CHALLENGE WON!! Muangthong United win the first challenge of 2018

Muangthong United’s excellent performance at the Supachalasai Stadium earned them an emphatic victory over Malaysian Champions Johor Darul Takzim, in a game dubbed the “battle of South-East Asia” between two of the region’s top teams.

There was an air of expectancy as Teerasil Dangda led out the Kirin for the last time before his much-anticipated departure to Japan. Muangthong’s all time record-goalscorer once again delivered, being instrumental in four of the Kirins five goals.

The lineup bore few surprises, with the only thing of note being Theerathon Bunmathan once again deputizing in midfield and Nukoolkit Krutyai’s continued presence at centre back.

The Muangthong Ultras wasted no time in making Supachalasai sound like the SCG Stadium, as their cheers rang into the night sky. The players responded to such encouragement, and their attacking intent was signified with the almost constant presence of fullbacks Tristan Do and Peerapat Notechaiya in the opposition half, regularly stretching the Malaysian side’s defense to make room for the more attacking players.

JDT troubled the Muangthong defense with high balls, and this method yielded it’s first chance after 5 minutes, forcing Muangthong to scramble the ball out. However, the Kirin found themselves on the break just under a minute later, as a similar tactic saw Teerasil break beyond the JDT defense before squaring it for Sarach Yooyen to put away the opener. The Kirin’s number 6 has continued his impressive form from pre-season, and bodes well for the upcoming season.

The Kirin added a second after 20 minutes when an excellent ball by Heberty was dummied by Teerasil to give Theerathon a route to goal with a surging run. Tristan Do was lurking at the back post to jump on Theerathon’s cut back and double the Kirin’s advantage.

The hosts were awarded a penalty just before the half-hour mark when Teerasil was bought down by JDT’s Bruno after a surging run into the Malaysian’s defense. Heberty made no mistake from the spot and compounded the visitor’s woes even further, sending the Ultras decibel levels to even higher peaks.

The visitors were given a chance to pull one back when Theerathon Bunmathan bought done Ahmad Hazwan on the edge of the penalty area, but the Malaysian’s captain Safiq Rahim was unable to capitalize on the resulting free kick.

Celio was replaced at half time by Adisorn Promrak in coach Totchtawan’s solitary change during the break. JDT’ threatened the Kirin backbone early in the second period, with Muhammad Syafiq coming the closest to pulling one back for the visitors.

The home side remained unfazed by these advances, and added a fourth shortly before the hour mark when Heberty latched on to a pass from Adisak Kraisorn before playing it to Theerathon, who emphatically placed the ball in the back corner of the net.

The fans were given even more to cheer about when Malaysian defender Mohd Azrif bought Teerasil down just outside the penalty area. Once again Heberty stepped up to take the set piece, and beautifully stroked the ball into the top corner to extend the Kirin’s lead to 5 just after the hour mark.

With the comfortable lead, coach Totchtawan decided to ring the changes, with Charyl Chappuis coming on shortly after Heberty’s free kick, and Jaja Coelho came on for his Muangthong Debut in the 73rd minute.

JDT would eventually score a pair of consolation goals in stoppage time, when Jorge Pereyra Diaz managing to find net twice beyond the otherwise excellent Kampon Phatomakkul. However, his fantastic strikes came to late for the visitors to mount a comeback, and the Ultras continued in full voice until the final whistle.

This victory gives Muangthong United the opportunity to pursue their chase for qualification to the AFC Champions League Group Stage, with their next opponents being Japanese side Kashiwa Reysol. Both Theerathon and Teerasil are likely to be available or the Kirin’s trip, and given their performances in this match, both will be valuable assets if the Kirins wish to progress even further.

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