As is customary with AFC games, the two ends are busier than the two side stands. The price increase for AFC tickets is a lot for some people, but the support is as great as ever.
Even a broken clock is right twice a day and it turns out I actually called a correct prediction in my preview. Calisto rests a few players including Teerasil. The team is Kawin (GK), Kayem (LB), Zesh (CB), Nattaporn (CB, capt), Bonmatoon (RB), Datsakorn (MD), Siaka (MD), Pitchipong (MD), Jakkaphan (MD), Christian (FW), Ahnon (ST)
The first half has very little of note, which is just as well because I hardly get to see any of it. My son has decided to take revenge for my refusal to buy him another MTU flag by barraging me with non stop questions.
“Dad, did Kawin wave to me again today?”
“Of course he did, son”
“Dad, are they the Singaporean team in blue shirts?”
“Of course they are, son."
“Dad, could their forwards hit the broad side of a barn?“”
“Of course they couldn’t, son.”
I jest of course, Tampines are a good side from a well-run league but it's typical that in group stage games, teams never look likely to score at the Thunderdome. It really does epitomise our difference in home and away form that we are dominating possession when not playing all that well at home yet were lucky to escape with a point at Tampines’ ground.
There’s more annoyance, Mr Omar, who claims to be in Canada but sounds distinctly African, calls me and explains he has a private jet with a consignment worth ten million dollars that he wants to send to me. Mr Omar is describing the dimensions of the consignment and I’m waiting to ask if those dimensions are mathematically compatible with insertion into his anatomy when Pitchipong cracks the crossbar and the noise of the crowd drowns out Omar’s response to my question. I’ll never know if it would’ve fitted or not.
The first half fizzles out. We had more play but it was scrappy overall.
The second half is a different affair, though. Early on, Christian gets a deep through ball almost inside the Tampines’ area. As I recall, he had a defender closing in on both sides and looked to have over-run the ball, but this is Christian and his long legs grab that extra inch and touch the ball over the goalie. 1-0
By now the game is really opening up and I’m enjoying it, so I’m a bit annoyed when Omar calls me again and says - surprise, surprise - he needs someone to forward him four hundred quid in fees before he can fly the consignment to me. I tell him I’m not interested and he should contact Fratton Park. Thanks to whoever set me up with Mister Omar, it’s almost as funny as the time someone (thai-fussball.de must top the suspect list) signed me up to a German gay porn site that sent daily pictures.
The last thing Mr. Omar heard is my cheering as Jakkaphan Pornsai hit goal number three with a neat diagonal finish. Jakkapahan hasn’t quite made the impact I’d hoped for so far this season. I thought he was a winger but he seems to drift from right midfield to centre then back again and struggle to make his mark. But today he’s really showing what he can do and I hope it will spark a good run of form.The same goes for Ahnon who rounds off a great second half with a real poacher’s goal as he lined up at the edge of the box and puts a low shot to the goalie’s right side. Now that’s a goal from a poacher who’s feeling confident, that’s a goal that can set a striker off on a purple patch.
We threaten more but it ends soon after. Tampines played in good spirits and I wish them all the best for the next round. Singapore is a great place with a very professional setup in its league.
This really was the proverbial game of two halves. The first half was the MTU of 5-1 defeats this season, knowing what they can do but looking hesitant, just struggling to hit the gas. The second half was the other side of MTU, the one that knows they can still produce the form of last season when they get the tiniest rub of the green. I can’t put my figure on what’s making the difference, but I’m sure that the form of Ahnon and Pornsai can make a huge change. Also notable was the solid back line again, which is always the first step to rebuilding any team. In Zesh, Nattaporn and Panupong we have a trio that can rotate with ease.
So in to the next round we go, opponents as yet unknown, but we can feel confident. The league title may be too far away this season but we can still look towards a good AFC run. And if the trophy gets flown in like it did last season, at least we know Mr Omar and his private aircraft are available.
I’m hoping for two player interviews in the near future. Stay tuned.