NakhonSi edge first leg; all to play for next Saturday

Match report
Thai League 2 PlayOffs: Semi-Final First Leg
Saturday 4 May 2024

NakhonSi United 1 Chiang Mai FC 0


Saharat Posri
Im ChangKyoon
Thammayut Tonkham

NakhonSi are in just their second season in T2. They finished 8th in 2022/3 after falling away in the second half of the season.

They have enjoyed another good year and their matches with Chiang Mai have all been close, and well-contested.

Although dominating most of the game the home side left it very late to score the only goal thanks to the opportunism of Chiang Mai alumni Nattapoom Maya.

In fairness to NakhonSi they deserved the win – though we do not always get what we deserve. In doing so they set up a tantalizing second leg in Chiang Mai next Saturday.

Chiang Mai sent out a very defensive line up; Piyachanok returned to partner Alef. Both were excellent; brave and committed. Nukoolkit and Adisak were the starting full backs. Saharat Posri with another forceful performance sat in front of the back four. Chappuis, Lim Thammayut and Suchanon made a four man midfield supporting Chitchanok at centre forward.

In the event of a tie over two legs then away goals count double. Cunningham in the Nakhon Si goal did not have a save to make as Chiang Mai took the French war slogan –  Ils ne passeront pas – to heart.

But in conceding a late goal Chiang Mai now need to win by two clear goals at home. An away goal would have been a significant boost. Yet our two powerful centre forwards were left on the bench until the second half.

In many ways it was an absorbing game; especially in a tense last twenty minutes.

In the first minute Posri made it very clear that he would be giving Nanthawat little space or opportunity.

Though after eight minutes the big Thai striker did connect with Petcharat’s cross from the right side; under pressure from Nukoolkit his volley cleared the crossbar.

A minute later Valdo’s cross into the penalty area was  uncomfortable for Alef as the ball bounced from his midriff and fell for Nanthawat. Alef’s recovery and block were exceptional.

11th minute – and the dangerous Maranhao cut in from the right side towards the Chiang Mai penalty area; Fahas got down well to his right to push out the forward’s low drive. Nanthawat following up was clearly offside.

Another fine block followed – this time by Piyachanok to keep out Valdo.

On the half hour a Lim foul earned a booking 25 yards out from goal. Valdo lined up the free kick; expectations were high. The reality was equally high; clearing the crossbar by a distance.

Maranhao then changed sides, breaking down the left wing and drilling a low cross in front of goal, and also by inches in front of Nanthawat sliding in on goal at the far post.

Goalless at half time; Chiang Mai had benefitted as much from terrific defending as they had from some lack-lustre finishing. Arguably the defensive plan was working.

Akarawin replaced Thammayut for the second half with Chitchanok moving to the wing. Yet the second half started much as the first finished with Fahas dong well to gather a bouncing drive from Maranhao.

Yoo ByungSoo replaced Chappuis with thirty minutes to go; there was clearly more intent about Chiang Mai’s play at this point.

A long ball forward from Alef, one of a number that he played to good effect on Saturday night, found Yoo who took the ball to the left side of the penalty area; his low cross was met by Chitchanok’s diving header, but wide of the near post.

Chiang Mai’s best chance of the game fell to Akarawin after 78 minutes. Noppol, much as Alef had earlier, failed to control the ball twelve yards in front of goal; Cunningham was alert and off his line like a well-fed greyhound as Akarawin dragged his shot wide.

Ten minutes to go and Maranhao’s powerful left foot shot from a good position cleared the crossbar.

With everyone starting to wonder how much added time there would be Wanchalerm hit a fairly speculative diagonal cross from midfield on the NakhonSi right side. Nattapoom outjumped Nukoolkit and headed the ball towards Valdo marked by Sarawut on the six yard line.

Fahas decided that he should come for the ball – a poor choice given he would have to clear the other two players out of his way.

Instead he could only paw the ball to the ground where Nattapoom was still lurking and he reacted quickly to squeeze his shot home. The home crowd, who had been lulled into a goal-less stupor, were suddenly wide awake.

There was still time for Cunningham to be booked in injury time for time wasting – and for the Nakhon Si captain, Adisak, to collect a second yellow card, this time for dissent; provoking some bottle throwing at the referee at the final whistle. They would have been better directed at their own players for a possibly costly lack of discipline.

The second leg of is on Saturday 11 May at 6.00 pm at the Municipal Stadium in Chiang Mai. It should be a terrific game.

Meanwhile Ayutthaya beat Rayong 2-1 on Sunday night. Ayutthaya led 2-0 until very late in the game when Tiago Chulapa scored what may be a very important away goal.