Bangkok Glass dropped into the second tier for the first time in their brief history as a 2-1 defeat at home to Nakhon Ratchasima sealed their fate on a dramatic final day of the 2018 Thai League (T1) season.
Port FC sealed third spot as Dragan Boskovic’s four goals gave them a 4-1 win over Pattaya United, while Buriram United’s 1-0 victory at Ratchaburi put them onto 87 points for the season, a T1 record.
However, the biggest stories came at the other end of the table as three teams attempted to avoid finishing in 14th place – the final allocated slot for relegation in a season that sees five teams go down.
Shattered Glass pay penalty for final week failure
Bangkok Glass’ relegation is one of the biggest shocks of this or any other T1 season.
Since their first season in the top tier in 2009, their lowest finish has been 10th while they have ended the last two years in third and fifth places respectively.
But a poor start to the season saw head coach Josep Ferre sacked by the end of March. The Spaniard’s departure didn’t seem to help and there was a truly shambolic performance in April as they fell 5-2 at home to newly promoted Chainat. It was at this point that relegation first seemed a realistic possibility.
But the Glass Rabbits proceeded to take eight points from the next four games to ease concerns.
However, form became erratic again and there was another run of three straight losses in June, including a limp 1-0 submission at home to Navy FC.
The return from loan of striker Ariel Rodríguez and arrival of defensive midfielder Tanaboon Kesarat then sparked a recovery that saw them lose just one game in nine between mid-July and the end of September.
But last weekend’s defeat at Suphanburi was followed by a failure to beat relegated Ubon UMT Utd at home in midweek.
Just one point was necessary at home to Nakhon Ratchasima on the final day. But, despite taking the lead and despite the Swatcats having nothing to play for, the home side lost their lead, lost a man when Tanaboon was red-carded, lost the game 2-1 and lost their place in T1 in the process.
Photo Credit: Bangkok Glass
Bangkok Glass finished level on points with Chainat and with a vastly superior goal difference. But they took just one point from two games with the Hornbills and the head-to-head record has decided their fate.
There is still a chance of a silver lining to 2018 when Bangkok Glass face Chiang Rai United in the League Cup final on October 20th. However, the tears of fans and players tell you that staying in T1 was probably a greater priority.
Doumbia’s nerves of steel keep Chainat in T1
At the beginning of Matchday 34, Chainat were firm favourites for the drop, with relegation rivals Sukhothai and Bangkok Glass at home to teams with nothing but pride to play for.
The Hornbills got a break midway through the first half when they were awarded a penalty and Henri Doumbia stepped up to slot home.
With 10-man Bangkok Glass 2-1 down, Chainat knew their escape was in sight when disaster struck in the final minute. Tinnakorn Asurin’s header seemed to condemn the Hornbills to T2 with just minutes of added time remaining.
But there was more late drama to come as Chainat earned their second penalty of the match. A corner was swung into the Suphanburi area and the referee apparently saw a handball and pointed to the spot.
After the familiar complaints and delay, Doumbia was the coolest man on the park as he stepped up to convert the penalty that keeps his team in the top tier.
Malagasy magic saves Sukhothai
Win at home to relegated Air Force United and survival is assured. It looked straightforward enough on paper but Sukhothai made heavy weather of confirming their place in T1 for the 2019 season.
Twice they took the lead, first through Kabfah Boonmatoon and then through a 40-yard screamer from Sakdarin Mingsamorn. But twice they were pegged back as Kayne Vincent continued his rich vein of goalscoring form with his second double of the week.
It was time for the men from Madagascar to combine to save Sukhothai from relegation.
With 20 minutes remaining, John Baggio picked up the ball on the left of penalty area and spotted the run of countryman Njiva Rakotoharimalala. Baggio produced an exquisite cross with the outside of his right foot and Njiva timed his run to perfection and volleyed home at the far post.
Sukhothai’s survival will see them compete in T1 for the fourth year and for that they owe a lot to their Malagasy attacking midfielders and the 19 goals they have netted between them.