Phuket FC returned from their post-Songkran scoreless draw in Nakhon Pathom to host Khon Kaen FC, known as “The T-Rex” after the dinosaur fossils found near their Isan home. Khon Kaen arrived in Phuket on the back of an away loss to Navy in Rayong earlier in the week.
Phuket shuffled around a few players. Three of the back four were on the bench, with Sakareya Kolea and Thongchai Kuenkhunthod both ruled unfit to play, and Yusuke Sato out with an upset stomach.
In response, Coach Paniphol sent out new defender Piyawat Piamcharoen for the first time – and, to the delight of many fans, he decided to put Nontaphan Jiensathawong where he belonged, at left wingback. Midfielder “Junior” Juninho was also benched this game, to allow Narakorn Wisetthanakarn to play striker alongside leading scorer Dudu Purcino.
For the first five minutes Phuket FC took advantage of the T-Rex’s fatigue from their long journey.
Ake-artit Somjit dribbled the ball through the Khon Kaen defenders to fire a right-footed shot, which the goalkeeper pushed into the path of Geoffrey Doumeng. The French midfielder hit it straight at the goal mouth, but a defender blocked the shot, sending the ball high over the crossbar for a corner.
Doumeng and Ake-artit soon paired up again, the Frenchman sailed past the opposition defenders and passed the ball to Ake-artit, who went one-on-one with the Khon Kaen goal-keeper from just 10 yards out – but the keeper was quick to smother the ball, denying Phuket FC an early lead.
Play was then stopped 20 minutes into the first half, when some of the floodlights at the ground failed during a power shortage, and the ten-minute break gave Khon Kaen a chance to catch their breath.
They returned to the pitch like a different team, blocking Phuket FC’s continuous attacks and taking a few opportunities of their own to test Phuket’s keeper Kampon Phatomakkakul.
A few minutes before half time, Doumeng and Ake-artit paired up for another chance on goal, but Doumeng’s shot went wide and Phuket missed another golden opportunity to take the lead.
As the first half drew to a close, Phuket’s footballers still couldn’t break through. Coach Panipol gave instructions for Dudu to play as the lone striker, but a lack of coordination yielded no goals and the players became increasingly frustrated.
Coach Paniphol then sent on Chana Sonwiset to replace Narakorn and help Dudu up front, and replaced Ake-artit at left wing with Nirun Phunthong.
Meanwhile the captain, Nontaphan, was feeling at home in his favoured wingback position, performing well in both attack and defense. He soon created another chance for Dudu, but the Brazilian curled his shot past the near post.
When Khon Kaen started to slow down late in the game, their exertions clearly catching up to them, Phuket took their cue to move forward. Although flagged offside, Chana tested the Khon Kaen keeper.
Doumeng – putting in a sterling performance – dribbled through the T-Rex defense before firing in a shot from just outside the penalty box, agonsingly missing the goal by inches.
As extra time was called, it looked like the night would end as a goalless draw despite constant Phuket pressure.
Fatally though, Khon Kaen eased up, and Dudu took full advantage to score in the first minute of extra time – greeted by a huge roar among the 4,000 Phuket FC fans packed into the stadium.
Khon Kaen tried desperately to equalise in the remaining minutes, but Phuket put everyone behind the ball. The fate of the T-Rex was sealed when one of their defenders was sent off – and the game ended a moment later, with a final score of 1-0 to Phuket FC.
The win lifts Phuket FC from fifth to third place in the league, tied on points with first place PTT Rayong and second place BBCU FC, but with a lower goal difference. The Islanders now travel to Bangkok for two back-to-back games against Air Force Avia FC, on April 24 and April 27.
The Phuket News is the official media partner of Phuket FC.