Chiangrai United sealed their third FA Cup title with a victory over Chonburi at the Thammasat Stadium on Sunday night.
The game was a tight affair, which was finally settled by a penalty shootout from which the Northerners emerged victorious.
Chiangrai came into the match as clear favourites, having previously won the competition in 2017 and 2018, as well as the Thai League title in 2019. Their fourth place finish in the league was also impressive considering their campaign was punctuated by a trip to Qatar for the AFC Champions League.
Meanwhile, 2010 winners Chonburi found themselves mired in a relegation battle after a dismal run of form during the second leg of the campaign. Their eventual survival did little to lift the feelings of frustration for the historically successful club. This unexpected run to the final, however, could be just the spark the club needed to set off a potential revival.
The stakes were incredibly high on Sunday night, with both a piece of silverware and a place in the 2022 AFC Champions League group stage on the line. Despite this, Chonburi came into the match with seven players aged 23 or under, with three of them teenagers. Meanwhile, Chiangrai took no risks in their lineup, calling upon the same core of players who have already amassed plenty of experience on the big stage.
It was one of those youngsters who struck first, as Chatmongkol Rueangthanarot got on the end of Kritsada Kaman’s free kick delivery with a well timed run from the back post, and netted past Saranon Anuin in the Chiangrai net. The Sharks had the better of proceedings in the first half, and were unlucky not to score a second in the opening stages.
However, the Beetles made their experience count, weathering the storm before getting a goal back just before half time. Sanukran Thinjom’s cutback found Siwakorn Tiatrakul with space in the box, and the left-footed attacking midfielder made no mistake with his first time effort that sailed past Chanin Sae-ear and hit the back of the net.
Neither side was able to take the lead in the second half, and Chonburi’s enterprising approach gave way to a more cautious one as the sides began to tire. The deadlock stood until the 120th minute, and the game would have to be settled from the spot.
Chiangrai lost preferred penalty taker Bill Rosimar to injury in extra time, and had the burden of kicking second as well. Kritsada Kaman stepped up to give the Sharks the lead, but Eliandro’s miss came back to haunt the Sharks as both Akarawin Sawasdee and captain Phitiwat Sukjitthamakul converted their chances. Chanin revived his teams chances by saving Shinnaphat Lee-Oh’s effort, but captain Kroekrit Thaweekarn hit the bar and handed the golden chance to Chiangrai. The burden fell to Chotipat Poomkaew, and the 22-year-old made no mistake in finding the net.
The Beetles victory means that they have taken silverware up North in every season since 2017, and have earned themselves another opportunity to take on the continent’s best in a years time. Meanwhile, Chonburi supporters can take heart from the performance of their young team, which will surely have many more chances to bring trophies back to the Eastern Seaboard in the future. The curtain finally closes on the longest of Thai League seasons, and both these sides can look forward to some much-deserved rest.