Rene Junior on the touchline
My first impressions of the Thammasat University Stadium were not great. Although the area is circled by modern apartments fitting the prestigious university's reputation, the giant structure itself and the immediate vicinity appear as another victim of the Asian Financial Crisis in the nineties - unfinished and run down.
But once inside things got better. The turnout from MTU was massive, owing to the very short distance between the two clubs and the almost direct highway route linking them. The roofing catches some of the echo from the fans, the view is good despite the obligatory running track between the stands and the pitch and - best of all - service to your seat from McDonald's. Yep, coronary at your convenience.
The lineup was yet another chop and change affair:
Kawin (GK) , Kaewprom (RB, yes, RB!), Jetsada (Capt, CB/DM!) , Anupong (CB), Nattaporn (CB) , Piyachart (LB), Siaka (DM, yes, DM!), Datsakorn (MD), Pitchipong (MD) , Rungsiyo (ST), (Teerasil (ST)
Another strange line up. No Kone, No Sylla again and yet another experimental right back. I wasn't sure about this.
But MTU started well and forced two early saves from the Police 'keeper. Indeed, the first half as a whole was nearly all Muangthong. At one stage, Police had no fewer than nine of their own players in their penalty area. Highlights from this period included a close range shot from Teerasil that was saved, an effort from Pitchipong to re-create his goal from last week and - best of all - a superbly executed overhead kick from Rungsiyo that deserved to go in but hit the crossbar instead. As you may have gathered, I've always felt Rungsiyo was underrated and if we can't sign a new striker for the second leg, then this guy deserves a run of games.
Police looked to attack on the break but never really looked like they had the pace or luck to do so. We went in at half time goalless but at this stage I wasn't concerned. We'd seen many games like this and as long as we kept up the pace, we'd find the net sooner or later right? That was before we saw the players come out for the second half.....
Rene's substitutions have puzzled me for a while. I usually give him the benefit of the doubt and assume certain players are hurt or being rested when they go off, but at other times I just can't understand what is going on. Rungsiyo had come closest to scoring in the first half, his reward was to be taken off and replaced by Leesaw who - with great respect to the likable player - has been really poor recently. Also making an appearance was another squad member whom I can't even recall touching the ball. I think it was Ammorn, but I'm not sure.
With Jetsada, Siaka and Kaewprom all playing out of position, the side now looked unbalanced and efforts on goal became more rushed and desperate. Leesaw blazed another chance over the bar before performing a laughable dive that the referee ignored. Piyachart and Kaewprom both returned to the deep crosses that characterised our previous run of low confidence and Teerasil struggled to break the three man line of centre backs Police would often put up.
The goal came midway in the second half and was the result of a far post, close range run by a Police striker who sneaked in unmarked. After that, Police United - whose motto is: 'The Spirit of Gentlemen' - seemed to have a player down injured every five minutes. Naturally, after being stretchered off they recovered remarkably quickly on the sidelines .
We pushed back, but it was one of those days. We could have played an extra ninety minutes and not scored.
I'm sure I'm not the only fan puzzled but some of our tactics for this game. What does Rene see in Leesaw? He has put over every chance he's had in his last three games (bar one) and out on the wing he struggles to make any impact. My worry is that Christian's injury may delay any transfer for Leesaw, but he needs a clean start and we need someone else to fill that position. Why shuffle the right back position so much? Where is Sylla? Why play Siaka in Sylla's position when he is so much more effective playing behind the attackers? Why play Jetsada in two positions?
Enough griping, but I do hope this result and performance can be put behind us quickly. We can't let Chonburi make up any more ground, and the return game at their place is just two weeks away.
Man of the Match
This one is slightly unusual because I'm not giving for being our best player (he probably wasn't) but because I thought he'd be a disaster, yet he wasn't. Jakkaphan Kaewprom still hasn't really made his mark in the side, but today he actually kept up the service down the right and didn't do a whole lot wrong. However, the full MOM is the Police United goalie, who also kept a clean sheet against Buriram last week. I mentioned an admiration for the 'keeper at Navy Rayong but he is Japanese and would fall under the foreign players limit. Therefore, if (when?) Kawin does leave, I suggest we take a closer look at the 'keeper for these guys.