|I'm back-up goalie next week!|
It's been a particularly harsh monsoon season and although today's downpour was relatively mild, the pitch was still slightly waterlogged from last Sunday's biblical thunderstorm that Rajpracha played in. Moreover, Abdoul, Teerasil and Datsakorn were all out injured. Perhaps Saraburi had an upset in mind.
We started with Kawin (GK) , Kaewprom (RB), Jetsada (Capt, CB), Panupong (CB), Piyachart (LB), Pitchipog (MD), Ammorn (MD), Narongchai (MD), Nawapol (MD), Siaka (AM), Christian (FW). Note the formation again.
Saraburi should have taken the lead in the opening minute. Instead, we took the lead on the fifth minute when Siaka converted after a series of rebound shots from a corner. The rest of this half was mostly Muangthong, with Ammorn creating plenty of chances. He should have scored himself but choose to make a cocky back-heeled shot when a "trap and shoot" would have been better. Easy for me to say from the stands, mind you. With Teerasil injured, I was very surprised Rungsiyo didn't get a chance. I'm sure we would've converted more first-half chances if he had played.
At half time it was 1-0. Saraburi's mascot - a slightly scary guy dressed as some sort of ancient Thai soldier - came over to greet me and news filtered in (thanks to Dale) that Chonburi won 2-1.
Shortly into the second half, Piyaphol Bhuntao replaced Nawapol. Nothing exciting there, as Bhuntao is very much a fringe player who steadies the ship in my book. So I was eating my words (or rather, thoughts) moments later when he scored a very nice shot in front of the Ultras Stand to make it 2-0. The game then settled down as Saraburi lost their impetus a little. Soon after, Piyachart found himself through on goal but only just inside the opposition half. I screamed at him to run with it but this left back started to get a nosebleed at the thought of attacking the goal. Siaka surged up in support and Piyachart weighed the ball through to him. "You silly boy!" I yelled; "Do it yourself Piyachart!". I carried on grumbling for a few more nanoseconds until Siaka received the ball and chipped the goalie to make it 3-0. Smart move Piyachart, I knew you were doing the right thing all along. Christian added another goal shortly after. Four-nil and we're cruising. It's a familiar theme for our home games this season. All we have to do now is ride out the closing minutes. And then....
Saraburi's braided striker breaks through with only Kawin to beat. Directly in my line of sight there is light contact and the striker goes down. The ref does not hesitate. Off goes Kawin and Saraburi get a penalty. "Ah well", I think; "it's no problem. Take off a striker, bring on Phanphiphat to save the penalty and we're sorted". But then it struck me......we'd used all our subs! Bhuntao replaced Nawapol, Pakasit replaced Kaewprom and Ibrahim replaced Siaka.
So we were treated to one of those classic football moments as Christian took the goalie's jersey. The magic would have been completed if he saved the penalty but it was converted to make the score 4-1. Naturally we closed up shop after this and despite a flurry from Saraburi, Chris only had one save to make before the final whistle.
Another comfortable win and the league title is now well within our grasp. Man of the match today for me was Pitchipong. He may lack the glamor of Datsakorn with his wonder-goals but Pitchipong is a fighter who works hard every game and is no slouch in the passing department himself. Today he soldiered his way to a victory with his under-full strength colleagues.
However, the most interesting individual today was the referee. Throughout the game I was, paradoxically, impressed by him even though I disagreed with so many of his decisions. I say 'impressed' because he appeared strong minded, confident and totally unintimidated or biased towards the home side. If anything, he appeared to favour Saraburi a little.
On my way home I got a message in a bottle. The message cannot be reported but I can suggest this article is of interest. After you read it, have a think: if you were working in Thai football and needed some help, what wealthy and influential person could you turn to? And how would you express your gratitude if he helped you?