Football Tribe SEA Editor
Buriram United traveled to the SCG fatigued from international duty and under immense pressure from chasers Chiangrai. Their hosts, sitting far adrift from the heat of the action, were eager to make their mark on the title race by stopping their arch-rivals in their tracks as a gift to their fans.
The Kirin looked liberated from the pressure which plagued the defending champions, and they made that advantage count just four minutes. Muangthong won a corner after Derley got the better of Andres Tunez and fired a shot away, only to be denied by Siwarak Tedsungnoen. However, the Thunder Castle’s goalkeeper was unable to keep out the next attempt, as Oh Ban-Suk’s header deflected off Tunez and nestled into the back of the net.
Matters were made even worse for the flailing visitors just seven minutes later when Suphanan Bureerat got the better of Sasalak Haiprakhon on the right flank and whipped in a low cross into the danger area. A defensive lapse from Chitipat Tanklang allowed Derley to double Muangthong’s lead, leaving Buriram in utter disbelief.
With a comfortable lead to protect, Muangthong adopted a solid defensive posture while using the energy of their forwards to pressure Buriram’s backline. Without a creative spark, the visitors probed but struggled to fashion any real chances for the remainder of the first half.
The visitors emerged from the second half determined to fashion a new fate for themselves, but the ruthlessly professional Kirin wasted no time in landing yet another sucker punch. Just four minutes into the second half, Heberty bought down Derley’s lobbed pass and slinked past Tunez before firing his strike beyond Siwarak to give Muangthong a third.
Buriram’s consolation goal would come in second-half stoppage time, as substitute Suphanat Mueanta added another goal to his impressive tally. However, it did little to quell the anger and vitriol for the defending champions.
This result hands Chiangrai United the initiative tonight when they host Trat FC. However, the Beetles have problems of their own to deal with. Four key members of their squad (Siwakorn Tiatrakul, Phitiwat Sukjitthamakul, Ekkanit Panya and Shinnaphat Lee-Oh) were on international duty, with the possibility of fatigue
The hosts have also struggled against sides that sit back and play defensively, forcing Chiangrai to create against deep and disciplined blocks. More used to playing a functional game, Chiangrai are unusually uncomfortable on the ball for a title-chasing side. Results have bourne this out, as the side dropped points in their last two home games, drawing 1-1 with both Ratchaburi and Sukhothai respectively.
Trat will be expected to line up in a similarly defensive system, meaning that the creative responsibility will likely rest on Siwakorn to drop into pockets of space and create chances for his teammates. In their last match against Chonburi, the Beetles built the team round the playmaker, with the energetic duo of Phitiwat and Lee Yong-Rae making space for their Number 10 to roam around freely and create. The title challengers’ game could hinge on whether or not he is able to produce his top form after making cameo appearances against Indonesia and Vietnam for the national team.