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.

Sergio and Bordin lead the way as Port FC keep top spot

Sergio Suarez returned from injury to provide the inspiration for Port FC and ensure they stayed four points clear at the top of the Thai League (T1) with a 3-2 victory over Suphanburi.

The Spanish midfielder created all three goals, including a slide-rule pass for Dragan Boskovic’s late winner.

Elsewhere, Mario Gjurovski came off the bench to hit his first goal of the season, earning a point for Muang Thong United in a 2-2 draw at PTT Rayong, while Buriram United and Bangkok United both picked up important victories.

Here are three things we saw on T1 Matchday Nine.

  1. Super Sergio keeps Port on top

With a number of key players out injured or suspended, the visit of Suphanburi was always going to be a test for Port FC but the return of Suarez was perfectly timed and he wasted no time in reminding fans of his value to the team.

While Jonatan Reis and Cleiton Silva tormented a backline that finally looked to be sorely missing David Rochela, Suarez ensured that there were enough scoring opportunities at the other end to give the Port Lions another three points.

Silva had let the hosts of the hook when he squandered a great opportunity to put the War Elephant 2-0 up just before half-time and Port took full advantage.

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Photo credit: Port FC

Bordin Phala again played a big part for Port, scoring twice to make it four in his last three games. Bordin has finally been given a run of matches in the absence of the injured Nurul Sriyankem and he is ensuring that Nurul will find it tough to get back in the side.

A title winning team finds a way to win games like this and with four wins on the trot, Port are the clear front runners in what is becoming an intriguing season.

  1. Mario magic lifts Muang Thong off the bottom

Two goals from PTT Rayong’s Ariel Rodriguez looked like condemning Muang Thong United to a fifth straight defeat as the game entered its final 10 minutes.

In what has been a shockingly poor start to the season for the Kirins, it was left to a club legend to come off the bench and secure the point that takes them off the bottom of the table on goal difference.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

Mario Gjurovski has scarcely had a look-in since returning to Muang Thong after three years away, despite the sides struggles on the pitch. But the former Macedonia international engineered the move that ended with him finding the net from the edge of the box.

Gjurovksi’s celebrations were typically theatrical as his shirt came off and he ran to the bench. While it was another disappointing result for Muang Thong, the 33-year-old playmaker’s intervention may just re-energise the club and spark a recovery.

  1. Buriram get a helping hand

It took a very late Pedro Junior penalty to get Buriram United back to winning ways as they came from behind to win 2-1 at Ratchaburi.

The Dragons were the better team in the first half, with Steeven Langil’s strike giving them an early lead. Buriram’s struggles in front of goal continued and they needed a Jirawat Thongsaengphrao own goal to level the score before the penalty presented Pedro with his chance.

The penalty award caused much controversy in a game in which the referee seemed to whistle at every opportunity to give Buriram a free-kick. Philip Roller certainly handled but he appeared to be just outside the box.

In addition to several other questionable decisions that went against them, Ratchaburi understandably felt hard-done by as they came within minutes of taking a point against the champions.

Buriram ensured they stayed within four points of Port FC with a game in hand but they will need to depend on more than own goals and marginal penalty decisions if they are to win yet another title.

Muang Thong rock bottom as Port FC extend lead at the top

Muang Thong United’s new head coach Yoon Jong-hwan ended his first weekend in charge at the bottom of the Thai League (T1) following a 2-1 defeat at home to bitter rivals Port FC.

But there was a bit more fight about the team than there had been in the three straight losses that preceded this match. Elsewhere, Bangkok United lost for the third time in five games, while Buriram United also dropped points.

Here are four things we saw on T1 Matchday Eight.

  1. Port pull clear as Kirins lose again

Port FC moved four points clear at the top of T1 as they edged to a 2-1 victory at the SCG Stadium. There may have been no Port fans present for the third year running but that seems to work well for them as they won here for the third consecutive season.

After a tight first half, Bordin Phala opened the scoring with a lovely strike from 20 yards and Nitipong Selanon finished off an excellent counter attack for the second.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

Muang Thong rallied and Weerawut Kayem’s goal set up a tense finish and Charyl Chappuis was inches away from the equaliser with a thunderous strike from outside the box.

Yoon Jong-hwan will have been encouraged by some aspects of what he saw on Saturday as his side fought gamely to stay in the match. With Port looking the strongest side in the league at the moment, you have to fancy Muang Thong to start picking up points against weaker opponents with performances like this.

  1. More misery for Bangkok United

After a slow start to the season, it looked like Bangkok United might have turned a corner when they thumped Suphanburi 4-0 two weeks ago. It looks to have been a false dawn as they slipped to their third defeat in five games at Chainat on Saturday.

The Hornbills looked the hungrier side as a strike from Ricardo Santos and Everton’s own goal put them 2-0 ahead. Teerathep Winothai gave the visitors hope before Santos’ red card left Chainat to endure a testing final 10 minutes with 10 men. But it was another costly defeat for the Bangkok Angels as they slipped six points behind Port FC and lost ground on Buriram who had drawn 1-1 with Trat FC on Friday.

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Photo credit: Chainat FC

It may still be relatively early days in the season but there is little cause for optimism among the Bangkok United support as their side struggles. The losses of Vander Luiz and Mika Chunuonsee to injury haven’t helped but it is time for the other players to get the team on the right track if they are to mount a title challenge.

  1. Comeback win lifts Suphanburi

It looked grim for Suphanburi when Nakhon Ratchasima took the lead through Henri Doumbia on Sunday. The War Elephant were looking at a fourth straight defeat and another week in the relegation zone.

Head coach Totchtawan Sripan had looked like an inspired appointment but the dramatic dip in form suggested he might not last much longer in his post. Some inspired goalkeeping from Samuel Cunningham kept the Swatcats in front at half-time as it began to appear that it would not be Suphanburi’s night again.

But substitute Mark Hartmann started the comeback before goals from Cleiton Silva and Jonathan Reis gave the hosts a much-needed 3-1 victory to lift them out of the bottom three.

Things don’t get easier for Suphanburi as they have a trip to Bangkok to face league leaders Port FC next weekend but they go in much better spirits after showing a steely side to take the three points against a tough opponent.

  1. Lucien notches five in Chonburi goal fest

Chonburi continued their climb up the table with another entertaining performance as they beat Chiang Mai an incredible 7-5. The Sharks have now won three of their last four games, with an aggregate of 23 goals netted in these three wins.

Nine of these goals have been scored by Lukian, with the Brazilian on target five times on Sunday evening. Now T1’s top scorer with 10 goals in total, Lukian is looking like the most inspired signing of the season.

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Photo credit: Chonburi FC

When Buriram United were releasing Modibo Maiga just a couple of months into his contract, you have to wonder if they regretted not looking closer to home. Lukian had proved his worth at Pattaya United last year and would surely have been a safer bet than the former West Ham man.

Things are now looking up for Chonburi after a dismal start to the year saw them sitting bottom of the table after four games.

Havenaar helps Bangkok United hit form while Port FC strike five to go top

Bangkok United bounced back in style as they thrashed Suphanburi 4-0 on Thai League (T1) Matchday Seven.

The Bangkok Angels had taken just one point from the previous three games and suffered a dispiriting 4-2 loss to Chonburi in midweek. But Mano Polking’s side delivered the result they desperately needed in emphatic style.

Port FC went top with a thumping 5-0 win over Prachuap, while Muang Thong United lost once again in front of the man expected to be named their new head coach.

Here are three things we saw on T1 Matchday Seven.

Havenaar sparks rout

Mike Havenaar and Nelson Bonilla finally got to start a game together and Bangkok United finally looked like a team with the potential to be champions.

It has been a tough start to the year for the Bangkok Angels and serious doubts have been raised about their ability to mount a serious challenge for the T1 title. But Havenaar scored his second goal in four days, while Bonilla notched another two as Suphanburi lost for the third time in a week.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

Bangkok United are usually slow starters to the season and will hope that a result like this prompts a much-needed run of form to ensure they stay in touch with the teams at the top.

Meanwhile, Suphanburi have slipped into the relegation trouble after a truly wretched week. The War Elephant began the season with three draws and a win, conceding just once. They have since lost three times and conceded 10 goals.

Port expose Prachuap

Prachuap FC were the surprise package of 2018 and, coming into Matchday Seven, they sat joint top of T1. It seemed that the Killer Wasps were not going to slip into obscurity after a year in the limelight.

But Saturday evening saw Prachuap ruthlessly dismantled by Port FC, and a second-half collapse cast doubt on their ability to maintain their place near the top of the table.  It had been an uneventful game until a three-goal burst at the end of the first half put the home side into a convincing lead at the break.

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Photo credit: Port FC

Port added two more goals in the second half to complete the rout and ensure they ended the weekend at the top of the league. Prachuap were truly woeful towards the end of the game and seemed to be inviting their hosts to add to the scoreline.

In what has been a strange start to the season, Port’s five-star performance suggested they might have the ability to join Bangkok United in challenging Buriram United’s dominance. Five unanswered goals with arguably their best defender and best attacker still nursing injuries was impressive.

Muang Thong misery continues

Muang Thong United lost their third game in a row in front of the man expected to be confirmed as their new head coach. Yoon Jong-hwan now knows the scale of the task he faces as the Kirins slipped to yet another defeat against modest opposition.

Oh Ban-suk returned to Muang Thong’s defence but it wasn’t enough to prevent previously shot-shy Nakhon Ratchasima putting three past them in a 3-1 victory in the northeast.

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Photo credit: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

Former Muang Thong striker Leandro Assumpcao opened the scoring, while Chitchanok Xaysensourinthone scored on a rare start before Bernard Doumbia notched the third. Adisak Kraisorn netted a consolation for Muang Thong – their first goal in 272 minutes.

It is strange to see the talents of Teerasil Dangda, Heberty Fernandes and Dang Van Lam in the bottom three and Yoon Jong-hwan will have to find a way to get the best out of them and their team-mates between now and the end of the season.

Muang Thong United were not expected to make a serious challenge for the title this year but it’s fair to assume that no one expected them to fall so far, so fast.

Simone gets off to a flier and prompts Pairoj’s Muang Thong resignation

Marco Simone’s winning start as Ratchaburi head coach was enough to spell the end of Pairoj Borwonwatanadilok as the Muang Thong United boss resigned after their 2-0 defeat on Matchday Five of the Thai League (T1) season.

Champions Buriram United suffered a scare but moved top as Chonburi beat previous leaders Prachuap 3-2.

Here are five things we saw on T1 Matchday Five.

  1. Sweet start for Simone at the Mitr Phol Stadium

AC Milan legend Marco Simone made an immediate impact as Ratchaburi head coach, with the Dragons ending a three-match losing streak.

Second-half strikes from Yannick Boli and Kang Soo-il saw off Muang Thong United as the home side also earned their first clean sheet of the season. The return in goal of Ukrit Wongmeena may have been one of the most important decisions Simone made, having seen Pairot Eiam-mak endure a torrid time since his arrival from Sukhothai.

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Photo credit: Ratchaburi FC

Ratchaburi climbed alongside their opponents on six points from five games, with things suddenly looking brighter under the Italian. The same cannot be said for Muang Thong as Pairoj’s brief reign ended after just five matches.

The Kirins now have to pick themselves up for two games this week, while Ratchaburi will hope that the arrival of Simone has marked a turning point after more than a year of decline.

  1. Falkesgaard heroics save Bangkok United

It was another underwhelming performance from Bangkok United as they could only manage a 1-1 draw at Nakhon Ratchasima. The visitors were the better side early in the game but struggled to penetrate the notoriously stuffy Swatcats defence.

Metee Taweekulkarn’s stunning strike put the hosts ahead against the run of play and the Swatcats piled on the pressure before the break, earning a penalty. Michael Falkesgaard made an excellent save from Leandro Assumpcao’s spot-kick to keep the deficit to just one.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

Mano Polking brought on Anon Amornlerdsak and Nelson Bonilla at the break and it was Anon who levelled when he rifled home from 20 yards. But Falkesgaard pulled off a number of impressive saves to keep out the home side, particularly when he pushed Amadou Ouatarra’s blistering strike over the bar. Peerapat Notchaiya should have scored for the Bangkok Angels but his close-range effort deflected off the inside of a defender’s leg and out.

The game ended in rancour, particularly after the referee refused to give Kitsada Hemvipat a second yellow for pulling down Bonilla in a good attacking position. It looked a straightforward decision but again refereeing competence was called into question.

The referee had made several eccentric decisions throughout the game and lost control at this point. Metee almost scored his second screamer of the game in the closing stages but his dipping effort from 25 yards crashed off the bar.

  1. Kyaw Ko Ko sparks late scare for Buriram

Bozidar Bandovic took charge of his 100th Buriram United match and his side looked on course for a comfortable victory at home to Samut Prakan City after a brace from Pedro Junior added to Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri’s wonderful lobbed opener.

Myanmar striker Kyaw Ko Ko has waited a long time to make an impact in Thailand after his 2018 season at Chiang Rai United ended very early due to a serious knee injury. On as a substitute for his new club, he made an impact with a fine strike on the half volley with 10 minutes remaining.

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Photo credit: Samut Prakan City

Picha Autra surged through the Buriram defence before netting Samut Prakan’s second just three minutes later and the home side were hanging on to their 3-2 lead at the end. It was an unusual show of vulnerability from the champions and it might just give hope to the rest of the teams who show up at the Chang Arena expecting the worst.

  1. Orlandic doubles up after a false start 

Former Red Star Belgrade striker Petar Orlandic waited a long time for his first Thai League goals and then three came along in the one game.

Unfortunately, the first one came at the wrong end. The Montenegrin appeared to get a slight touch to direct Pakorn Prempak’s corner into his own net to level the score after Joel Sami had given Sukhothai the lead at home to Port FC.

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Photo credit: Sukhothai FC

By this point at the end of the first half, Port had been reduced to 10 men, with Sumanya Purisai sent off for a petulant push on the referee.

But Orlandic would get off the mark for the home side as he netted from the penalty spot and then added a late header to secure Sukhothai’s first victory of the season. For Port, it was a first defeat and it was self-inflicted due to a loss of discipline from one of their most experienced players.

  1. D-Day for Trat

The shock result of the weekend was surely Trat’s 4-0 victory at home to Suphanburi. The hosts had not won any of their first four games, while Suphanburi had conceded just one goal in their opening four matches.

But Trat’s attacking trio of Lonsana Doumbouya (2), Bireme Diouf and Adefolarin Durosinmi were all on target as Suphanburi’s defence struggled without Anderson Dos Santos.

Defences will now be were well warned of the threat that Trat pose in attack after they moved out of the bottom three for the first time this year.

War Elephant head coach Totchtawan Sripan has much to ponder ahead of his side’s match at home to Chiang Mai on Wednesday.