Home United 1 Indra 86’
Chonburi FC 2 Pipob 4’, Kotchaplayuk Noppanon 77’
Home United paid the price for conceding an early goal, as they eventually ended up on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline despite a late rally in the last match of their AFC Cup Group G fixtures and passed up on the opportunity to take top spot with a win.
The Thai side got off to a dream start just four minutes into the match, as the Home defence went to sleep. Veteran midfielder Therdsak Chaiman whipped in a low cross from the right and captain Pipob On-Mo volleyed it first time at the near post into the far corner, despite Lionel Lewis getting a hand to it.
Ex-Home defender Bangaly Diakite then saw his header crash back off the crossbar three minutes later, before Firdaus Idros spurned an excellent chance to equalise a minute later when he could only shoot straight at Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool after breaking clear.
It was end-to-end stuff, as Pipob’s improvised volley from Adul Lahso’s cross was tipped over by Lionel and Shi Jia Yi hit the near post at the other end with a rasping half-volley from a tight angle. Qiu Li then dragged an effort wide from 25 yards, before Jeremy Chiang came to his side’s rescue as he cleared off the line from Therdsak’s low shot, with Lionel Lewis beaten.
Frederic Mendy was called into action after half an hour as Home tried to increase their firepower. The French striker very nearly made an instant impact as a cross from the left found him unmarked at the far post, but he could only shoot tamely at Sinthaweechai.
The home side upped the ante in the second period, as Franklin Anzite saw his shot well parried away within five minutes of the restart, but they still struggled to break down the Sharks’ defence despite throwing men forward at every attack.
Substitute Kotchaplayuk Noppanon, who had seen his lob over Lionel cleared off the line by Rosman Sulaiman earlier, then looked to have sealed all three points for Chonburi when he raced on to a perfectly weighted through pass from Therdsak on the right and calmly slotted the ball under Lionel Lewis into the back of the net.
Despite Indra Sahdan sweeping home a cut-back from Anzite to narrow the scoreline and seeing what looked like a stone-wall penalty appeal being rejected in the dying minutes, Chonburi held on for a deserved victory.
There was no doubting the person responsible for Chonburi’s triumph, as 38-year old Therdsak Chaiman pulled the strings in midfield and set up both goals for his team. The ex-SAFFC midfielder showed that class is permanent, as he drifted across the middle of the park and gave Home a torrid time throughout the match.
Qiu Li, who was outstanding in Home’s last AFC Cup match on home side against Yangon, was a pale shadow of his usual self, as he found it hard to break down the obdurate Chonburi defence and showed his frustrations by getting booked for dissent.
Mendy was sent on early, but he was carrying a knock and similarly failed to produce anything near his best, while Shi Jia Yi and John Wilkinson struggled to get a grip on the midfield during the whole game.
Both coaches pointed to the early goal by Pipob as a crucial moment, as Home’s Lee Lim Saeng said that his side conceded “too early”, which forced him to throw Mendy on despite the striker not having recovered from a knock on the ankle sustained during the previous game against Woodlands.
He also expressed concern at the need to travel to the Middle East for the next round, saying: “I think it is very hard to go to an away (fixture), and I am worried about the players getting fatigued.”
Chonburi’s Withaya Laohakul believed that scoring early on enabled his side to play “more easily”, presumably referring to them being able to play with less pressure, although he was not entirely happy with the win, citing individual errors which led to them conceding.
“I am not really satisified, because we lacked a good mentality. We were not confident and were afraid to draw. One mistake, and we conceded a goal. I am still glad… because since the beginning of the season we have not won an away game, so I now hope we are more confident in future.”
He was however more upbeat about their chances of progressing further in the next round, where they will have home advantage having topped the group.
“We’ve never lost a home game, and the players are confident when we play in front of our fans. I think we can beat any team.”
With this defeat, Home finish runners-up and will play their next match in the Round of 16 away in Syria, Iraq or Lebanon, depending on the winners of Group E which will be determined tomorrow.
Home: Lionel Lewis, Jeremy Chiang, Rosman Sulaiman, Sofiyan Abdul Hamid, Masrezwan Masturi (Indra Sahdan 68’), Shi Jia Yi (C), Franklin Anzite, John Wilkinson, Firdaus Idros (Frederic Mendy 31’), Qiu Li, Shotaro Ihata (Hafiz Nor 55’).Unused subs: Nazri Sabri, Kairuldin Ishak, Rhysh Roshan Rai.
Chonburi: Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool, Suree Sukha (Akarawin Saswasdee 85’), Suttinun Phukhom, Fode Bangaly Diakite, Anucha Kitpongsri, Therdsak Chaiman, Adul Lahso, Kazuto Kushida, Natthaphong Samana (Kroekrit Thawikan 71’), Pipob On-Mo (C), Kengne Ludovick (Kotchaplayuk Noppanon 57’). Unused subs: Sujin Naknayom, Sukree Etae, Chonlatit Jantakam, Nurul Sriyankem.
You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tengkiat, and reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org