Buriram Beat Bangkok to retain place at Thai League Summit
Bangkok United's barren spell continues as they once again fail to pick up points at Buriram's Chang Arena, as the defending champions take a major stride towards picking up their seventh Thai League title with a comeback victory.
With injuries to key players, such as Filipino striker Javier Patino, local rising stars Rattanakorn Maikami and first choice right-back Narubadin Weerawatnodom, Buriram were forced to make several key changes. 19-year-old attacker Supachai Jaided filled in up front, and defensive midfielder Anuwat Noicheunpan came in for his debut at the Thunder Castle. Their 3-4-3 formation was a clear sign of their intention to attack despite the strength of their opposition.
Bangkok United were able to field first their choice center-back pairing of Brazilian Everton Goncalves (3) and Thai-German Manuel Bihr (4), and a forward four including Robson Fernandes (30), Vander Luiz (8), Teerathep Winothai (14) and new singing Rungrath Poomchantuek (17).
Bangkok United managed to open the scoring in one of the most decisive encounters of their recent history. Vander Luiz managed to get a decent shot at Buriram's goal after a link-up down the left with Rungrath. Keeper Siwarak Tuedsuengnoen (1) was only able to parry the ball into the path of Robson, who made no mistake slotting the ball into the almost empty net.
It was clear that Bangkok had the better of the proceedings for the opening minutes, but their dominance began to wane after their opener. After the early setback, Buriram began to grow into the game. The hosts were able to conduct continued assaults on their opponents' goal through Diogo Luis Santo (40) and new signing Osvaldo (17), a number of which came close to leveling the score.
The defending champions would have their equalizer in the 24th minute from a slightly unlikely source. Diogo's dinked ball from the edge of the box managed to find left-wing back Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri (11), who snuck in at the back post for only his second Buriram United goal since joining the side in 2016. Wild celebrations ensued, with the previously silenced fans singing at full volume once again while coach Bozidar Bandovic frantically scribbled notes, seemingly unfazed by the gravitas of the situation.
Both sides were unable to break the deadlock going into the second half, with a number of chances going either way. Robson failed to convert a seemingly unmissable chance after Siwarak failed to hold on to a cracking free-kick, and Osvaldo similarly didn't convert a one-on-one opportunity at the other end. A particularly heart-stopping moment for the visitors came when Buriram's Venezuelan vice-captain Andres Tunez (5) found himself completely unmarked at the far post, with both Everton and his goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard (1) rushing to scramble the ball to safety, leaving them both injured in the process.
The second half started brightly for Bangkok as they won a free-kick just after the restart, but Vander's free-kick just went over the far corner of the net. His countryman Robson also missed an opportunity to give the capital club the lead, choosing to shoot as opposed to squaring the ball to the entirely unmarked Rungrath who was arriving at the far post.
Missed opportunities would come back to bite the visitors, however, as the tables were set to turn. Diogo continued to terrorize Bangkok's defense, and he managed to find Sasalak Haiphrakorn (6) unmarked in the box. The Thailand U-23 international, who was one of the hosts key players in this crucial match, managed to beat Falkesgaard with a half-volley that nestled in the bottom corner of the goal in the 87th minute.
Pure jubilation followed as Buriram were set to establish a four-goal lead atop the Thai League table, but the crowd were put on edge when the fourth official's board indicated that the side would have to defend their lead for a further four minutes. The side were, however, able to hold on, with Bangkok's last act being a free-kick that barely missed the head of Everton, before the referee's whistle completed the vital comeback victory for Thailand's defending champions.