(Memories of last season and my first visit to Buriram's magnificent Chang Arena. A fantastic football weekend but sadly not to repeated this time around)
So it's Buriram away and undoubtedly one of the toughest games of the season?
Yes, and it feels even harder this time with Buriram sitting proudly at the top of the table and Samut Prakan going into the game off the back of a very disappointing 3-1 reverse at home to Chiang Mai United.
Buriram's record so far this season?
They have ten points from their opening five games.
They were held to a shock goalless draw by Suphanburi on the opening weekend of the season but since then normal business has been resumed with 4-0 and 3-1 home wins against Chiang Mai United and Police Tero respectively. Their one defeat came in a 2-0 loss at Bangkok United (no real shame in that) but that was followed last weekend by a decent 2-0 win at Prachuap.
And a change of venue for this one?
Yes, the game will be played at the Buriram Provincial Stadium (Khao Kradong) instead of the Chang Arena, and a considerably less impressive venue it is too. Looking on Google maps, the two stadiums are about 5 kms apart. I feel a bit sorry for those Samut Prakan fans making the long trip north because to sample the Chang Arena on a match day is one of the main attractions, unless of course you're a Thailand groundhopper and just looking to tick another one off your list.
(The very open-looking Khao Kradong Stadium. Best take an umbrella in rainy season October)
Buriram players to watch?
It feels like all of 'em but special mention must go to our much-loved, ex-captain Peeradol Chamratsamee, who seems to have settled into life at Buriram very nicely. No surprise there of course; he's a quality player and a class act.
To quote from the Thai League Central website - "The former Samut Prakan City captain was synonymous with the club, having served them (and their past iteration Pattaya United) since 2015, regularly being the standout performer. This summer, he became Buriram’s biggest local signing in recent memory and has taken to his new surroundings incredibly well. Now at the peak of his powers, the allure of winning titles and playing Champions League football has tempted him to the Chang Arena, but plenty of sentiment remains for his former side"
Many Samut Prakan fans making the trip?
Sadly, you couldn't get a starker contrast to last season when we took at least 150 supporters up there and the team rewarded us with arguably our best display of the season and a fine 3-1 victory.
This time around, we've got the pain-in-the-arse Covid restrictions plus it's a midweek game, so it's an impossiblity for the many fans who just can't take time off work. I did ask around on Saturday as to who would be making the trip and even the usual hardcore away following didn't really fancy it. Although the last I heard they had managed to fill a 10-seater minibus.
(I won't get chance to see this Buriram football hooligan on his own patch but there will be other seasons)
And you ain't going either!
Unfortunately, I have my second vaccine jab scheduled for the same day so I need to stay in Samut Prakan. Had I been fully vaxxed, yes, I would probably have done the trip again.
You don't sound too confident of getting a point or three?
I'm going to let my head rule my heart. I fear we might be in for a tanking tonight and I can see a three or four-nil here. Go out and prove me wrong lads!
Some words on Buriram from my mate and superfan Jamie
Now Phil, if you’re expecting a prediction from me then you’re going to be disappointed. As anybody who knows me realizes, my prediction is the kiss of death on my team. That said our team this year has benefited from recruiting well within Thailand, with the addition of two midfielders who have added a steely spine to our midfield. With the addition of Digao in the center of defense who is a ball-playing center back, we look stronger than we have done for a couple of years.
We’ve made a good start to the season and hopefully we will continue hanging around the top of the table. It’s an interesting game because neither team is playing on their home pitch, although obviously it’s closer to us and we know it better (for those who are not aware, we will be using our old stadium for this match as the main stadium is being used for training by the Indonesian national team)
I expect a good game and I expect, no I hope for a good result. It’s a great shame that you and many of your fellow fans won’t be able to make the trip but I’m sure you’ll be glued to the TV watching it. When we come to the business end of the season, I fully expect Buriram to be in the places for the Asian champions league and I’ll not be surprised if they finish on top as they haven’t won the league for two years now and it’s about time they did.
I hope that the Thai premier league starts getting fans back in the stadiums as soon as possible or as soon as the local governors allow - and I hope we can all get back to some good old fashioned banter live from the terraces.
What's the head-to-head record between Buriram and Samut Prakan?
The two clubs have met four times and that 3-1 win I mentioned above is Samut Prakan's only victory. On our other visit to the Thunder Castle in 2019, we were on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline - and they've beaten us twice at Samut Prakan.
Coach Ishii-san makes just one change to the team that lost 3-1 at home to Chiang Mai United at the weekend. Laotian international Phoutthasay Kochalern slots into the midfield for his first start at the expense of Noppon Phonkam.
To the game itself. First half
A pre-match downpour meant a slick playing surface but thankfully the rain stayed away for the duration of the game (a huge relief for every fan in a stadium so open to the elements)
Samut Prakan looked far from overawed playing the league's top dogs and settled into the game well but it was Buriram who carved out the first clear chance, Supachai waltzing his way through the defence but dragging his shot wide.
At the other end, Samut Prakan captain Chayawat should have done better with a tame shot straight at the Buriram keeper while composure deserted Suphanan Bureerat, marauding down the left wing but failing to deliver a simple cross to his supporting attackers.
Buriram boss Alexandre Gama flapped his arms about on the touchine, a sure sign things weren't going to plan for the home side, however it was they who took the lead on 37 minutes. Bureerat is booked for a foul on Buriram striker Samuel Rosa, chopping him down in full flight just outside the penalty area. Samut Prakan's ex-captain and club legend Peeradol smacks the resulting free kick into the defensive wall and the referee points to the spot for a handball. VAR confirms Chayawat's hand is at an 'unnatural angle' and Rosa slots home the penalty to put the home side one up.
Samut Prakan start to lose any grip they had on the game, not helped by giving away possession cheaply. Then seemingly out of nowhere, Eliandro scores his third of the season, outmuscling his marker to power in a shot and pull the visitors level. This was the big Brazilian at his best, this is why he's in the team - to bully defenders and score vital goals. Now we've got a game on.
Half time: Buriram 1 Samut Prakan 1.
Ishii made a tactical change at half-time bringing on defender Saksit Jitvijan to replace Chaiyawat Buran and Samut Prakan settle into the second period even better than the first, battling for every loose ball and giving Buriram no opportunity to find a rhythm. Jaroensak clatters into Peeradol at one point, two ex-teammates and surely still best of friends, but there's little room for sentimentality out there judging by the pained expression on Peeradol's face. Dropping deeper and deeper as the game wore on, the ex-Samut Prakan leader had a bit of a shocker tonight and was unsurprisingly hauled off late in the game.
As both sides go in search of a winner, Samuel Rosa remains Buriram's most attacking threat but teammates around him look lethargic and off colour, offering nothing by way of support. The best chances continue to fall Samut Prakan's way and Eliandro almost chalks up his second of the night, barging his way through the Buriram defence before forcing Siwarak into a smart save at his near post.
Yuthapichai Lertlum comes on for the injured Phoutthasay, the Laos midfielder fully justifying his selection with a measured and confident display. Yuthapichai wastes another decent chance to score a potential winner, shooting selfishly from distance when there were far better options available.
But 12 minutes from time, it's Buriram substitute Suphanat who grabs the headlines. A long throw-in somehow trickles its way through the Samut Prakan defence, takes a fortuous deflection off Samuel Rosa and Suphanat applies the finishing touch. There are looks of disbelief in the Samut Prakan ranks. It's a cruel way to lose a game.
Final score: Buriram 2 Samut Prakan 1
At risk of being labelled as biased, I thought the better team lost tonight. Or at the very least, the better team deserved a point. Samut Prakan battled bravely throughout and there was genuinely little to choose between the two sides.
I felt happy for the small group of Samut Prakan supporters (a number of them good friends) who at the final whistle were faced with a gruelling six-hour journey home by minibus. At least they had witnessed a team performance to be proud of.
That's two defeats on the bounce for us now but I'm not at all downhearted. We may not be a top five or top six side at present but I'm confident we will win more games than we lose this season.
Who's up next?