A tale of two halves

Match report
Thai League 2
23 December 2023

Chanait Hornbill 2 Chiang Mai FC 2

Chiang Mai FC

Im ChangKyoon
Saharat Posri
Stenio Jnr

Yoo Byung Soo missed this game with an injury; Stenio Jnr moving to center forward. A missed opportunity – it would have been great to see Chitchanok get a start at centre forward.

Thammayut replaced Sarawut at left back.

Saharat Posri started alongside Chappuis, meaning that for the second successive week David Cuerva was not in the starting XI.

Also missing was Head Coach, Albert Garcia, with a one match suspension after another yellow card last weekend.

Finally, among the missing were the Chainat cheerleaders and large numbers of fans compared to recent seasons. Maybe the two are related.

This looked and felt like men against boys; six of the Chainat starting line-up and eight of their nine substitutes are all registered as under-23. The rarest item to find in the Chainat dressing room is a shaver.
For the first forty three minutes of this game we were watching a training match held at a garden party. It was windy; it was cool. It was also quiet and tedious. More silent night than ding-dong merrily on high.

Chiang Mai spent much of the first half knocking the ball sideways and backwards. Dominating possession but rarely threatening. Against a team of schoolboys this seemed unnecessarily cautious.

Chappuis had come closest to opening the scoring. Chainat’s veteran goalkeeper, Thanongsak, pushed a Jakkapan corner out in front of goal. Chappuis reacted smartly but his instinctive half-volley was inches over the cross bar.

Up front Chainat were enthusiastic but lightweight. Tanayut lacking support when he did break forward.

Then, at last, action. For the second week running Fahas had a rush of blood and rushed from his goal to bring down Tanayut just outside the penalty area. Fahas’ challenge was late; but it was not as poor as last weekend’s and there were more covering defenders.

A yellow card was sensible despite the hounding of the referee and linesman by Chainat’s players.

Warinthon’s well-struck free kick hit the outside of the left post. Fahas breathed again!

Warinthon and Jeong both had fine games in the Chainat back line.

While the first half was stale; the second half was a Christmas cracker.

Three minutes into the second half Stenio’s pass gave Tawan a shooting opportunity. But straight at Tanongsak. Shortly after this Tawan was replaced by Chitchanok allowing Stenio to move to the wing where he was much more effective with Chitchanok playing down the centre.  

Chainat were happy to look for opportunities to break forward and Tanayut was blocked by Thammayut close to the Chiang Mai penalty area. Complaining about the yellow card was a lost cause.

The decisive change to the game came in the 65th minute with Chainat’s Tongan forward, Ata Jesse Inia, replacing Fittaree. At the risk of being old-fashioned there is something Roy of the Rovers about Tonga’s only professional footballer playing in the Thai League.

Inia is big, quick and powerful. A whole new challenge for the Chiang Mai defense. The catch is that until last night he had not scored in 16 appearances this season. So where has this version of Inia been hiding?

His impact was almost immediate. Picking the ball up on the left side midway in the Chiang Mai half. He cut inside Nukoolkit and curled the ball past Fahas from twenty yards into the far top corner.

The lead was short-lived. Stenio squeezed through Jeong and Patipanchai by the right corner flag. Chitchanok read the low pass into the area and was too quick for Mongkonchai whose late challenge brought down the Chiang Mai forward. Penalty.

The endless protests and shithousery that seem to follow every penalty decision in the Thai League were predictable. The officials were again surrounded. Those that were not haranguing the officials were in Stenio’s face as he stood at the penalty spot.

The Chiang Mai captain calmy and precisely drove the ball past Thanongsak to bring the scores level.

Inia moved to the right side. He stole the ball from Im ChangKyoon near the half way line and sped forward on goal. As the Chiang Mai defense parted like the red sea his shot, this time with his left foot, flew past Fahas, again into the far top corner. It was a terrific strike.

But again Chainat would not hold onto the lead and Stenio on the right side of the penalty area picked out Chitchanok who gleefully drove the ball home for his first Chiang Mai goal.

The six minutes of injury time saw chances at both ends.

Stenio headed powerfully over the crossbar.

Inia had a shot well saved by Fahas at his near post.

And Chitchanok, in almost a reprise of his goal, ran onto a Stenio pass and his first time shot produced a fine reaction save from Thanongsak.

The game finished 2-2. It was a thoroughly entertaining second half and sharing the points felt like a fair result.

The first leg of matches are now complete. CMFC are fourth in the table. Well positioned to challenge for promotion.

It is now time to see what changes are made to the CMFC squad and at the other challenging teams for the second half of the season.

Let me end by thanking you or your support of CMFC and of CMFCEnglish in 2023. Have a very merry Christmas and a peaceful and happy new year.