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 By Paul Murphy

Chanathip masterminds Muang Thong comeback vs. Buriram in Thailand

Muang Thong midfielder Chanathip Songakrasin
Chanathip masterminded Muang Thong's comeback against reigning champions Buriram United.

2014 Suzuki Cup hero Chanathip 'Messi J' Songkrasin was the inspiration as Muang Thong United took a huge step towards winning the Premier League of Thailand (PLT) title with a 3-2 victory over bitter rivals Buriram United.

In front of a sell-out crowd at the SCG Stadium that included Croatian legend Davor Suker, the playmaker scored a wonderful equaliser to cancel out Buriram's lead and created the second as the Kirins reclaimed top spot after Bangkok United had briefly taken over on Saturday evening.

Muang Thong went into Sunday's game on the back of a poor run of form, while Buriram had won four on the spin. But Totchtawan Sripan's men delivered under pressure.

Here are five things we saw on PLT Matchday 24:

Buriram United coach Afshin Ghotbi
Buriram boss Afshin Ghotbi believes his team were unlucky not to get at least a point.

1. Buriram boss Ghotbi rues timing of Messi J's magic strike

Buriram United's head coach Afshin Ghotbi felt the timing of Messi J's levelling strike on the stroke of half-time turned the match in Muang Thong's favour after a first half in which his side had looked in control.

Diogo Luis Santo's header had given the visitors the lead before Chanathip showed a great turn of pace to evade the challenge of Andres Tunez and rifle a powerful shot into the corner. Chanathip turned provider when he held off the challenges of three defenders on the left before rolling the ball back to Sarach Yooyen, who side-footed into the top corner from 20 yards.

Cleiton Silva then nodded in Tristan Do's cross as the home side began to dominate before Diogo earned a controversial penalty in the closing stages. Tunez's effort was saved by Kawin Thamsatchanan but Anon Amornlerdsak knocked in the rebound and Diogo almost salvaged a point but his late strike went wide.

"We conceded a goal at the worst possible time. It was a massive psychological blow and a lift for Muang Thong. I feel that both teams played wonderful football at times. But I think most people watching would agree that we deserved a point from the game," Ghotbi told ESPN FC.

Muang Thong United striker Michael N'Dri
French striker Michael N'Dri came on in the second half for Muang Thong United.

Regarding what his players could learn ahead of their FA Cup tie against the same opponents next month, Ghotbi added, "I think we have to improve our midfield play as we weren't good enough in midfield today. Some of our players are new to the team and are still getting used to the system and didn't perform as well as they can."

Muang Thong's French striker Michael N'Dri came on as a second-half substitute and played an important role in keeping the Buriram defence on the back foot. He told ESPN FC, "In the first half, it was very tight. Buriram pressed effectively and caused us some problems but we knew they couldn't keep that up the whole match. We gradually got a foothold and played our own game and, in the end, we deserved to win.

"Against Buriram, it's always a big match, so it was great to beat them in front of our own fans and to regain the top spot."

2. Goals galore as Bangkok United win again

Before playing Muang Thong three weeks ago, Bangkok United had kept nine clean sheets in 15 games and conceded just seven times over that period. The game against their title rivals ended 3-3 and the Bangkok Angels have seen their defence breached six more times in the three games since.

On Saturday, Mano Polking's side fell behind twice at BEC Tero Sasana but they were again indebted to striker Jaycee John who continued his incredible recent form by netting a hat trick -- he now has seven goals in the past four games. Bangkok United eventually won 3-2 and, while Polking will be concerned about the number of goals conceded, he must also be delighted with the way his side are scoring. They have netted 13 in their last four outings.

Mano Polking's Bangkok United trailed twice before coming back to win.

3. Saad day for BBCU

A hat trick from Pattaya United's Lebanese international Soony Saad almost confirmed BBCU FC's relegation from the PLT as the bottom side remain 14 points from safety with just 10 games to go.

Akarawin Sawsdee gave the hosts the perfect start with a goal in the first minute but Saad turned things around with a double before 20 minutes had passed. The visitors went down to 10 men on the stroke of half-time but it was Pattaya who struck again when Saad completed his hat trick after 48 minutes. Naret Ritpitakwong's late strike was a mere consolation for BBCU.

Pattaya, promoted alongside BBCU, now look safe from relegation in 12th spot. "We started the season trying to finish in the top half and I really think it's possible," Saad told ESPN FC. "Our team is coming together at a perfect time. But I think BBCU deserve more points than 10 at the moment. They have quality players and I have nothing but respect for them."

Speculation surrounds the future of in-form Saad and he admits there has been interest from elsewhere. "At the moment, I am just focusing on my current situation at Pattaya," said Saad. "I know my agent has received enquiries from teams in the Far East and the Gulf. It's flattering but I just want to focus on playing well in Thailand until the end of the season."

4. Sinama Pongolle strikes a Panenka

After his arrival in Thailand earlier this month, former Liverpool striker Florent Sinama Pongolle struck his fourth goal in four games for Chainat, his latest strike earning a vital point at home to Suphanburi in the Hornbills' battle for survival.

Sinama Pongolle won and converted a 23rd minute penalty for the home side on Saturday, calmly dinking home in 'Panenka' style. Chananan Pombuppha levelled for the visitors with a looping header before half-time.

While Sinama Pongolle's goal was his fourth, three have been penalties -- he netted two of them in his side's 3-2 defeat to Bangkok United in midweek. His team will hope that he keeps up his scoring form as they remain third from bottom.

5. Sukhothai back on song

Sukhothai were an early season breath of fresh air as the newly promoted side made a mockery of their status as relegation favourites. Driven by the energy of John Baggio, the Firebats lost just two of their first 12 games and reached fourth spot at one point. As expected, a dip in form came and the side from the north lost five of the next eight winless games.

But Sukhothai have rediscovered their form and Saturday's 3-1 victory at struggling Osotspa Samut Prakan was their third in four games. Bireme Diouf and Renan Marques (two) were again the scorers as the Firebats' aim of finishing in the top 10 looks set to become a reality.

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

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