BG Pathum United’s march continued with a hard-fought 1-0 win over second-placed Chiangrai United, allowing them to climb seven points clear at the Thai League summit. However, Muangthong United and their charismatic new coach Mario Gjurovski stole the headlines for a second week running, taking all three points from the home of arch-rivals Buriram United.
Saturday’s action kicked off with the visit of runaway league leaders BG Pathum United to the home of defending champions Chiangrai. The hosts sat six points behind their guests before kickoff, with a further six effectively on the table in this match.
Both sides saw the utility of adopting a more defensive posture, and neither was willing to commit forward enough to seize an advantage. Despite their attacking personnel, Chiangrai expectedly struggled to break down the league’s best defense and were quick to retreat and close the space upon losing the ball. As for the visitors, despite their midfield dominance, the lack of a focal point up front meant the game progressed in a predictable fashion.
Once again, the Rabbits had a set-piece to thank for their victory, as a classic Andres Tunez header sailed past Saranon Anuin in the 76th minute and stood as the game’s only goal. The towering defender’s contribution secured three further points from another tough away trip for the Rabbits, and extended their tally to 29 points from 11 games.
BG’s tremendous lead was cut from nine points to seven when Port FC managed a 1-0 away win against Bangkok United. Neither side demonstrated a particularly convincing performance, but the visitors were able to come away victorious thanks to a smart finish from Nattawut Sombatyotha just three minutes from time.
This result sees the Lions climb up to second place with a game in hand over BG Pathum. More immediately, however, Port could be guaranteed a place in the AFC Champions League should they hold on to their current spot for four more match-days, license issues notwithstanding.
Despite the consequence of those results for the top of the league, the show was stolen by what could go down as a Thai League classic between Buriram and Muangthong at the Chang Arena. Recently departed Muangthong boss Alexandre Gama returned for a second spell at Buriram, having previously turned them into the most dominant side in league history from 2014 to 2015. The Thunder Castle were held to a 2-all draw on his second debut with the side, while his replacement at Muangthong, club legend and fan favorite Mario Gjurovski, managed an impressive 3-1 away win in his first ever game as head coach.
Traditionally the country’s two most successful clubs, games between Buriram and Muangthong have always had some extra needle, but Gjurovski succeeded in turning up the pressure even further when he criticised Gama’s move to the Kirin’s major rival. The palpable tension on the touchline was matched by an equally zealous game on the pitch, as neither side was willing to give an inch.
Buriram struck first when Marko Scepovic managed to capitalise on a defensive error by Saringkan Promsupa, but the Kirin fought back to level things before half time. Muangthong had only managed one prior win at the Chang Arena in their history, when the Kirin were at the peak of their powers back in 2016. Hoping against hope, the traveling contingent were sent into a frenzy when Derley managed to convert from the penalty spot to give Muangthong the lead after 59 minutes, and even more so when an acrobatic volley from Willian Popp doubled their advantage. The Thunder Castle, stricken with disbelief, were given a lifeline when Apiwat Ngaolamhin managed to head in from a corner, setting up a frenetic finale as Muangthong desperately held on to their lead. The final whistle prompted scenes of Gjurovski – channeling his inner Mourinho for the second week running – belting down the touchline to celebrate with the traveling fans.
Meanwhile, at the bottom of the table, Trat FC missed their chance to climb out of the drop zone for the first time this season as they lost against bottom side Rayong FC. Despite going behind in the first half, a brace from new signing Adalgiso Pitbull after the break earned Arthur Bernardes’ side their first points of the season. Their pair were joined in the relegation zone by Nakhon Ratchasima, who lost a relegation ‘six-pointer’ at home to Prachuap FC.