth title in seven years.

  1. More penalty pain for Port

Last weekend, Port FC were at the wrong end of one of the season’s worst refereeing decisions as they received a free-kick for a foul that took place well inside the penalty area. On Saturday, they conceded an added-time penalty for a foul that took place outside the box.

It was far from as clear-cut as last week’s shocker but the league leaders could again rue a decision that cost them two points. Henri Doumbia slotted home the Swatcats’ penalty after Pakorn Prempak’s deflected free-kick had given Port the lead.

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Photo credit: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

But Port cannot feel too hard done-by on balance. Elias Dolah’s blatant handball offence in the first half should probably have led to a penalty for Nakhon Ratchasima, with another question mark over whether or not it was in the box. And while the visitors had luck on their side, as Pakorn’s heavily deflected free-kick ended up in the net, Leandro Assumpcao saw his deflected strike come back off the post in the first half.

Overall, a draw was probably a fair result but Port head coach Jadet Meelarp was moved to suggest that VAR should be reintroduced to prevent more of the kinds of errors that have been so costly in the last two weeks.

  1. Bangkok United shoot up to fourth

Things looked grim for Bangkok United at half-time as they were 1-0 down to Samut Prakan City. They had been denied a penalty when Anon Amornlerdsak was chopped down and seen two efforts come off the woodwork. There had also been several missed chances, with Anon and Pokklaw Anan particularly guilty before Ibson Melo took advantage of some lax defending to open the scoring.

When Everton’s header crashed off the bar early in the second half, heads might have gone down. But Nelson Bonilla’s 11th goal of the season pulled them level before Tristan Do tapped into an empty goal to complete the turnaround.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

The victory has the potential to be a huge turning point for Mano Polking’s side as they went from seventh to fourth in the table, gaining two points on both Port FC and three on Chiang Rai United. The Bangkok Angels have blown hot and cold all season but they are still in with a shout of the T1 title ahead of a potentially pivotal fixture at Chiang Rai United on Wednesday.

  1. Durosinmi shines as Trat destroy Chiang Rai

Trat FC had a complete overhaul of their squad when they were promoted to T1 and the recruitment strategy appears to be paying off as the team has made a trip to the eastern town something to fear.

Chiang Rai United arrived on the back of a seven-game unbeaten run in which they had conceded just three goals. They were 3-0 down by half-time on Saturday as a double from Adefolarin Durosinmi and a goal from top scorer Lonsana Doumbouya put them in complete control. Chiang Rai managed a late consolation but it is now Trat who have an unbeaten run to defend.

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Photo credit: Trat FC Fanclub

Trat haven’t lost since a 4-1 defeat at Port FC on Matchday 6 and have been beaten just once (by Bangkok United) on home soil. Their last three home victories have been won by an aggregate score of 11-1. Durosinmi and Doumbouya have been key players in this run, along with the third ‘D’ in attack – Bireme Diouf. They now look more like a top 8 team than the relegation favourite they were just three months ago.

Muang Thong suffer new humiliation while Bangkok United lose ground

Muang Thong United’s season hit a new low as they were soundly beaten 3-0 by Samut Prakan City on Thai League (T1) Matchday 10.

The four-time champions remain bottom of T1 and a seventh defeat of the season makes them look increasingly like very unlikely relegation candidates.

Port FC continue to lead the way after an impressive win at Chainat, while Bangkok United slipped up on the road yet again.

Here are five things we saw on T1 Matchday 10.

Muang Thong in meltdown 

When Muang Thong travelled to Prachuap FC and won 3-0 in the FA Cup two weeks ago, it seemed that they were set to put their poor start of the season behind them.

That was proved to be a false dawn as three goals in 15 second-half minutes ensured that Samut Prakan left the SCG Stadium with three points and ensured that the Kirins would spend at least another week anchored to the bottom of the table.

When Bangkok Glass had a similarly wretched start last year, the assumption was that they would eventually extricate themselves from the mess they had created for themselves. They ended up being relegated.

We are still just a third of the way into the season and Muang Thong are far from isolated but form is such that they cannot be assumed to be too good to go down.

Samut Prakan, meanwhile, continue to impress as they remain in fourth spot after five games unbeaten. To add insult to injury for the Kirins, the top player on Saturday was arguably midfielder Peeradol Chamratsamee, yet another promising young player sold by Muang Thong.

Reffing hell for Bangkok United

Bangkok United were understandably furious after yet another woeful performance from the match officials in their 1-1 draw at Chiang Mai. Two key moments came when the score was already 1-1 after Nelson Bonilla’s opener had been cancelled out by Eliandro.

First, Sanrawat Dechmitr was blatantly taken down by Eliandro’s clumsy challenge when through on goal. It should have been a red card and a penalty but the referee waved play on. Minutes later, Peerapat Notchaiya met a cross with what looked to be his chest and found the net. The goal was disallowed and it wasn’t clear if it was for offside or handball but it was certainly well onside.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

More farcical decisions followed, particularly when Manuel Bihr stopped Eliandro in his tracks with a perfectly timed tackle and was penalised.

Putting the refereeing performance to one side, Bangkok United were also extremely wasteful, with some dreadful distribution in the final third, partly explained by a horrendous playing surface. After falling eight points behind next week’s opponents Port FC, they know that only a victory at the PAT Stadium will do if they want to revive their fading title hopes.

Port breeze past Chainat

Port FC made light of what looked a tricky assignment at Chainat as two goals from Dragan Boskovic put them in control before Nurul Sriyankem came off the bench to net an excellent third.

Port not only maintained their four-point lead at the top but they also went eight points clear of stuttering Bangkok United, who they host next weekend. A victory over the Bangkok Angels would surely put an end to title challenge of Mano Polking’s side.

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Photo credit: Port FC

The Klong Toey club have now won five T1 matches on the spin and, with players returning from injury, they are in good shape as we approach the mid-point of the season. At the beginning of the year, most expected Buriram United and Bangkok United to be the main challengers for the title.

Port have certainly ensured that they can be considered genuine contenders.

Xuan Truong takes his chance

Buriram United fans haven’t seen much of Luong Xuan Truong since the first few games of the season, with the Vietnam midfielder usually on the bench. However, with Jakkaphan Kaewprom still injured and Suchao Nuchnum rested, Xuan Truong started the Isaan derby at home to Nakhon Ratchasima and opened the scoring with a wonderful free-kick.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

The 24-year-old put in an impressive performance and it would be a surprise if this did not earn him more game time for a side that has been struggling for consistency. Suphanat Mueanta’s late strike put the game beyond the Swatcats and ensured that Buriram stayed well in touch at the top of the table.

Diouf rolls back the years 

Trat striker Bireme Diouf may soon be turning 35 but the veteran of many Thai clubs showed on Saturday that he is far from a spent force.

The Ivorian struck in added time to complete his hat-trick and earn a point in a 3-3 draw at Chonburi – one of his many former clubs.

Chonburi continue to alternate between the sublime and the ridiculous in the same game and they have now conceded 12 times in the past three matches but nevertheless picked up four points in that run. The Sharks sit in eighth place while possessing the second-best attack and the worst defence in the league.