However, they came up against a strong and organised side, with Navy Coach Arj-harn Song-ngamsab’s ground game tactics and tall centre back pairing stopping the normally threatening Phuket strikers Ludo Takam and Sukree E-tae in their tracks.
Against the run of play, Souleyman scored for Navy on 59 minutes. They didn’t hold the lead for long though, as Phuket equalised with a beautiful overhead strike from Ludo in the 68th minute.
With the initiative on their side, it was looking as if Phuket might go on to win, but just 2 minutes later disaster struck, when Phuket were reduced to 10 men after Watchara Kriaram picked up his 2nd yellow card of the night and was sent off.
Despite being a man down, Phuket continued to push for a winner in the remaining 15 minutes – a refreshing change of attitude under coach Teco – but the slippery ground didn’t help their cause.
After 5 minutes of additional time, the referee blew the final whistle, the game ending with a 1-1 draw.
Phuket FC then travelled from Sattahip in the east to Khon Kaen in the northeast to play Khon Kaen FC, known as the “T-Rex”, on Saturday, August 17.
Teco couldn’t use Watchara Kriarum this game so he fielded Dudu as attacking midfielder instead. He picked Eak-artit to wear the captain’s armband and played Chatchai at centre-back with Nene Bi.
The T-Rex played their best 11, including the tall strikeforce pairing of Argentinian Matias, the team’s top scorer with 12 goals and Chris Mbondi, both men standing more than 180cm tall, while Li Xiang, a Chinese defender, 192cm tall, was set to mark Phuket’s Ludovick Takam, who’s only 166cm.
But The Islanders weren’t going to be intimidated. They attacked right from the kick off. Dudu took an 18-yard free kick a few minutes into the game but the shot was blocked by the Khon Kaen wall. In the first 5 minutes both teams committed several fouls, forcing the referee to stop the game often.
As attacking midfielder, Dudu connected the game from defense to attack. Early on, he passed a through ball to Thongchai, who dribbled close to the T-Rex goal before missing with his effort.
Twenty minutes passed in the same manner, with both teams taking turns attacking. Khon Kaen took advantage of Mbondi’s and Matias’ heights, while Phuket tried to play their ground game, utilising their skills and speed to get past the Li Xiang-marshalled defense, but the Chinese defender did well both in the air and on the ground, causing Phuket to retreat and adjust their game plans.
Phuket’s attacks alternated between Thongchai, who advanced from left back towards Sukree, and Eak-artit, who stuck close to the right sideline, and Dudu who advanced from midfield, passing to Ludo.
Ludovick Takam had a good chance from a Dudu pass, but the Cameroonian showed too much of the ball to the Khon Kaen keeper, who dove forward to grab the ball before Ludo could take a shot.
Then it was the T-Rex’s turn to attack for the next 5 minutes. Adisak Doungsri had to work very hard in goal, while Chatchai Mokkasem fell from a tackle. A free kick was sent in by Khon Kaen, Adisak leapt for a punch but got knocked down by a charging Khon Kaen forward, and the referee had to stop the game.
Phuket then immediately countered with a beautiful ground game by Dudu, Eak-artit, Sukree and Ludo, but before they could strike on the target, a poor touch by Dudu sent the ball off the pitch and the opportunity went begging.
It was Khon Kaen who converted their first real chance. With less opportunity than the visitors, Khon Kaen got their golden moment from a free kick late in the first half. The ball was sent in from the right corner. Nene Bi, who had been marking Matias very tightly, failed to get into position and left the Argentine free in the box.
The tall blonde didn’t waste the moment, jumping above everyone and, with a flick of his head, sent the ball past Adisak’s grasp into the back of Phuket’s net. Fans roared with joy.
After the lead, Khon Kaen pulled back into a 7-men defense and stifled Phuket’s creative game in midfield to reduce The Islanders’ opportunity to equalise. Phuket resorted to a faster pace that resulted in many incomplete passes, while Teco was grumbling at his footballers’ loss of concentration. After 2 minutes of additional time, the referee ended the first half with the home side in the lead.
Teco sent on Kriangkrai Chasung for Chatchai Mokkasem, who seemed to be suffering from a tackle earlier in the game. The Brazilian coach’s second half tactics were mainly to control the ground game and prevent Khon Kaen from using their tall strikers for their advantage.
Phuket’s game was better, and the plays were better connected than in the first half with Alef Pochi and Dudu playing together more. But their attempts were continually denied by the able Khon Kaen goalie.
The whole time Phuket pressed for a goal, Khon Kaen set their defense strong and high, almost near the midfield circle and waited to counterattack and capitalise on Phuket’s mistakes.
Half way through the second half, Teco decided to pull out Ludovick Takam, who was struggling to break away from Li Xiang’s marking, and also Eak-artit Somjit, who was being pressured by three yellow jerseys every time he touched the ball. He sent on Giorgi, hoping that his height might help, and Chana, whose speed and freshness might just give Phuket an edge in the last quarter of the game.
Both subs worked pretty well. Giorgi was able to help in the air, while Chana helped Dudu on the ground. A few minutes after they were both were sent on, the referee gave Khon Kaen striker Chris Mbondi a red card, after he had committed an off ball foul on Phuket right back Thanathep. After Mbondi was sent off, Khon Kaen fans booed Thanathep every time he touched the ball.
In the last 10 minutes, Phuket took advantage of their one man advantage over Khon Kaen, and attacked strongly. But it seemed Lady Luck wasn’t on Phuket’s side this time.
Dudu continued to create opportunities from midfield, sending the ball in from the far right to the front of Khon Kaen’s goal where Chana waited to charge in. But the short man was a few steps too short, and Khon Kaen goalkeeper Piyawat snatched the ball away before Chana’s boot touched the ball.
Dudu worked the same play again two times but Nene Bi was first blocked by a Khon Kaen player who charged in in front of him, then Sukree had a chance that was stifled by the goalie, who all-too-often fell easily, claiming injury, and asking for the team physiotherapist to be sent on to treat him.
With just 6 minutes of additional time left, Teco shouted and urged his footballers to push for an equaliser, but Khon Kaen footballers all over the pitch seemed to fall very easily at every minor bump and every small tackle.
Frustrated, Phuket could only try so hard before the referee finally blew his whistle and gave Phuket their first loss under their new coach, to 10-men Khon Kaen FC.