Sukhothai FC’s Ibson Melo netted a stunning solo goal to sink Muangthong United at the Thung Thalay Luang Stadium on Saturday night, while off-form Samut Prakan City returned from lockdown to give boss Masatada Ishii his first Thai League victory.
After months of agonizing wait, the Thai League was finally set to return from it’s COVID-enforced hiatus. Even the summer of uncertainty and broadcast battles, along with the strict ‘new normal’ restrictions, did little to dampen the enthusiasm of fans who had waiting so long for their game to return.
However, any hopes for a smooth restart were soon dashed, as Buriram United player Akbar Ismatullaev tested positive for COVID-19 (a diagnosis which later proved to be false), forcing the league to postpone their match against BG Pathum United. Ratchaburi FC’s home match against Bangkok United was also called off since the hosts had played Buriram ten days earlier.
With eight matches set to go ahead, things got underway at the home of the defending champions, as Chiangrai United hosted PT Prachuap. The hosts controlled most of the possession but squandered a number of chances to get ahead, until Chotipat Poomkaew arrived on the end of Phitiwat Sukjitthamakul’s excellent cross to head in the only goal of the match.
However, the day’s most shocking result would come at the Thung Talay Luang stadium, as Sukhothai FC hosted Muangthong United. The visitors now boasted the youngest squad in the Thai League, with the last senior Thai internationals on their books departing over the summer break. Coach Alexandre Gama was now looking to prove that his unfancied side can still remain competitive in the league.
Things did not go well for the young Kirin on Saturday night, as they encountered a stern defense led by former Muangthong man Nukoolkit Krutyai. Things would come crashing down for Gama’s boys in the 81st minute, as Sukothai scrambled the ball clear from a corner and launched a quick counter-attack, with Brazilian forward Ibson Melo going on an incredible solo run and finding the net.
The following day, Port FC’s match against Tero was abandoned as the PAT Stadium suffered a blackout with three minutes remaining, just as a wonder-strike from Bodin Phala drew the game level and cancelled out Adisak Srikampang’s earlier goal. Tero were awarded a 2-0 victory by the Thai FA, and Port were fined THB50,000 for the lighting failure.
Elsewhere, Samut Prakan City returned from lockdown with a point to prove, having only collected a solitary point in their first four games under new boss Masatada Ishii. However, the side recruited well during the summer transfer window and was keen to put their improvements to the test in their first match.
The hosts had to struggle for supremacy against an embattled Rayong FC, even having a first-half goal chalked off by VAR to send them into the break frustrated. However, the Sea Fang would have their savior in the form of Japanese midfielder Yuto Ono, who arrived at the edge of the box and slotted an excellent finish into the top corner to seal a 1-0 win for the home side with 22 minutes remaining.
Rayong are joined at the bottom by Trat, who also remained on 0 points after they were beaten 3-2 by Chonburi FC. A goal by Dragan Boskovic and second-half brace from Herlison Caion was enough to secure the win for the Sharks. Lastly, Suphanburi managed a 2-0 home win over Nakhon Ratchasima to propel them up to fifth place.