SCG Muangthong United close out a difficult week of games with a solid 2-0 victory over Nakhonratchasima Mazda FC at the SCG Stadium in a Saturday night Thai League fixture.
With close to 10,000 fans cheering him on, both Kirin goals came from the foot of Heberty Fernandes who has regained his scoring from and is closing in on a Thai League record.
The victory however was a true team effort of solid defending and attacking football. Suphanan had perhaps his best match of the season, denying Ivory Coast attacker Amadou Ouattara hardly any room to go for goal. As well, Suphanan came close to scoring himself, and was important to the counter attack.
Coach Alexandra Gama shuffled the deck once more, making way for players with injuries and fatigue with it being the third game in just seven days.
As always Dang Van Lam started in goal and Oh Ban Suk anchored the defense, this time with Saringkan. Suphanan and Bruno Gallo were the wingbacks. In the midfield Patcharapol returned in the middle with Wattana, Charyl Chappuis, and Heberty. The starting forwards were Derley and Sanukran.
It looked as if the Kirin were going to be on the scoreboard early with strong pressure into the final
third, with crosses into the box from both sides within four minutes. Then Derley was setup for the shot inside the box, but the attempt was blocked by the Swatcat's Thai-American keeper Samuel Cunningham.
Muangthong United continued to create chances as the half progressed, with Charyl Chappuis hammering in the powerful shot off a corner, but the attempt deflected off a defender and out of bounds.
Heberty also fired a point blank blast but Cunningham made a strong right footed stop.
Nakhonratchasima were sometimes able to penetrate close to the Kirin goal.
At the midpoint of the first half a sloppy back pass to Dang Van Lam led to an opportunity for Swatcat forward Leandro Assumpcao. The former Muangthong player, however, was tackled by Lam well outside the box. The big keeper from Vietnam then had to tackle a second attacker before he was able to send the ball downfield.
Yet it was Muangthong United who dominated the half, and the pressure eventually brought about the opening goal of the game a few minutes before halftime. A foul against Derley as he attempt to pivot and chase the ball towards goal setup a free kick just beyond the box.
Both Charyl and Heberty lined up, but it was Heberty's excellent strike that sailed over the wall on the near side and dropped into the goal.
The second half was a different game.
Nakhonratchasima's head coach Miloš Joksić brought in scoring sensation Bernard Henry, who's knocked in eleven goals to date for the Swatcats. The additional speed that Henry added to the attack resulted in much better possession and generated chances.
It looked as if the equalizer was going to come when at the 60th minute when Ouattara blasted a shot at the net, and Derley who was defending deep headed the ball off his own crossbar. The rebound came to Henry, but his header was over the net.
With his team beginning to look overwhelmed Coach Gama substituted out forward Sanukran for Thai national team centre back Adisorn Pomrak, adding some defensive punch to slow down the onslaught.
A few moments later Leandro was to have another attempt at goal, but Dang Van Lam was ready for his shot and smothered it. The Kirin continued to defend well, heading clear crosses, blocking shots, and tangling up the forwards and leaving no room to move.
As the Swatcats committed players forward they became vulnerable to counters. Heberty found himself in alone on the keeper, but he took an extra touch allowing the defender to toe the ball out for a corner.
A few moments later Suphanan had his shot at goal, and then Charyl and Suphanan coordinated on passes inside the box, but neither could get the shot away.
Coach Gama next brought in Thai national team midfielder Sarach Yooyen. It was a prophetic move. With less than ten minutes to go in the match Sarach pressures the defenders who were slow to clear the ball forward. He forces the turn over, and then feeds a pass to Heberty, who made sure of finishing into an almost empty goal.
Said Coach Gama after the match, "We played well, and the players have adapted to my style, and they play with confidence, but it's important to know we work to do our best, game-by-game."
SCG Muangthong United will have a week to recover and prepare for a massively important match next week, away against Port FC. Port is one of several teams ahead of Muangthong in the table that the Kirin will be playing as the season enters its final dramatic phase.
Said Coach Gama, "The league this year is very tough, let the top teams fight, but if the make a mistake we are following behind."