Xisco scores hat trick as Muang Thong beat Super Power to go top
Muang Thong United striker Xisco Jimenez was a hat trick hero as the reigning champions got back to winning ways with a 4-1 victory at Super Power Samut Prakan in the Thai League (T1).
The former Newcastle United man's goals gave the Kirins the perfect lift following last week's defeat at Buriram United, and ahead of Wednesday's AFC Champions League (ACL) clash at home to South Korea's Ulsan Hyundai.
The three points also put Muang Thong back on top of the table as Chiang Rai United fell to a shock 3-1 defeat at home to Port FC, while Buriram fell further back after being held to a 1-1 draw at Ubon UMT United.
Here are five things we saw on T1 Matchday 8:
1. Super Xisco sees off Super Power
Following Theerathon Bunmathan's fine, early strike, Xisco took control and ensured that Muang Thong's loss to Buriram would not result in an extended slump.
His first came when he kept his eye on a high ball over the top, and then took advantage of a misdirected clearance before slotting home from 14 yards.
Super Power got back into the game when Anthony Komenan converted a highly debatable penalty before half-time. But their hopes were killed off when Tossaporn Chuchin received a red card for a tackle from behind on Theerathon in the 76th minute.
One minute later, Xisco stroked home a penalty for the visitors, and he wrapped up the points with a close range strike with five minutes remaining. The striker admitted it had been particularly important to take three points after the setback at Buriram.
"We lost at Buriram and it was very hard for the team," Xisco told ESPN FC. "We knew how important that game was for everyone. But the team forgot about it and played a great game to build confidence again and also to let our rivals know we are back."
The timing of the hat trick was also a boost ahead of the huge ACL match against South Korean side Ulsan Hyundai on Wednesday.
"I was very happy to score a hat trick," said Xisco. "It's not easy to do it and it is very important for confidence, especially when you have important games coming soon. The team is ready for Wednesday's game. We know how important it is. If we win, we will be very close to qualifying for the next round, but it's going to be difficult."
2. Port FC stun Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai United came into their home game against Port FC top of the league, and unbeaten this season. Their opponents had made a decent start to the year, but had been thumped 6-2 and 5-1 on the two occasions they had played away from the PAT Stadium.
Things were going as expected when Felipe Azevedo headed in the opener for the Beetles following an excellent spell of possession in the 15th minute. It almost got worse for the Port Lions when the hosts were awarded a penalty 10 minutes later. But Rafael Coelho's spot kick was saved by Worawut Srisupha -- and the comeback was on.
The visitors were not going to play the role of lambs to the slaughter on their travels this time around. Genki Nagasato levelled in the 31st minute before Sergio Suarez showed excellent composure to control a cross and smash the ball home from close range to put Port in front before the break.
The Chiang Rai onslaught failed to hurt the visitors in the second half. Josimar Rodrigues stole a third after Pakorn Prempak had beaten the keeper, sealing a memorable 3-1 victory for the Port Lions.
3. Therdsak for Thailand?
Speculation on who will succeed Kiatisuk Senamuang as Thailand head coach has centred on a host of big names, including Claudio Ranieiri and Dunga. However, Chonburi's Therdsak Chaiman is slowly but surely demonstrating that he might be worth a shot.
The Sharks made it four wins in a row on Saturday as Renan Marques' sixth goal in four games was enough to triumph 1-0 at Suphanburi in an entertaining clash.
Chonburi have recovered well from a poor start to the year, and Therdsak must take some of the credit for this. Like last season, when the team finished fifth, he has kept them competitive, despite facing significant cost-cutting at the club.
While the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) browse applications from some of football's good and great, maybe the answer is sitting on their doorstep. Perhaps one of the country's greatest ever players could replace another.
4. Sisaket denied victory despite Leandro heroics
Things looked bleak for struggling Sisaket when Decha Srangdee and Athibordee Atirat put visiting Nakhon Ratchasima 2-0 up after just 16 minutes.
The Koupreys needed a hero and found one in Leandro Assumpcao, who single-handedly dragged the hosts back into the game. He pulled one back with a superb long range effort in the 26th minute. The Brazilian then levelled the score with a free kick in added time in the first half.
When Leandro stabbed home from close range in the 88th minute, it looked like the comeback was complete. But Sisaket hearts were broken when Ekkanut Kongket made it 3-3 in the third and final minute of added time.
"The team is working hard to improve things," Leandro told ESPN FC. "I was very happy to score a hat trick. The first goal was probably the second best goal I have scored in Thailand. I scored a better one against Muang Thong."
5. Comedy keeping from Pattaya's Number One
Ratchaburi earned a 1-0 win at home to Pattaya United with one of the most bizarre goals of the season.
With 15 minutes remaining, Pattaya goalkeeper Patiwat Khammai was shaping to clear up field. Unwisely, he chose to bounce the ball with Ratchaburi's Sompong Soleb far too close for comfort. The striker got his foot to it and raced through to roll the ball into an empty net.
Patiwat looked suitably embarrassed as his teammates wondered if there had been a foul. The Dragons, meanwhile, were just grateful to have made the breakthrough and to have been gifted a third win in four games.
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