Goalkeeper safety warning: this man is considered highly dangerous when backed off.
After a one hundred metre dash, two bus rides and a ten minute game of Russian Roulette on a motorcycle taxi, I arrived at the Thai-Japanese stadium with the realisation that it's almost as close to my home as the Thunderdome, and it was not even going to be close to a sell out.
Outside the away end, the leaders of the 'Ultras' fan club were selling musical CD versions of the club songs. Well, how could anyone say 'no' to the mother of the best goalkeeper in Thailand who gave me the sales pitch? Every CD had an entry form for a chance to win a paid trip to Damascus for the big AFC game, so it may be the best 250 baht I ever spent.
Along with our farang entourage today was none other than Robert "J'adore Thai Port" Procurer. Sitting next to the co-general was a novelty as I got a few insights into his view of everything. I learned Pakasit was fit but they felt Kaewprom was playing better, Christian was suspended, Ammorn was in the side because they felt his pace would cause problems and Pizza Hut do much better pizzas than Pizza Company. Not sure I agreed with his last point.
The line up today was: Kawin, Piyachart, Nattaporn, Jetsada, Kaewprom, Datsakorn, Ammorn, Pitchipong, Siaka, Teerasil, Kone.
The game very quickly settled into its first half pattern and it wasn't good. It was a scrappy affair that saw neither side settle into their stride. Bangkok United, to their credit, did what they said they would and defended deeply and in numbers but pushed forward for every counter-attack. Their plan was to use their big number 35 as a target man to hold the ball when they broke forward, but a goal never looked likely to happen. For Muangthong however, every attack was simply broken down by poor passing, tight marking or overhit crosses. The pitch was part of the problem as it was very wet and heavy and the ball seemed to bobble a lot.
Rob explained that the side was lacking balance. He wanted Ammorn to get forward and cross but because Kaewprom was staying so deep, BKU simply used three men to hustle Ammorn off the ball. On the other wing Piyachart was the only player getting forward. So at half time it was 0-0. Some of the players started to put in ear plugs as they walked towards Rene.
The second half started brighter. Zaizen replaced Pitchipong and once again showed his smart reading of the game. Taking place on the left wing (Ammorn switched to central) he overlapped neatly and started a far better supply line of crosses. Still nothing was working and until now, we had hit the bar once (Siaka) and BKU had forced two good saves. Then out of nowhere he did it again....
Datsakorn Thonglao- who up until now had done little - pulled the trigger from well outside the box and sent an absolute screamer past the diving BKU 'keeper. An amazing goal that must make the shortlist for goal of the season. He has his critics, but the number of times this guy has hit the target this season will surely pay his wages by itself.
From then on the outcome never looked in doubt. With about five minutes left, a late free kick was floated in to find Siaka who knocked it home to make it two-nil. I guess Tor Chittinand either left the ground at this point or more likely was watching his beloved Chonburi play Sisaket because he seems unaware that a few moments later, Kaewprom broke through to make it 3-0 and give me yet more headaches deciding if he is good, OK or hopeless.
So it ended. The scoreline flattered us and this was a relatively poor game, in poor conditions in a slightly subdued atmosphere. But championships are won in this type of match by players who can produce a moment of skill in a dull game as Datsakorn did. Bangkok United have a nice stadium with good facilities, a good kit and a good sponsor. Today they had a decent turnout, too. Their team look low on skill or creativity but well organised ( probably thanks to their new coach) and ready to fight. Let's hope that's enough to keep them up because this is one club that is trying to do things the right way.
Chonburi's win means little else has changed. Next up are Bangkok Glass on Wednesday.