Krabi, known as ‘The Eagles’, fielded their best team, with stars like Valci Junior, the Nuikhao brothers and captain Taweepong Charoen.
Phuket FC’s lineup was also near their best, with the only changes: at central defense, where they fielded Kriangkrai Chasung instead of Chatchai Mokkasem, and left back, with Thanathep Jiaradab coming in for Sakareya Kolea.
This was a game all about bragging rights. Krabi FC were determined to secure a home win and gain revenge for their defeat to Phuket FC earlier in the season at Surakul Stadium.
The home side attacked from the first minute, advancing forward into Phuket FC territory. The first 5 minutes belonged to The Eagles, but they couldn’t convert their continuous attacks on Phuket FC into goals.
Geoffrey Doumeng, who recently returned to the Phuket FC starting eleven after few games as substitute, was the first to create a scoring opportunity for Phuket FC when he curled a free kick for Dudu to attempt a header, but the Brazilian didn’t get enough behind the ball, and the keeper managed an easy save.
The twin strike force of Dudu and Ludo then attempted a short passing game between them, before Ludo tapped the ball over to Watchara to shoot from distance – but his shot went out past the far post.
Ludo then dribbled towards the Krabi goal line, trying to clip the ball back to Dudu in front of goal, but the Krabi FC defenders didn’t let him have it easy, swamping Tank and taking the ball from his feet.
Phuket FC’s defenders in this game were Sato and Kriangkrai as centre backs and Thanathep as right back, while on the other side at left back was Piyawat Piamcharoen, a very unusual defensive lineup.
The odd positioning almost cost Phuket dearly. When Thanathep and Kriangkrai were confused over who should clear the ball, a Krabi FC player stole it from between the two and rushed forward for a shot. Luckily for the Islanders, Kriangkrai managed to recover the ball before things got out of hand.
Krabi Stadium had been drenched in rain earlier in the morning, making it more difficult for both teams to control the ball and hold on to possessions. Tackles were more dangerous due to the slippery conditions, and the muddy surface had footballers falling over easily.
Unable to penetrate Krabi’s tight defense, Phuket resorted to ineffective shots from distance, Assawin and Watchara moving around trying to find an opening.
Trying their best to capitalise on their home ground advantage, Krabi FC rained attacks on the visitors, pressuring The Islanders and pushing them deeper into their own half.
The final touch of the Krabi players was still missing, but the pressure from the attacks alone had Phuket FC footballers stuck in defense and unable to find any space to play.
As part of an obvious strategy, Krabi defenders let Dudu run around all he wanted, but they sandwiched Ludo to a point where the Tank was unable to take the ball from anyone and play.
Krabi’s opening goal came close to the half hour mark, when one of their attempts turned into a corner kick. The ball was sent into the box, falling in the middle of a sea of black and yellow.
Krabi’s captain Taweepong Charoen charged in, firing the ball into the far post. Thanathep tried to clear the ball, but the shot was too strong and went straight past him.
That first goal only fueled Krabi FC, and for the next 15 minutes of the game they continued their attacks on the visitors, who struggled to keep the ball away from their goal area.
Unable to compete by actually playing, Phuket resorted to stopping the game by committing fouls.
Akkapan Nuikhao, a local favourite, took the ball forward towards Phuket’s goal and ghosted past ineffectual challenges by the Phuket FC players. As the last line of defense, Thanathep had little choice but to bring Akkapan down, giving away a free kick just outside Phuket’s penalty area.
Valci Junior confidently stepped up for free kick duty. The ball was curled up and over Phuket FC’s four-man wall, curving down close to the goal, but landing on top of the goal rather than in it.
Coach Teco, who hadn’t sat down the entire time, shouted his game plan at his footballers, but was unable to pull them back into the game. A loss of confidence seemed to grip Phuket FC.
To be fair, Dudu and Doumeng tried time and time again to break down Krabi’s strong defense, but The Eagles packed their half of the pitch, and defended with grit and passion – two things missing from Phuket’s players.
By the end of the first half, Phuket’s only hope seemingly now lay in set plays.
From one of the many free kicks and corner kicks sent in to the Krabi area by Doumeng, Sato dove for a header, and the ball seemed to have passed the goal line before a Krabi defender kicked it out.
Phuket FC footballers ran to the referee, arguing that the ball had crossed the line and it should be a goal, but the referee didn’t budge. Phuket used this opportunity to strike while Krabi tried to pull it together, with three subsequent shots at close range – but all were blocked. The first half ended with the home side still in a 1-0 lead and Phuket frustration.
Teco decided to shake things up by taking off Thanathep, who had already earned a yellow card, and sending on Sakareya Kolea, hoping that he could work the sideline better.
Krabi FC responded by moving Valci Junior from lone striker to attacking midfielder, and having him run wild, setting the plays for his teammates.
Dudu, now also playing in midfield to help out Eak-artit and Doumeng, tried to pass the ball to Ludo up front, with no luck as the Tank’s markers never let up or allowed him any space to play.
Frustrated, Dudu advanced forward by himself, but most of time he could only get close enough to win free kicks well outside the penalty box, never making it to a point where he could have a shot on goal.
Against the run of play, Phuket’s equaliser came in the 62nd minute from a corner kick.
Following a Phuket attack, Krabi attempted a clearance but the ball did not go far enough. Dudu stepped up, skillfully lifted the ball with his right foot over Krabi’s footballers, and laid it on perfectly for Ludovick Takam.
With one touch, the Tank fired with such force that the goalie wouldn’t dare get in the way. Krabi’s footballers protested and called on the referee to rule the goal offside, but the decision stood.
Now that Phuket FC had scored their equaliser and got back into the game, they started to get their act together and attack.
Taken aback, Krabi initially switched their tactics, attempting shots from more than 25 yards out, before settling back into their passing game.
The impressive Valci Junior once again showed his skills when he dribbled through Phuket’s footballers towards the goal line and shot from an awkward angle, the shot went harmlessly into the side netting, but the attempt had Phuket troubled by his skills.
Teco now swapped his Brazilian strikers, sending on Cristian Alex in place of Dudu, but the Samba boy was immediately marked by a Krabi midfielder who seemed to want to be his Siamese twin.
Then a mistake by Assawin almost cost Phuket a goal when a misplaced back pass fell to Valci Junior instead. Now one-on-one with “Spider-Ming” Ninuruddin, the Phuket goalie stretched to his limit to sweep the ball from the feet of the Krabi player
The two then had another encounter in this same manner a few minutes before stoppage time.
With the ball at his feet, Valci ran straight at the Phuket goal, but this time he didn’t slow down. When Ninuruddin rushed out for another sweep, Valci didn’t sidestep his reach, and instead was swept down in front of goal, falling on the ground from the contact.
The referee pointed immediately at the penalty spot, while Phuket’s footballers protested the decision.
Valci Junior got up to take the penalty. Spider-Ming dove in the wrong direction, and just two minutes before time, Krabi FC took a 2-1 lead, with their grip almost on the win.
With things going from bad to worse, Phuket were down to 10 men when Kriangkrai went in with a rash foot first challenge on a Krabi midfielder, sending him flying off the ground without touching the ball. The referee pulled out a red card without as much as a word.
Just as everyone seemed to think the final result would be 2-1, Krabi FC’s Ittiphol Kaewkiaw, almost lazily, sent a speculative long ball high over everyone towards Phuket FC’s goal.
The shot that seemed like nothing then curved down and went in right under the crossbar to the dismay of Spider-Ming. Krabi FC fans roared with joy while Phuket FC’s fans were stunned beyond belief.
The score remained unchanged after 5 minutes of additional time, with yet another embarrassing loss for Phuket FC, continuing their 48 day winless streak.
The loss pushed them down to 11th in the League-1 table. For the first time in Season 2013, Phuket FC are not in the top ten and, judging by this performance, may have to start worrying about possible relegation.
Phuket FC’s next match will be a home game at Surakul Stadium where they will host 6th ranked Gulf Saraburi FC, who have performed well over the past month. Kick off is at 6.30pm and tickets are B100.