|The away team mascot - or did I dream that bit?|
Friday night would not appear to be the best time to play a league game of football anywhere in the world. Certainly today's important game attracted a below-average sized crowd.
Kawin arrived home from India in the late hours of Thursday but still turned out for this game, as did his international teammates. The line up was almost full strength: Kawin (GK) , Panupong (CB) , Jetsada (Capt, CB) , Kaewprom (RB) , Kavem (LB), Abdoul (DM) , Datsakorn (MD), Siaka (MD), Kone (AM), Christian (LW/FW), Teerasil (ST).
Note the unusual name at LB. How well he played depends on who you ask. I thought he was OK, did nothing wrong but I'd like to see him be more aggressive when attacking. Other fans thought he did very well.
The first half was unspectacular. Police immediately looked very well organised at the back. They contained us in a similar way to Thai Port, but while Port relied mainly on brute strength, Police's back line - unlike actual police in Thailand - looked very fit and pacy. Clearly they have good coaches at the Thammasat stadium.
Predictably, we held the majority of possession but unlike many other teams, Police looked like their counter-attack strategy had an outside chance of paying off.
When the goal did come, it was strange and costly. One player - it may have been Kaewprom - was hit with a late challenge from a Police midfielder. Our player might well have been hurt but was OK and got the pass off. The police player realised his mistake may be costly and decided to do the: "I'll roll around and pretend I'm in agony" stunt, however the ref rightly allowed play to continue so as the player played dead, Datsakorn unleashed one of his thunderbolts from outside the box. It hit a defender and fell to Teersail. The lanky frontman was just ahead of the ball and appeared to stab at it with his weak foot, and yet it went straight into the far corner. One - nil, which is how it was at half time.
Now, as Teerasil celebrated right in front of us, one of three things happened to injure him. He either:
a) Did a deliberate forward roll as part of his celebration, but hurt his shoulder in the process.
b) Slipped on the wet surface, rolled forward and hurt his shoulder.
c) Was hurt by his team mates piling on his back in celebration.
Either way, he was off the pitch for a while then came back on but was substituted (for Ammorn) on the stroke of half time.
I wrote this before the video below went online, now you can watch and judge for yourself.
In the second half we found a lot more space. Kone and Christian began a tactic of actually switching positions while making forward runs. It caught Police by surprise several times and Christian often found himself with space and a direct route to goal. On a better day we would have had more goals. By the end however, we were holding on for a slender lead against a gutsy, strong and well organised team. Kavem was booked towards the end for taking too long with a throw-in. One comical moment occurred when Datsakorn ran up to a free kick, slipped and hit the ball with his face. Everyone laughed, but away fans laughed less when his second effort skimmed the bar.
The final score was one - nil. Not a classic game but at this stage, results are everything. I also recall a similarly worrying set of displays before we pulled off our last major shock in the AFC. Bring on the Syrians!
Oh yeh, sorry to sound like a broken record but I must mention how poor the three officials were in this game, especially the first half. It doesn't strike as total incompetence as much as nerves. The ref - like so many of his colleagues - seemed to panic and blow his whistle whenever he was not sure what to do. The best I can say about him is that he appeared to grow in courage a little towards the end of the game, but this problem needs to be sorted. Like I said, get these guys trained up overseas, increase their salary and increase the punishment for players who disrespect them.
Man of the match:
I personally thought Datsakorn Thonglao was very good in this match. He sprayed the ball round very well in the second half and appeared to be at the heart of everything positive for MTU. Others disagree however, and I've had mentions of Panupong and Jetsada. That's the beauty of football; one set of fans, a wealth of opinions.