New coaches inevitably tinker with the first team line up and I expected that today, what I didn't expect was for Issoufou to be allowed within fifty yards of any football pitch after his performance against Chonburi in pre-season, but there it was:
Kawin (GK), Pakasit (RB), Panupong (CB), Nattaporn (CB, capt), Santi (LB), Datsakorn (MD), Pitchipong (MD), Issoufou (LW), Jakkaphan (RW) Ahnon (ST), Teerasil (ST).
Yes, Christian and Dagno - two of our top scorers last year - were on the bench, no Zesh, the two youngsters were removed (one was suspended anyway) and Issoufao returned to the starting line up. In fairness, he may well have great potential, I was just surprised to see him given another run so early but Calisto knows what he is doing.
The first half was scrappy. Thai Port looked remarkably lightweight in attack and we had a lot more of the ball without threatening much. Our overlapping looked slow and unsure. Our best chance may have been a free kick from Datsakorn but Munze collected comfortably.
Port looked to be aiming for a draw and had several players rolling round early on. After MTU played on during one of these injuries, they stopped doing it. Why don't teams deal with time-wasting this way more often?
The second half saw us looking a bit sharper and quicker, especially after Christian replaced Ahnon. Port suffered a sudden spate of injuries again and the game looked like a goalless draw was in store, but with about twenty minutes left, a strange clash in the middle of the park somehow saw a Port player get a red card. It wasn't clear who was carded at the time, because the official had - throughout the game - addressed players from a distance. To his credit though, he didn't blow for every tiny incident as some officials do, there was a lot of "play on" from this guy. Good job, ref.
About ten minutes later, Teerasil did some twisting and turning in the box before crossing to Dagno - on from the bench - who buried an aerial shot to make it 1-0.
The two African subs really turned the game around when they appeared. Christian in particular was turning defenders into knots. With little choice, Thai Port threw players forward and after MTU successfully defended a corner, Teerasil drove the ball downfield and turned one defender, took it around Munze and buried it before the goalie could recover. 2-0, and so it stayed.
A lot to be happy for today, then. The result was paramount and we got it. The first team choice was surprising but Chris looked so hungry when he came on that it really did impact the game. Credit must also be given to Munze who took the North Stand's baiting of him very well and was friendly and professional to the end. Credit also to the away fans who - for the first time - actually chanted for MTU and shook hands with the players after the final whistle.
Further credit also to our security team who got the balance just right today. There was no heavy handed security around the away fans, riot squads were present but kept out of sight, and TP fans were made to feel very welcome. As with most English grounds, the away fans were escorted in and out and allowed to leave before home fans. Nobody complained, everyone seemed happy.
There is still a lot of work that needs to be done for our new look side. We need to find regular faces for left and right back positions, and those players must understand our way of playing and the importance of overlapping at the right time to maximise our width and options. Jakkapahn needs to find his rhythm, Datsakorn could do with a goal just to set him off again and I personally don't think Issofao is ready for first team action yet. But today we did the job we needed to do and took a big step forward. I'm confident we can build on it.
Man of the Match:
Captain Nattaporn Pannarit put the Thai Port striker in his pocket inside the first five minutes and didn't let him out again.