Phuket FC Head Coach Paniphol Kerdyam was forced to drop key striker Eduardo “Dudu” Purcino, who was away in Malaysia getting a visa over the weekend.
Giorgi Tsimakuridze instead came into the team as Phuket’s lone striker, and Thanathep Jiaradab was added to midfield. The visiting Navy team included former Phuket FC footballer Paulo Renato.
Phuket FC kicked-off and went straight on the attack. Using Giorgi’s height to their advantage, the Phuket midfielders bombed long balls forward to the tall Georgian, but he was unable to convert any of the chances that came his way.
It was nearly half an hour before Phuket FC had a close shot, when Nonthaphan was tackled just outside the Navy penalty box and the referee called a free kick for Phuket.
Nonthaphan took the free kick, which went low past the Navy wall, beyond the keeper’s reach, but agonisingly wide by inches.
Nene Bi then missed another golden opportunity when Kritsada Sakaew curled a free kick from 22 yards out towards the goal.
The Navy keeper blocked the shot, but the ball bounced in the penalty box and Nene Bi charged in with a header that went just over the crossbar. The Ivorian star has yet to score in Yamaha League 1 since his first goal in the season opener in March.
Three minutes before half time, Coach Paniphol made a decision that had some fans scratching their heads: pulling Nonthaphan out from the left wing and replacing him with Nirun Panthong, instead of waiting for halftime to work out his tactics in the locker room.
The visitors had had few chances, but played well enough to hold off The Islanders’ attacks throughout the first half, which ended nil-nil after three minutes of extra time.
However, Navy came out like a different team in the second half, and put pressure on Phuket FC as soon as play began.
In the first 10 minutes they repeatedly pushed down Phuket’s left wing where Niran Phunthong was positioned, and tested Phuket goalkeeper Kampon Phatomakkakul several times. The teen keeper did well to deny the Navy attacks, and altogether put in a strong performance this game.
Coach Panipol then took off French midfielder Geoffrey Doumeng and sent on “Juninho” Aparecido Guimaroon, hoping the Brazilian might assist Niran and spice up the game.
Unable to keep up with the pace, Navy slowed down in the last 30 minutes of the half, but without Dudu to spearhead the attack, Phuket FC still couldn’t kill off the game.
Chana Sonwiset was sent on late, and the compact-size striker proved that he has the speed and talent to be a real super-sub.
When five minutes of extra time were called, Phuket FC assaulted the Navy goal in search of a winner.
Chana took the ball from a teammate, dribbled past a couple of Navy defenders, and fired in a shot with his left foot from the corner of the Navy penalty box, sending the ball past the goalkeeper – and the 5,000 Phuket FC supporters in the stadium roaring with delight.
As the referee blew his whistle, Phuket fans also learned that League 1 leaders Singh Tha Ruea had been defeated at home by another top team, BBCU FC, who now stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Phuket FC in second place, one point adrift of the top berth.
Coach Panipol said it had been a very uncomfortable game playing Navy FC, who proved to be stronger than expected, a problem coupled with the lack of a killer instinct by Phuket FC in front of goal. Taking the three league points was a “relief” after an often frustrating match, he said.
Phuket’s footballers get a few days off over Songkran before their next game on Wednesday, April 17 away to Nakhon Pathom FC, who are ninth on the league table.
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