Buriram United draw with Muang Thong, slam Thai League scheduling
Muang Thong United striker Leandro Assumpcao struck a late equaliser to prevent Buriram United from moving seven points clear at the top of the Thai League (T1) on Sunday evening.
At a packed SCG Stadium, the league leaders went ahead through a Rafael Bastos free kick at the beginning of the second half. The visitors squandered several chances to extend their lead before Assumpcao rescued a point with two minutes remaining.
Elsewhere, Bangkok United consolidated third spot with another impressive performance, while farcical scenes at Ratchaburi stunned fans on Saturday evening.
Here are five things we saw on T1 Matchday 23:
1. Buriram's Bandovic slams scheduling
After a strong opening to Sunday's top-of-the-table clash, hosts Muang Thong found themselves under increasing pressure against rivals Buriram. In the 47th minute, Bozidar Bandovic's side took the lead when Bastos' dipping free kick from 40 yards out deceived Muang Thong goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan, and found the top corner.
Bastos was then guilty of missing a number of chances before a late rally from the home side was rewarded when Assumpcao headed in from Tristan Do's cross.
Buriram now head into a three-week break for the King's Cup and 2018 AFC U23 qualifiers four points clear at the top of the league. They then play two fixtures before another four week-break for the Southeast Asian Games and World Cup qualifiers. In the middle of the year, there are just two games in two months.
"If you ask me, I would never fix the schedule like this," Bandovic told ESPN FC. "It's a big gap for the teams and then you will have games every three days. Me and my staff have to manage this problem, but if it was up to me, we would continue playing.
"Our performances have been very good in recent games and we are leading by four points at the top of the table, but there are many games still to play."
Overall, however, Bandovic was happy with the point gained against his team's main rivals.
"We didn't start the game well and our opponents controlled it," Bandovic said. "We had some chances even though we weren't playing well.
"But in the second half, we applied more pressure. We got the goal and, after that, I think we should have got a second goal, but we needed more composure in our finishing. Of course, for both teams, it was like a cup final, and I think it was probably a fair result."
2. Bangkok United bounce back
Bangkok United have surged up the table in recent weeks to take over third spot, but they faced a significant challenge as they travelled to Sukhothai on Saturday. The Firebats had gone seven games unbeaten in their rise from the relegation zone.
Rodrigo Maranhao hit the post with a thunderous strike before John Baggio gave the hosts a 19th-minute lead, as Sukhothai gave United a torrid opening to the game.
However, slack defending allowed Mario Gjurovski to equalise in the 28th minute and Dragan Boskovic and Teerathep Winothai quickly added two more to put the visitors 3-1 up at the break.
Mano Polking's side withstood significant pressure before sealing a 4-1 win with Boskovic's second of the game in the 89th minute. Last year's runners up are now just six points off leaders Buriram.
3. Shame game in Ratchaburi
Ratchaburi were delighted to win 5-1 at home to Chonburi to take them to within three points of the Sharks and the top six. However, the scoreline was not what made the headlines.
With the hosts leading 3-0 at half-time through Marcel Essombe's double, and an excellent Montree Promsawat strike, a half-time brawl created a shameful episode for Thai football.
As the teams were leaving the field, Ratchaburi's general manager Tanawat Nitikarnchana was complaining to the referee when Chonburi striker Thiago Cunha sprayed water at him. Tanawat reacted angrily, slapping the Brazilian, and a brawl ensued, with Thiago ending with a broken nose.
When the teams came out for the second half, Thiago was belatedly shown a red card, and Chonburi walked off the pitch. Negotiations went on until the visitors eventually took to the field again, almost 45 minutes behind schedule.
The fact that Ratchaburi added two more goals, and Chonburi pulled one back in a pedestrian second half, was a footnote in a game marred by ugly scenes at half-time and a petulant refusal to play on from the visitors.
4. Gama clings onto Chiang Rai hot seat
After Chiang Rai United's title challenge was seemingly ended by defeats to Bangkok United and Navy FC in the past week, head coach Alexandre Gama was given the dreaded vote of confidence by the club's board.
It seemed unthinkable that the former Buriram boss would hold onto his job in the event of a failure to beat second-bottom Thai Honda at home on Sunday. The Beetles duly got the job done as goals from Piyaphon Panichakul, Chaiyawat Buran and Patomphol Charoenrattanapirom helped seal a 3-1 victory.
Gama survives for now, but his job may hinge on the outcome of the next few games. Chiang Rai travel to meet Port FC, and then host Ubon UMT United before facing Gama's former side at the Thunder Castle.
5. Super Power's dismal record
When Super Power Samut Prakan suffered yet another humiliation on Wednesday evening, it was reported in the Thai media that their 20th straight league defeat made a world record.
While it is unclear how this was measured, it was clear that the club's 9-2 loss at Pattaya United was a new low in an embarrassing season. There was no end to the misery on Saturday as Nakhon Ratchasima raced into a 2-0 lead after just six minutes, before eventually running out 5-0 winners with Paulo Rangel netting a hat-trick.
It doesn't look likely that the record will end at 21. When T1 action returns after a three-week break, Super Power go up against Muang Thong United, and then Buriram United.
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