Florent Sinama Pongolle suffers Thailand setback as Chainat beaten
Former Liverpool striker Florent Sinama Pongolle hopes that Chainat's 2-1 loss to BBCU FC was just a bad day at the office as the club suffered a blow in their bid for survival in the Premier League of Thailand (PLT).
The Hornbills were 2-0 down with less than 20 minutes on the clock, and failed to recover against the determined bottom club. The disappointment was compounded as relegation rivals Super Power Samut Prakan, Sisaket and Nakhon Ratchasima picked up useful points against Buriram United, Bangkok Glass and Chiang Rai United, respectively.
Here are five things we saw on PLT Matchday 27:
1. Chainat stumble at doomed BBCU
Chainat must have been looking at their trip to BBCU as an opportunity for a vital three points in their bid to stay in the PLT. The hosts were 17 points from safety at the start of the match and defeat would have all but confirmed relegation.
But BBCU took an early lead when Narakorn Khana finished off an excellent counter attack. Then, with just 18 minutes on the clock, Akarawin Sawasdee smashed home the second following a defensive slip.
The visitors pulled one back at the start of the second half through Jo Tae-keun but the expected onslaught failed to materialise and BBCU held on relatively comfortably.
Sinama Pongolle -- who had scored eight goals in his previous six games -- told ESPN FC, "We weren't at our best level from the start and losing an early goal made it even more difficult. We were very laboured in everything we tried to do.
"Overall, that suggests we have a lack of discipline. We can accept losing games but to lose like we did tonight, that sticks in the throat. There's not much we can learn from this match, apart from our attitude has to be better and we have to work harder."
BBCU FC captain Naru Wild-Putsorn acknowledged that relegation for his side is inevitable but was proud of the performance. He said, "I think we've already forgotten about the relegation situation. We're just playing to pick up points and playing for pride and for the fans who come and watch us every week."
The home defence had a battle on their hands trying to subdue Sinama Pongolle.
"He's a good player and we respected him but we didn't give him space to play his game," said Wild-Putsorn.
2. Leaders stay on track
League leaders Muang Thong United and second placed Bangkok United are still separated by just one point after both won again.
The Kirins had the tougher task with a trip to Suphanburi but Adisak Kraisorn's goal early in the second half was enough for a 1-0 victory. The Bangkok Angels faced Navy FC at home and took an early lead through Dragan Boskovic. The relegation-threatened visitors soon equalised as they aimed to repeat the upset they caused earlier in the season when they defeated Mano Polking's side at home.
But Boskovic quickly gave the hosts the advantage again and Gilberto Macena added a third before half-time to complete the scoring and keep the pressure on Muang Thong.
3. Marco steers Swatcats to safety
Last year's eight-placed finish was expected to be the platform for Nakhon Ratchasima to push for a place among Thailand's elite.
But things were going so badly earlier in the year that head coach Sugao Kambe was dismissed after three years in charge. His replacement Milos Joksic has slowly engineered an upturn in fortunes and Sunday's 2-1 victory at Chiang Rai United puts them seven points clear of the relegation spots.
Striker Marco Tagbajumi was the hero for the Swatcats as his two neat finishes earned the win in the north. He opened the scoring just after the hour mark before the hosts levelled through Wellington Bruno eight minutes later. But it took only two minutes for Tagbajumi to put the visitors back in front and seal a vital three points.
The evening ended on a sour note for Tagbajumi as he was red-carded late in the game but he had already made a very important contribution.
Despite the significance of the result, he is taking nothing for granted.
"We still have a long way to go but, with this win, we are on the right path," Tagbajumi told ESPN FC. "I see every goal as important. Maybe because of the situation we are in, these goals were more important than usual but, most importantly, we got three points from a game which not many thought we could win. We have improved a lot as a team and it shows on the pitch."
4. Gasmi double denies Sisaket
Just one win in 11 games had pushed Sisaket back towards the relegation zone and poor form cost head coach Bozidar Bandovic his job. But the Koupreys looked set for a much-needed victory at home to high-flying Bangkok Glass when Chico put them 3-2 ahead.
Yuttana Ruangsuksut had given the hosts an early lead before Romain Gasmi and Ariel Rodriguez put Aurelio Vidmar's side in front. But Yuttana's second and Chico's deft chip gave Sisaket a second-half lead. Unfortunately for the home side, they couldn't hold on for three points as Gasmi headed in the leveller with just under 15 minutes left.
5. Sharks hit home century
Chonburi earned their 100th home victory in Thailand's top flight as Leandro Assumpcao's double gave them a hard-fought win against Ratchaburi.
It took 71 minutes for the deadlock to be broken when Leandro's shot squirmed into the net courtesy of a goalkeeping error. The second was more impressive as the Brazilian curled a beautiful shot into the corner from 20 yards out.
The 2007 Thai champions did not have their best start to the season but Therdsak Chaiman's side have made steady progress and have lost just twice in their last 12 PLT matches. Victory over the Dragons keeps them in contention for yet another top-five finish.
Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK