Gama torments Buriram again as Chiang Rai go top

Alexandre Gama was once again a thorn in the side of his former club Buriram United as Muang Thong United convincingly beat the champions 3-1.

Since being dismissed by Buriram, Gama has come back to haunt his old employers several times – first with Chiang Rai United and now with Muang Thong.

Chiang Rai took advantage of Buriram’s slip-up and beat Trat to go top of the league, while there were some big results at the other end of the table.

Here are three things we saw on T1 Matchday 26.

  1. Gama outwits Buriram once again 

Muang Thong fans will be wondering about what might have been after watching their team dismantle Buriram to make it nine wins in 13 T1 matches for Gama. In a season in which the leaders have consistently had a win percentage of around just 50 per cent, a 69 per cent winning record suggests that the Kirins may have been better off pursuing the Brazilian instead of Pairoj Borwonwatanadilok in the close season, and that he would also have been a better option than Yoon Jong-hwan, who replaced Pairoj.

A disastrous start to year meant that Gama’s main goal was to lift Muang Thong out of relegation trouble but he has done so much more than the bare minimum.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

On Saturday, he showed again that he had the measure of Buriram in terms of his tactics and the commitment of his team to performing their tasks. Many of the players who floundered under Pairoj and Yoon have thrived under Gama, while the mid-season signings of Bruno Gallo and Derley were inspired.

Despite winning a domestic treble in 2015, Gama was sacked by Buriram just months into the 2016 campaign following a dreadful AFC Champions League (ACL) performance and a poor start to the T1 season. Bozidar Bandovic may have led Buriram to consecutive titles and a place in the last 16 of the ACL but he will know that a failure to lift the T1 title this year may well spell the end of his tenure.

Footage of Bandovic’s angry post-match rant at his players in the dressing room was curiously released and Gama will surely sympathise, having been unceremoniously shown the door by the club where sustained success is a requirement.

  1. Chiang Rai go top after late drama

Buriram United’s defeat had left the door open for Chiang Rai United to take over top spot, with the Beetles sitting just a point off the lead going into Sunday’s match at home to Trat. But the hosts would not be taking the visitors lightly, having been soundly beaten by them earlier in the season – a match in which they were 3-0 down by half-time.

Chiang Rai had already survived a few scares when Phitiwat Sukjithammakul put them ahead with a stunning strike in the 41st minute. But T1 top scorer Lonsana Doumbouya levelled with a looping header in the 72nd minute and it looked the like the Beetles might blow their big chance.

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Photo credit: Chiang Rai United

Two goals in the final 10 minutes from Piyaphon Phanichakul and Akarin Sawasdee ensured that Chiang Rai finished the job and ended Matchday 26 two points above Buriram.

The Beetles now have their fate in their own hands and can complete an unlikely title win if they can match or beat Buriram’s finish to the season. The biggest obstacle may come next weekend with a trip to Bangkok United. The Bangkok Angels may be out of the title race but they will be out to prove they have the quality to beat anyone on their day and make it two wins from two against Chiang Rai.

  1. Babalj keeps Chainat hopes alive

A defeat at home to Sukhothai was unthinkable for Chainat. The Hornbills were sitting three points behind their opponents and a defeat and a six-point gap would have sent them further towards T2.

It was a good time for Eli Babalj to finally make an impact as his header proved the difference between the two sides. While Chainat remain in the relegation zone, they are behind the Firebats on goal difference only and Nakhon Ratchasima are just a point above them.

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Photo credit: Chainat Hornbill FC

It was a good time for Chainat to face Sukhothai – whose talisman John Baggio was suspended – and it was the perfect time for Australian Babalj to net his first T1 goal. There was further good news for the Hornbills as other relegation rivals Suphanburi and Chiang Mai both lost.

Teams from 11th spot and above look relatively safe so there is going to be a huge scrap between the bottom five – separated by just four points – in the final few games of the season.

Port come up short again as Vander inspires Bangkok United

Port FC blew a chance to close the gap on Buriram United at the top of the Thai League (T1) as Bangkok United once again beat them on Matchday 25.

Mano Polking’s side edged to a 2-0 victory that moved them just two points behind Port, while Buriram United stayed at the top of the league despite drawing at home to Sukhothai.

At the other end of the table, Chainat sank into deeper trouble with what could be a costly defeat at Ratchaburi.

Here are three things we saw on T1 Matchday 25.

  1. Port meet familiar fate

The form book suggested that Port FC were favourites going into Saturday’s match at Bangkok United but history suggested otherwise. Nine years had passed since their last league win over the Bangkok Angels and that will become 10 after the hosts raised their game following a run of just one T1 win in six.

Bangkok United were boosted by the presence of Nelson Bonilla and Tristan Do on the bench, while Peerapat Notchaiya made his first start in several weeks following his own injury absence.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

It was Bonilla’s deputy Chananan Pombuppha who opened the scoring early in the second half while Everton’s late header sealed the victory. But the star man was Vander Luis, who set up both goals and tormented the Port defence in the second 45 minutes in particular.

With Bonilla and Do both making appearances from the bench, Bangkok United can look ahead to their FA Cup semifinal against Port with increased optimism. Meanwhile, Choketawee Promrut’s side will have to consider what might have been after falling five points off top spot.

  1. Late penalty saves Buriram

Last week’s 6-0 victory over Ratchaburi suggested that Buriram United may be ready to romp to the title. Saturday’s stuttering performance at home to struggling Sukhothai suggested it might be more of a crawl.

Buriram remain top of T1 despite a win percentage of just 52 per cent as all of their challengers have stumbled and fallen in their pursuit. The Thunder Castle are on course to retain their title in spite of themselves and because the teams around them have apparently failed to seize the day. However, Chiang Rai United’s victory at Chonburi moved them just a point off the top again to keep Buriram looking over their shoulder.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

The Firebats almost took a much-needed three points at the Chang Arena, having held on to the lead given to them by Iain Ramsay until added time. When Jung Myoung-oh blocked a shot from close range, a penalty was awarded and the spot-kick was predictably tucked away by Andres Tunez.

Television replays failed to confirm whether the ball struck Jung on the arm or side, but Buriram were grateful for the reprieve, as they were to Bangkok United for keeping Port FC at a distance.

  1. Boli brace lifts Dragons

A defeat would have sucked Ratchaburi back into the relegation scrap but a 2-1 over Chainat put eight points between them and their opponents. It has been another tough season for the Dragons, who have swapped stability for chaos off the pitch, resulting in erratic form on it.

The attacking talents at the club look to have done enough to secure another season in T1 and it was Yannick Boli’s second-half double that sealed the three points here. Chainat had opened the scoring through Ricardo Santos’ penalty but, like last week at home to Samut Prakan City, they failed to hold onto a lead.

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Photo credit: Ratchaburi FC

The Hornbills have now lost four of the last five and face a monumental clash at home to Sukhothai on Matchday 26 after the international break. The Firebats now sit three points above Chainat with a much superior goal difference, so anything but a win would see Dennis Amato’s side staring relegation in the face.

Ratchaburi, on the other hand, can probably start planning for another year in the top flight and they would do well to consider the formula that saw them finish between fourth and seventh from 2014 to 2017. The chopping and changing of head coaches in the last two years has undermined their credibility and they need to have the conditions in place to match their ambitions.

Buriram hit six of the best to edge closer to yet another Thai League title

Buriram United finally pulled clear at the top of the Thai League (T1) as they thumped hapless Ratchaburi 6-0.

With second-placed Chiang Rai United dropping two points at home to Sukhothai, the champions opened up a three-point gap and few would bet against them staying on top.

Meanwhile, Bangkok United signaled their surrender with a limp display at Prachuap, while Port FC kept up their challenge with a win at Suphanburi.

Here are three things we saw on T1 Matchday 24.

  1. Buriram blitz sends out a message 

Ratchaburi’s erratic form makes it difficult to know what to expect from them but, without the injured Steeven Langil and the ineligible Javier Patiño and with Lossamy Karaboue curiously left on the bench, they were short of three of their key attacking weapons at Buriram on Saturday.

Buriram United took advantage by brushing their opponents aside with some devastating finishing. 17-year-old Suphanat Mueanta opened the scoring with a nicely cushioned volley before Andres Tunez converted a penalty.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

In the second-half, Rattakorn Maikami scored a rare goal with an excellent finish with the outside of the boot, though the best was yet to come as Suphanat fed the ball inside to his older brother Supachok Sarachat. Supachok lined up his shot and smashed the ball into the top corner from distance.

Narubadin Weerawatnodom’s thunderous effort from a narrow angle was the first of two added-time goals, with Nacer Barazite grabbing the other. It has been a long, stuttering journey to get Buriram into this position, but we are now surely going to see Bozidar Bandovic’s men secure a sixth T1 title in seven years.

  1. Bangkok United raise the white flag 

It was a season that began with such high hopes for Bangkok United as Nelson Bonilla, Tristan Do, Peerapat Notchaiya, Anon Amornledsak and Mike Havenaar looked set to be the final parts of a jigsaw that would turn the club from nearly men into champions.

None of these five players were in the starting lineup when the Bangkok Angels faced struggling Prachuap FC on Saturday. Do missed his seventh game of the season through injury, while Bonilla was unavailable for the sixth time. Notchaiya – who has failed to win back his place in the starting lineup after injury – was on the bench, alongside Anon.

Havenaar’s failure to adapt to the Thai climate and footballing style saw him cut from the squad mid-season, replaced by 33-year-old free agent Jaycee John, who has failed make an impact.

Poor on-field discipline has seen an eight-game suspension for creative midfielder Sanrawat Dechmitr and two recent red cards for Pokklaw Anan – one for dissent and one for a petulant kick.

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Photo credit: Prachuap FC

Despite a massive drop-off in performance from Buriram, Bangkok United have failed miserably to take the best opportunity they may ever have of breaking the dominance of the Thunder Castle.

Saturday’s listless performance in the 1-0 defeat at Prachuap saw them slip nine points off top spot to finally confirm that they are no longer contenders for the title. The Killer Wasps showed more energy and appetite despite having played 120 minutes in the midweek League Cup victory over Chiang Rai United. Supot Jodjam’s first-half goal settled the match and the visitors rarely looked like leveling the score.

Bangkok United can still end the season on a high with an FA Cup victory but on the evidence of this performance, few would expect them to lift a much-coveted trophy.

  1. Port stay in touch at the top

Port FC’s resurgence under Choketawee Promrut continued as they ended Suphanburi’s seven-game unbeaten run with a 3-1 victory away from home.

Not only did they inflict a first defeat on the War Elephant in seven games, but they also scored as many in 90 minutes as the total other opponents had managed against the same side in that seven-match run.

Sumanya Purisai’s early injury gave Rolando Blackburn an opportunity from the bench and his acrobatic effort put Port in front. An own goal made it 2-0 before Miki Seroshtan pulled one back and ensured a nervous finish.

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Photo credit: Port FC

Nurul Sriyankem’s added-time goal sealed victory and the winger was ecstatic in his celebrations, having endured a difficult season due to injury and then seeing his path back into the starting XI blocked by Bordin Phala’s outstanding form.

Port stayed four points behind Buriram and, with the two clashing in Buriram on the penultimate match of the season, there is much to play for in the next four games to set up what could be a winner-takes-all match.

Port brush aside Muang Thong challenge as title bid gets back on track

Port FC cruised to a 2-0 victory over Muang Thong United and quashed any hopes that the Kirins might pull off a miracle and win the Thai League (T1) title.

As the Top Five sides were dropping points with reckless abandon, Muang Thong’s 22 points from eight games had taken them from the relegation zone to within touching distance of the top.

However, this defeat kills off their unlikely challenge, while Samut Prakan City’s loss at home to Chiang Rai United confirmed the end of their T1 hopes.

Here are three things we saw on T1 Matchday 23.

  1. Port put brakes on Muang Thong

Form coming into this match suggested that this could be a very tight game between two well-matched sides. In reality, it turned out to be a straightforward victory for Port even if it took until the 89th minute for Josimar’s clinching goal to give the match a scoreline that reflected the balance of play.

Port played with aggression and intensity, full of menace on the counter attack, while Muang Thong were surprisingly flat and lacking in creativity. The Kirins may have been knocking on the door of the Top Five before the match but they ended it 11 points off top spot, while Port FC stayed in touch with leaders Buriram.

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Photo credit: Port FC

It took an hour for Sumanya Purisai to make the breakthrough, but despite tactical changes from head coach Alexandre Gama, Muang Thong never built up a head of steam and repeatedly found Elias Dolah a formidable barrier in the heart of the Port defence.

The energy of Nitipong Selanon on the right flank kept the visitors on the back foot and there were also fine performances from Bodin Phala and Martin Steuble. With the managers of the Thailand and Philippines national sides looking on, they chose a good time to impress.

For Port fans, however, the main thing was to see their recent dominance over Muang Thong continue. Their T1 record over the past three years now reads W4 D1 L1 and this was their first home win over the Kirins in 10 years.

  1. Samut Prakan’s slump continues

Samut Prakan City’s fine season is in danger of finishing ignominiously as they were once again taken apart at their own stadium on Sunday. Chiang Rai United recovered from a couple of disappointing results to defeat the Sea Fang 3-0 and remain just one point behind leaders Buriram United.

The decision to recall Ekanit Panya from his loan at Chiang Mai was again vindicated as he smashed home the opener before William Henrique added a second.

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Photo credit: Chiang Rai United

The current malaise at Samut Prakan was summed up by Chiang Rai’s third. Kim Ho-yeong dallied in possession on the halfway line and was robbed by William. The Brazilian ran clear before finishing with a sublime chip over Kampol Pathomattakul.

Thet makes it four defeats in a row for Samut Prakan, conceding 15 goals in that time. They next face two away fixtures against clubs fighting for their lives, so things aren’t about to get any easier. Meanwhile, Chiang Rai’s title challenge stays on course with seven games remaining.

  1. Trat fall in mud bath farce

Playing during rainy season in Thailand poses a number of challenges. Sudden and intense storms can render a pitch unplayable in a matter of minutes and fans can see their plans disrupted by the resulting traffic chaos. It is, however, the duty of the league to ensure that matches at this level are played on surfaces that allow for a fair contest, with due consideration for the safety of the players.

On Sunday, the league again failed in this duty, just two weeks after Chonburi and Bangkok United played out a match on a waterlogged pitch. Trat’s match at home to Buriram United was delayed as the officials hoped for the rain to ease off and for the pitch to drain reduce surface water levels.

In many countries, referees use the bounce test as one way to determine if a game can go ahead. They would not have got much bounce on many areas of this pitch as the whistle blew for kickoff in this one.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

With six minutes remaining of a mud wrestle, Buriram’s quickly taken free kick created the chance for Nacer Barazite to once again make a decisive contribution from the bench and score the game’s only goal. Trat – still smarting from defeat to the same opponents in the FA Cup on Wednesday – complained bitterly that the free kick had been allowed to be taken in this manner, but they would have been better off staying focused on the ball.

The hosts’ temporary refusal to continue was an embarrassing throwback to the days when such throwing of toys from prams was more commonplace and Bireme Diouf’s manhandling of the referee surely merits a suspension.

The referee was not wrong to allow the goal, but he or whoever made the final decision was wrong to allow the game to be played in the first place.

Buriram and Muang Thong benefit as Chiang Rai slip up

Chiang Rai United failed to make the most of a big opportunity as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Ratchaburi on Thai League (T1) Matchday 22.

Just four days earlier at the same venue, the Beetles had stunned champions Buriram United by thrashing them 4-0. But they failed to hit the same heights, and failed to hold onto top spot in the league.

Muang Thong United continued their winning streak and Buriram leapfrogged Chiang Rai at the top, while Bangkok United fell further behind.

Here are four things we saw on T1 Matchday 22.

  1. Bill’s late strike saves lacklustre Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai United’s 4-0 win over Buriram United on Wednesday was one of the most stunning results of recent years. Not only were the champions humiliated, but Chiang Rai went top of T1 and appeared to have given themselves a realistic chance of winning the title.

However, just four days later, Ratchaburi proved a tougher nut to crack and only an injury-time strike earned them a fortuitous point, the visitors having taken the lead through Lossemy Karaboue.

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Photo credit: Chiang Rai United

Chiang Rai’s title challenge was always unlikely but with a solid team unit, it had started to look increasingly realistic. But they fluffed their lines somewhat as their time as league leaders ended after just four days.

Karaboue has been outstanding since his arrival in mid-season and his strike looked to have secured three points for the Dragons until Bill smashed in the equaliser deep into added time. Chiang Rai remain just a point off the top but this match was a quick lesson about the pressures of leading from the front.

  1. Heberty double keeps Muang Thong moving in right direction

Muang Thong United’s seventh T1 win in eight games continued their incredible revival and took them just two points behind slumping Samut Prakan City and Bangkok United as they close in on the Top Five.

Heberty Fernandes once again came up with the goods, netting for the fifth time in three games to keep alive hopes of the most amazing title triumph in T1 history.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

With every victory, the Kirins fantasy edges closer to a possibility and they can move within a point of bitter rivals Port FC with a victory at the PAT Stadium next weekend.

Head coach Alexandre Gama has revitalised players like Charyl Chappuis and Heberty, while showing that he is not scared to drop established names like Teerasil Dangda, Sarach Yooyen and Adisorn Promrak.

Muang Thong have taken 22 points from the last eight games. Another 22 from the next eight could see them crowned T1 champions.

  1. Suphanat makes crucial contribution at just seventeen

While some of Buriram United’s established stars were rested, Suphanat Mueanta put down another marker in his breakthrough season as he scored the winning goal at PTT Rayong.

The striker turned 17 this week and marked the milestone with his sixth T1 goal of the year to move his club back to the top of the T1 table. Nacer Barazite and Rasmus Jonsson were brought in during the transfer window to provide the goals that would push the Thunder Castle to a third consecutive title.

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However, it is the Thai prodigy who is making the biggest difference as the season enters the final stages. With Teerasil Dangda looking increasingly as if his powers are on the wane, Thailand are desperate for a quality striker. Given his youth, it is too early to say if Suphanat will be a worthy successor, but all the signs point to a player that has a big future in the game.

  1. Pokklaw sees red again and Bangkok United pay the price

It had been a slow-burner of a match, with Bangkok United the dominant side at Suphanburi, as the hosts’ defence held firm. However, when Vander Luis’ cross evaded everyone and landed in the net, it gave the visitors a deserved lead and a lifeline in their fading bid to stay in the title race.

Just three minutes later, Pokklaw Anan kicked out at Alvaro Silva in retaliation and his recklessness was punished with a red card.  It had been a solid and professional performance from Bangkok United until that point but this handed the hosts a route back into the game and Kim Sung-hwan’s equaliser extended the War Elephant’s unbeaten run to six games.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

United’s under pressure head coach Mano Polking had been given the vote of confidence this week and the response had been good until Pokklaw’s red mist undid all of the good work and let the club down badly. The Bangkok Angels are surely now also-rans in the title race.

As is depressingly familiar, the refereeing left much to be desired and Bangkok United can justifiably point to some decisions that went against them again, particularly when Vander should have been awarded a penalty before Chutipol Thongtae escaped a red card for a wild challenge on the same player. However, the red card that probably cost them two points was an unnecessary act of self-harm.

Suphanat’s brace punishes Samut Prakan as Buriram pull clear

Samut Prakan City’s Sarawut Kanlayabandit hit the self-destruct button as his red card helped Buriram United to a 4-1 victory on Thai League (T1) Matchday 20.

The surprise title contenders were 1-0 down but still well in the game when a moment of madness from Sarawut gave Buriram the edge and allowed them to pull three points ahead of their opponents.

Elsewhere, Bangkok United dropped two vital points, while Muang Thong United continued their recovery and Port FC finally won again.

Here are four things we saw on T1 Matchday 20.

  1. Sarawut sees red and Buriram go clear

Samut Prakan City had started their match at home to Buriram on the front foot as they looked determined to make the most of their opportunity to become T1 leaders going into the final third of the season.

Even when 16-year-old Suphanat Mueanta opened the scoring against the run of play, the underdogs were not discouraged and continued to take the game to the champions.

However, the complexion of the game changed completely in the 39th minute. After Sarawut’s challenge forced Nacer Barazite to the floor, the defender inexplicably stamped on Barazite’s knee, prompting the referee to give a straight red.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

There were predictable protests but replays were damning and, on the club’s biggest game yet in front of a sellout crowd, Sarawut had effectively handed the game to the opposition.

Suphanat soon added a second and, while Ibson Melo’s goal early in the second half came as the hosts rallied impressively, goals from Supachok Sarachat and Barazite finished things off.

Samut Prakan remain just three points off the top of the table but they will be disappointed that they didn’t make more of this opportunity with 11 men on the field.

  1. Mano’s gamble backfires as Swatcats take point

With Tristan Do and Peerapat Notchaiya injured and Pokklaw Anan and Mika Chunuonsee suspended, it was a brave move from Bangkok United head coach Mano Polking to rest four more regular starters following the 120-minute League Cup battle against Buriram United last Wednesday.

It showed faith in the depth of the squad with a tough run of matches to come but, having fallen five points behind Buriram United, a victory was absolutely imperative when they hosted struggling Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday.

Even considering the risk of starting with a weakened lineup, there was no legislating for the misdirected header that gifted Henri Doumbia the opening goal before naive defending from Puttinun Wannasri gave the Swatcats a penalty that Doumbia converted to make it 2-0.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

Vander Luis and Nelson Bonilla had both come off the bench by the time the second goal had gone in, but it wasn’t until the 81st minute that Chananan Pombuppha pulled a goal back. Just three minutes later, Bonilla made it 2-2, setting up a barnstorming finish.

A winner for the home side seemed almost inevitable as the game entered seven minutes of added time but a combination of determined defending and inspired goalkeeping from Samuel Cunningham ensured that both sides took a point.

Bangkok United have now won just one of the last five and a season that promised so much seems increasingly destined to end in disappointment.

  1. Muang Thong close in on Top Six

Since Alexandre Gama’s losing debut as Muang Thong United head coach, he has taken 16 points from six games to move his side from relegation threatened to Top Five and maybe even Top Three contenders.

While the current Top Five have been unable to string together a strong run of results, Muang Thong have made their move up the table with a string of efficient but unspectacular victories.

On Saturday, they overcame Ratchaburi 2-1 in a fractious affair that saw the visitors’ star man Steeven Langil sent off before the hour mark. The referee had his hands full as the tedious spectacle of bad player behaviour was on show once again.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

In the end, Muang Thong could look back on a job well done and the difference Gama has made has been significant. He has given Charyl Chappuis a regular start in midfield and has been rewarded with a string of impressive performances that may put the Swiss Thai in line for a recall to the national side.

Gama has also selected players based on form rather than reputation and this saw experienced internationals Teerasil Dangda, Sarach Yooyen, Adisak Kraisorn and Adisorn Promrak start Saturday’s match on the bench, while youngsters Patchrapol Intanee and Saringkan Promsupa started alongside the unsung Wattana Playnum and Sanukran Thinjom.

Now that the players know they cannot take their team in the lineup for granted, this Muang Thong side look like finishing the season strongly and setting themselves up for a much better 2020.

  1. Dolah puts Port back on track

It was hardly the resounding return to form that new head coach Choketawee Promrut might have hoped for but the result was always the most important thing. Elias Dolah ensured that Port FC won a T1 match for the first time in two months as his second-half header was enough to see off Sukhothai.

It is too early to talk of a renewed title bid but it was extremely important for Choketawee to make a winning start following the lacklustre form towards the end of Jadet Meelarp’s reign.

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Photo credit: Port FC

Port remain fifth in T1, five points off top spot, so there is still plenty to play for as the season approaches the final stretch. There are a couple of trips to the seaside ahead with matches at Trat and Prachuap before what promises to be a crunch match at home to rivals Muang Thong United on August 11th.

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.