Muangthong's 8-game winning run came to a stuttering halt amid harsh weather conditions at the SCG Stadium, as PT Prachuap's defense manages to stifle the Kirin's typically productive attack and ultimately emerge as victors.
The Kirin’s attacking intent was made clear from the opening minutes of the game, pushing men forward in search of an opener. Their first scare came when Lee Ho was caught on the ball, conceding a chance that went harmlessly wide, but was a warning shot nonetheless.
Despite the numbers committed forward, Prachuap’s high line effectively Muangthong any space whatsoever. Both sides seemed committed to the offside trap, which had already succeeded for both teams on occasion, which came with its risks as to which side would capitulate first.
Unfortunately, it was the Kirin who were the first to fall, with a well-timed ball over the top from Prachuap’s Kwon Dae Hee (19) able to pick out an intelligent run from striker Amorn Thammanam, who managed to break past the Kirin defense to give the visitors the lead. The referee was unyielding in the face of Muangthong’s offside claims, leading to outrage coming from the stands, but the goal stood regardless.
In response to this setback, coach Radovan Curcic decided to shuffle the pack, calling off right-back Wattana Playnumfor the more attack-minded midfielder Sanukran Thinjom, moving Tristan Do back to his natural position to cover.
Half-time was just over five minutes away when Jaja Coelho was brought down not far from the penalty box, providing the opportunity for an equalizer. Jaja and his countryman Heberty stood over the shot as the sense of anticipation grew amongst the Kirin faithful, but Prachuap’s defensive wall got the better of the skillful Brazilian.
Riding on the cheers from the crowd, Muangthong looked to get back into the game before the halftime whistle. However, the best the home side could muster was a header that went narrowly wide courtesy of Jaja, meaning that the two sides went in at half time to a cacophony of boos and jeers aimed at the match officials.
SCG Muangthong United looked for a quick start to the second half, immediately troubling opposition goalkeeper Kwanchai Suklom (26) to no avail. The Kirin once again left spaces exposed as they attacked, forcing goalkeeper Prasit Padungchok to come forward in a sweeper role to clear the danger.
Despite the clearly impending storm, the atmosphere did not let up in the stands as Muangthong continued to push for an equalizer, but on the pitch, the Kirin were effectively neutralized due to the Wasps’ high line.
The tactical stalemate began to wane as conditions worsened, leading to more wild openness, but regardless the Prachuap defense held firm. Coach Curcic urged his team to keep up the concentration and intensity, and they duly obliged.
It took until 65 minutes for the Kirin to finally get their equalizer, once again courtesy of their Heberty, who finished smartly with a well-positioned volley that managed to beat the keeper and nestle in the bottom right corner.
The hosts had a chance to take the lead just a minute later, with Heberty once again bearing down on goal with a ball over the top, but once again goalkeeper Kwanchai came to his side’s rescue with a vital clearance to prevent the Kirin from taking their best opportunity of the game.
With momentum on their side, the Kirin looked the most likely to emerge as winners as they continued to fashion chances. However, against the run of play, the visitors managed to score from a free kick, with Jonatan Reis adding to his impressive goal tally for the season with a header that flew past Prasit into the back of the net.
Heberty was offered a third opportunity to score from a dead ball, but this time his shot went narrowly over the bar. Tension continued to rise as Muangthong were eager to avoid a first defeat in eight games, but the clock was clearly against them.
With time running out for the home side, coach Curcic threw on Chenrop Samphaodi, mastermind of the comeback against Bangkok United earlier in the season, in the hope he could once again provide the vital touch in their time of need.
Unfortunately, the four minutes of stoppage time would not be enough for the Kirin to get back into the match, and the best they could muster was a cross from Peerapat which was firmly dealt with by the goalkeeper.
“I think our players got complacent today,” admitted coach Curcic, “we played without the right intensity and aggression.” When asked about his side’s failure to break down today's opponents, he claimed that the failure was “largely down to us,” although he “didn’t want to minimize the efforts of the opposition’s strong defense.”
After an excellent winning run of eight consecutive wins across three domestic competitions, this loss will come as a major blow to the team. The Kirin will be given very little respite, as they are in action again in midweek, and will need to learn from this game quickly if they hope to progress.