Talisman Bill is key to Chiangrai ACL hopes

Chiangrai United aim to keep their 2020 AFC Champions League (ACL) campaign alive with a win over Melbourne Victory on Matchday Five.

Friday’s stirring performance in the 2-1 triumph over FC Seoul has re-ignited hopes of reaching the last 16. But only three points will do as a defeat or draw would eliminate the Thai champions.

The Beetles’ response to last Tuesday’s 5-0 thrashing at the hands of FC Seoul was hugely impressive. They must now follow it up by showing the same commitment and self-belief against another difficult opponent.

  1. Get the ball to Bill

Chiangrai’s talismanic striker was once again the key man in the stunning victory over the Koreans. The 36-year-old returned from suspension to hit a double and demonstrate that Jaja Coelho is not in the same class at this time.

The team were clearly lifted by Bill’s presence on Friday, and his movement and hold-up play added a completely different dimension to the Chiangrai attack following Jaja’s lacklustre display in the previous match.

Whether or not Bill can summon up the energy to repeat the trick remains to be seen but he is Chiangrai’s best hope of grabbing the goals they need for the victory.

The Brazilian struggled to make an impression against the Australians when the two sides met in Melbourne back in February. However, boosted by Friday’s brace and motivated by the win-or-bust nature of the match, Victory may find Bill a different proposition this time around.

  1. Go on the offensive

Chiangrai United’s reputation as a pragmatic team goes before them, and it was very much in evidence when they travelled to Australia and suffered a 1-0 defeat in February. The default tended to be to keep things tight and play it safe in big games.

The Beetles have found out the hard way that this has not worked for them in the ACL and a more adventurous approach paid dividends when they beat FC Seoul. 

Chiangrai have the attacking talent at their disposal to take the game to their opponents and get the right result. FC Seoul looked surprised by the contrast between the submissive Thai side of Matchday Three and the aggressive opponent on Matchday Four. 

The Australians are coming off back-to-back defeats to Beijing Guoan and morale may be low. If Chiangrai can take the initiative with an attacking approach, it may well be a gamble worth taking against a side that could be low on confidence.

  1. Evolution not revolution may pay off

Eyebrows were raised when Chiangrai’s title-winning head coach Ailton Silva left the club after taking them to their finest achievement. Masami Taki was an unexpected replacement and, despite doing a decent job, he was allowed to move on last month.

Interim boss Emerson Perreira had it all to do by taking over at such a challenging time but the response to a humiliating defeat suggests that he has the potential to move things forward at the club.

From winning the FA Cup under Alexandre Gama in 2017, Chiangrai have become serial trophy winners under different managers. Emerson has a group of winners in his squad and this may be his greatest asset at a time like this. 

Consistency and success over a period of time have been key elements in the Chiangrai United story. It may yet be possible to add another chapter in 2020.

Paul Murphy

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