Thai League 2
Sunday 11 February 2024
Nakhon Si United 0 Chiang Mai FC 2
The reaction of the Chiang Mai players and staff at the end of 90 enthralling minutes in Nakhon Si Thammarat told the 2,015 fans in the stadium everything they needed to know about how much winning this game mattered to the visitors.
After the midweek loss at Krabi this win was neatly summed up in one word – redemption (credit to Richard Keyworth for that!)
Sarawut took over as captain…a good move. Piyachanok returned at centre half after missing the visit to Krabi. Nukoolkit moving to right back. Akarawin returned up front allowing Chitchanok to move back to the wing.
Nakhon Si United, previously unbeaten at home this season, were without the suspended Valdo; while Stenio and Yoo ByungSoo are still receiving treatment for CMFC.
NakhonSi played with Nilsson, Sirawut and Maranhao up front; some of their interplay was top class but none are especially quick and for the most part Piyachanok and Alef dealt effectively with their threat. This was Alef’s most assured performance since his arrival in Chiang Mai.
CMFC’s closest effort in the first half came from a 21 yard Jakkapan free kick in the eighth minute which clipped the top of the crossbar.
Nakhon Si then took control creating a number of chances mainly breaking forward from midfield.
Prakit shot wide from 20 yards.
Sirawut’s cross from the left to the far post fell for Maranhao who with time to steady himself shot narrowly wide of Fahas’ right upright.
Maranhao and Nilsson combined down the right side allowing Nilsson a left foot shot from the edge of the area; it was both too close to Fahas and at a good height for the CMFC keeper who parried his save; Sirawut collected the rebound and maybe a little over-excited he launched the ball over the crossbar.
A series of corners for the home side were well dealt with; Alef heading one clearance away from below his own crossbar.
Suchanon went down in the NakhonSi penalty area though what contact there was happened outside the area; the referee clearly thought Suchanon had gone down too easily.
Another combination between Prakit and Nilsson set up a further shooting opportunity for the Brazilian which was well saved by Fahas low to his right.
Hang on until half time hoped the Chiang Mai faithful. And we did. 0-0 at half time.
A word for the referee who let the game flow; playing a number of good advantages while always making sure that the miscreants knew he had seen the foul with a reprimand or a card.
The second half opened with Chappuis bringing the best out of Cunningham. Jakkapan’s left side free kick was headed clear by Nilsson and Chappuis’ 25 yard volley was hit with technique and power and required a fine diving save from the big goalkeeper away to his right.
NakhonSi were looking a little weary…they had returned on Thursday from a long midweek trip to Chainat and were (like every club in T2) playing their third game in eight days.
Fahas again save well from Nilsson after Kwon DaeHee won the ball on the edge of the Chiang Mai penalty area.
Then – CMFC broke the deadlock in the 66th minute. Jakkapan, Akarawin and Chappuis combined to move the ball wide right where Nukoolkit’s first time cross from the touch line bounced past Adisak and sat up for Chitchanok to nod over Cunningham in goal from six yards.
It was a real opportunist’s goal; Chitchanok anticipating the cross, running late into the six yard line, and leaving the three defenders, Adisak, Kwon and Noppol flat-footed while staring at eachother.
NakhonSi pushed Kwon, their Korean centre-half, forward and he had two fine opportunities to equalise scooping a shot over the crossbar from close range and then heading a cross from Maranhao which Fahas anticipated well and caught from close range falling to his left.
Five minutes into the six minutes of injury time Cunningham raced from his penalty area to intercept a deflected ball played forward by Jakkapan. Akarawin was alert to the opportunity and was first to the ball dragging it wide of the on-rushing keeper and taking advantage of a helpful deflection from Soukaphone to roll the ball into an empty net.
At the end of the season that may be important as, if the teams are level on points, it gives Chiang Mai the better head-to-head record over Nakhon Si; 4-3 on aggregate.
Maranhao left the pitch without joining the after game ceremonies; the NakhonSi coach was in the centre circle berating the referee. All this while Chiang Mai celebrated a win that could launch the rest of the season.
For what its worth I made the corner count 11-1 in favour of NakhonSi – now this may not be 100% accurate but does give a very good indication of CMFC’s resilience.
I do not see Nakhon Si winning automatic promotion – one big problem; seven of their remaining ten games are on the road; and on the road is always a long way for NakhonSi.
If they were tired on Sunday there is worse to come.
Meanwhile, Nakhon Ratchasima were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Pattaya United who are looking increasingly comfortable as a top 6 side.
The Swatcats’ visit to Chiang Mai, at 5,30pm on Sunday, should be the match of the weekend.