Saraburi’s “Warlords” went into the game ranked 11th on the league table, while visitors Phuket FC were placed fifth. Phuket were missing some key players, including Giorgi Tzimakuridze, who didn’t travel the team; Sakareya Kolea and Wutthipong Sitthithanyakit, both on a ban after collecting yellow cards; and Geoffrey Doumeng, who was ruled unfit to play for Sunday’s game.
Still, Coach Panipol put Dudu and Chana Sonwiset up front, signalling his determination to win.
Saraburi FC’s coach Totchtawan Sripan was able to field his best side, including Mario Neto, Henri Bernard and former Phuket player Yutthana Jongnok.
Saraburi kicked off with several early attacks, putting heavy pressure on Phuket’s left side.
Eight minutes into the the game Saraburi went in deep towards Phuket’s goal line, with the ball falling in front of the Phuket goal where Henri Bernard was waiting.
With a free header from just four yards out, his effort was cleared off the line by Nene Bi Tra Syvestre.
The football then fell to another Saraburi player, who fired it back at the goal, but this time Phuket’s keeper Ninuruddin Nideha managed to get his gloves to the ball.
The home side continued attacking for the first 15 minutes of the game, with Phuket barely holding off the more experienced and enthusiastic Saraburi players.
At one point, Saraburi’s Brazilian star Mario Neto dribbled the ball through the Phuket defence and shot from 30 yards out, missing the near post by inches.
Phuket FC still couldn’t get into any sense of rhythm, and seemed intent on just not letting a goal in, counter-attacking whenever possible.
Saraburi kept on attacking Phuket’s left side, forcing both wingers, Eak-artit Somjit on the left and Kornprom Jaroonpong on the right, to fall back to help Thongchai Jaidee with defence.
Former Phuket FC player Yutthana Jongnok spearheaded the Saraburi attacks, taking the ball past Thongchai several times and attempting to set up his teammates for the opening goal. But Phuket’s keeper and defenders held firm under the pressure.
Phuket had a few opportunities in the first half, mostly from free kicks, but were still off target.
At the 30 minute mark they had a good chance when Dudu’s 40-yard pass to Nene Bi ended with the Ivorian’s header bouncing off the ground only to be saved by the Saraburi keeper.
Saraburi almost took the lead themselves two minutes before the end of the first half, when Bernard collected a long ball from Neto and fired off a smart right-foot shot that was going in until Ninuruddin dove and punched the ball away.
Phuket picked up their pace in the second half, with Thanathep Jiaradub pushing forward from his right wing-back position to play at right wing, while Kornprom moved further midfield.
Thanathep had a few opportunities for a shot at long range but couldn’t convert any of them into a goal.
Unable to penetrate Phuket’s left side, which was now reinforced by Eak-artit and Assawin Boonmun, Saraburi changed tactics and attacked on the right, a move that had Thanathep and Assawin running about like crazy.
Saraburi continued to test the Phuket defence but were unable to break past Phuket’s Nene and Yasuke Sato in the middle, and were only able to try to shoot from distance.
Phuket, meanwhile, were unable to give Dudu any kind of service, to the point that the Brazilian fell back to help chase the ball in Phuket’s own half, leaving Junior Aparecido and Chana up front.
A long ball from Dudu to Thanathep, now at right wing, was sent high over the crossbar.
As the clock hit the 80 minute mark, Saraburi earned one corner kick after another. The first went close to scoring directly, but Ninuruddin tipped the ball over the crossbar.
A few minutes later Saraburi attacked again, and this time Assawin went in with a strong tackle that sent a Saraburi player flying.
The referee booked him, for the second time in the match, which resulted in him being sent off with only five minutes left in the game. Saraburi then took advantage of their one man advantage.
Two minutes before stoppage time, a Saraburi player sent the ball forward, providing an opportunity for Neto to speed through the Phuket’s defence and poke the ball with the tip of his boot.
The shot went past Ninuruddin’s reach and into the goal, giving Saraburi the decisive lead.
In the five minutes of additional time, Saraburi did all they could to keep the ball away from Phuket, and the match ended 1-0 to the home side, pushing Saraburi FC up to eighth on the league table, while Phuket FC remain fifth.
Phuket FC next play the number-two placed team, unbeaten PTT Rayong FC – known as “The Fire Power” – on Sunday, 9 June at Surakul Stadium in Phuket Town. Kick off is at 6.30 pm, tickets are B100 or free for schoolchildren.
The Phuket News is the official media partner for Phuket FC and publishes the official Match Guide available for B10 at each home game.