Following the departures of the attacking force of Jonatan Reis and Lonsana Doumbouya, that led the club to a fantastic 6th place finish in their first year in the top tier with a combined tally of 42 league goals, I had them pegged to struggle this season. Of course, it´s far too early to say but with the start that they´ve had, with wins against Muangthong and PTT Rayong, and the only loss coming away to Buriram, there´s good reason to suspect the 2018 performance was made possible by a solid foundation, rather than individual quality at the front. The new strikers, Matheus Alves and Caion, had already bagged 1 and 2 goals respectively, which further indicates a club that is working with a purpose and carefully plans its transfer activities. I hadn´t been able to catch any of their first three matches so I was looking forward to tonight´s encounter with Chainat that would give me the chance to form my own first hand opinion of the side.
Visiting Chainat, on the other hand, stayed up with more than a little help from the referee on the final day of last year´s campaign, and will likely be in the relegation-battle again and had started this season with three consecutive draws.
Chainat started much higher up the pitch than expected and could well have been ahead early on but Prachuap quickly started winning inches and after 23 minutes the hosts took the lead as Matheus Alves found Caion with a well weighted cross into the box. One must question the lack of pressure before the delivery and the virtually non-existing marking of the scorer, but the Brazilian duo couldn´t very well have done more with the space they were given. Far from complete control, Ricardo Santos could´ve scored but tried a Kanu-style backheel that didn´t come off at all, and totally solid but Prachuap was the better side. Uzbeki/Armenian Artyom Filiposian looked a great signing at defensive midfield but was lucky not to be in the book early on as his tough style of play was, at times, over the line in my opinion. The luck continued for Prachuap as a penalty, that would likely have been overturned if VAR was in use this round, as Alves was brought down but the replays showed the defender got a clear touch at the ball first. Caion didn´t mind and converted from the spot for his second of the night, his second (and Prachuap´s third out of seven in total) penalty-goal of the season. The second goal came in stoppage time but it took a massively important stop from Teerath Nakchamnarn keep it from going to three before the end of this very entertaining half of football, as Alves was clean through with the keeper.
The game became even more intense in the second half as Chainat pushed forward and Prachuap could break repeatedly. Both sides had come close to scoring on several occasions after 20 minutes of what was now an end-to-end affair but it was Chainat who finally did as Ricardo Santos was played clean through a failed offside trap and found the back of the net with a lovely dink past the keeper. It was, however, Prachuap´s night, less than 10 minutes after Santos´ goal, the home side was awarded a soft free-kick just outside the penalty area and up stepped Chitpanya Tisud. The initial shot went low and straight into the wall but the bounce fell perfectly for the Buriram-loanee who hammered home a volley to make it 3-1. After that, Chainat couldn´t find the strength to threaten Prachuap, who were content to lower the tempo and see it through. Leaving Chainat to travel home to the banks of the Chao Phraya-river carrying the burden of the season´s first defeat. Although not bad, they gave me very little reason to question my decision to name them as one of my bottom three teams ahead of the season.
It´s only one game, but with the results so far and their success with signing foreign players especially I must say I´m very impressed with Prachuap. Not only are the strikers producing an amazing return but Filiposian also looked a perfect fit. I now expect to be embarrassed by them when I go revisit my predictions, that had them battling relegation, at the end of the season. They look more like a club moving towards establishing themselves in the top half of the Thai League.