|****ed if I know what happened, Watson!|
|The line up|
With half the crowd still stuck in traffic, the kickoff was subdued. TOT looked every bit the side short on confidence and pre-season team building they were. MTU had a free kick within the first five minutes for which every single TOT player dropped back to defend, all but two of them inside their own box. Seconds later, Pitchipong was mauled down by a challenge in which a TOT player had either leg wrapped around Pitchipong on opposite sides. Pitchipong gave a genuine yell of pain as he went down and like most fans I screamed for a red but the ref who was perfectly positioned gave....a free kick and no more. I put it down to a reluctance to effectively lose the match for TOT so early on, but the lack of even a yellow was strange.
MTU went ahead not long after when an excellent dummy, turn and through ball by Dagno found Christian who was one-on-one with time to spare. Gordon Strachan once said only great strikers can keep calm enough to finish off a chance which they have enough time to think about. I guess the flame-haired legend must rate Christian then, as he finished perfectly. One-nil.
It was not long after the goal things got strange. MTU scored at least four goals in this match that to me, looked perfectly legal. We also had two players put through on goal that could have scored but had to stop for the whistle. The first goal disallowed was Christian’s. The second event was a very well timed run by Issofuao that put him clean through. The first goal was disallowed for reasons I don't know by the ref, the second was flagged offside.
|Teerasil was tripped, nothing happened.|
Things threatened to boil over but half time rescued us from the tension. Yet the second half started in a similar way. Christian beat his marker who - while on the ground after missing his challenge - clearly raised both feet and caught Chris with his studs. Chris was hurt but pressed on until the ref blew his whistle.....and gave a free kick to TOT. By now Rob and Calisto couldn't keep quiet and tensions raised again. Things calmed for about ten minutes until another incident at the other end that sparked a scuffle that even the TOT keeper ran up to get involved in, though to his credit he seemed to be telling his players to back off. Credit to Kawin who stayed calm as a cucumber in his own area and looked like he was thinking about how many packs of stickers to buy.
Things were starting to look like they could really boil over and perhaps that managed to stop whatever was causing the bizarre decisions in the game because things calmed down. Still protecting a one-nil lead, MTU passed the ball around and though - as Pattaya fan Glenn tipped me off - TOT had "lots of huff and puff", they had little more. As they were forced to push forward, they created one or two moments of danger but squandered both chances. One striker did attempt a feeble dive that the ref ignored.
|No he wasn't booked|
The ref gave us one last memento as a TOT player lost possession near our box and he (the ref) blew and pointed to another player nowhere near the action who was laid on the ground, awarding TOT a free kick, to no avail.
In such David Lynch-like circumstances, it's hard to assess our performance here, but I feel we are still a long way from what we were last season. There's one bright point - as I've been critical of Issoufou Boubacar recently I must say he looked better today. Rather than trying to be too clever, he concentrated on what a simple winger should do and got behind his man and crossed the ball - which he did well more than once. He also tries to win the ball back when he loses it.
But as a whole we looked a little rocked from changes on and off the pitch and lack the intensity of attacking and decision making we had last year. At our core though, we are still almost exactly the same players that came so close to four trophies last year and although it's going to be mightily tough, a win against Buriram PEA next week could change the mindset of both camps quite quickly. If not, then it's probably going to be a season of rebuilding for the future.
Man of the match must again go to Nattaporn Pannarit who - admittedly up against a team that has yet to score - lead by example by giving one hundred percent and never shying away from responsibility.
Photo credits - yep, you guessed it, Jirawat Srikong. If there's a better photographer in Thailand, I'd like to meet him or her.