One of the most tense and passionate derbies in Thai Football, Muangthong’s trip to the PAT Stadium was given added significance due to the fact that the two sides sit third and fourth respectively going into this encounter. Additionally, both sides came into this game in strong form, with the Kirin having won their last three while their hosts are on a run of five.
Muangthong’s defensive lineup was the main point of interest for coach Radovan Curcic in the buildup to the match, due to Adisorn Promrak’s suspension. Naoaki Aoyama was partnered by Lee Ho at the heart of Muangthong’s defense, flanked on either side by Wattana Playnum and Peerapat Notchaiya. Sanukran Thinjom was drafted in to play on the left in an otherwise standard Kirin midfield.
Port started the game brightly, with forcing the Kirin to retreat into the compact defensive structure that was surely practiced in training.
A tough tackle on Sergio Suarez by Sarach Yooyen got the home fans roaring, with the decibel level climbing to new heights. Tristan Do was the brunt of particularly fiery treatment from the home fans, which played a major role in spurring Port on and seemingly endowing their players with the energy needed to close down most of Muangthong’s attacking options.
Port troubled the Kirin defense in the 20th minute when an inventive ball from Pakorn Prempak attempted to set Suarez free, but the Spaniard wasn’t able to make the most of the opportunity. Regardless, Port’s creative abilities forced Muangthong into a number of fouls, with Sanukran being the first name in the referee’s book.
While the Kirin were able to hold firm for the first half hour, it was clearly Port who had the better of the chances. Pakorn won a corner with an effort from range that goalkeeper Prasit Padungchok was barely able to deal with, and left-back Kevin Deeromram’s continued bursts down the left flank were a constant threat to the visitors.
Prasit was tested repeatedly as the half-time whistle approach, with Heberty and Jaja seeing very little of the ball. The former’s attempts to drop deep were made almost impossible as the hosts crowded the midfield, and the high defensive line essentially neutralized the latter. Muangthong fashioned another chance as half-time approached, but Jaja’s header could only find the stands as the two sides went in level.
A bright start to the second half saw Muangthong open the scoring, catching Port completely off-guard by commiting the midfielders forward in a way not seen during the first half. A spirited run from Heberty occupied the defense, and Sanukran found himself available at the back post to head home the opener just a minute after the restart.
Sarach 2-0. The Kirin did not stop there, however, and immediately began pushing forward in search of a second. An excellent run by Heberty managed to get the better of Kevin Deeromram, and his cutback rolled all the way to the late-arriving Sarach who thumped his shot from range into the back of the net. Heberty then comically led the celebrations by paying tribute to the empty away end.
The Kirin fans at home soon had even more to celebrate as Heberty was able to get the better of Port defender Elias Dolah after springing off on the counter-attack, rounding off a spell of three goals in 6 minutes since the break as an eerie silence descended upon the PAT Stadium.
However, Port top scorer Sergio Suarez was soon able to spark hope of a potential comeback when he fired home from the edge of the box, turning the deafening noise back to its fullest with 36 minutes remaining, setting up hope for what could be a grand finish.
The drama looked set to continue as a well-timed cross was met by Dragan Boskovic at the back post to bring the hosts within touching distance of what would be a historic comeback. The Port fans thought their side had achieved it right on the hour mark when Boskovic looked like he had his second of the game, only to be denied by the linesman. The relief would be only temporary, as the pressure continued to mount, culminating in a Sergio Suarez header that cannoned off the bar.
A forced injury break for Tristan Do with just over 10 minutes remaining gave both teams some much-needed respite, with energy levels on both sides dropping. Fresh legs were needed, as Port called off Nurul Sriyankem with Bodin Phala. The visitors, meanwhile, pulled of striker Jaja Coelho for defender Patcharapol Intanee. Muangthong survived another scare in the 84th minute, resulting in a penalty box brawl over the hosts' complaints of time-wasting.
Tensions continued to flare as Tristan was called off for Peerapong Panyanumaporn, with the Kirin’s main intention being to defend their advantage. The visitors won a corner as stoppage time began, yet most of the team was resigned to remain in defensive positions to prevent a Port equalizer. Coach Curcic continued to pace about with unease as the minutes in stoppage time ticked away and tensions continued to flare.
Four minutes into added time, Port launched yet another attempt forward, but the sound of the final whistle cut them short and was the source of much relief for Radovan Curcic, who may have secured the most important win of his tenure so far.
“We played against a great team today,” coach Curcic reflected after the victory, “both us and our opposition had very strong periods of the game.” His call for the team to “get closer to our opposition” during the half-time interval made the difference in spurring Muangthong forward to victory, picking up all three vital points in one of the toughest outings of the season.