Port FC continued their winning run with a 2-0 victory over arch-rivals Muangthong United at the PAT Stadium, and are now just one point away from securing qualification to the AFC Champions League group stage for the first time in their history
The hosts came into this game on a seven-game winning streak since the promotion of Sarawut Treephan to head coach, while Mario Gjurovski’s Muangthong were winless in three matches. The visitors were also without key foreign players Willian Popp and Sardor Mirzaev, as well as the in-form Picha Autra, who had sustained injuries during a recent friendly game.
Port started brightly, forcing Muangthong into a deep block with their quick and energetic play. Their first real chance to test Dang Van Lam came in the 12th minute, as Bordin Phala’s cut-back from the right caused havoc in the Muangthong defense, but neither Adisak Kraisorn or Kevin Deeromram was able to convert.
Muangthong’s best hope came on the counter, looking to exploit the spaces in behind Port’s high line. However, the Kirin were never able to capitalise, often forcing Derley to run down the channels where he would invariably be met by Worawut Namvech’s firm challenges and lack the pace to break through on goal.
Port struck the opening goal on the half-hour mark, when Adisak got to the end of a rebound from Bordin’s shot and converted past Van Lam. The hosts remained positive in looking for a second, and the Kirin had to fight to keep the score close before their chance to regroup at half time.
Muangthong emerged from the break on better form, retaining more of the ball and testing goalkeeper Worawut Srisupha on a couple of excellent saves. The hosts, usually known for their unwillingness or inability to tone down their attacking intent, defended when needed and pressed effectively to stop Muangthong’s resurgence from amounting to anything meaningful.
The game was sealed thanks to the work of substitute Nelson Bonilla, who has re-disovered his scoring touch in recent weeks after returning from a lengthy absence. The El Salvador international slinked between Muangthong’s defensive line and fired an excellent effort past Dang Van Lam with five minutes remaining to kill off Muangthong’s hope and ensure the hosts collected all three points.
Port now move within a point of sealing qualification to the AFC Champions League group stage for the first time in their history, and sit a further four behind league leaders BG Pathum United. This result also knocks Muangthong out of the running for continental qualification, as Ratchaburi and Chiangrai can rest a little easier. The only remaining team that can unseat the current top four is Bangkok United, who need wins against Buriram and Rayong to do so, while relying on the two sides above them to pick up no additional points over the next two weeks.
These two sides’ attention now turns to the FA Cup this weekend, where Port will be expected to advance against T2 side MOF Customs United, while Muangthong host league leaders BG Pathum at the SCG Stadium.
Image Credit = Allie Suwanrumpha