|Don't panic! Don't panic!|
Erratum first - the season ticket prices I quoted recently are only applicable to the VIP section of the West Stand. The North and South stands will cost 1,500 bt this season. Last season it was 1,200, so after allowing for the two extra games, the increase is paltry. That price includes the gift voucher and club shop discount.
That news came to me during the n-zone meeting before today's game. Most of the time I had so little clue what was going on that the speaker could have been explaining that I was Ian Dowie's love child and I'd just sit there and nod. The only other news I understood was that the n-zone have started a voluntary registration scheme to support group activities and prevent hooliganism. Presumably we're banking on hooligans being dumb enough to register themselves voluntarily.
To the stadium and it must be noted that the turnout was poor. Chonburi's much-vaunted away support was about half of what it was for the FA Cup final and the Thai Port contingent could've been out-sung and outnumbered by UB40. MTU bought about 60-70% of the FA Cup numbers.
Today's line up was - Weera (GK), Pakasit (RB), Panupong (CB), Nattaporn (CB, Capt), Rehman (LB), Datsakorn (MD), Issouafou (LM), Diarra (DM), Dagno (DM/MD), Christian (RM), Teerasil (ST).
Notice the number of high-profile newcomers excluded from the starting line up. However Rehman became the first European player to better Berkant Gotken's grand total playing time of exactly zero hours, zero minutes and zero milliseconds.
The first half was very similar to the cup final. Chonburi looked the better side without doing much of note and we had the occasional weak break but little more. It was a very scrappy affair to be honest. To be fair, I've had more dire evenings this month but then again, they did involve unblocking the toilet in my bathroom.
The only real point of interest - apart from Chonburi hitting the corner upright - was that I've already found this season's replacement for the Jakkaphan Keawprom "Is he a disaster or future master?" award and this year it's Issoufou Boubacar Garba. This guy needs serious time on the training ground to time his runs, know when to lay the ball off and when to go for himself. Right now he's got the athleticism but little else.
At half time a large chant of "Worawi ork bai!" came up from MTU fans.
The second half saw a notable improvement with Teerasil back to his best and Abdoul starting to find his rhythm in front of the back line. Rehman also started venturing out of his half more often. As we pushed forward, the Sharks hit in a rebound effort - at least that's how I saw it from the other end - past Weera.
Incensed, Christian found his fire and Anon came on to join him as the attack became three-pronged. We pushed closer and Chonburi survived two low crosses across the six yard box before the jammy dodgers hit us on the break with a low shot that swept under Weera, who must have been having flashbacks of his time in the defensive black hole that was Bangkok United.
Now really galvanised, MTU entered Jakkphan Pornsai into the fray and we really did look ready to go for it in the 3 minutes of injury time. A high cross just flew over Christian's head but moments later he chased a direct through-ball and got the last touch to score before he grabbed the ball and ran it back. Just moments later, Zesh was lining up a finisher before a last ditch clearance rescued Chonburi. The whistle went shortly after.
It's important not to read too much into this result. Chonburi are a well-drilled side that made few changes in close season. MTU on the other hand brought in several new faces and rested the higher-rated of those players today. Of those that played, it was clear that Weera is fine, Rehman needs time to settle and, surprisingly, looked better going forward than defending and Issoufaou needs more time in training before he gets anywhere near the first team. Apart from playing Dagno so deep, I had no real gripes with the new coach's tactics.
I understand Reene's conclusion to the game was similar to my own - we have a group of skilled individual players who need to gel together as quickly as they can. I really felt that Carlos used today's match as a friendly, hence his leaving Anon, Toth, Pornsai and Kallio out of the starting line. That's forgivable given our (neccesary) very slow pre-season campaign but now the time for experiments is over.
I recall last season's Kor Royal Cup being a similarly scrappy occasion before the ruckus started and I didn't worry too much then, either. In fact I drew no conclusions until the first ACL game a fortnight later. Let's hope it's the same old tale this year.
Man of the Match: Teerasil Dangda. Fantastic footwork from the front man held up the action so many times to bring his team mates into the attack.