Supachok Sarachat was Buriram United’s hero again as he struck the winning goal in a 3-2 victory over local rivals Nakhon Ratchasima on Thai League (T1) Matchday 28.
Ten days after grabbing the winner against Chainat, Supachok repeated the trick with a similar goal at a similar time in the match to put Buriram two points clear at the top of T1, with Chiang Rai United dropping two points at PTT Rayong.
Port FC beat Chainat 4-0 to stay two points behind and set up a crunch match at Buriram on October 20th.
Three of the bottom five lost, while Sukhothai and Suphanburi could only manage draws as the relegation struggle remained very much unresolved.
Here are four things we saw on T1 Matchday 28.
- Buriram signal intent in derby classic
The champions were reeling from a League Cup final defeat in what has been a mediocre season by their standards. But they quickly took the initiative in the Isaan derby and went 2-0 up just over halfway through the first half.
Like many of the foreign strikers who arrived in the mid-season transfer window, Rasmus Jonsson has disappointed but the Swede grabbed his first T1 goal in spectacular style as he volleyed into the top corner from the edge of the box. Rattanakorn Maikami quickly added a second to put the league leaders in control.
Photo credit: Buriram United
But the Swatcats are in a relegation battle and, in front of a passionate home crowd, a brilliant piece of trickery from Henri Doumbia set up Yayar Kunath to pull one back before half-time.
A tense second half followed and Siwarak Tedsungnoen made a fine stop from Mark Hartmann before Supachok struck what would be the decisive blow. Kritsada Hemvipat pulled one back with a stunning overhead kick in added time but, unfortunately, such a brilliant goal will count for little.
Results elsewhere meant that Nakhon Ratchasima are still very much in control of their fate, while Buriram showed flashes of the quality and spirit that have rarely been seen this year.
- Port cruise to set up title crunch
Chainat’s visit to Port FC saw a side on the brink of relegation take on a side with title aspirations. There was little between the teams in the opening 20 minutes but the match began to come to life, though it took the hosts until just beyond the 45-minute mark to take the lead when Go Seul-ki headed home.
Josimar Rodrigues netted a second before Port spurned chance after chance to add a third. There was a brief late rally from the visitors that featured a long-range strike from Dennis Buschening that crashed off the bar. But Port re-asserted themselves with strikes from Sumanya Purisai and Sergio Suárez in added time.
Photo credit: Port FC
Port now travel to Buriram for a match that may make or break their title ambitions. While Buriram have plenty of experience in such matches, this is new territory for Port and will be a huge challenge.
The damage to Chainat was minimised by results elsewhere but they may still have to win their final two matches to have a chance of survival, starting with a clash at home to Nakhon Ratchasima in two weeks.
- Chiang Rai feel the heat
Winning titles requires narrow victories in difficult away matches when the pressure is on. Chiang Rai United twice took the lead at PTT Rayong on Thursday but twice they were pegged back by a side that has won just one of its last nine T1 matches.
The Beetles remain just two points off the pace but they have handed the initiative back to Buriram, who can clinch the title with two more wins. The Thunder Castle would be indebted to their former player Anawin Jujeen, who headed home the second PTT equaliser with under 10 minutes remaining.
The point guaranteed that PTT would spend another year in T1, but it was two points lost for Chiang Rai. They will be hoping that Port and Buriram share the spoils on Matchday 29. Such a result would allow them to take the title if they can win their remaining two fixtures.
- Bottom sides blow big chances
On a night when Chainat and Nakhon Ratchasima were always going to be second favourites, the three other relegation candidates had the opportunity to boost their survival odds when playing against teams that had little to play for.
Up against a severely depleted Bangkok United side, Chiang Mai had a chance to draw level with Chainat. However, team selection again suggested that the last thing they want to do is stay in T1. Strikers Eliandro and Caique were left on the bench, to again expose the shameful mismanagement of the club.
Suphanburi were up against a Prachuap side that had gone a grueling 120 minutes in the League Cup final on Saturday. The War Elephant took an early lead before several clear cut chances were squandered. Anxiety set in and the Killer Wasps found an equaliser following a calamitous defensive mixup.
Photo credit: Ratchaburi FC
At home to FA Cup finalists Ratchaburi, Sukhothai went ahead through Irvin Herrera in the first half. Like Suphanburi, they couldn’t hold on and they actually fell 2-1 behind before Yanto Basna’s last-minute effort secured what could yet be a vital point.
This was certainly a big opportunity lost for Suphanburi and Sukhothai, though Chiang Mai will have to wait a little longer to be put out of their misery.