|The girls with the dragon tattoos|
Like the team itself, the Yamaha Stadium has made changes that might not match headline-grabbers of the past, but could be equally important. A new “MTU Cafe” has been built on the corner of the South stand, adding to the camaraderie of the fans. Another car park has been paved out next to the stadium and a walkway has been fenced off, stopping motorbikes from using it.
The new kit was sold out well before my 1500 arrival but new stocks are due in next week. Tickets have risen to 100bt and 150bt, but if you’re under 120cm you get in for free. I thought that was good news for me and Leesaw until I checked and was told you also have to be a kid. Ah well, my nipper still saves a few baht.
Today’s crowd was possibly the largest home gate in the club’s history and is the first time we have filled the upper west stand by ourselves. It must be noted that about ten percent of fans had an SCG shirt, making me think they are SCG employees getting complimentary tickets. I’m sure a lot of them will become full-time followers, though.
|She's either the mascot, or sub goalie|
So it’s welcome back to Piyachart and Kone (on the bench) after both men spent an entire year away from the club. It’s great to see them return, I never understood why we let Piyachart go and Kone kept TOT up almost by himself last year. The two North Koreans are not yet cleared to play (they have commitments at home) and Barakat has become mixed up in a financial disagreement with his old club that needs to be resolved before he can play.
The game starts at a fast pace and it’s quickly clear that both teams have improved on last season. BEC already show signs of Robert Procurer’s influence with an organised back four and a game plan for attacking on the break. Meanwhile a triangle movement between Piyachart, Mario and Datsakorn comes to nothing but shows the spirit of the good old days when we loved to play quick, attacking football.
We have the more of the ball but Tero look dangerous on the break with their African forward testing Piyachart on several occasions but the experienced left back is up to the task. It really is as though he’d never been away.
Our best chance is a low cross from Christian to Datsakorn whose shot is blocked but rebounds to him, sadly his second effort is blocked by the goalie’s legs.
Half time 0-0.
The second half is far more eventful. The game continues in the timid flow of the first half until, out of nowhere, came another blast from the past. This particular blast is a classic Datsakorn ‘Le Tissier’ Thonglao rising strike out of nowhere (aka outside the box) that screams into the top of the net.
Things are looking up. Datsakorn has announced his return with another torpedo, Teerasil has shaken off his quiet first half and is scaring defenders with his beautiful set-up play and Super Mario is starting to really enjoy his debut, showing some fantastic touches and encouraging the fans to raise the noise level even higher.
One player not having such a great game is Christian, although his dribbling is as good as ever, the young winger doesn’t seem as fired-up as his team mates and on two occasions (one shown on the video) he actually costs his team a chance at goal by going down easily and not getting anything in his favour for it. I think refs are all aware who Christian is now and it would be better for him to stay focused and on his feet. He’s had two seasons to grow up, now is the time to do so. In any case, Chris gets subbed off for Kone who shows an amazing ability to keep grass stains off his bum and pulls in some excellent support for Teerasil.
The equaliser comes amid a storm of strange events that I have to watch from the opposite end of the ground. It looks like Thitipon may have lashed out out at a Tero forward who returns the favour. The ref decides to grant both players their second yellow each and sends them packing. A shame for youth-team gradate Thitipon to finish his debut early but at least he’s got more time to finish his homework before school tomorrow.
The controversy isn't done though, a half-decent penalty claim for Tero is followed by a fantastic move between Dagno and Super Mario that deserves a goal but goes just wide. In any case it was offside but it still really lifts the team and the fans.
With ten men on each side the game opens up with Dangda enjoying the support that Kone’s power and Mario’s smart passing are creating for him. Piyachart is getting further forward down the left and Dagno is hitting his stride in front of the back line.
Then a penalty is given against Buntao (on for Pitchipong). It’s soft and may well have been due to nerves on the ref’s part. We don’t help ourselves by surrounding the ref, then the linesman, then the ref again, then getting as many touchline staff as possible to join in the “wave your arms about and yell stuff’ party on the sideline. In fact, I’m so sure a punch-up is going to start that I’m watching the benches - thinking how much more fun it would be if Rene was involved on one side with Rob on the other - that it’s only the cheers from Tero fans that make me realise they’ve taken the penalty and scored.
After a few more token protests, we get back in our pram, put our dummies back in, go up the other end, win a corner, have a fantastic corner from Mario and score it with a header from Siaka. 2-1. We control the five minutes of injury time without further incident. Full time, 2-1. Job done.
A few groans went up when the Chonburi and Buriram scores were announced but with all three of us starting at home, nothing less than 3 wins could be expected. We have to concentrate on ourselves and not leave our hopes to other teams as we did last season. On that note we can say that today was encouraging, we were a new team - without 2 or 3 new players even cleared to play yet - and put in a decent showing against a much-improved Tero side. Even in the second half when Mario started to relax and enjoy the game it was clear just how much improvement we’re bound to show in the next few weeks. With bumper crowds, cracking goalscorers and a new direction to move in, I’m going to stick my neck out and say this season will be a tight three horse race for the title, and we’re not used to losing.
Man of the match
Like I said, I never knew why Piyachart Thampan was sent away and today, it was like he never had. He looked right at home (which of course he was) from the opening whistle. He controlled the Tero players when they came forward and put himself up in support when the time was right. Great to have you back, Piyachart.
Also well in contention were Datsakorn for another strike that makes the ticket price seem insultingly cheap, 'Super' Mario Gjurovski for a debut that he clearly enjoyed playing as much as we did watching and Kone Muhammed for being far more sensible than the man he replaced on the pitch.
Photo Credits: Noise (น้อย) ณ เมืองทองmtufc.com