Muang Thong United earned a vital three points as they eased past 10-man Trat FC to give head coach Alexandre Gama his first Thai League (T1) victory with the club.
The Kirins won for just the second time in 11 games in a match that may have seen farewells to Lee Ho and Mario Gjurovski (again), while Aung Thu struck his first T1 goal weeks after his future at the club was thrown into doubt.
Elsewhere, Bangkok United kept up their winning run and moved into second spot, while Port FC suffered another damaging defeat.
Here are four things we saw on T1 Matchday 15.
- Relief as Muang Thong move off the bottom
As Muang Thong struggled to shake off their early season troubles, the prospect of a relegation battle became increasingly plausible. Even the arrival of Alexandre Gama as head coach could not prevent a 2-0 defeat at Chonburi last week, leaving the Kirins rooted to the bottom of T1 after 14 matches.
But in Saturday’s home game against in-form Trat, they came up against a side shorn of three first-team regulars due to the fact that they are loan players owned by Muang Thong.
Photo credit: True ID
Gjurovski had set up Heberty Fernandes for the opener before a second reckless challenge saw Kriangkrai Pimrat red-carded for the visitors.
There were a few nervy moments in the second half before substitute Sanukran Thinjom made it 2-0. Aung Thu, who has scarcely featured this year, came on to add the third in added time.
Lee Ho appeared to be saying goodbye to the fans at the end of the game after two-and-a-half years at the club. The 34-year-old former South Korea international will be fondly remembered for his contribution to the AFC Champions League campaign in 2017. Gjurovski also seems to be on his way out after a brief return to the club where he spent four outstanding years.
With Brazilian striker Derley arriving along with Philippines international full-back Daisuke Sato, there will be new faces to try and lead the club to mid-table safety as soon as possible.
- Bangkok United’s surge is underway
A slow start, a mid-season purple patch and an uncertain ending. This is how Bangkok United’s seasons seem to go and 2019 is beginning to look very familiar.
Between Matchday Four and Matchday 11, the Bangkok Angels won just twice as their much-anticipated title bid floundered.
Photo credit: Bangkok United
However, Sunday’s 4-1 victory at PTT Rayong was their fourth in succession, taking Mano Polking’s side into joint second place alongside Port FC and Samut Prakan City. The spread of four different goal scorers was also highly encouraging in the absence of Nelson Bonilla (on international duty) and the suspended Vander Luis.
With a home match against Sukhothai next up, a fifth win in a row would surprise no one. Matches at Muang Thong United on July 7th and at Buriram on July 21st will then go a long way to deciding if Bangkok United’s title challenge is the real deal.
- Samut Prakan’s early blitz compounds Port misery
Seven days is a long time in football and if ever a cliché fit the circumstances, it very much applies to Port FC’s recent misfortune.
On June 16th, Buriram United visited the league leaders at the PAT Stadium. A win for Port would have put them five points clear of the champions, but a 3-1 reverse saw them a point behind.
Sunday’s visit to Samut Prakan City was always going to be a tricky fixture but no one would have expected the hosts to be 2-0 up after 10 minutes, with Ibson Melo and Teeraphol Yoryoei doing the damage.
Sergio Suarez missed a penalty and Port were handed another lifeline when Samut Prakan defender Sarawut Kanlayabandit was red-carded early in the second half. But it was not until the last minute that Port pulled one back through Suarez and it proved too little, too late.
The side that were hoping to move five points clear at the top last weekend, now find themselves four points behind and sharing second spot with two other teams.
- Baggio bullet sinks Swatcats
While his country Madagascar were preparing to make their Africa Cup of Nations debut against Guinea, John Baggio was leading the Sukhothai attack at home to Nakhon Ratchasima.
It may be a long way from Egypt to northern Thailand, but Baggio showed he was thinking of his compatriots when he celebrated a stunning winning goal by displaying the Madagascar flag.
Photo credit: Sukhothai FC
It is surprising to most T1 followers that Baggio was not selected for the Malagasy squad, particularly given that his former Sukhothai team-mate Njiva Rakotoharimalala – now with Samut Sakhon in T2 – has made it to Egypt.
But Baggio brushed off any disappointment by netting a goal of the season contender in a game that was otherwise short on highlights. The 27-year-old’s sixth strike of the year reinforced his status as the Fire Bats’ talisman and moved his side further away from the relegation zone.