By The Nation
Totchtawan’s side looked on course to putting an end to their losing streak as they took a half-time lead through captain Teerasil Dangda’s well-crafted goal at the crowded SCG Stadium.
The J-League-bound Chanathip Songkrasin, who will join promoted side Consadole Sapporo in July on a year-long loan, sold the Japanese defence a dummy to set up Teerasil, who expertly guided a low shot past the goalkeeper’s dive just inside the post.
However, things started to unravel for the hosts when the Frontale scored two goals in the space of three minutes midway through the second half to tip the balance back in their favour. Hiroyuki Abe’s 89th-minute effort completed the hosts’ misery and put Frontale in the driver’s seat ahead of next week’s second leg in Kawasaki, Japan.
Wednesday’s damaging loss not only left Muangthong, who reached the knockout stages of the event for the first time, on the brink of elimination from the continent’s blue-ribbon competition but also condemned them to five defeats on the bounce for the first time.
Former national midfielder Totchtawan, the Twin Kirins’ longest-serving coach, declined to criticise his players for their worst losing streak that began with a 2-1 away defeat to another J-League side Kashima Antlers in their final group game a fortnight ago, which cost them top spot in Group E.
“It was a difficult game for us. Physically, we’re unable to sustain our challenge for 90 minutes of a game at continental level. That’s why we made defensive mistakes. But I don’t want to blame the boys as they gave their best. I take full responsibility for what happened.
“It was natural for them [Frontale] to have attacked us [after the break] more than they did in the first half after falling behind. We’re not superior to them in terms of team capability. Our boys did a good job. However, given all our efforts in the first half, we were unable to compete for the full 90 minutes.
“The away leg will be another tough test for us. We had no excuse for this match. What we can do now is to prepare ourselves as best as we can. Hopefully, we could perform better in the next game,” said the 45-year-old coach.
Given the mounting pressure, Totchtawan, who led Muangthong to three trophies including Thai League title last season, said it was up to the club’s management to decide on his future.
“Given the current circumstances, if the fans, players or the board are not happy with the recent results, they could make a decision [on my future]. I’ll not have any problem.
“I’m ready to take responsibility for the team’s poor run of form. It’s up to the club to decide whether I’m still the right man for the job.”