New coach Milovan Rajevac’s first match at the helm following the disrespectful treatment and logical resignation his predecessor, Kiatisuk “Zico” Senamuang following defeats to Saudi Arabia and Japan earlier this year, took place away to Uzbekistan tonight. Rajevac gave all Muangthong United-players a rest due to “fatigue” which, more or less, opened up the entire starting XI for new faces. Most interesting to yours truly: Thai/Swede left-back Kevin Deeromram’s first appearance for his motherland. Having declined a new contract with Swedish top-flite club Djurgården, the promising 19-year old made a surprise move to Ratchaburi Mitr Phol FC in the Toyota Thai League and, a mere six months later, became a Thai international.
Uzbekistan did some rotating as well and, most notably, Guangzhou Evergrande-star Odil Akhmedov was left out of the squad.
The Thais looked eager to impress their new coach and played with more intensity than skill in the first half. It was completely even and both sides had their fair share of opportunities, although the Uzbek’s felt slightly more threatening, all in all. Most of the visiting build-up happened on the left through, formerly mentioned, Kevin and Bordin Phala. Despite more than enough was created to change it, the score was still 0-0 at the break.
The second half started out a bit slower than the first one but in the 63rd minute, two substitutes broke the deadlock in favor of the hosts as Eldor Shomurodov broke loose along the left wing and squared the ball in low Temurkhuja Abdukholikov to put the ball high into the net behind Sintaweechai Hathairattanakool. Thailand moved forward but seemed unable to focus in the final third, perhaps due to the 20:00 kick-off that translated into 22:00 in Thai-time. This reached it’s peak as Teerathep Winothai (still alert as he had been subbed on) ran past the Uzbek defense and found Bordin with the cross. The winger’s final action before being subbed off, however, was a peculiar diving header straight backwards in front of an open net, with just over 10 minutes still on the clock. Then, with only seconds left of stoppage time, Sardor Rashidov ended any hope of an equaliser as he looked for the cross but saw that Sintaweechai was out of position and curled the ball beautifully into the far corner to make the final score 2-0.
Although Rajevac’s first test ended in defeat, he will still have more positives than negatives to take back to the drawing board. A mostly reserve-side was completely evenly matched and both Thitipan Puangchan and Kevin will have made a good case for selection in coming matches.