Prachuap target first ever cup success as Buriram target first part of a double

Prachuap FC are aiming to make history when they take on Buriram United in Saturday’s Thai League Cup final.

The Killer Wasps battled their way up through the lower tiers before finishing an impressive 6th in their first T1 season in 2018. Having effectively consolidated their position in the top tier this year, they are now looking for their first major honour.

Buriram will need to put their indifferent league form behind them if they are to deny the underdogs a famous win.

Meanwhile in T1 action, Port FC hope to keep their title hopes alive at home to Nakhon Ratchasima, while Chonburi will look to banish the slight threat of relegation when they host PTT Rayong on Sunday.

Here are three things to look out for in Thai football this weekend.

  1. Prachuap target another SCG triumph 

As Prachuap bid to upset the odds in Saturday’s League Cup final, they can perhaps take inspiration from their last two visits to the SCG Stadium. Both ended in victory against Muang Thong United, while opponents Buriram’s suffered a 3-1 defeat in their most recent trip.

Omens aside, Prachuap come into the game on the back of a six-match unbeaten run that has taken them away from relegation danger. They have not conceded in the last four games and have lost just two goals in that six-match stretch.

However, they will be weakened by the likely unavailability of no fewer than four Buriram United loan players. The biggest losses are regular goalkeeper Kwanchai Suklom and midfield schemer Chitpanya Tisud.

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Photo credit: Prachuap FC

Buriram will have to raise their game to ensure that they avoid another cup upset, having recently lost to Ratchaburi in the FA Cup semifinal. Supachok Sarachat came to their rescue in last weekend’s home win over Chainat and in such a difficult year, they would settle for a repeat.

A transitional season may yet end in a league and cup double for the champions, which would seem excessive reward for a side whose standards have fallen way below what we have come to expect. But Buriram often find a way to win and few would bet against them taking another trophy on Saturday.

  1. Port wary of resurgent Swatcats 

The visit of Nakhon Ratchasima to Port FC on Friday evening has taken on a very different complexion since the Swatcats’ weekend heroics gave the club a huge boost following months of doom and gloom.

Head coach Chalermwut Sa-ngapol’s dramatic debut saw his team come from behind to win 4-1, scoring three times in the final five minutes. While this result may go a long way to securing another season in T1, they are not safe yet and will want to seal their place in the top tier with a victory here. Fixtures against Buriram and relegation strugglers Sukhothai and Chainat are yet to come so three points would be a huge relief.

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Photo credit: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

However, Port FC have their own aspirations as a victory would take them to within two points of joint leaders Buriram and Chiang Rai United ahead of the final three matches of the season. Since a mid-season slump, Port have taken 16 points from seven games to move back into contention as their rivals falter.

When they tried to play this match two weeks ago, a storm stopped the action just four minutes in. Both sides will be hoping for less extreme conditions as they approach a match that could be hugely significant.

  1. Chonburi aim to settle nerves 

With a six-point cushion, it would take a very unlikely sequence of results for Chonburi to be relegated. However, three defeats in the last four have them looking slightly nervously over their shoulders as we reach the final stages of the season.

There was relief last weekend as three of the bottom four lost to maintain a healthy distance from the drop zone and a win here would put an end to any lingering concerns while setting the Sharks up for a positive end to another mediocre season.

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Photo credit: Chonburi FC

Sunday’s visitors PTT Rayong sit just one point above Chonburi and would also secure another T1 season with a victory. They are unbeaten in four T1 matches, though three of them have ended in draws.

Compared to the weekend’s two headline matches, this is certainly no more than a support act but we will see two clubs that wish to end their seasons on a high to keep their fans on board for 2020.

Chiang Rai’s slip gives Buriram and Port a lift as title race nears finishing line

Chiang Rai United blew their chance to stay clear of Buriram United as a battling Bangkok United side held them to a 1-1 draw on Thai League (T1) Matchday 27.

Facing a tired and weakened Bangkok Angels, the Beetles had a great opportunity to maintain the two-point gap at the top but instead saw Buriram draw level on points after they beat Chainat 1-0 24 hours later.

Port FC moved back into the title race with a win at Chiang Mai while there were some big results at the bottom of the table.

Here are five things we saw on T1 Matchday 27.

  1. Vander dents former club’s title bid

Chiang Rai United travelled to face Bangkok United with high hopes of the win that would take them three points closer to the T1 title. With Bangkok United having run through mud for 120 minutes on Wednesday, only to lose their FA Cup semifinal on penalties, it did not seem unreasonable to suggest that the Beetles would be clear favourites.

When the teams were announced, Bangkok United were without the injured Tristan Do, Mika Chunuonsee and Nelson Bonilla, while playmaker Vander Luis started on the bench. The loss of four key players heightened expectations of an away win and an early and well-deserved Bill goal meant all was going according to plan.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

But the introduction of Vander at half-time changed the complexion of the game and gave Bangkok United much better attacking options. The Brazilian equalised from the penalty spot and was instrumental in the hosts’ attacking efforts as they went for the win.

Both sides had chances to take the three points but it was Chiang Rai who ended the match with a greater sense of regret. Having dominated the early stages, they will feel that they should have put the game beyond their opponents before Vander came back to haunt them.

  1. Suphanburi strike pair stun Ratchaburi

Ratchaburi seemed to be continuing to bask in the glory of their midweek FA Cup semifinal win over Buriram United when they were given a rude awakening by Suphanburi on Saturday.

The War Elephant – in desperate relegation trouble – were 2-0 up after just four minutes through goals from Cleiton Silva and Guilherme Dellatorre. The Brazilian duo have struggled to find the scoring touch they need at times but they delivered when it really mattered as time runs out in the battle to stay in T1.

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Photo credit: Suphanburi FC

In what was a bad-tempered clash marred by a waterlogged pitch and player indiscipline, Suphanburi added a late third to ensure that the FA Cup finalists’ feel good factor was punctured and they stayed in with a chance of continuing their stay in T1.

The War Elephant face Chiang Rai United at home on the final day of the season. As things stand, we could see a battle between a team that needs to win to stay up and a team that needs to win to lift the title.

  1. Muang Thong inspire 2020 vision

If you had to name the title favourite for 2020, based on everything we have seen in the second half of the T1 season, it would have to be Muang Thong United. While Port FC have become their bogey side, they have beaten Buriram United, Chiang Rai United and Bangkok United in a run of 10 wins in 13 matches. They are the only side this season to have strung together such an impressive and consistent sequence of results.

They faced a tough match at relegation threatened Sukhothai on Saturday but overcame the loss of the opening goal to lead 2-1. Dang Van Lam then saved John Baggio’s penalty to preserve that lead before Oh Ban-suk’s header made it 3-1. The Kirins then kept out the home side after Jung Myoung-oh’s goal ensured a nervy finale.

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Photo credit: Sukhothai FC

If Alexandre Gama can keep this group of players together and add a couple of signings to enhance the overall quality, Muang Thong should again be in a position to challenge for the title they last won in 2016.

Sukhothai, meanwhile, face three huge matches as they try and secure a fifth season in T1.

  1. Late show saves Swatcats 

When Ibson Melo’s fine volley put Samut Prakan City in front at Nakhon Ratchasima, it looked like the Swatcats were about to blow a huge opportunity to pull four points clear of the relegation zone.

With Sukhothai, Chainat and Chiang Mai all losing, Nakhon Ratchasima had the perfect chance at home to a team that had lost five of its previous seven matches. But a penalty was missed and several opportunities were squandered before the way side struck with just 26 minutes remaining.

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Photo credit: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

It was a devastating blow but it took just three minutes to equalise before an anxious wait for a second. Leandro Assumpcao’s volley from the edge of the box found its way through several bodies and into the net in the 85th minute and two more goals quickly followed in a late blitz.

With matches against title chasing Port FC and Buriram United followed by clashes with struggling Chainat and Sukhothai, it was absolutely vital that the Swatcats took the three points in this one. New head coach Chalermwut Sa-ngapol now has a bit of breathing space as he attempts to lead the club to safety.

  1. Port get back in the title race 

After a chastening 3-1 home defeat to Buriram United in June, few Port FC fans dared to believe that this would be their year. That loss seemed to puncture burgeoning hopes of a title triumph and a slump in form followed.

But the incredible inconsistency of the top sides in the league has allowed Port to stay in contention even though all has seemed lost at several points.

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Photo credit: Port FC

Sunday’s 2-0 win at Chiang Mai was not achieved with the swagger of potential champions but it ensured that, should they beat Nakhon Ratchasima at home on Friday, they will be just two points off top spot with three matches to play – one of them at current leaders Buriram.

A thrilling end to a chaotic season is in store. The T1 champions will emerge as the best of an average bunch with no side managing to look consistently good throughout the year.

Chiang Rai Utd set to gain from Bangkok United pain

Chiang Rai United have a great opportunity to consolidate their position at the top of the Thai League (T1) when they face demoralised Bangkok United on Matchday 27.

The fixture in Bangkok looked like the trickiest of the Beetles’ run-in, but Bangkok United’s gut-wrenching FA Cup final defeat to Port FC on penalties on Wednesday will surely boost the league leaders’ chances.

In the relegation zone, Suphanburi need to defeat buoyant Ratchaburi to keep their survival hopes alive, while Sukhothai can pull away from Chainat again if they beat Muang Thong Utd while their rivals lose at Buriram United.

Here are four things to look out for on T1 Matchday 27.

  1. Chiang Rai’s perfect chance to stay ahead 

When Chiang Rai took over at the top of T1 last week, it looked like the lead might last just one week, with the Beetles set to travel for a tough match at Bangkok United, while second-placed Buriram United hosted relegation candidates Chainat.

FA Cup defeats for both Bangkok United and Buriram in midweek completely change the dynamic and Chiang Rai are now clear favourites to win against a team that have nothing but pride left to play for after a dismal campaign.

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Photo credit: Chiang Rai United

Many people’s favourites for the title at the beginning of the year, Bangkok United now have a fight to finish in the Top Five. In Wednesday’s match against Port FC, the absence of top scorer Nelson Bonilla was keenly felt as they struggled in the final third.

For a team that has become accustomed to near misses, this was yet another devastating result to digest and Chiang Rai may well exploit the dark mood at the club by earning the win they need to keep them ahead of Buriram.

  1. Suphanburi running out of time 

In contrast to Chiang Rai, Suphanburi are facing a side high on confidence as Ratchaburi stunned Buriram on Wednesday to reach the FA Cup final. For completely different reasons, this may work in the War Elephant’s favour as the Dragons’ focus switches to the end-of-season showpiece.

Last weekend’s loss at PTT Rayong was another damaging result and only a victory will do here if Suphanburi are to maintain their place in T1 for an eighth year.

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Photo credit: Suphanburi FC

Ratchaburi will be basking in the glory of their cup victory and, with T1 survival almost certain, they may rest some key players to keep them fresh ahead of a more important challenge.

In what has been a desperately disappointing season for Suphanburi’s star striker Cleiton Silva, it is perhaps time for the Brazilian to step up and prove that he is not a spent force.

  1. Sukhothai hopes rest on Baggio 

Things might have been looking different for Sukhothai had John Baggio not been suspended for last week’s defeat at Chainat. Instead of pulling six points clear of the Hornbills, Sukhothai ended the weekend a place above the relegation zone on goal difference only.

The energy and skill of Baggio has made him a handful for T1 defences for the past four years and he is the main reason why the Firebats remain in the top tier. He may not be a prolific scorer but his all-round game makes him a menace to any opposition.

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Photo credit: Sukhothai FC

But Baggio will need all of his teammates to be at their best as they host a Muang Thong United side that is buzzing after their convincing victory over Buriram last week. Alexandre Gama has made such an impact at the club that they can still finish in the top three despite winning just three of their first 14 games of the season.

Muang Thong’s 10 defeats have been costly and they have lost three more matches than Sukhothai. But Sukhothai’s 15 draws have prevented them from reaching a safe position.

Firebats head coach Pairoj Borwonwatanadilok started the season very poorly at Muang Thong and quit after just five T1 games. He will hope to finish strongly and keep Sukhothai up, just as he managed to help Suphanburi beat the drop last year.

  1. Buriram must stop the rot

It has been one of the worst weeks in Buriram United’s short history. Last weekend saw them humiliated at bitter rivals Muang Thong United – a defeat that was to cost them top spot in the league. On Wednesday, Ratchaburi pulled off a big upset as they defeated the T1 champions in the FA Cup semifinal.

Despite being below par all year, Buriram can still win two trophies but they may have to string together four T1 wins for the first time this season to retain their league title. Chainat are Sunday’s visitors and they will be fighting to climb out of the relegation zone.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

The Hornbills won the reverse fixture and should not be overawed by a team that has lost much of its ability to intimidate. With Buriram centre-back Andres Tunez suspended, Chainat will target the centre of an unusually vulnerable defence.

Buriram will have to rely on their formidable attacking talents to get them back on track and to keep them breathing down Chiang Rai’s necks.

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.

Muang Thong ready to derail Buriram’s title challenge

Muang Thong United will try and play the role of spoilers in the Thai League (T1) title race when they host leaders Buriram United on Matchday 26.

The Kirins failed to mount a title bid of their own due to a dismal start to the campaign but they have the ability to put a dent in the hopes their rivals on Saturday.

Second-placed Chiang Rai United will aim to keep the pressure on Buriram when they face Trat FC at home, while there is a huge clash between Chainat and Sukhothai in the battle to beat the drop.

Here are four things to look out for on T1 Matchday 26.

  1. Muang Thong aim to damage Buriram hopes 

A series of defeats in a shambolic start to the 2019 T1 campaign ensured that Muang Thong United would not be serious challengers for their first title since 2016. However, such has been their improvement, they have the best record of any side over the last 15 matches.

Buriram will certainly be wary of a team that can beat anyone on their day and who have twice beaten Chiang Rai this year. Former Buriram boss Alexandre Gama is now in charge at the Kirins and he certainly knew how to get the better of the champions during his two seasons at Chiang Rai.

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Photo credit: Changsuek

Muang Thong were impressive in their recent 4-1 win over Suphanburi as Derley underlined his quality with a brace. Meanwhile, Buriram continue to blow hot and cold as they seek to tie up a sixth title win in seven years.

Kirins fans would love to see their team lay down a marker for next year and they would undoubtedly be happy for a victory to derail their rivals’ bid to win the 2019 title. Attacking midfielder Supachok Sarachat may be the key man for the visitors as he attempts to recreate his heroics for the national team in midweek.

  1. Chiang Rai’s chance to keep up the pressure 

With Buriram facing a tough fixture at Muang Thong, Chiang Rai United must make the most of an opportunity to keep within a point of the T1 leaders or even overtake them when they host Trat.

The visitors look to have accrued enough points to secure another season in T1 so the Beetles should be the more motivated of the two sides. Nevertheless, Trat will pose a significant goal threat, having scored more than Chiang Rai this year, thanks mainly to the contributions of T1’s leading scorer Lonsana Doumbouya.

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Photo credit: Chiang Rai United

This is a game in which to get the three points by whatever means as every result has a huge impact on the title race. In a normal season, Chiang Rai’s modest total of 47 points from 25 games would not enable them to challenge for the title but they have a huge opportunity to upset the odds.

Any slip from Buriram combined with a Chiang Rai win would see the side from the north in pole position with just four matches remaining.

  1. Desperate times for Chainat

Four defeats in five games have seen Chainat sink to joint bottom of T1. Sukhothai sit three points above them so the Firebats visit on Sunday promises to have a huge bearing on the outcome of the season for both sides.

Sukhothai are unbeaten in five, though their last four games have been drawn. The Hornbills might have been confident that home advantage would have been key when they were beating the likes of Buriram, Bangkok United and Muang Thong on home turf earlier in the year.

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Photo credit: Chainat FC

However, they have failed to win any of their last three home games and capitulated late in the recent fixture with Samut Prakan City when they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

We are likely to see a very tight and tense affair at the Khao Plong Stadium with both teams having everything to lose. Neither side is in winning form, with Sukhothai having taken just one win from the last 10 matches and Chainat just one from eight. It will be interesting to see if either can rediscover that winning feeling in one of their biggest games of the year.

  1. Life after Joksic begins with a tough test 

Milos Joksic’s four-year reign as Nakhon Ratchasima head coach ended following a humiliating defeat at Chiang Mai. Veteran Chalermwut Sa-ngapol takes over and tries to steer the club to safety as they sit just three points above the relegation zone.

With just one win in 11 T1 games, Chalermwut faces a formidable challenge as he tries to lift morale and it doesn’t get much more difficult than a trip to Port FC. The Klong Toey side may have seen their title hopes disappear with a defeat at Bangkok United last time out but they remain in third spot – 15 points ahead of the struggling Swatcats.

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Photo credit: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

60-year-old Chalermwut’s recent record will not inspire confidence among the Nakhon Ratchasima faithful but the club will be hoping that he can use his experience to make a quick and crucial impact in the final five matches of the season.

On a weekend on which relegation rivals Sukhothai and Chainat meet, the Swatcats will be happy with a point in this one and they would be absolutely delighted with three.

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.

Port FC aiming to lay Bangkok United bogey to rest

Port FC must overcome bogey team Bangkok United if they are to maintain their Thai League (T1) challenge on Matchday 25.

The Bangkok Angels have consistently got the better of matches between the two sides but this looks the perfect time to change that pattern.

Buriram United have a great opportunity to consolidate their lead at the top with a match at home to Sukhothai, while it may be last-chance saloon for Chiang Mai.

Here are four things to look out for on T1 Matchday 25.

  1. Port’s big chance to put Bangkok United to the sword

With Bangkok United’s morale at rock bottom, while Port FC are on a roll, Saturday’s match at the True Stadium seems the ideal time for Port to earn a long-awaited victory over the Bangkok Angels.

The last time they triumphed in this fixture in the league was back in 2010. May’s bad-tempered 1-1 draw at the PAT Stadium at least put an end to a six-match losing streak against Mano Polking’s side. But Port had come into that game on the back of five consecutive wins, while Bangkok United had won just two in seven.

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Photo credit: Port FC

Following that match, Port won just won of their next eight matches, while Bangkok United went on a four-match winning streak – their best of the season.

With Port having moved five points clear of this weekend’s opponents, they still have an outside chance of the title, while Bangkok United are now out of the running. To prove they have the required mental strength to challenge Buriram, this is a chance for Choketawee Promrut’s side to send the message that they won’t be shaken off in their pursuit.

However, Polking has an unbeaten record against Port and he will want to preserve that as he attempts to rebuild confidence ahead of an FA Cup semi-final against the same side. But Bangkok United’s injured top scorer Nelson Bonilla looks set to miss out yet again.

  1. Buriram aim to hammer home advantage 

It is a year that has seen Buriram’s worst performance in T1 since a woeful 2016 campaign saw them finish fourth. That season was cut short by four matches, meaning Buriram took 55 points from 30 games.

With T1 having moved to a 30-match schedule, the maximum Buriram can rack up this year is 65 points. It is far from the dominance of 2017, when they dropped just 16 points, or 2018, when they dropped just 15. In 2019 to date, Buriram have let slip 24 points in 10 fewer games but somehow find themselves with a three-point lead at the top of the table.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

The champions’ young talent came to the fore last weekend as Suphanat Mueanta, Supachok Sarachat and Rattanakorn Maikami all found the net in a 6-0 rout of Ratchaburi. They now look well set for a sixth title in seven years, with Sukhothai heading for the Chang Arena looking slightly like lambs to the slaughter.

The Firebats sit just two points above the relegation zone and they may look at this fixture as mission impossible with more winnable matches to come. Nevertheless, Buriram have shown unusual vulnerability and inconsistency this season, while Sukhothai can take heart from a battling draw at Chiang Rai last weekend.

The odds are certainly in Buriram United’s favour but Sukhothai are unbeaten in four and may not roll over in the fashion of last week’s hapless visiting team.

  1. Crunch time for Chiang Mai and Swatcats 

Chiang Mai’s home support dipped below 1,000 fans last weekend as the folly of a mid-season move to Chiang Rai was laid bare. A club that generally cannot buy its own players and play in its own city does not seem to have a place in any league, never mind T1.

Chiang Mai’s farcical dependence on Chiang Rai United for loan players hit them hard when their ‘big brother’ recalled Ekanit Panya and robbed them of one of their most inspirational talents. The Beetles understandably put their T1 title challenge ahead of the Lanna Tigers’ survival bid and Chiang Mai are in serious trouble.

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Photo credit: Chiang Mai FC

They have done well to stay in with a chance of survival for so long but time is running out and they are five points from safety. Nakhon Ratchasima may seem the ideal visitors at this time as they have just one win in 10 matches and need points to ensure their own safety.

Should the Swatcats manage to take the three points, Chiang Mai can surely start planning for life in T2. However, Chiang Mai have repeatedly shown that they won’t give up without a fight and it would be no great surprise to see them live to fight another day.

  1. Ratchaburi looking for more Langil magic 

Ratchaburi’s mercurial playmaker Steeven Langil signed a one-year contract extension this week and, having missed the last couple of matches through injury, the Dragons will hope to have him fit and ready torment Chainat again.

Earlier in the year, the Frenchman turned on the style as Ratchaburi destroyed the Hornbills 3-0 away from home. Now five points above Dennis Amato’s side, they can ease any lingering relegation worries by defeating the same opponents at home on Saturday.

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Photo credit: Ratchaburi FC

Ratchaburi may have been wounded by a 6-0 loss at Buriram last week but Chainat’s 3-2 defeat at home to Samut Prakan City was arguably more damaging. The Hornbills threw away a desperately needed three points by blowing a 2-1 lead late in the game.

This sets the scene for an intriguing match and all eyes will be on the influence of Langil, who has impressed in his first season in Thailand.

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.

Suphanburi seek killer touch while rejuvenated Port target title again

Suphanburi aim to make it eight games without defeat when they host title challengers Port FC on Thai League (T1) Matchday 24.

The War Elephant remain in the relegation zone despite having racked up a seven-game unbeaten streak and they desperately need to start converting draws into wins if they are to stay in T1.

Nakhon Ratchasima face a huge test at Chonburi with head coach Milos Joksic under fire from fans, while Prachuap will hope that their midweek League Cup semifinal win boosts morale for their home clash with Bangkok United.

Here are three things to look out for on T1 Matchday 24.

  1. Suphanburi need wins not draws 

Since Adebayo Gbadebo took over from struggling head coach Totchtawan Sripan, he has certainly got Suphanburi moving in the right direction again. The defence has conceded just three goals in seven T1 matches – a run that has included draws with Buriram United and Bangkok United.

At the other end of the pitch, however, just five goals have been scored by a blunt attack. Out-of-sorts Cleiton Silva and out-of-shape Guilherme Dellatorre cannot find the form to trouble opposing defences and grab the goals that would lift them to safety.

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Photo credit: Suphanburi FC

This weekend does not look a good time to be facing Port FC who are buoyant after last Sunday’s stirring win over Muang Thong United. Choketawee Promrut’s side are dreaming of a title win again, having emerged from a slump that seemed set to kill off their hopes.

While Suphanburi’s strikers are struggling for goals, Port have been getting by without strikers, though Josimar will surely start after his all-action performance and clinching goal last week.

This match will either send Suphanburi deeper into relegation trouble or put another dent in Port’s title challenge. The momentum is very much with the away side and the War Elephant will have to find a cutting edge to earn the three points they need.

  1. Sharks lie in wait for under fire Milos

Nakhon Ratchasima’s season seems to be fizzling out to the extent that a relegation battle will be looming if the Swatcats lose this one. A single victory in nine T1 matches has seen them go from Top Five contenders to just four points above the relegation zone.

Such is the nature of this year’s compressed T1 table, a win here could take them as high as seventh, while they could slip back to 12th with a defeat. Head coach Milos Joksic has come under heavy criticism from fans for their recent form, with many calling for his head.

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Photo credit: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

The wisdom of making a change at this crucial stage of the season would certainly be questionable but a Chonburi victory on Saturday would see the campaign to oust him gather further momentum.

Joksic needs a victory to relieve the pressure but Chonburi will be equally keen to take three points as they target a finish in the Top Six.

  1. Prachuap look for a lift after cup boost 

Prachuap FC fans finally had something to cheer in midweek as their relegation threatened club reached the League Cup final after a shock win over holders Chiang Rai United. The Killer Wasps prevailed in a penalty shootout following a match that ended in a 2-2 draw after 90 minutes and a 3-3 tie after extra time.

Prachuap will now hope that the morale boost helps lift their T1 form. They have won just twice in a 17-match spell going back to the beginning of April.

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Photo credit: Prachuap FC

Their opponents on Saturday – Bangkok United – are still clinging to their title hopes but, realistically, a run of seven wins in their last seven matches will be required and even that may not be enough with three clubs above them. They should have a decent chance of three points against a team that went through a 120-minute slog on Wednesday but the Prachuap pitch may not be best suited to their preferred style of football.

It has been a disappointing season for both clubs and they will be desperate to end it on a high. For Prachuap this means T1 survival, while for the Bangkok Angels, a failure to become Thai champions would only be offset by a second-place finish and an FA Cup triumph.

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.