Chiang Rai United failed to make the most of a big opportunity as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Ratchaburi on Thai League (T1) Matchday 22.
Just four days earlier at the same venue, the Beetles had stunned champions Buriram United by thrashing them 4-0. But they failed to hit the same heights, and failed to hold onto top spot in the league.
Muang Thong United continued their winning streak and Buriram leapfrogged Chiang Rai at the top, while Bangkok United fell further behind.
Here are four things we saw on T1 Matchday 22.
- Bill’s late strike saves lacklustre Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai United’s 4-0 win over Buriram United on Wednesday was one of the most stunning results of recent years. Not only were the champions humiliated, but Chiang Rai went top of T1 and appeared to have given themselves a realistic chance of winning the title.
However, just four days later, Ratchaburi proved a tougher nut to crack and only an injury-time strike earned them a fortuitous point, the visitors having taken the lead through Lossemy Karaboue.
Photo credit: Chiang Rai United
Chiang Rai’s title challenge was always unlikely but with a solid team unit, it had started to look increasingly realistic. But they fluffed their lines somewhat as their time as league leaders ended after just four days.
Karaboue has been outstanding since his arrival in mid-season and his strike looked to have secured three points for the Dragons until Bill smashed in the equaliser deep into added time. Chiang Rai remain just a point off the top but this match was a quick lesson about the pressures of leading from the front.
- Heberty double keeps Muang Thong moving in right direction
Muang Thong United’s seventh T1 win in eight games continued their incredible revival and took them just two points behind slumping Samut Prakan City and Bangkok United as they close in on the Top Five.
Heberty Fernandes once again came up with the goods, netting for the fifth time in three games to keep alive hopes of the most amazing title triumph in T1 history.
Photo credit: Muang Thong United
With every victory, the Kirins fantasy edges closer to a possibility and they can move within a point of bitter rivals Port FC with a victory at the PAT Stadium next weekend.
Head coach Alexandre Gama has revitalised players like Charyl Chappuis and Heberty, while showing that he is not scared to drop established names like Teerasil Dangda, Sarach Yooyen and Adisorn Promrak.
Muang Thong have taken 22 points from the last eight games. Another 22 from the next eight could see them crowned T1 champions.
- Suphanat makes crucial contribution at just seventeen
While some of Buriram United’s established stars were rested, Suphanat Mueanta put down another marker in his breakthrough season as he scored the winning goal at PTT Rayong.
The striker turned 17 this week and marked the milestone with his sixth T1 goal of the year to move his club back to the top of the T1 table. Nacer Barazite and Rasmus Jonsson were brought in during the transfer window to provide the goals that would push the Thunder Castle to a third consecutive title.
However, it is the Thai prodigy who is making the biggest difference as the season enters the final stages. With Teerasil Dangda looking increasingly as if his powers are on the wane, Thailand are desperate for a quality striker. Given his youth, it is too early to say if Suphanat will be a worthy successor, but all the signs point to a player that has a big future in the game.
- Pokklaw sees red again and Bangkok United pay the price
It had been a slow-burner of a match, with Bangkok United the dominant side at Suphanburi, as the hosts’ defence held firm. However, when Vander Luis’ cross evaded everyone and landed in the net, it gave the visitors a deserved lead and a lifeline in their fading bid to stay in the title race.
Just three minutes later, Pokklaw Anan kicked out at Alvaro Silva in retaliation and his recklessness was punished with a red card. It had been a solid and professional performance from Bangkok United until that point but this handed the hosts a route back into the game and Kim Sung-hwan’s equaliser extended the War Elephant’s unbeaten run to six games.
Photo credit: Bangkok United
United’s under pressure head coach Mano Polking had been given the vote of confidence this week and the response had been good until Pokklaw’s red mist undid all of the good work and let the club down badly. The Bangkok Angels are surely now also-rans in the title race.
As is depressingly familiar, the refereeing left much to be desired and Bangkok United can justifiably point to some decisions that went against them again, particularly when Vander should have been awarded a penalty before Chutipol Thongtae escaped a red card for a wild challenge on the same player. However, the red card that probably cost them two points was an unnecessary act of self-harm.