Buriram United drop points to open door to chasing pack in TPL
German midfielder Bjorn Lindeman hopes Nakhon Ratchasima can soon give their fans the team they deserve after the Swatcats held league leaders Buriram United to a 1-1 draw in the North Eastern 'Isan' Derby in the Thai Premier League (TPL).
Sarawut Masuk's strike gave the home side an early lead but Buriram levelled with less than 15 minutes left through a superb goal from 18-year-old Sittichok Kannoo.
The hosts made a statement against the champions when the two best supported teams in Thailand went head to head.
However, Lindemann is not getting carried away and insists Nakhon Ratchasima are still a long way from Buriram's level.
"The most important thing this year is still to stay in this league," the former Army United and Suphanburi man told ESPN FC. "It's a tough league and although we managed to draw with the best team, last week we lost 2-0 to Saraburi who are at the bottom.
"Hopefully, we can finish in at least 10th or 11th place. Next season, we will need more quality and experience to make a bigger impact."
A crowd of 34,659, according to one source, watched the game in Nakhon Ratchasima. Whatever the accuracy, the attendance figure raises serious safety concerns as it seemed to far exceed the stadium's capacity. An exact official figure doesn't seem to exist, but estimates range from 20,000 to 25,000.
Lindemann hailed the impact of the home support but agreed that the size of the crowd was a concern.
He said: "The fans were amazing. Every professional footballer plays the game to experience this kind of atmosphere. The people in the city absolutely love the club and they help us a lot. But it was strange to see the crowd was about 35,000 when the stadium should only hold around 25,000."
Asked if Buriram could soon have a serious rival in the North East, Lindemann suggested that a lot could be learned from the Thunder Castle.
"As a club, we can do better but it takes time," he said. "Buriram have worked very hard and maintained a good level of quality for the last three years. With the support they have, Nakhon Ratchasima have a good opportunity to develop but there is a long way to go.
"We need better facilities and a more professional approach if we are to challenge Buriram in the future."
Muang Thong United and Bangkok Glass both took advantage of Buriram's slip to close the gap at the top to two points.
Teerasil Dangda's second-half strike was enough to give the Kirins a 1-0 victory in Chainat, while Lazarus Kaimbi netted a last-minute winner as the Glass Rabbits defeated bottom-placed Saraburi with a single goal.
Suphanburi edged into fourth spot after Napat Thamrongsupakorn provided the finishing touch to a late counter attack against struggling BEC Tero Sasana. Tero have now lost five of their last six games, with new coach Kenny Shiels so far powerless to halt the slide.
Army United dropped to sixth after a dramatic end to their home game with Sisaket.
A match of few chances came alive in injury time when the hosts took the lead with Chatchai Mokkasem's header but the visitors levelled almost immediately through Victor Amaro following a goalmouth scramble. With just two goals in their last four TPL games -- both from set pieces -- it is clear where Army's problems currently lie.
Bangkok United drew for the third game in a row, as Chonburi held them 1-1 in a tight match in the Thai capital and Ratchaburi got back to winning ways after Heberty Fernandes' strike earned them a 1-0 win at home to Navy FC.
Chiang Rai United pulled well clear of the relegation zone as Renan Marques' winner gave them a 2-1 win at TOT SC, while in-form Osotpsa defeated Gary Stevens' Port FC 1-0, with a strike from Addison Alves.
Port are another team struggling for goals and they will welcome the arrival of second half of the season when their new signings become eligible.
Port FC provide the opposition when Nakhon Ratchasima travel to Bangkok in midweek, so another fiery atmosphere is certain. And the top two clash in the Northeast as Buriram host Bangkok Glass.