SCG Muangthong United thrilled the home fans with a dramatic come from behind win, snatching victory at 90+5 minutes with a header goal from centre back Adison Pomrak. The win over Sukhothai F.C. is the second straight victory as the Kirin begin to show a rebound in form.
It was the final home game of the season’s first leg, an encounter which also marked the second home match for coach Radovan Curcic. A team reshuffle saw Tristan Do deployed as a right winger, with Wattana Playnum filling the vacated right-back role in a system which allows the creative talents of Heberty Fernandes and Charyl Chappuis to float freely in more central areas.
The visitor’s creative and attacking talents were not to be underestimated by Muangthong in this game, with Honduran striker Nelson Bonilla, as well as the two attacking midfielders from Madagascar, John Baggio and Njiva Rakotoharimala posing a particular threat. Despite falling in recent weeks, the side from the ancient city remain well clear of relegation in a campaign generally regarded as one of overachievement.
Sukhothai looked threatening in the opening minutes of the game, and the visitors cam close to scoring due to a slightly slow start from the Kirin. Even as the home side began to grow into the game, pinning the visitors back into defensive positions, Sukhothai possessed an almost constant threat on the counter attack through their hard-working attacking trinity. They managed to take the lead when a corner from Njiva caused a scramble in the Kirin defense, eventually leading to the ball haphazardly ending up in the net with the hint of a deflection off Tristan Do.
Even after the lead, the visitors refused to fully fall into a low-block defensive structure, continuing to
occupy areas higher up the pitch and compressing Muangthong’s creative talents in a sea of blue shirts.
A second goal soon followed when the Kirin once again fell foul of this tactical masterclass, losing possession in a key midfield position, allowing the ball to be slopped through to Njiva for his second of the match. As early as the 20th minute, the Kirin found themselves in an uphill battle, with coach Radovan sending Brazilian striker Jaja Coelho to ready himself for a potentially crucial return.
Fortunes began to turn just after the half hour mark, as the Kirin were awarded a penalty, duly tucked away by Heberty, who is now in double figures in terms of goals scored this season. However, the upswong lasted just over a minute, as Sukhothai’s forwards were once again able to make a wreak havoc over Muangthong’s back-line, in a staggering passage of play which ended in an easy tap-in for captain John Baggio.
Just as a genuine sense of doom and gloom settled in amongst the home supporters, Heberty managed to complete a hattrick in the dying minutes of the first half, first scoring a tap-in after an excellent effort
from Tristan to win the ball back high in the opposition’s third, while the second came from a deflection off a Sukhothai defender which sent the ball looping beyond keeper Kittikun Jamsuwan and into the back of the net. The SCG Stadium was buzzing as the sides went in for half time, having already witnessed enough intrigue to fill an entire 90 minutes.
The second half started brightly, with Jaja Coelho making an almost immediate impact by pulling and stretching the Sukhothai defense out of it’s previously tightly-packed shape with his smart runs and immense physicality. The Kirin came close to completing the comeback when Jaja snuck behind the defense, turning a well placed lob from Heberty into a fantastic goal-scoring opportunity, only to be denied by the goalkeeper.
The Kirin clearly had the greater share of the chances going into the final 20 minutes of the game, with both Heberty and Jaja spurning chances to give the home side the lead for the first time in this match. Fatigue began to wear both sides down, and an injury to captain Sarach Yooyen saw the introduction of Thossawat Limwannasathian into the Kirin midfield. The newly introduced midfielder was off like a terrier, winning a free-kick in a promising position for the Kirin in the 74th minute, but the Kirin were unable to make the most of the opportunity despite questionable goalkeeping from the visitors. Tension continued to rise as a Tristan Do's effort cannoned off the woodwork, a sign of growing pressure from the home side.
Four minutes of stoppage time were announced as Muangthong United continued to miss excellent opportunities to claim a memorable comeback victory, and occasional attacking forays by Sukhothai were enough to worry the Kirin defense even as the visitors fell deeper and deeper into a low-block formation.
Just when it looked all over for the Kirin, a header from Adisorn Promrak in the dying embers of the match sealed a 4-3 victory that almost defied belief, sending the home supporters into delirium as the coaches poured onto the pitch to celebrate. Even the typically stoic Radovan Curcic couldn’t contain himself, a true sign of the sheer adulation and relief felt after the match.
“We made many individual mistakes in the first half,” coach Radovan admitted after the game, going as far as to claim that their “result was better than our performance warranted” in the opening period. However, he noted the upturn in quality going into the second half, which meant that his team ultimately deserved the victory.
“We dealt better with John Baggio in the second half, who was their best player today,” he said, adding that the defense was an area that the coaches needed to continue working on in light of the goals conceded in today’s match.
SCG Muangthong United now have a few days to prepare for a pair of away match fixtures. First, the Kirin will play Pattaya United Saturday May 26th, and the following Friday it is cross town rivals Port FC, the first match of the second leg.