Port FC came away from Buriram United with a point for the first time since 2010 after a 1-1 draw at the Chang Arena on Thai League (T1) Matchday Four.
Two first-half goals ensured the spoils were shared in a scrappy but engaging match, allowing Bangkok United and Ratchaburi to move two points clear of Port after winning again.
Here are four things we saw on T1 Matchday Four.
1. Port claim rare point in Buriram
Perhaps for the first time ever Port FC went to the Chang Arena as slight favourites, sitting six points above the Thunder Castle after three matches. They had never won at this stadium but dared to dream when Heberty Fernandes put them ahead in the 23rdminute.
Celebrations were short-lived as Supachok Sarachat levelled just two minutes later, but the Buriram playmaker was caught by Rattanai Songsangchan’s elbow in the act of scoring and was carried off to be replaced by younger brother Suphanat Mueanta.
Neither side really went on to seize the initiative in a game in which both seemed happy to take a point. Defeat for Buriram would have seen them fall a potentially catastrophic nine points behind Port, while the visitors, having failed to emerge unbeaten from this fixture in 10 years, will see it as a decent point.
The game’s most controversial moment came when Port appeared to have scored from Bodin Phala’s corner early in the second half. However, the linesman had flagged as Bodin was taking the corner and replays showed a clash between Go Seul-ki and Kevin Ingreso, which ended with the South Korean punching Ingreso in the testicles.
Given VAR’s tendency to become unnecessarily involved in countless decisions, this seemed the kind of clear and obvious error it was made to correct. Instead, both players were booked, again highlighting the depressing ineffectiveness of the technology in combination with a referee refusing to apply clear rules.
Buriram, so often felt to be the beneficiaries of controversial refereeing decisions, can certainly feel aggrieved about this one, but at least they were spared the injustice that would have been a Go Seul-ki winning goal against his former club.
2. Bangkok United keep calm and claim another victory
New year, new Bangkok United? It certainly feels that way after they passed the latest test of their mettle with flying colours. So often seen as a team with a soft centre when things start to go wrong, this side saw their opponents equalise in the preceding two matches before finding late winners.
Just as importantly, the players have been keeping their heads even when refereeing decisions have been poor. In Saturday’s match at home to Chiang Rai United, a failure to call what looked a clear offside almost led to a goal from the visitors. Bangkok United players expressed their frustration but did not cross the line. It was the same again when Chutiphan Nobnorb – already on a yellow – crudely prevented Vander Luis from breaking forward. It was a bookable offence, but the referee let it go. Again, the home players showed their displeasure but without some of the excesses that were regularly on display in 2019.
On Saturday, the Bangkok Angels went behind for the first time this year as Brinner’s looping header gave Chiang Rai United the lead in what had been a cagey game. It took just a few minutes for Manuel Bihr to equalise as the team showed strength in adversity again.
The second half was a test of patience and it looked like substitute Brenner had scored his first goal for the club before a VAR review decided it was offside. But the hosts persisted and Hajime Hosogai made the breakthrough with just six minutes remaining – his first goal for his new club.
In what seemed a pertinent role reversal, it was Chiang Rai who could not cope with adversity and they fell apart in the closing stages, as Brenner and Sanrawat Dechmitr struck two more goals to turn a narrow win into what looked like a rout.
Head coach Mano Polking insisted before the start of the season that there was less expectation this season and this could free the players from the pressure that they had been feeling. Early indications are that the team is more focused and more resilient. It took them nine matches to achieve their fourth win in 2019, but this Bangkok United side has taken four victories from the first four matches, three of which have been far from straightforward
It is early days, but Bangkok United laid down a marker with this victory, ahead of what looks a fascinating fixture at Ratchaburi next week.
3. Persistence pays off as Patino repeats his trick
Rathaburi have been a breath of fresh air this year, playing with attacking flair and getting their rewards. Having beaten Buriram United 4-3 on Wednesday, it looked like another high scoring game may be on the cards when Nakhon Ratchasima came to visit, having conceded eight goals in three matches.
But, despite applying heavy pressure at times, the Dragons could not find a way past the Swatcats, whose goalkeeper Samuel Cunningham pulled off some excellent saves. The visitors had a few opportunities of their own to punish the home side’s profligacy but their own No. 1 Ukrit Wongmeena was equal to the challenge.
Just as it seemed this match would end in an anticlimactic goalless draw, Javier Patino repeated his midweek heroics by netting a winner in added time. This one came in the 95thminute, even later than his winning goal against former side Buriram in midweek.
No one expects this Ratchaburi side to have the depth to challenge for the title but then few would have expected them to win their first four matches. For the fourth time in five games, they will have home advantage when they face Bangkok United next weekend. It is all set up for a dramatic clash between two sides who always focus on attack.
4. William goals fail to save Prachuap
The signing of William Henrique looked a statement from Prachuap FC, following a season in which they had lifted the League Cup – their first major trophy. The Brazilian had been one of the standout performers in Chiang Rai’s title triumph and he was expected to lead the way as the Killer Wasps sought to push themselves among the top clubs in the country.
But Prachuap came into Saturday’s home match against Sukhothai with just one point from their first three games. It looked like the stage was set for a first victory, with the Firebats also failing to impress despite also investing heavily in new signings. But it was the visitors who took an early lead through Evandro Paulista, before William netted his first goal for his new club soon afterwards.
A brilliant counter-attacking move between Evandro and John Baggio ended with the latter putting Sukhothai 2-1 ahead before half-time, and Ibson Melo extended Sukhothai’s lead with a cool finish before William pulled one back with a penalty.
However, there was to be no more scoring and Prachuap end Matchday Four in the bottom three ahead of a tough trip to William’s former club next week.