A tale of two benches

Match report
Thai League 2
Saturday 16 March 2024

Chiang Mai FC 2 DP Kanchanaburi 0


Saharat Posri

On a hot, humid and polluted night it was near inevitable that this game would be decided by the strength of the two substitutes benches.

Chiang Mai could call on Stenio, Jakkapan, Tawan and Akarawin from a full bench of nine substitutes.

Kanchanaburi had just six substitutes; two making their Kanchanaburi debuts and with just one goal this season between the six.

This was a very different team from the side that beat Chiang Mai in November – Jardel and Batista are long gone for the Nongbua paychecks and two of the team’s mid-season signings were not available – Richard Gertsch and Ricardo Pires.

Elias, on loan from Phrae, did score twice in January home win against Chanthaburi – but has not scored in the last nine games. Between them the Kanchanaburi starting line up had a meagre tally of eight goals this season.

So Kanchanaburi were plucky but very limited.

The Chiang Mai line up saw Fahas make a welcome and secure return in goal, Chappuis and Suchanon replacing Tawan and Nattayot.

It was 35C at kick off with the Air Quality Index showing 170. Genuinely unpleasant.

CMFC made a lively start with Amornthep galloping down the left wing into the penalty area and passing to Suphachai; his low shot was well struck but straight at Chinnapong who saved well with his feet.

At the other end Elias broke forward but ran out of steam and was well beaten by Posri’s challenge in the Chiang Mai penalty area.

Another cross from Amornthep on the left wing was out of reach of the ex-Chiang Mai defender, Chaiyapruek, and met by Suchanon stretching at the back post. Chinnapong threw himself into a block and deflected the ball onto the crossbar allowing Chaiyapruek to make the clearance.

With half an hour gone Fahas made his one save of note for the night beating away Anawat’s shot from a narrow angle as the forward ran onto Elias’ pass.

Into injury time and Kiadtisak headed an inviting Suchanon cross narrowly wide.

Stenio and Tawan were introduced in place of Amornthep and Supachai at the start of the second half; Stenio immediately adding his massive energy to the side and nearly opening the scoring in the first minutes of the half.

A low cross from the left evading three static defenders; Stenio alertly ran in behind them but was unable to get the get the ball out from under his feet and Chinnapong was able to fall on the ball.

Stenio and Suchanon linked up down the right side; Suchanon getting to the goal line and dragging the ball back for Tawan whose shot was well blocked by Pichitchai, the pick of Kanchanaburi’s over-worked defenders.

Sixty-eight minutes gone and Chiang Mai took the lead.

Adisak lobbed the ball forward to Piyachanok on the edge of the penalty area. With vision and precision he carefully headed the ball down for Stenio in space on his left. Stenio’s turn onto his right foot beat Phocha and Pichitchai and his low drive from fourteen yards was into the bottom right corner of Chinnapong’s goal.

Kanchanabur’s one real threat in the second half came from a first time Rattanavilay volley as he ran onto a flick from Elias. The ball falling wide of Fahas’ right upright.

With ten minutes remaining Tawan, running on to Stenio’s pass through the middle, broke between two weary defenders and rounded Chinnapong on the edge of the penalty area. The goalkeeper did just enough to send the Chiang Mai striker wide and off balance with his hurried shot narrowly of the empty goal.

Chiang Mai were showing good energy levels in horrible conditions and Piyachanok headed wide from a Jakkapan cross.

Into the last five minutes of regulation time and Chaiyapruek failed to cut out Nukoolkit’s long ball forward for Stenio on the right of the penalty area. Stenio’s cross was met by Chaiyapruek’s right hand which was raised and away from his body. The referee, who was in a great position, had no doubt about the penalty.

Jakkapan stepped up and confidently scored sending the keeper the wrong way. His first Thai League goal for the club.

The penalty protests from Kanchanaburi continued for some time; very much in the face of a tolerant referee; in particular from Chinnapong who may need an appointment with a friendly optician.

Six minutes of injury time were quietly played out.

Meanwhile Chiang Mai United won 1-0 away at Nakhon Si United – which both improved United’s chances of a sixth place finish and closed the gap for third place to a single point between Nakhon Si and CMFC.

Chiang Mai simply had too much firepower and strength in depth; it was a very sound CMFC performance and the third win in a row.

There are clearly issues behind the scenes that go beyond shirt-gate; one of the Thai football pages reporting on unpaid salaries at the club; it was notable that for the second week none of the club’s foreign players were in the starting line-up.

The continued silence from the club is unfortunate while the spirit of the players says so much about their commitment.

Up next – the Chiang Mai derby on Saturday 23rd March. Kick off is at the daft time of 5.30pm, at the 700th anniversary stadium.

Admission details for Saturday are (and this may still change) as follows:

1. CMFC fans who wear a CMFC shirt must enter the away end at Gate 9 only. Entrance is free but seats are limited to a maximum of 1,700 – 10% of the capacity of the stadium – the standard Thai League restriction for away fans.

2. CMU fans and other spectators can sit anywhere else in the stadium. Entrance is free.

Maybe this idea was spurred by the visits to Chiang Mai this last week of the current and two previous Prime Ministers, the leader of the Pheu Thai Party and the previous leader of the Move Forward Party.

The President of CMU is also the head of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organization and will be celebrating his birthday on 24 March.

It is a terrific gesture and should ensure a big and noisy crowd.