A black day for CMFC as NakhonSi advance to the T2 playoff final

Match report
Thai League 2 PlayOffs: Semi-Final Second Leg
Saturday 11 May 2024

Chiang Mai FC 2 NakhonSi United 2


Saharat Posri
Im ChangKyoon
Yoo ByungSoo

A long season for CMFC’s fans and players came to an end on Saturday evening.

So let’s start by congratulating Nakhon Si United who are now just 2 games away from playing in T1 at the end of just their second season in T2. They were worthy winners.

As a special irony having attended 35 out of the previous 37 (34 league, 2 cup and 1 playoff) CMFC games this season I was quarantining at home after contracting Covid. Thoroughly unpleasant.

So this week’s report is from watching the game on TV and updates sent to me throughout the game. It was shame to miss the atmosphere generated by a crowd of 2,850.

I was in good company as the CMFC owner was once again absent – despite this being the biggest game of the season.

The who-shall-we-pick-this-week lottery saw five changes in this week’s starting XI. Injuries keeping out Fahas, Piyachanok, Chitchanok. Suchanon was mysteriously missing from the squad and Thammayut was relegated to the substitutes bench.

Into the team came Itthipon in goal, Nattayot at right back, Amornthep and Somroeng in the wide roles supporting Yoo ByungSoo up front. A surprisingly unadventurous starting line up given that CMFC needed to win by at least two goals.

Additionally given the importance of the game it was odd that CMFC had only eight substitutes available instead of the permitted nine.

Chiang Mai also debuted (more than a little belatedly) their black 25th anniversary shirt; with black shorts and socks it looked rather like an undertakers’ convention.

The new shirts only have the owner’s Aniruth logo. No other sponsor logos have been added.

Hopefully this was agreed to by the sponsors who cannot be happy that their brands were not visible at the biggest game of the CMFC season in front of a national (NBT2HD) broadcast.

Anyway, the shirts are smart – if a little morbid.

Alef was the starting captain for the day; joining a list that includes: Stenio Jnr, Chitchanok, Sarawut, Piyachanok and Jakkapan. Surely a Thai speaker should be captain if only to help communicate with the officials. More on Alef later as the night unfolded.

NakhonSi made a single change to their starting XI with the diminutive, terrier-like, Laos international V Soukaphone replacing the suspended Adisorn.

There had been afternoon rain – so the pitch was soft in places but both the temperature and air quality were a big improvement on recent weeks.

The early momentum came from the visitors. Maranhao, in space in the penalty area, scooping a shot over the CMFC crossbar; Itthipon alertly blocking a low free kick at his near post and a Wanchalerm shot deflected wide for Nakhon Si’s third corner in the first fifteen minutes.

At the other end Amornthep’s break down the left side ended with a low cross that was too close to Cunningham in the Nakhon Si goal; Yoo ByungSoo headed Nattayot’s cross into the path of Im ChangKyoon but his shot was off target.

Nakhon Si then took the lead in the 23rd minute; it was a lovely counter-attacking goal.

Alef near the centre line on the left side hoisted the ball forward. Yoo was outjumped by Kwon DaeHee.

Maranhao was first to the ball beating Nattayot’s tame challenge. He rolled the ball forward for Nanthawat in the centre circle and continued his run. Nanthawut’s turn and return pass were outstanding. Maranhao still had work to do – but also had pace and space. He advanced to the edge of the penalty area and with his left foot stroked the ball past Itthipon and inside the right upright.

The goal ensured two things; that their would be no extra time or penalties and that Chiang Mai now needed to score three times.

Chiang Mai’s response was almost immediate. Beware the sucker punch when a side is a little too complacent after scoring.

Alef was again wide left launching the ball forward towards Yoo. Yoo won the header directing the ball to the left side of the six yard box where Im ChangKyoon darted between two defenders to head home past the advancing Cunningham. Cunningham, Kwon and Petcharat were left staring at eachother.

Nakhon Si were forced into an early substitution with Nattapoom Maya replacing the injured Maranhao.

Nakhon Si comfortably ran out the half; other than conceding a careless goal they had been put under little pressure from a home side that lacked urgency.

Changes were necessary. Tawan and Akarawin replaced Somroeng and Nattayot. Changes that felt overdue.

After winning zero corners in the first half CMFC had at least eight in the second half. The visitors were at last under pressure.

Another long diagonal ball from Alef fell to Im ChangKyoon; Cunningham, unconvincingly, pushed his shot out in front of goal and the ball was scrambled clear.

Just after the hour Cunninghams produced a fine double save. From a CMFC short corner Im crossed for Tawan whose first time shot drew a smart save low to Cunningham’s left and an even better block to keep out Yoo as he tried to knock home the rebound.

Just for good measure Cunningham caught the resulting corner; the saint nearly becoming the sinner when he slipped while kicking the ball from his hands; the ball bouncing off the back of Yoo with Cunningham scrambling to be first to the rebound.

Like all good goalkeepers he quickly remonstrated that it was not his fault!

It was not all one way traffic – Nattapoom shooting over the bar from a good position inside the penalty area. Then. Calamity.

Nattapoom crossed low from the right side into the penalty area; Alef was under no pressure just outside the six yard box in front of the CMFC goal. Maybe he needed a shout from his goalkeeper or another defender. He had time. Instead with his legs in a tangle he sliced the ball off his left shin passed a stunned Itthipon.

Nukoolkit, to his great credit, was quickly across to console Alef but it was a horrible mistake and CMFC now needed to score three times in the last twenty minutes.

Yoo teed up Tawan but Cunningham was able to make a comfortable save; then Suphachai could not make a clean connection with a good opportunity in the penalty area.

A Jakkapan free kick from 23 yards cleared the cross bar. Again.

Into injury time and Tawan was brought down by Ratthakorn on the left side of the penalty area. Yoo ByungSoo slamming the penalty high to Cunningham’s right.

2-2 on the night; 2-3 over the two legs. It was too little too late but Chiang Mai continued to battle every ball until the final whistle.

A word for the referee – Wittaya Junejan; he allowed a physical game to flow; he understood the occasion and refereed with a smile.

What happens next at CMFC can, and no doubt will, be discussed at a future date.

My last match report of the season – what will I do for the next three months? Thanks for reading them and for the positive feedback, comments and encouragement.