After an early scare, a roaring Kirin comeback victory over Air Force Central FC stretches their winning run to five league games, courtesy of goals from the Brazilian duo of Heberty Fernandes and Jaja Coelho.
A buoyant home crowd at the SCG Stadium received the players after last week’s impressive 3-2 derby win over fierce rivals Port FC and the midweek victory away at Udon Thani in the League Cup.
Just as Radovan Curcic’s native Serbia began their game against Costa Rica five thousand miles away in Samara, Russia at the FIFA World Cup, his Muangthong United side kicked off in search of their fifth successive win under his stewardship.
Coach Curcic once again shuffled the pack for this game, with a forward three of Heberty, Jaja and Sorawit Panthong ahead of a trinity of Sarach Yooyen, Charyl Chappuis and Sanukran Thinjom in midfield and a familiar-looking back line.
Despite sustaining almost constant pressure on their opponents, the Kirin’s first sight of goal came in the 8th minute through a free kick. Heberty’s shot cannoned off the wall, resulting in the games first corner kick going the way of the hosts. The visitors had seen almost none of the ball until this point, but their tight, compact shape gave Muangthong very little room.
Air Force themselves were able to fashion an opportunity against the run of play, when a shot from striker Greg Houla was tipped over by Prasit Padungchok in the Kirin goal. The resulting corner caused a scramble in the Kirin defense, and a long shot from Watcharapong Kongchuai flew into the top right corner. Despite their early dominance, Muangthong found themselves behind.
The Kirin were keen to hit back, with Jaja Coelho breaking past the defensive line but firing just wide of the far post from a difficult angle. With the home-side in shell shock, the visitors went on the search of a second goal, winning their second corner of the match in the 17th minute.
Muangthong’s hopes were revived when a speculative effort from Jaja Coelho yielded a corner, a clear sign that the Kirin were putting the pressure back on after a barren spell. The fans were also back in full voice, willing their side on.
A quick play between Jaja and Sanukran caught Air Force off guard, leading the latter to be brought down at the edge of the box. After a quick video consultation, the penalty was given in favor of the home side, and Heberty managed to level the score with just over half an hour played.
The Kirin almost took the lead just minutes later, when an excellent cross by Sorawit managed to find the feet of Jaja at the edge of the six-yard box. Despite being offered almost no space, the Brazilian target-man mustered a shot, forcing an excellent save from Air Force keeper Pisan Dorkmaikaew to spectacularly keep the game level.
The hosts would finally have their second goal five minutes before half-time, when a mazy run by Heberty put the visitors on the back foot before a low driven ball found Jaja available at the far post to slide the ball into the back of the net. Unfazed by the early setback, the Kirin went into half-time ahead on the scoresheet.
SCG Muangthong United made a half time change which saw Wattana Playnum withdrawn, to be replaced by Suporn Peenagatapho at right-back. Coming into the second half, neither side was able to fashion any major openings, with each side’s defensive structure essentially nullifying the other and reducing the game to a series of sideways passes.
This temporary deadlock was eventually broken when a quick break-away caught the Kirin back line off
guard, resulting in first a throw-in and then a corner for the visitors due to two timely interventions by Naoaki Aoyama.
The Kirin came close to a getting a third shortly after the hour mark, when Sanukran played Jaja through on goal, but Air Force keeper Pisan once again came to his side’s rescue. In the wake of that chance, Sorawit Panthong was withdrawn for Weeravut Kayem, who recently returned to the club after a loan spell with Udon Thani in T2.
Despite occasional scares, the Kirin managed to hold on to their lead in a largely uneventful final half hour. Aoyama and Prasit were particularly vital in helping the Kirin keep ahold of their advantage.
Muangthong were finally able to make the game safe when a through ball for Heberty caught the Air Force defense off-guard, allowing him to fire the ball over the outrushing goalkeeper and secure the three points for the Kirin with just over 5 minutes remaining.
A final change saw Heberty Fernandes leave the field, giving way to youngster Poramet Arjvirai, showing again the Kirin’s commitment to fielding younger players this season.
The game concluded with SCG Muangthong United securing an all-important victory and closing the gap with the top three teams in the Thai League.