(Let's keep on winning and keep on smiling. Photo credit: Paiboon James)
So it's the Revo League Cup preliminary round? Remind us how it works.
The Thai League Cup competition (with various sponsors) was reformed in 2010 after a 16-year hiatus and is open to some 92 teams from within the Thai football league system. It's worth pointing out though that not every Thai league club enters the competition. Some clubs opt out to perhaps focus on league matches instead or simply to minimize travel expenses.
Now you'll need to pay attention to this.
The lower division teams (divisions 2 and 3) battle it out in regional matches until just 16 teams remain and that's the stage we'll be at after this round of games. In the next round (the round of 32) the surviving 16 lower division clubs are joined by the 16 Premier League clubs. Still with me?
In the draw for the round of 32, the teams are divided into two pots and ALL fixtures drawn feature a lower division team at home to a Premier League team. So even though there's not an awful lot of interest in this competition, today's game is a game worth winning because you are guaranteed a home tie against one of the big boys in the next round!
All league cup games are single matches except for the semi-finals, which have traditionally been two-legged home and away affairs.
The current League Cup holders are Buriram, who hammered PT Prachuap 4-0 in last year's final.
What's Samut Prakan's record like in this competition?
In our first season back in 2019, we were knocked out at the first hurdle by third division Thonburi University (now Thonburi FC) in a lengthy penalty shoot-out. The following season the competition was cancelled due to the Covid situation and to avoid fixture pile-ups.
Last season, Samut Prakan successfully negotiated the first round but were then drawn away at Buriram, not a game you want when you need to focus on battling for your premier league survival. We waved the white flag, sent up a seriously 'second string' squad and were well beaten on the night by four goals to one.
So let's take a look at Bangkok FC
Bangkok FC (nickname: The Fire Bulls) play in the third division (Bangkok region) and were founded in 1999 as Bangkok Bravo FC (switching to become Bangkok FC in 2010). In their 23-year existence, they've flitted between the second and third divisions but been down in the third tier doldrums for five years now.
The Fire Bulls play at the 72nd Anniversary Stadium in Bangkok, a multi-purpose sports facility which was built to celebrate the 72nd Birthday Anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, hence the name of the venue. The stadium can hold up to 8,000 people but only 400-500 fans are attending Bangkok FC home games at present, despite the fact they're doing quite well.
Any player connections?
Ratchaphon Namthong, currently Samut Prakan's third choice goalkeeper, arrived from Bangkok FC in the close season but is yet to dirty his gloves in the first team. That's unlikely to change any time soon.
If only to fill up the blog, let's give a mention to Lee Tuck
I'm not sure whether Lee Tuck is Bangkok FC's most famous ever striker but it's not all that common to see an English player associated with the Thai League, so I think he's worth a mention. The ginger-bearded Lee scored 51 goals in 77 matches for the club between 2012 and 2013. According to Wikipedia, he started his career at Halifax Town in England but didn't make the grade. His footballing journey then took him to Thailand and on to Malaysia, where he eventually gained naturalized citizenship. I'm guessing that's where he still is. Perhaps I can find an older Bangkok FC fan today who remembers Lee with a fondness that still brings tears to his eyes?
(Damn! these noodles are hot!)
It took us around 30 minutes to reach Bangkok FC's Stadium on the expressway, to a congested suburb of the city neither Tun nor I were familiar with. With plenty of time to kill before kick off, we left the car at the stadium and walked up the nearby Pracha Uthit Road. Being a university student area, there was certainly no shortage of eateries, particularly if you're a fan of Korean food. We found the ramen noodle and binzu shop that we had researched beforehand and decamped there for an hour. I wasn't particularly hungry so settled for a Korean dessert while Tun ordered a spicy noodle dish that almost blew her head off.
Impressions of the stadium?
It was actually far better than I expected. Although the public area around the stadium, where locals exercise and jog, was a bit shabby, the stadium interior was quite impressive. The seating in the smart-looking main stand looked recently installed. Tun and I started off in this section to take some photos and wave at a few players warming up (there were no staff around to prevent entry) but it became obvious by the anxious looks from several security guards that we shouldn't really be there. And then spotting the arrival of the other Samut Prakan away fans, we joined them in the familiar grotty away section in the most miserable part of the ground. It was basically just a set of concrete steps.
(Stick us here, we'll be OK)
To the match itself
You know when I said earlier in this blog that Samut Prakan's third choice goalkeeper was not going to figure in the first team anytime soon? Well ignore that...because he played. And he was about to have something of an eventful evening.
The match couldn't have started better for those 29 fans cheering on the away side (And I know there were 29 because I counted them) With barely a minute on the clock, Samut Prakan go one up. Petra Lueca (who scored four against Bangkok FC in a pre-season friendly) sidefoots into the net as the home defence stands around gawping. He then nods in a second goal after 10 minutes and you'd be excused for thinking this could be the easiest night's work a Samut Prakan team has ever had. But you would be wrong. There's an old saying in football isn't there that a two-nil lead is the worst lead to have?
Only the width of the crossbar prevents Samut Prakan taking a 3-0 lead midway through the half. This is all looking extremely comfortable. But all the home side needs is one goal, something to lift the crowd and haul them back into the contest. That goal arrives care of Dauda Bortu, a Liberian striker brought up in Norway and a recent arrival at the club. He won't score an easier goal as the Bangkok FC left winger is allowed to run half the length of the pitch, shrug off some token powder puff challenges and present Dauda with a tap-in. It ain't looking quite so straightforward now.
Half time: Bangkok FC 1 Samut Prakan 2
Let 's go through the second half goals.
71 minutes - Hell and damnation! Bangkok FC draw level and frankly it had been coming. Padungsak latches onto a floated through ball, hits a tame shot against goalkeeper Ratchapon, who parries it back into the path of the Bangkok FC striker and says 'go on have another go'. Padungsak gratefully accepts the rebound. Minutes later the home side go close to making it three but Phootran pulls his shot wide.
79 minutes - Samut Prakan are back in front as Sho Shimoji (in my opinion the best player at the club; the boy is quality) buries a header. Now all we have to do is send on some fresh legs and see out the remainder of the game. That's the theory anyway.
85 minutes - Oh f*** that! Padungsak scores his second of the match to put Bangkok FC level again. You know that part of the goalkeeping manual that says 'never parry a ball into the path of an oncoming attacker' - can someone show it to our keeper?
87 minutes - And there's the Bangkok FC winner! It's nothing but a hopeful hoik from a midfielder in the direction of the penalty area. Our keeper isn't brave enough to charge out of his box (he'd have easily got there before the striker) and Bangkok FC number 10 Wichaya shows great composure. supplying a pinpoint cross for Suzuki to nod in the decisive goal.
Full-time: Bangkok FC 4 Samut Prakan 3
You don't go two-nil up in a cup match after ten minutes against a side a division below you...and lose. But somehow we managed it. So, so disappointing. A number of fans will spout the familiar line that now we're out of the cup, or one of them at least, we can concentrate on gaining promotion from T2. I don't buy that for a second. Winning breeds a winning mentality.
I don't want to destroy a young goalkeeper's confidence either but I felt he was at fault for three of the goals tonight. No disrespect but why was he even playing when second choice keeper Supawat did so well in the recent FA Cup win against Maejo United?
Warning: football cliche overload imminent. Let's lick our wounds, dust ourselves down and draw a line through that performance. A win in the next league match and all will be well with the world.
Who's up next?
Only a few days to rest before we're back to second division league action, another away game and another relatively short trip into Bangkok, this time to Kasetsart FC on Saturday 22nd October.