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.

Port ready to prove title credentials while Gama aims to start Muang Thong revival

Port FC face a pivotal moment in the Thai League (T1) title race when they host champions Buriram United on Matchday 14.

Port have taken advantage of slow starts to the season from their rivals to lead Buriram by two points and Bangkok United by six.

The outcome of Sunday’s match will give a strong indication of Port’s title credentials going into the second half of the season.

Sunday also sees Alexandre Gama take care of relegation-threatened Muang Thong United for the first time as he attempts to lead a recovery beginning at Chonburi.

Here are three things to look out for on T1 Matchday 14.

  1. Port’s big day arrives

We have yet to reach the halfway point of the season but Port FC’s clash with Buriram is set to be one of the most important matches of the year.

The side from Bangkok used to revel in their reputation as rough and tough anti-establishment underdogs from the mean streets of Klong Toey. The stadium – having apparently failed to receive any investment despite their recent-found wealth – may be as rough and ready as ever, but they shed the underdog status when moneyed Nualphan ‘Madam Pang’ Lamsam took over the club four years ago.

Her arrival may have been too late to prevent a slide into T2 in 2015 but since they returned to T1 in 2017, there has been significant investment in the playing squad, which culminated in a third-place finish last year. The shrewdest signing has probably been Sergio Suarez, with the former Las Palmas midfielder rescued from the relative obscurity of T2 to play a huge role in Port’s revival.

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Photo credit: Port FC

With Tanaboon Kesarat already recruited for the second half of 2019, there is a strong feeling that this could be Port’s year, with a collection of players who have a good blend of youth and experience, and many in their mid-20s.

They will have to do without the services of Go Seul-ki – who is on loan from Buriram – on Sunday and the attacking thrust of injured left-back Kevin Deeromram will be missed.

But Port should have no fears of a Buriram side who took just one point from recent visits to Chainat and Sukhothai. The Thunder Castle may have found their scoring touch with a midweek thrashing of PTT Rayong but Port should see this as an excellent opportunity to prove that their title challenge is the real deal.

  1. Bangkok United must close the gap

It was Bangkok United rather than Port FC who most people considered as the main contenders to Buriram this year.

After a troubled start to the season, the Bangkok Angels have started to show a bit more consistency and are now unbeaten in five. This recent form has kept them in touch with the league leaders and Sunday gives them the perfect opportunity to close the gap on one or both of their rivals.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

They face an unpredictable Ratchaburi side that possesses some great attacking talent and whose defence has tightened up, conceding just once in the last three games.

But Bangkok United know what victory means with the two main contenders clashing elsewhere. Anything else may suggest that we have a two-horse race on our hands.

  1. Gama hopes to make it third time lucky

Muang Thong United parted ways with head coach Yoon Kong-hwan in midweek and the widely anticipated arrival of former Buriram and Chiang Rai United boss Alexandre Gama was almost immediately confirmed.

Gama is the Kirins’ third coach of a season that has seen the four-time champions reduced to relegation strugglers. The Brazilian’s time in Thailand has seen great success, with his rugged style at Chiang Rai noted for the cup wins of a side that could rise to the big occasion.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

Muang Thong must string together some results that have them heading up the table and away from the potentially disastrous consequences of a relegation. Victory at Chonburi on Sunday would be a huge step in the right direction and would see them move just one point behind their old rivals.

Chonburi also have a new head coach in position, though the appointment of Sasom Pobprasert has failed to generate much enthusiasm. Sasom is a veteran of many jobs but his best days at Thai Port were a long time ago.

A Chonburi Vs Muang Thong United clash used to be at a different end of the table but both may already just be looking to get to the end of this season unharmed and start again next year.

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.

Buriram hope to keep Muang Thong in their unfamiliar place

Buriram United host Muang Thong United in unusual circumstances on Thai League (T1) Matchday 12.

Over the past 10 years, this has generally been a clash between two of the top teams in the country, with one of them going on to become champions. On Sunday, Muang Thong kickoff in Buriram at the bottom of T1.

Leaders Port FC also have a trip to the northeast as they take on Nakhon Ratchasima on Saturday.

Here are four things to look out for on T1 Matchday 12.

  1. Buriram set to inflict more pain on Muang Thong 

There is no love lost between Buriram and Muang Thong and the home side certainly won’t be showing any mercy as they bid to stay close to top spot. Buriram sit five points behind Port FC but with two games in hand. Another three points here would keep them in a very strong position.

The Thunder Castle will have been boosted by a positive end to a disappointing AFC Champions League campaign in midweek as they took a point at Jeonbuk Hyundai despite resting several players.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

Meanwhile, Muang Thong have endured a week of speculation around the future of head coach Yoon Jong-hwan. There have been rumours that the South Korean will be replaced by former Buriram boss Alexandre Gama as the Kirins seek to find their way out of trouble. They have also been rocked by the news that Myanmar striker Aung Thu is set to cancel his contract with the club.

All is not well at Muang Thong and Buriram will do their best to prolong the suffering.

  1. Swatcats in good shape ahead of Port challenge 

Nakhon Ratchasima have become a force to be reckoned with on home turf. Since a defeat to Chiang Rai Utd on Matchday 2, the Swatcats have been undefeated in five games in their own backyard and have won the last three by an aggregate score of 11-3.

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Photo credit: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

This is not the side that ground out low scoring draws and wins in 2018 and Port FC will know they are in for a tough match. Sergio Suarez’s suspension hurts the visitors and the hosts will hope that the trio of Amadou Ouatarra, Leandro Assumpcao and Henry Doumbia can provide the attacking flair to hurt Port at the back.

Having dropped two points at home to Bangkok United last weekend, Port FC will not want their rivals to close the gap at the top of the league. However, the Bangkok side will need a strong performance to come away with three points.

  1. Bangkok United aim to reel in rivals 

Seventh place is not where Bangkok United would have expected to be at this stage of the season. Two wins in eight matches is certainly not the form of champions.

However, they have gone on impressive winning runs in previous years and this Sunday would be a good time to start. The Bangkok Angels can nudge ahead of Samut Prakan City on goal difference with a victory on Sunday.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

They will, of course, have to do it without Sanrawat Dechmitr after the midfielder was hit with an eight-match ban for striking the referee in last week’s match at Port FC. The general behaviour of the Bangkok United players will be under the microscope as every week seems to see them lose their heads in frustration.

Good form and good results will help that frustration go away and perhaps Sanrawat’s punishment will encourage them to focus more on maintaining their discipline, which may ultimately have a positive impact on performance.

Samut Prakan have a suspension of their own to deal with as midfield general Peeradol Chamratsamee misses out.

  1. Something has to give as Trat FC host Chiang Rai 

Chiang Rai United have edged into second place in T1 with a series of narrow victories that have highlighted their ruthless efficiency. They have won 16 of the last 18 points to suggest that they might just be challengers in the most open league in years.

But the Beetles will have to win games like this to ensure they don’t end the season out of the top three again. It will not be easy against a Trat side that is unbeaten in five games with a team that has gelled well despite being put together more or less from scratch at the start of the year.

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Photo credit: Chiang Rai United

Up front, Lonsana Doumbouya will provide the biggest threat as usual, while veteran Bireme Diouf will offer his usual nuisance value. However, Chiang Rai have managed to overcome stiffer challenges than this and it would be no surprise to see them come away with three points.

Port FC fans prepare to pay emotional tribute after tragedy strikes

Tragedy casts a shadow over Thai League (T1) Matchday 11 following the passing of five Port FC fans in a road accident on Wednesday.

Tributes have been pouring in for five of the club’s most dedicated supporters since they became the latest victims of Thailand’s treacherous roads on their way to the League Cup clash with Nongbua Pitchaya.

Port’s home clash with Bangkok United on Saturday had been shaping up as a potentially pivotal clash in the title race but the importance of the match has been put into perspective as the club mourns.

Here are three things to look out for on T1 Matchday 11.

  1. Off-pitch tragedy overshadows big match

Port FC sit on top of T1 a third of the way into the season, eight points ahead of Bangkok United – many people’s pre-season favourites.

While the Bangkok Angels have flattered to deceive, Port have shown the value of continuity as the squad that was inconsistent last year has clearly grown into a stronger unit.

This game may have a significant impact on the outcome of the season but the result is not something that too many home fans will be concerned about at this time. It promises to be an emotionally charged occasion as the club pays tribute to five people who represented the best of Thai fan culture.

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Long-time Port fan Dominick Cartwright described what the fans meant to the club and its supporters.

“As a foreign fan these are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met, fans who would walk up to me, tell me it’s good to see me at PAT Stadium, offer me a beer and we’d have a chat before the game,” said Dominick. “I have enjoyed years of following the club and they’ve made me feel welcome and part of the Thai Port family. They were all part of the club and they will all be sadly missed.”

Port FC are donating gate receipts to families of the deceased and there will be a memorial service from 5pm, with fans asked to dress in black for the occasion.

  1. Better days haunt Totchtawan and Muang Thong

It is amazing that just two years have passed since Totchtawan Sripan and Muang Thong United were making headlines across Asia as they reached the last 16 of the AFC Champions League, following some scintillating performances from Chanathip Songkrasin.

Since then, Chanathip has become a superstar with Consadole Sapporo in Japan, while the fortunes of the club and its former head coach have nosedived.

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Photo credit: Suphanburi FC

This Sunday sees Totchtawan’s 14th-placed Suphanburi take on T1’s bottom side Muang Thong in a stunning reversal of fortune.

Despite investment in two of T1’s top strikers, the War Elephant have lost five of the last six games. Muang Thong have taken just one point from their previous six fixtures so both sides come into this with morale very low.

You have to imagine both would be happy with a point just to stop the rot.

  1. Samut Prakan aim to prolong Prachuap travel sickness

Few would have expected to see Samut Prakan City so high in the table at this stage but the club has made light of the upheaval of taking on the licence of Pattaya United and moving to a different province.

Players who came from Pattaya have given the side a solid foundation while the additions of Slovenian centre-back Aris Zarifovic and Brazilian striker Ibson Melo have been inspired.

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Photo credit: Samut Prakan City

With Peeradol Chamratsamee pulling the strings in midfield after missing most of 2018 through injury, Samut Prakan look to have the potential to finish in the top five.

On Sunday, they host 2018’s surprise package Prachuap FC, who sit just two points behind them in fifth place. Prachuap remain a formidable opponent at home but have lost four times on the road this year and were spanked 6-1 (at Bangkok United) and 5-0 (at Port FC) on their last two visits to Bangkok.

Samut Prakan have taken 10 out of 12 points from their home games so the hosts must be favourites to consolidate fourth spot as we approach the halfway point of the season.

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.

Port FC aiming to avoid becoming another big-name scalp for Chainat

League leaders Port FC face a tricky trip to Chainat as they attempt to maintain their four-point cushion at the top on Thai League (T1) Matchday 10.

Three of last year’s top five teams have visited the Khao Plong Stadium in 2019 and none have emerged victorious.

Meanwhile, the pressure remains on Buriram United and Bangkok United to stay in touch at the top, while Muang Thong United sit bottom of the table and desperately need three points.

Chainat test for rampant Port

The Hornbills have seen off Bangkok United and Muang Thong United at their home ground this year, while Chiang Rai United could only manage a point. Port were also victims of Chainat’s ability to raise their game against the top sides when they fell to a 2-1 defeat here last year.

But Port look a different proposition to the team whose inconsistency in the first half of 2018 denied them a chance to mount a sustained bid for the title. Victories in matches like this decide titles and three points here would set them up very nicely for the visit of Bangkok United next weekend.

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Photo credit: Port FC

Chainat have lost Leandro Resida for the season, while Gorka Unda will not be fit to return for another several weeks at least. The Hornbills’ morale was punctured by the concession of a last-minute equaliser at Chiang Mai in midweek and this can only help a Port team that have won four in a row, netting 14 times. For good measure, they slammed six past Samut Sakhon in last week’s FA Cup fixture.

If Port can negotiate this match successfully, they can approach their upcoming matches with great confidence.

Bangkok United hope to cure travel sickness

Consecutive home defeats to Buriram United and Chonburi looked set to derail Bangkok United’s title bid but they responded in style with thumping home wins over Suphanburi and Prachuap that included 10 goals.

But to become champions, Bangkok United will have to do much better on their travels, having recorded just one away victory so far – a 1-0 win at Trat FC. Their last T1 trip ended in a fractious 2-1 defeat at Chainat. In the absence of the injured playmaker Vander Luiz, they have also become very dependent on the goals of top scorer Nelson Bonilla, who has netted eight times so far.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

This looks the perfect opportunity to earn another three points on the road, against a Chiang Mai side that has conceded 13 times in the last three T1 games. Despite an indifferent start to the season, the Bangkok Angels still sit in fifth spot – six points behind leaders Port FC. If they can win this and then win at Port FC next weekend, they will be right back in the title race.

Pedro key to Buriram recovery

Despite having a poor season by their standards, Buriram United remain very much in touch with the T1 leaders, sitting just four points behind with a game in hand. The disappointing exit from the AFC Champions League in midweek means they can now fully focus on the league, which must be ominous for those who wish to challenge them.

But things have not looked right at Buriram all year, with only the ACL victory over Jeonbuk Hyundai showing what they can do with the right intensity. Modibo Maiga had his contract terminated, 20-year-old striker Supachai Jaided looks like he needs a rest, while there is no consistency in the centre of midfield, with constant changes of personnel.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

On the bright side, the performance of Pedro Junior really caught the eye in the 2-1 defeat to Urawa Reds on Tuesday. As well as netting Buriram’s goal, the Brazilian put in an energetic shift that troubled the Urawa defence throughout.

If he can repeat that form in Sunday’s Isaan derby at home to Nakhon Ratchasima, Buriram may just earn the victory that they need to stay in a good position. They were very fortunate to win 2-1 at Ratchaburi two weeks ago and they have won just one T1 match by more than one goal in 2019. They will hope to start using more than luck and slender advantages to edge them past their opponents.

Time for Teerasil to lead Kirins out of trouble

The return of Thailand’s top striker to Muang Thong United gave grounds for great optimism at the start of the season, with Teerasil Dangda having spent a year in Japan.

While you might have expected him to hit the ground running, he has hit the net just twice in T1 this year and this is symptomatic of the club’s struggles.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

But last week’s 3-0 FA Cup victory at Prachuap FC was a sign that things may just be turning around for Muang Thong. The 2-2 draw in the previous T1 match at PTT Rayong ended a run of four straight defeats and with Teerasil, Heberty Fernandes and Adisak Kraisorn on target last week, Yoon Jong-hwan’s side appear to be heading in the right direction.

Samut Prakan City visit the SCG Stadium on Saturday and will not make for easy opponents as they sit 12 places above T1’s bottom side. Teerasil and his teammates have underperformed this year and this is an opportunity to prove that they are ready to start climbing back up the table.

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.

Striking problems for misfiring Buriram as they prepare for Ratchaburi challenge

Misfiring Buriram United may still be unbeaten in the Thai League (T1) this season but they have dropped eight points in seven games and sit four points off the lead ahead of their clash at Ratchaburi on Matchday Nine.

The Thunder Castle still have a game in hand on leaders Port FC but they have drawn the past two T1 games, scoring just once. In that period, they have also lost two ACL games by an aggregate score of 5-1.

The Thai champions need a lift but they still appear to be struggling to cope with the departure of top attacking talents Diogo Luis Santo and Osvaldo.

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

  1. Buriram strikers have a point to prove 

While Pedro Junior has struggled to make an impression and Modibo Maiga has already been sent packing, several other foreign strikers have not found goals hard to come by this year.

Trat FC’s Lonsana Doumbouya was on target against Buriram last weekend for his sixth of 2019, while Lukian struck five times for Chonburi to make it 10 for the season. Ratchaburi’s Yannick Boli is another to have hit the ground running and he will be taking aim at Buriram on Sunday as he seeks to add to the six he has already scored in this campaign.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

20-year-olds Supachai Jaided and Supachok Sarachat have blown hot and cold so far for Buriram as you might expect for players of that age. The more experienced Pedro and scarcely used Javier Patino have to do more to help the team out of a rut.

Ratchaburi are on a high after a 3-1 win at PTT Rayong last week and this looks a tricky assignment for the stuttering champions.

  1. Stretched Port staying positive

Port FC are on a roll and they have yet to be knocked off their stride by injuries to key players. David Rochela and Nurul Sriyankem have been out for most of the season to date, while Sergio Suarez has become a recent addition to the injury list.

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Photo credit: Port FC

This weekend sees Go Seul-ki and Nitipong Selanon suspended and Pakorn Prempak also out injured, meaning five regular starters miss out. But injury means opportunity and Bordin Phala and Sumanya Purisai have proved more than adequate replacements for Nurul and Suarez, while Tossapol Lates has deputised well for Rochela.

Suphanburi emerged from a slump with a battling 3-1 win over Nakhon Ratchasima last weekend and may pose a decent challenge with their strikers scoring again. But league leaders Port sense a title bid might just be on and victories in home games like this will be key.

  1. No margin for error for stuttering Bangkok United

With three defeats and just one win the last five games, it has been a grim period for would-be title challengers Bangkok United. Much was expected of a revamped squad in a transitional season for rivals Buriram United.

But the Bangkok Angels have flattered to deceive and seem to lack the necessary leadership on the pitch as they struggle to find consistent form.

Nelson Bonilla has netted five times and only his goals have prevented a disappointing start from being disastrous. It is time for others in the team to start contributing more when they host Prachuap FC on Sunday.

Head coach Mano Polking must know that his time could be up after almost five years in the jobs if his players do not respond to the latest challenge. There can be no more excuses and no more slip-ups. The slogan for the season is ‘The Time is Now’. It is definitely time for this group of players to make it happen.