Port FC have their eyes firmly set on the Thai League’s second place spot, and the automatic AFC Champions League 2021 group stage qualification that comes with it, after dispatching Suphanburi FC 4-0 on Friday night.
The second spot is currently occupied by Chiangrai United, who have played three more games than Port but sit a mere point above them. The Beetles now depart for this years AFC Champions League, rearranged to take place in Qatar, and will watch from afar as rivals battle for their coveted place in the table.
Chiangrai did their work on Wednesday evening, beating a resurgent Muangthong United and ending coach Mario Gjurovski’s perfect start in senior football management. It took just four minutes for the Beetles to open the scoring, as their characteristic press punished Muangthong for their attempts to play out from the back. Former Kirin Jaja Coelho nabbed the ball of Daisuke Sato at the edge of the penalty area, and finished his chance from a difficult angle to prompt frenzied celebrations.
The bright start was followed by a game which more closely resembled a tennis match, as Muangthong frantically chased an equaliser while Chiangrai were equally boisterous in trying to hit their visitors on the counter. The game was levelled in first half stoppage time, as a miss by Somkid Chamnarnslip at one end prompted a play from Muangthong which resulted in wonder-strike from Sardor Mirzaev at the other.
The visitors were left aggrieved when VAR was inexplicably “not working” to correct an offside call which wrongly disallowed Picha Autra’s goal, only to return to full working order to penalise Derley for a handball in the area and gift Chiangrai United and Jaja a second goal. These events all led to tensions which boiled over in the seven-minute stoppage time, resulting in a red card for Chiangrai’s Shinnaphat Lee-Oh, but ultimately amounted to nothing for Muangthong.
Despite their win, Chiangrai’s position remains incredibly tenuous. Port FC demonstrated as much on Friday night, as they returned to the PAT Stadium (after a floodlight failure had temporarily relocated them to Rangsit) eager to put on a show for the delighted home supporters.
The Klongtoei side tested Suphanburi’s defense from the first whistle, and took just eight minutes to find the net as a deep cross from Nitipong Selanon picked out Sergio Suarez for a header past Patrick Deyto. Port then missed a slew of chances to double their advantage before half time, as Suarez, Pakorn Prempak and Bodin Phala all came close. The latter especially caused major problems for visitors down the left flank.
Port kept the pressure up after the break, and eventually had their second when Pakorn’s free kick came back off the bar and landed at the feet of striker Adisak Kraisorn for the finish. With the hosts firmly in control, left-back Kevin Deeromram invoked his license to get forward to devastating effect, winning a penalty for Sergio Suarez before scoring an excellent goal of his own to round out a 4-0 victory. The late introduction of striker Nelson Bonilla was also a welcome sight for fans, as the El Salvador international marked his return from injury with an assist for Kevin’s goal.
This result marked a fifth consecutive win for Port, putting severe pressure on Chiangrai and even causing league leaders BG Pathum to look nervously over their shoulder. The Rabbits hope to remain above the fray with a win over Chonburi this weekend, who themselves are chasing an unlikely AFC Champions League spot.