Record-breaking Muang Thong set new marks
Muang Thong rounded off their 2012 Thai Premier League campaign on Sunday with a 2-2 draw at third-placed BEC Tero Sasana, having set a number of new benchmarks en-route to sealing their third title a fortnight ago with three matches to spare.
Indeed, the draw proved to be something more than just another point for Muang Thong with a series of records achieved. The draw saw them become the first side to win the league with an unbeaten record, as well as the first team to have scored in each of their 34 games. Added to that, they are now the only club to have clinched the championship on more than two occasions.
"We've been working very hard throughout this season," said excited Muang Thong director Ronnarit Suewaja amid the team's celebration. "The coaching staff, and the team, have done their job superbly. We had not been given the favourites tag after finishing only third last season, but we came back and won the title."
Bouncing back to the top
Indeed, it proved to be a somewhat of a redemptive campaign for Muang Thong as they recaptured the title they had lost to Buriram United, having lifted the trophy back-to-back in 2009 and 2010. Under Slavisa Jokanovic, the Kirins won 25 and drew 9 as they claimed the league unchallenged with an incredible 14-point cushion over runners-up Chonburi.
Catching the most attention in Muang Thong's line-up is Thai international striker Teerasil Dangda, who finished as the league's joint top-scorer with 24 goals alongside BEC's Brazilian forward Cleiton. Having broken onto the continental scene during Thailand’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ campaign, the Muang Thong No10 proved unstoppable on the home front. He averaged nearly a goal a game during his 29 appearance, notably completing a four-goal tally in a ruthless 8-1 dismantling of BBCU as they produced the season's biggest win.
Much value was offered too by the Kirins imported brigade led by coach Jokanovic. The Serb got his first foreign spell off to a winning start as the former FK Partizan manager successfully moulded Muang Thong into a formidable force. Korea DPR international Ri Kwang-Chon featured significantly in the team's back-line which conceded just 31 goals - the least of all 18 teams, while FYR Macedonia midfielder Mario Gjurovski earned the nickname Super Morio courtesy of his goals and many assists.
The build-up to the season saw many clubs vie with each other with their foreign recruitment and, indeed, the league's 16th edition saw star imports create many of the headlines. With each club allowed as many as seven foreigners, a total of 122 imported players featured across the competition.
While Muang Thong dominated the league throughout courtesy of their formidable imported line-up, BEC's Cleiton proved his goalscoring ability with his side finishing in the top three.
Even more eye-catching were Buriram United, who stunned AFC Champions League quarter-finalists Guangzhou Evergrande 2-1 in a group game with their Ghanaian international Frank Acheampong scoring a famous match-winning goal. Despite their failure to defend the league title, the two-time winners could seal their return to the continental stage should they prevail in next Sunday's Thai FA Cup final against Army United.