As usual, I arrive way too early (I have to go to each home game straight from work) and wasted time walking around the stadium. I usually bump into more than one person I know but not today. There's a strange mixture of people around the area. It seems the Thunderdome itself has some kind of modelling show going on and the Queen Sirikit Exhibition Centre has some display that involves a lot of middle aged farangs and their families, many of whom are gawking in surprise at the football crowds.
But my focus is on the football and since I couldn't get into the West Stand with the noisy 'Ultras' (the cub would only sell 500 tickets for that stand on each day) I'm back in the East Stand with the quiet people, the families and good old 'Monkey Boy', which is my nickname for the tall man with glasses who tries to be a clown, but his only joke is to dress like a moron and stand up and yell nonsense. There's nothing wrong with this crowd (apart from Monkey Boy) but they seem a little insipid for my liking. Next season I'll be busting my backside to get a season ticket with the Ultras or failing that, at the new South Stand. It reminds me of the old Archers Road End at The Dell (of Southampton Football Club)
The first thing to jump out and smack me between the eyes is the state of the pitch. At the last game I saw (against Samut Songkhram) the pitch seemed fine. When I picked up my tickets last Thursday, the pitch seemed fine. Today, it looks like a herd of buffalo have been chased across it by a pride of Lions whilst a herd of pigs staged a banquet in the centre circle. Everywhere I look I see holes, divots and lumps.
The new South and North stands seem about sixty percent full while BEC Tero have, disappointingly, probably the lowest away support I have seen. While they've bought some impressive banners, they don't make a lot of noise.
As kick-off draws closer, we get to witness the ups and downs of Thai football. Brian Robson and Steve Derby arrive, walk past us and shake hands with fans. A brass band seem to be playing lightweight tunes that would seem more suited to a dingy jazz bar than a football game and later the regular singer comes on to perform his usual tune at the exact time the speakers decide to pack in.....then work again....then pack in....then work again...etc.
Kick off comes and both teams work hard to play quality football despite the conditions. MTU seem to be playing a flexible 4-4-2 with Piyachat and Pakasit pushing up as often as defending, Hattaporn playing unusually far up, Diako pushing up from the centre as often as he can and Leesaw playing loose on the right wing. It could actually described as 2 - 5 - 3 at times and though it's exciting to watch, I fear a good team in the ACL could hammer us for doing it.
As usual, golden chances come and go begging until midway in the first half when Teerasil takes a simple but effective 'turn and shoot' opportunity. By now the Ultras are in full swing and notably, the new South Stand are trying to keep up with them. If the demand for tickets with the Ultras is a high as I expect next year, the South Stand might be worth a bash.
The second half descends into a comedy of errors as both sides create chances that seem easier to score than miss. BEC hit the woodwork twice and "beat the offside trap" (i.e. the two centre back get caught ball watching again) several times but Kawin and the back line recover well enough to make amends. Mika, Wisarut, and Anusorn replace Leesaw, Sylla and Teerasil (I think) in three separate substitutions. Mika is steady, Anusorn looks lightweight but probably just needs more time but Wisarut looks class again. Indeed, he proves it in the eighty second minute with a nicely taken finish.
Credit to BEC as they continue their efforts but by now it is obvious the ref could announce seven hours stoppage time and they just wouldn't score. The whistle goes and the celebrations start. Robert and the two Guineans are gifted giant flags of their respective nations, Robert lifts the trophy and indicates to the fans that it is their trophy. The TFA 'phu yais' make an appearance and some others join the squad on the pitch, including some of my fellow farang fans who look like they've enjoyed a few beverages and are relishing the moment.
And so the roller coaster ride is over, bar a couple more games for Rajpracha. Such is the nature of Thai football and MTU that I've already got a lot to think about during the close season, and there's sure to be plenty to blog about.
Thank you Muangthong United for making me so welcome, playing good football and already gifting us some great memories.
Man of the match - Kawin was excellent, Wisarut looked class when he came on but didn't play long enough, I have to give it to Dango, who looked dangerous going forward, and covered back whenever he could, For a man his size, he can shimmy and turn his opponents very well.
Pictures from Siam Sport:
Dango (my man of the match) gets stuck in