Write off the month of May – we are in the T2 playoffs

Match report
Thai League 2
Sunday 21 April 2024

Chiang Mai FC 2 Chainat Hornbill FC 0


Saharat Posri

Chiang Mai FC advanced to the League 2 playoffs with a not-always-comfortable win against Chainat Hornbill; a game played in 40C plus temperatures.

So write-off the month of May as the playoffs will start the weekend of May 4/5 and, if we are in the final two, will run until May 25/26.

The play-off semi-finals and final are all over two legs, home and away. In the event of an aggregate draw then away goals count double. 3rd place plays 6th and 4th plays 5th. The 3rd and 4th placed teams are the away teams for the first leg.

Piyachanok and Nattayot were missing on Sunday with yellow-card suspensions. Chitchanok returned after a two game suspension following his derby dismissal.

Chiang Mai’s strong squad meant that none of Jakkapan, Tawan, Piyachanok, Nattayot, Fahas, Sarawin, Adisak, Sarawut or Supachai were in the match day squad while a substitutes bench including Akarawin, Yoo and Stenio had plenty of firepower if called upon.

Chainat had two chances to take the lead in the opening two minutes. Nixon’s twenty yard shot was deflected narrowly wide of Ittiphon’s left upright. O’Connell was first to the corner; the ball  bouncing off him and over the cross bar.

Instead it was CMFC who took the lead – a lovely diagonal pass from Chappuis into the penalty area for Chitchanok to run onto, skipping past O’Connell and evading Jeong, to create enough space for a low right foot finish just beyond Chaodon into the bottom right corner.  

Thitiwat was a potential threat on the right side for Chainat but he had little support. Chainat have not scored in their last four games. Their main goal threat was their big Irish defender.

Near the half hour a truly top-class flying save from Ittiphon, high to his left, kept out a 22 yard free-kick from O’Connell.

At the other end Suchanon was first to a cross from the left side flicking the ball narrowly over the crossbar.

A simmering dispute between Chitchanok and O’Connell saw words exchanged as the players left the field at half time and an early second half challenge from the Chiang Mai captain suggested a lingering grievance.

The 55th minute addition of Stenio for Amornthep was like pouring petrol on the flames. Posri received Chiang Mai’s first yellow card for a foul on O’Connell. Stenio sprinted across to intervene. He was on a mission.

Angry Stenio was almost playmaking Stenio with a classy lobbed pass into the run of Tammayut on the left side; Tammayut’s cross was stuck in a tangle of legs in the six yard box and then gratefully gathered by Chaodon.

At the other end Nixon was unable to get a good connection on a cross from the left and as the ball was cleared downfield and then out of play Stenio appeared to walk towards and head butt O’Connell.

While O’Connell received treatment the referee and fourth official consulted. Stenio was booked as (I have no idea why) was Fittaree for Chainat.

The highlights videos conveniently edit out this incident.

With O’Connell pushed up front in search of an equalizer Chiang Mai took advantage of tired defending to score a second in the 88th minute.  

Stenio chipped the ball forward into the path of Im ChangKyoon on the left of the Chainat penalty area. His low cross from the outside of his right boot found Chitchanok who side-footed home from six yards.

While Chitchanok celebrated with the East stand his team-mates were gathered around Im ChangKyoon; it was good to see him back.

Injury time was uneventful and the players shook hands and paid respect to the opposing head coaches.

But we were not finished. O’Connell’s walk towards Stenio was purposeful. Words were exchanged.

At this stage, with a play-off spot secured, Stenio should have walked away. He did not – instead launching a solid left hook (I think it was left) that connected with O’Connell. Both players had to be restrained by teammates and officials. Again you will not see this in the highlights and the full match video has already been removed from youtube.

I suspect there will be no further action from the League or from either club – but it was an unsavoury, and unnecessary, finish to the game.

Wins for Nakhon Si United and Rayong also confirmed their play off places. Who finishes 3rd, 4th and 5th will be determined next Saturday.

6th place remains open and will be fought out between Ayutthaya (54 points) Lampang (53) and Pattaya (52).

Both Nakhon Si United and Rayong have difficult final day matches, at Nongbua and Lampang respectively. A likely win for CMFC at Kasetsart could see CMFC finish 3rd.

And then the playoffs. Which does beg the question of what does the club’s ownership want for next season? The players are giving their all in unrelenting conditions. But would we even be granted a T1 license?