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Thailand's record champion clinch Division One title

Thai League 2 Air Force United

Champion Air Force United
image: thai-fussball.com

A matchday before the end of the season, Air Force United secured the Thai Division One title and gained promotion to the TPL. Who will grab the remaining two promotion spots are still not decided and an exciting Saturday lies ahead of us.

Nine vain attempts, nine long seasons. Now, finally, Thailand's record champion is back in the top flight. A 1-1 draw on matchday 33 against Khon Kaen, with a concurrent defeat of PTT Rayong, was enough to seal the second division championship for Air Force United. The first trophy for the club in 12 years. 

In 2004, when Air Force played in the Thai Premier League for the last time, Thailand's football map looked completely different. With Osotspa, BEC Tero and Bangkok United there are currently only three clubs in the TPL which were already present 10 years ago and the league existed exclusively of clubs from Bangkok. At that time the Division One winner of this year came last but one and got relegated.

But now they return. At the beginning of the season almost no one predicted them to be in the hunt for promotion. Let alone they could be a serious candidate to win the league. But right from the start Air Force was on course to promotion. Like in 2010. Three years ago the club had a great run and everything seemed liked Air Force would be the team to beat. But with the start of the second leg of the season the side lost the winning plot and finished the season in sixth. A weak start after the mid-season break this year and fear loomed 2010 could repeat. Nevertheless, after two defeats and a draw, the team found its way back on track right on time and regained the top spot from PTT Rayong.

PTT is just about to squander its promotion chances and an almost certainly second place. After a 2-3 defeat against Nakhon Ratchasima, PTT now has, only an one point advantage on Singhtarua and two on Bangkok FC. So the league could not have script it any better, with the top-4 clashing together on Saturday and the drama around promotion to reach its climax. Singhtarua will have to take on Air Force at home, while PTT Rayong welcome goal-getter Lee Tuck and its Bangkok FC. What concerns the goal difference, everybody is almost on level. Though for the classification it is not relevant in first place. It's head-2-head.

Responsible for it: Promoted side Air Force. After their last Thai championship title in 1999, the head-2-head rule was introduced by the league. On the very last day of the 99 season, Air Force won its game by 10-0. And it was just enough to grab the title by having that one goal difference over Thai Port, what eventually brought them the trophy.

However, let's get back to the present. If Bangkok FC should just draw on Saturday, one would miss promotion because Singhtarua FC wins the direct comparison by 2-3. Should one win at PTT and Tarua on his part would only draw at home against Air Force, the club from Klong Toey would have to spend another year in Division One (head-2-head with PTT 2-3).

While three teams are fighting for promotion, it is not the only excitement on the final matchday. There are also three teams fighting relegation and apart from Rayong United, the decision on whom will follow them to the Regional League is still open. For a long time it looked as if Rayong FC would follow its provincial compatriot to the Regional League. But 6 points from the last two matches and a weakening opposition brought the club, with 33 points now, in touch to the saving shore. Sriracha with only one point more on account is without a single point since the 2-0 home win over Bangkok FC at the middle of September. TTM FC might have felt save already, but is now only two points clear of Rayong FC.

Let's take a look at the head-2-head here: Rayong with Sriracha 1-4, Rayong with TTM 5-2 and Sriracha with TTM 2-3. So one remis on the coming weekend against Krabi would be enough for TTM FC to stay up. Again a draw would be enough for the Marlins from Sriracha, as long as Rayong FC does not win. However, Rayong FC must win anyway and at the same must hope Sriracha draw at most.

This is the initial position before the last matchday of the 2013 season on the coming week-end with plentiful tension guaranteed. And who is able to, should try to get himself a ticket for the home match of Singhtarua at PAT stadium. It might become a thrilling evening. Either way.
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