Leroy Lita goal gives Sisaket hope in fight against Thailand relegation
Former Premier League striker Leroy Lita hopes the fighting spirit Sisaket showed as they battled to earn a point on Saturday will help them keep their place in the Thai League (T1).
Lita came off the bench and pulled a goal back against Port FC to make the score 2-1 before Leandro Assumpcao completed the comeback with a penalty in added time.
Bangkok United's Mario Gjurovski scored one of the goals of the season. But it was too little, too late, as his side lost at Buriram United, who went top with Muang Thong United's clash at Chiang Rai United postponed until Friday.
Here are five things we saw on T1 Matchday 17:
1. Lita leads comeback
Former Swansea City striker Lita has had a tough start to his time in Thailand as his Sisaket side has struggled at the wrong end of the table.
But things have been looking up recently for Velizar Popov's side. Saturday's 2-2 draw at home to Port FC was their third match unbeaten, and saw them draw level on points with Thai Honda in 15th place.
Pakorn Prempak gave the visitors a half-time lead before Siwakorn Jakkuprasat added a second in the 49th minute. Confusion reigned as the referee appeared to disallow the goal and then allowed it.
A sense of injustice may have inspired the Sisaket players and Lita's fine glancing header got them back into the game before late drama. Leandro's tumble in the box brought a penalty and the Brazilian signed off in style as he slotted home the spot kick in his final act for the club before joining champions Muang Thong United for the second leg.
Despite the team's struggles, Lita is relishing the challenge of keeping the team in T1.
"There's a long way to go and we need to be better as a team," Lita told ESPN FC. "It's been hard, and we need to stop conceding silly goals to give ourselves a better chance of winning more games. But I'm enjoying the challenge and I want play in Thailand beyond this season."
Lita admitted that the loss of top scorer Leandro was a blow at the season's halfway point.
"It's never good when you lose one of your best players, but that's football," said Lita. "He's a good player, and a good man, and we all wish him and his family nothing but the best."
2. Buriram go top despite Mario magic
Buriram United took advantage of Muang Thong United's inactivity by beating Bangkok United 2-1 to go three points clear at the top of the T1 table.
The visitors from Bangkok had been in fine form coming into this one, having won four in a row, but they were not going to make it five.
Jakkaphan Kaewprom's neat first-half finish put the hosts ahead in the 29th minute before Diogo Luis Santo's free kick caught out Warut Mekmusik at his near post with just under 25 minutes remaining.
Gjurovski, who has made a habit of scoring against Buriram United throughout his five years in Thailand, then added another stunning strike to his impressive collection. The Macedonian took down a cross-field pass just inside the Buriram box and, with superb anticipation, flicked the ball over the incoming challenge of Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri with his left foot before finishing with his right.
Unfortunately for the away team, it was too late to save the game as Buriram took over from Muang Thong in first place.
3. Sharks stay in touch at the top
Chonburi's impressive first half of the season ended on a high as they earned a 3-1 victory at BEC Tero Sasana.
Michael N'Dri's powerful drive gave the home side an early lead, but Therdsak Chaiman's men again dug in and went home with three points.
The Sharks missed several chances before Nurul Sriyankem finally levelled in the 43rd minute. As usual, top scorer Renan Marques got in on the act when he took Kroekrit Thaweekarn's through ball in his stride, and slotted home 10 minutes into the second half.
Prince Amponsah then tapped home a scruffy third to seal the win. Chonburi started the year with modest expectations and failed to win their first four games. But they have seen nine victories in the 13 matches since. They sit in fifth place -- just six points behind leaders Buriram.
4. Super Power set for a long goodbye
At the midpoint of the season, it looks like Super Power Samut Prakan's participation in the second leg will simply be to restore some pride.
The club's preparation for the campaign was affected by a proposed relocation that failed to materialise. After a poor start to the season, veteran head coach Chalermwoot Sangapol made way for Jason Withe, who took over a squad low on morale and on quality.
The Englishman has been unable to halt the slide towards relegation. Following Sunday's 1-0 defeat at home to Ubon UMT United, the point picked up in the 0-0 draw against Bangkok Glass on Matchday Two remains the only one on the board.
With 17th-placed Sukhothai winning 2-0 against Pattaya United, Withe's men are now 11 points behind their nearest rivals, and 14 points from the safety of 15th spot.
5. Chappuis absence fuels transfer rumours
Rumours that Suphanburi midfielder Charyl Chappuis might make a move to Muang Thong United first emerged at the start of the year. The Thailand international had been a regular starter for his club this season, but was left out of the squad for Sunday's home game with Navy FC.
Without Chappuis, the War Elephant ended a run of four games without a win with a 2-0 victory, thanks to Diego Madrigal's deflected strike and Nicolas Velez's penalty. The next time Suphanburi fans see Chappuis may be in the colours of Muang Thong United.
T1 now breaks for three weeks as Thailand resume international duties. Thailand international striker Siroch Chattong and Leandro have already confirmed moves to Muang Thong for the second leg. Will Chappuis be next?
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