Buriram United gained their first point in the Champions League Group F with a much improved performance against Chinese team Shandong. The visitors had already qualified for the knock-out stages of the competition but they were still keen to record a victory in their final match.
It was good to see Buriram dominate a quality side and the changes in formation meant that the Buriram goal was rarely threatened. Nattapon came into the centre of defence to partner Tunez who was then allowed a more free role as a covering defender.
Adul came in to sit just in front of the defence, making himself available to give and receive short passes from both attack and defence and also nip danger in the bud before it reached the defence. He and the whole Buriram team held their shape well and you could sense the new-found confidence as everyone knew exactly what was expected from them. These were the changes I advocated following the defeat by Muang Thong.
Siwarak, Seul-Ki and Suchao were left on the bench giving Yotsapon, Chaowat and the impressive Supachok a chance to gain more experience. The keeper never really had a save to make but young Supachok looks to have a big future. He has great balance on the ball and is prepared to take players on and when Anon recovers, Buriram will have two young players in midfield of genuine quality.
Of course the lack of real threat up front was all too apparent as Kaio and later Anan struggled to make an impact. Indeed, Buriram’s most impressive period of the match was a ten minute spell in the second-half when they played without a big front-man and they moved the ball about at speed with some delightful movement and first-time passing.
Buriram almost made a calamitous start after thirty seconds when Tunez missed a long ball down the right allowing the Chinese striker to run on and hit a low shot which Yotsapon dealt with easily.
A couple of corners caused some panic in the Shandong defence before Buriram had the ball in the net in the tenth minute. A cross from the left was met my Anawin who directed a perfect diving header into the corner only to be adjudged offside , a very close call.
Six minutes later Supachok was unlucky to see a beutifully struck shot go inches wide of the post and shortly after went on a surging run into the box which took him past two defenders but he was eventually stopped at the expense of a corner.
Theerathon’s right-wing corner resulted in a teriffic scramble in the box with three shots being blocked before the ball was eventually cleared.
Sittichok was then brought down on the edge of the box after an excellent bout of passing but the free-kick came to nought. He then had a great chance to open the scoring but sent his header over the bar when completely unmarked.
Supachok was causing plenty of problems and he was halted by a crude tackle on the half-hour mark. Five minutes from half-time Tunez let fly from thirty-five yards and wasn’t far away.
Straight after, Theerathon was harshly shown a yellow card by a far from impressive referee for a tackle wide right. So all-square at half-time with Buriram having dominated possession but yet again there was no cutting-edge up front.
Seul-Ki came on for Anawin as Buriram continued to press without creating anything significant. Ten minutes in Nookoolkit received a yellow card once again and he really must work on his discipline as he is cautioned far too often for fouls in areas where there was no real danger.
After fifty-six minutes Kaio was replaced by Suchao and Buriram began to up the tempo. A quick break out of defence down the right saw a cross almost headed into his own net by a desperate defender. Another right-wing cross found Suchao completely unmarked in the box. He didn’t even have to jump but sent his header way over the bar.
After sixty-six minutes Buriram inexplicably replaced Chaowat with the lumbering Anan and all the momentum was lost. However, shortly after Sittichok was fouled just outside the D and Theerathon fired in a great free-kick only for the keeper to make an excellent save.
Buriram carved out another chance in the seventy-fifth minute when following good play down the left, Theerathon sent over a pin-point cross which was headed wide by Anan. Sittichok then flashed a low ball across goal from the right but there was no-one there to turn it into the empty net.
Six minutes from time there was a remarkable series of events. Sittichok was down in the Shandong area but when the ball came in , he got up and turned the ball back across goal which resulted in a mad scramble before the the ball was cleared,leaving Sittichok, a Shandong defender and the goalkeeper prone on the floor.
The young Buriram forward then had a chance just before the end from a right-wing cross but his looping header was turned over the bar by the keeper. Tunez’s header was just too high from the resulting corner and the big defender stayed up in attack for the remainder of the match as Buriram searched in vain for a winner.
So a draw it was but as stated previously, a MUCH improved performance .
Next up is a home league match against Chainat Hornbill on Sunday May 8, kick-off 7pm.