Thai League 2 2022-2023 – Saturday 21 January 2023
Chiang Mai FC 3 NakhonSi United 2
Chiang Mai FC:
Over 90 minutes of big, brave, bold and beautiful football, supporters, from both sides, were put through the emotional wringer that is at the heart of this game that we love.
The score is 2-2. 92 minutes gone; Saharat controls a ball that he could easily have given up on; he takes a touch to drag the ball onto his right foot and curls over the sort of inviting cross that forwards must dream of.
Coming in at the back post Suchanon is first to the ball to head it past the static goalkeeper.
Bedlam. The support staff are off the bench. The fans are going berserk and Fukuda-san is dancing a jig down the touchline with a smile that is wider than the Ping river.
You can feel a little sorry for the visitors; it will be a long trip home.
But after a difficult week for the fans and staff at CMFC this was a wonderful statement of what this club can achieve and of how much the club’s success means to everyone involved.
Back to the beginning; always a good place to start.
Chiang Mai were without Filipovic (on the bench) and Stewart (injury). Im ChangKyoon started in place of Saharat. Sarawin and Sarawut the two full backs either side of Piyachanok and Suwannapat.
NakhonSi gave debuts to Srayut (2) from Samut Prakan Coty and to Kroekrit (24) and Petcharat (38) on loan from Chonburi and PT Prachuap respectively.
Chiang Mai scored in the third minute – a bizarre Chinese New Year gift from the Nakhon Si defense who tried to play keep-ball in their own six yard box before Srayut passed the ball straight into the path of Tawan on the edge of the penalty who calmly side-footed the ball home.
It was great awareness from Chiang Mai who had four players in the penalty area when Tawan scored; not allowing the NakhonSi defense any time to settle.
Kapisoda’s free header, minutes later, from a Prakit corner was wide of the far upright but a good indicator of the threat posed by NakhonSi’s tall, strong line up.
Yet it was Chiang Mai who increased their lead; the simplest of goals. Im was fouled on the left side of the NakhonSi half. Dusting himself off, he took the free kick and curled it to the far post where Sarawut was able to run in front of Poomphat (Meedech) to stoop and head home.
2-0 down the league leaders were wounded but dangerous. Fahas had to carefully watch Prakit’s 20 yard shot as it dipped and bent; and was turned over the bar for a corner; which Kapisoda again met with his head and was inches off target. He was just getting his range.
Another Prakit corner again from the left. Kapisoda was again left largely unbothered to rise and deflect the ball inside the far post.
2-1 and still just 20 minutes into the game.
A theatrical Paulista dive won few friends among the home crowd while at the other end confusion between Kapisoda and his goalkeeper (Chakhon) nearly let in Pongrawit.
Nattaphoom (13), once of Chiang Mai FC, then found space for a sprint down the right wing. Sarawut was not close. His cross was whipped over but looked long. Paulista running at the near post felt enough of a push from Piyanchanok to tumble over and was adjudged to have been fouled.
CMFC gathered in protest. The referee was never going to change his mind – this gathering around the referee and penalty taker is not a good look.
Paulista took the penalty – low and with power into the bottom right corner of Fahas’ goal.
With the game simmering to the point of boiling over half time was welcome. 2-2. A game that for neutrals must have been a joy to watch. For the 1,205 in the stadium, it had been both terrific, and frustrating, entertainment.
For the first fifteen minutes of the second half the home side set about battering the league leaders. Im’s low free kick was turned inches wide by Kim BoYong; Chakhon leaped to his left to save a Sawawut volley. Suchanon danced into the penalty area from the left side; his shot was blocked and Piyachanok was unable to keep the rebound below the crossbar.
The fact that Piyachanok was up in support of his forwards made clear Chiang Mai’s attacking intent.
Kim broke down the right side and into the penalty area; Tawan had sprinted into space to his left but Kim went on alone with defenders gathering like vultures around him and his shot was blocked.
As the home side started to tire NakhonSi slowly clawed their way back into contention. Paulista headed straight at Fahas before the goalkeeper excelled to block substitute Weerawut as he ran into the penalty area release by Paulista’s clever short pass.
At the other end Chakhon had to be brave to dive at the feet of Suchanon – again the amateur dramatics detracted from a good stop.
As the game slipped into injury time Chiang Mai continued to press. Saharat crossed, Suchanon ran in behind Hartmann, and wrote his name into the memory of everyone who saw this very special performance.
While the future may be uncertain for CMFC this team made it clear that they will play to the last day for their club, their coach and for eachother. It was a privilege to be there.