Monday, July 28, 2014

Sam speaks and more awards

Sam Schweingruber with his son and friend
Phnom Penh Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber gave his view after Sunday's victory over Boeung Ket and the presentation of the medals and trophy to his team. "It was a dominant display. I don't think they really threatened us. Unfortunate that we couldn't come up with a second goal in the first half and George was unlucky not to score when he got injured. We played to our plan, we had a slightly different approach today than normal and it worked well for us. Up after seven minutes or so, they had one situation when we had to change George and our organisation was struggling a bit as my ideas didn't quite work out. We adjusted quickly and had complete control of the game again. Another early goal in the second half and then we know we can sit it out easily enough.
I found it hard to believe how the referee tried to keep the game interesting. The amount of yellow cards we got for nothing, then a red card and a penalty, it makes me laugh, almost as much as Vathanaka getting the MVP award. What has he done, what game has he decided, what influence did he have on this year's league? Certainly not anywhere close to what Sokumpheak has done, what Adriano has done, what a whole bunch of our players have done. I'm shocked, but not surprised at all. As for best coach, I had a strong feeling they would give it to a Cambodian.
We came close last season so it was an obvious progression that we wanted to win it this year. The boss [Rithy Samnang] helped in many ways by getting the people on board we needed, coaching-wise and playing-wise. There were a few games that were close, though today was not a close game, there was only one winner today. The crowd support today was amazing, I wish we'll have this more often. For the players, I'm sad for some who didn't play today and for some who didn't have the impact this season they wanted to but very pleased overall with the performances from everyone involved." 

Ung Kanyanith gets his coach award - photo by Masayori Ishikawa
In addition to the medals and presentation of the Championship trophy to Crown, as well as a cheque for $15,000, there were awards and medals to the runners-up and third-placed teams. Boeung Ket received $11,500 and NagaCorp $9,000. The usual end of season individual awards were also meted out by the football federation and this is where is got interesting, and highly controversial. Everyone expected Sam Schweingruber to collect the Best Coach accolade after guiding his team to the championship with just two defeats in only his second season. The FFC thought otherwise and handed it to Ung Kanyanith, the coach of National Police who finished well down the pecking order in 6th place. No-one can fathom how that decision was based on merit over the league campaign just completed. There was also audible gasps of shock when Chan Vathanaka was called forward to collect the season's Most Valuable Player award. Compared to the performances of outstanding performers like Kouch Sokumpheak, the captain of the league champions and everyone's nailed-on favourite to collect the prize, and others, Vathanaka has spent time on the bench or injured this season and his choice of MVP ranks up there with that of Chea Samnang in 2011. Incomprehensible. The Golden Boot went to Dzarma Bata, who has been banging in goals for fun with Svay Rieng and managed to overtake Crown's George Bisan in the last few weeks of the season. Bata topped the chart with 23 goals, Bisan finished with 20. At least Crown got a look-in when Sou Yaty collected the Best Goalkeeper award and a cheque for 1.5 million riels. Acknowledged as Cambodia's no.1 for a long time now, it was a fair decision for the stopper who picked up his first league medal after joining Crown at the start of the campaign and performed consistently well. Tuy Vichheka led the refereeing team that collected $1,000 as Best Referee group, after what can only be described as a performance in the final game that left many scratching their heads over a series of his decisions. Bottom club Albirex Niigata picked up the Fair Play award, another $1,000 reward that only the FFC control.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The sweet smell of success

Crown collect their 5th Championship - photo by Masayori Ishikawa, click to enlarge
Match Result: Phnom Penh Crown 2 Boeung Ket 1 (Metfone C-League).
Phnom Penh Crown signed off their season with a final game against  runners-up Boeung Ket and looking to settle a score after the Rubbermen won their first round encounter. Only Kok Boris was absent with an infected foot injury, Bin Thierry taking his place alongside Odion Obadin. In front of a massive Olympic Stadium crowd under the floodlights, the match came to life on eight minutes as Ly Ravy underhit a back pass which George Bisan quickly read and with Peng Bunchhay in no-man's land, the Crown striker lobbed the ball into the unguarded net for his 20th strike of the season from all of thirty yards out. Two minutes later and Thourng Da found Adriano Pellegrino with a through ball but his run into the box was halted by a lunging Ravy tackle. Chan Vathanaka weaved his way to the edge of the Crown penalty area but Ouk Sothy made a timely interception. Chukwuma Ohuruogu's long throw-ins are a known menace and Sou Yaty was under pressure from Mohammed Tijani before Obadin cleared his lines. At the other end, Khim Borey cut inside his marker only to see his shot deflected for a corner, from which Sos Suhana sent a fizzing shot a foot wide as it was cleared to him 35 yards from goal. Crown were forcing the pace and a Borey dink saw Bisan get a touch as Bunchhay came out to smother at his feet. The striker sustained an ankle injury and a few minutes later was replaced by Leng Makara. From the corner, a training ground move between Pellegrino and Thierry saw the latter's low drive blocked and cleared. Vathanaka's dipping free-kick almost caught out Yaty, who collected the ball at the second attempt with Sok Pheng closing in. Borey's deep cross was an inch or so too high for Pellegrino who sent a skimming header wide of the target. Boeung Ket's best chance fell to Khuon Laboravy, but he blasted high and wide, and looked a pale shadow of last season's top scorer and MVP. On the half hour of a pulsating encounter, a Pellegrino corner seared its way across the face of goal and Makara somehow managed to put his effort over the bar from close range. Referee Tuy Vichheka had already booked Hong Pheng for dissent and then harshly cautioned Pellegrino for kicking the ball at the Boeung Ket goal, at the same instant as he blew his whistle. Borey sent a 30-yard effort a few feet wide and twice Kouch Sokumpheak broke into the box but both times his shot was blocked by a forest of legs. The half ended with Yaty racing out of his area and then falling at the feet of Laboravy after recovering his position.

Another Ohuruogu throw into the six-yard box was caught by Yaty at the second attempt early on, but it was Crown who upped the stakes with a second goal after just four minutes of the restart. A foul on Makara near the left-hand touchline allowed Pellegrino to swing in one of his trademark pinpoint free-kicks and Obadin stabbed the ball goalwards with his right foot, with Bunchhay unable to stop it rolling over the goal-line. Boeung Ket made an early double change, though Tijani was the culprit as Yaty was hurt catching a free-kick. A late challenge on Thierry earned the Boeung Ket striker a yellow card two minutes later. Moments later Ohuruogu went into the book for a last-man trip as Sokumpheak broke clear onto Pellegrino's pass, though he was fortunate the referee was in a lenient mood. From the free-kick, Thierry curled the ball a foot wide of the far post. There was no such leniency from referee Vichheka on 59 minutes when Vathanaka spurted forward and the ball brushed the hand of Pheng. He immediately reached for his cards and flashed a yellow followed by a red. It was harsh in the extreme. Vathanaka's free-kick was easily handled by Yaty. The keeper was caught by Laboravay's boot in their next attack as Vathanaka's bye-line center caused concern, though Laboravy then went into the referee's notebook for an obvious trip on Sothy. Vathanaka was Boeung Ket's only source of danger and his 25-yard free-kick was acrobatically tipped over the bar by Yaty. From the corner, Momoh Sumaila will feel he should've done better with his blind run and far post header. Another Vathanaka free-kick fell onto the top of the bar before referee Vichheka handed the Rubbermen a lifeline they didn't really deserve. Touch Pancharong's lunge as Makara cleared his box should've been a caution but instead the referee saw it the other way and booked Makara, before pointing to the penalty spot. The Crown players simply couldn't believe their eyes and no amount of complaining would change the match officials' view. The clock had ticked into stoppage time as Vathanaka fired home the penalty which Yaty got his fingers to but couldn't stop. To add insult to injury, Vichheka allotted an additional six minutes but Crown were determined to hold onto their hard-fought success and they did so without any difficulty, finishing the game as 2014 champions and leaving Boeung Ket to lick their wounds, trailing some seven points behind in the final league standings. All that was left was for Crown to step up to the stage and collect their fifth Championship trophy.
PPCFC v Boeung Ket: Yaty, Da, Pheng, Thierry, Obadin, Sokumpheak, Sothy, Borey, Suhana, Pellegrino (Srin 90+2), Bisan (Makara 25). Subs not used: Ary, Soksela, Dara, Sokheng, Morslim, Pisa, Sosela. Bookings: Pheng (+ red card 59), Pellegrino, Yaty, Makara. MOTM: Obadin - rock solid and the winning goal. Goals: Bisan (8), Obadin (49). 
PPCFC v B/Ket, back row, LtoR: Pheng, Obadin, Thierry, Bisan, Borey, Yaty. Front: Da, Suhana, Sothy, Sokumpheak, Pellegrino - click to enlarge

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Champions await their prize

Here's a sneak preview of the champions banner that Phnom Penh Crown will be holding on Sunday around 8pm when they collect their 5th Cambodian League Championship. Their previous championships have come in 2002, 2008, 2010 and the most recent was in 2011. Captain Kouch Sokumpheak and defender Odion Obadin were regulars back in 2011, with Khim Borey, Hong Pheng and now assistant coach Tes Sophat being part of that squad too. It's a vindication of the way Phnom Penh Crown approach the game both on and off the pitch that they can claim this year's championship. Quite simply, no one deserves it more for their style of football and what they are achieving off the pitch as well. Phnom Penh Crown represent what is good about Cambodian football and long may it continue.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Baldwin grabs a hat-trick

The MCL table after Week 21
Baldwin Ngwa, the Phnom Penh Crown striker on loan to Asia Europe helped his team to a comprehensive 5-2 victory over National Police with the Cameroonian grabbing a hat-trick in the weekend's Metfone C-League matches. Ngwa netted twice in a first-half flurry of AEU goals with George Kelechi and Mohammed Hamza getting in on the act, while Police replied through Reijin Tani and Nuon Borey. Ngwa competed his three-goal haul after the break. Both defences were absent without leave when Boeung Ket and BBU met on Sunday. The Rubbermen bounced to a 10-5 victory that left observers speechless but amused, as the Kompong Cham outfit confirmed second place in the league table, their second year in succession as the bridesmaids. The goalscorers also went unnoticed by any of the media though its believed Keo Sokpheng and Momoh Sumaila each got a brace. NagaCorp held onto third place for the time being, despite Svay Rieng's fortunate win over champions Phnom Penh Crown. Naga's goals, in a 2-1 win over Western Uni, came through Choun Chum and Jang In Yong. As for Svay Rieng, they triumphed 3-2 over the new champs courtesy of a mistake by Crown keeper Yok Ary that handed the winner in a close 3-2 game to Samoeun Pidor with 12 minutes to go. Seuy Visal headed an own goal to give Crown the lead but James Adekunle levelled with a hotly disputed goal. In the second-half, Dzarma Bata, the league's top scorer, netted early on before Kouch Sokumpheak equalised. Keeper Sar Sophea made a match-winning save from Khim Borey in stoppage time. TriAsia has Suong Virak to thank for both goals in a 2-0 win over the Army, while Albirex Niigata registered only their second win of the campaign, beating fellow relegated side Kirivong 2-1. Tatsuta Kazuki scored both goals in a game Albirex dominated. In the previous midweek tie, Naga were held 2-2 by Svay Rieng, after leading 2-nil with 7 minutes to go. Barry Lelouma got both Naga goals before Dzarma Bata and Samoeun Pidor made it all-square at the final whistle.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Off season activity

The new RSN playing surface before the drains are laid
There is a lot going on at Phnom Penh Crown over the next few months. That's after we are presented with the Metfone C-League Championship trophy this coming Sunday evening at the end of the domestic season. We meet Boeung Ket in our final game at 6pm at Olympic Stadium, with the Championship having already been sealed with two matches to spare. Immediately after the final game, a selection of our players will be training with the Cambodian national team for tournaments in Brunei (U-21 tournament) and in Laos (AFF Suzuki Cup Qualifiers) over the coming months, while head coach Sam Schweingruber will be off to China for four weeks to run a grassroots FIFA training course with hundreds of Chinese youngsters. Our goalkeeping coaches, Prak Vanny and Nguon Chansothea are currently on a FIFA-run goalkeeping course at Tonle Bati, and that's where Academy head coach Bouy Dary will be spending the whole month of August taking his AFC A-Licence coaching course. The Cambodia Youth League at U-15 and U-17 levels is expected to kick-off again in September for a period of three months duration and will include Crown teams at both ages after we won both competitions last time around, an U-13 team including Crown's community youngsters will travel to Incheon in South Korea for a friendship tournament and in the meantime, work will continue on the development of the new RSN Stadium at Tuol Kork. Here's a photo taken at the weekend of the new playing area before we lay the drainage pipes. Looking further ahead it seems the Mekong Cup (for the four champion teams of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar) will be held in November in Hanoi, but more about that when its finalised. Add into the mix, a few months of wheeling and dealing as Sam Schweingruber looks to tinker with his squad, both foreign and domestic talent, and you have a busy time, considering its supposed to be the off season!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Crown go down fighting

PPCFC v Chonburi, line-up, back row, LtoR: Chanvuthy, Chanpolin, Chanchav, Senteang, Titchhy, Sovann. Front Row: Sakrovy, Baraing, Ponvuthy, Sodavid, Phearath - click to enlarge
Match Result: Phnom Penh Crown Academy 0 Chonburi Academy 1 (Asia U-16 Champions Trophy).
For their final ACT game of the season, the Crown Academy were looking to do a lot better against the competition favourites Chonburi here in Thailand, after losing 8-3 at home last week to the same opponents. The home team had already qualified for the competition's semi-finals, having won the 2013 version and are keen to repeat the feat. Crown would finish in 3rd place in Group B whatever the outcome. Kung Chanvuthy got the nod for the final match between the sticks with slight knocks for Kim Chhaya and Suon Noeut leaving them on the bench. In the opening minutes, Crown looked to Sraing Titchhy for a breakthrough but he was halted in his tracks on a couple of occasions. Chanvuthy was called into action in the 8th minute as Kritthanaphong Paidaen got a lucky break in the box but his shot was palmed away by the Crown stopper. On sixteen minutes Orn Chanpolin released Titchhy and as he raced clear he was upended by Autthagowit Jantod. A yellow card for the defender, saved from dismissal by a teammate in a covering position. Ouk Sovann's free-kick from 20 yards out looked to have found the top corner only to hit the post and bounce to safety. A let off for the home team. Moments later, Long Phearath ventured down the left flank, slalomed around three challenges but his dangerous low cross was cleared at the last moment with Chhuot Senteang looming menacingly. It was Chonburi's turn to hit the woodwork when Nititorn Sripramarn fed Paidaen on the edge of the box and he lazily struck a shot which rebounded into Chanvuthy's hands after hitting the upright. Pov Ponvuthy was looking lively on the left flank for Crown and after his run was blocked, Chanpolin sent a speculative 25-yarder wide of the target. Chonburi brought on substitute Theeraphat Niyomrit after 31 minutes and in less than a minute, he opened the scoring for the home team. Keeping the ball with successive passes, Kritsada Kaman spotted Niyomrit's blindside run into the box and picked him out perfectly, for the substitute to arch his neck muscles and send a header over Chanvuthy's outstretched hands. Chonburi kept the ball well for long periods, with Sripramarn heading over and Niyomrit firing straight at Chanvuthy before the goalkeeper was pulled up for holding the ball too long. The free-kick came to nothing as half-time came with the group winners a goal to the good. 

The second half started brightly for the visitors with Chanpolin feeding Senteang who looked to have escaped the back-line only to take a moment too long to get his shot away, and Arthit Kansangwet got a last-ditch tackle in to thwart Crown's leading scorer. A rare miskick by Seut Baraing presented Paidaen with a golden opportunity from fifteen yards out but Chanvuthy stood firm and helped the ball over the cross-bar with a strong hand, with just five minutes played. Choun Chanchav got a timely block in to deflect a shot from distance by Saharat Sontisawat, the home skipper. As Chonburi pressed, last week's 5-goal hero Sittichok Paso headed over and Sontisawat blasted well wide. With twelve minutes of the second-half gone, Senteang was played in by Ponvuthy and as he got a shot away with his left foot, home keeper Chakhon Philakhlang was at full stretch to keep his goal intact. Men Piphop came on for Crown and was immediately in the action as he raced clear onto Mat Sakrovy's pass, but found Philakhlang's reactions razor-sharp as he left his line to block the attempted cross-shot. In an end-to-end encounter that was being lapped up by the audience, the home team went in search of a second goal and skipper Sontisawat stung Chanvuthy's fingertips with a 20-yard blast, before Paso weaved his way around two defenders but screwed his shot across the face of goal. It was edge-of-the-seat stuff. At the other end, Senteang took the ball on from the halfway line and evaded the tackle of Kansangwet before unleashing a curling low drive which Philakhlang did well to get down to and hold at the second attempt. Sontisawat escaped his marker and laid the ball to Sripramarn only for Chanvuthy to be equal to his snap-shot at the near post. Chonburi were fortunate to find the referee from Malaysia in a benevolent mood when Natthanon Charoensingkeewan jumped up in his own box and the ball struck his hand, only for play to be waved on. Senteang was a constant thorn to the home team and a one-two with Ponvuthy gave the striker a half chance, though Jantod got his foot in to block for a corner. The final ten minutes was devoid of chances as Chonburi were content to sit on their lead and Crown couldn't find a way through, to end the season with a defeat but their pride restored after this narrow reverse. 

Crown Academy coach Bouy Dary had this to say at the final whistle. "The boys did really well in terms of defending, creating chances, we didn't score but we played good football, especially in the second half and we did well. Unlucky not to score and get a penalty for handball. I'm proud that the boys gave everything they had. We lost the game but I'm happy to see us improve from the last game. Its important to understand why we do so well away from home. First, the quality of the pitch. Every away team has a far better pitch than the Olympic Stadium. They allow us to play good football, we play the ball on the ground and a good surface allows us to play our game. Secondly, away from home we play in the late afternoon or evening when its cool, which makes a real difference from the morning games at home, when its so hot. We've improved a lot this year, as a coach I want more, but I'm happy that we've shown a big improvement over last year. We only drew 2 games last year and found it hard to score goals. This year we have scored a lot more goals and we've stopped the other teams scoring, except the Chonburi game when we had a lot of injuries. I'm quite happy with our results this time around. I would choose Pov Ponvuthy as our most improved player. He's only small but he causes other teams problems and works really hard at all aspects of his game, attacking and defending."
PPCFC v Chonburi: Chanvuthy, Sovann (K Chhaya 90+3), Phearath, Chanchav, Baraing, Chanpolin (Muslim 89), Sodavid (Chansopheak 86), Sakrovy (Rozak 72), Ponvuthy (Noeut 81), Titchhy (Piphop 61), Senteang. Sub not used: S Samnang. Bookings: None. MOTM: Senteang and Chanvuthy - both had very good games.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Friendly success

PPCFC XI, back row, LtoR: Srin, Gibbs, Bosma, Oliveira, Kim, Boris (capt). Front: Sosela, Pisa, Soksela, Suhana, Sokheng - click to enlarge
Result: Phnom Penh Crown XI 6 TriAsia XI 3 (Friendly).

On a sodden RSN Stadium pitch on Sunday morning, a Phnom Penh Crown XI were too strong for TriAsia B in a practice match for players who didn’t appear in the C-League matches yesterday. Crown also gave games to three players who’ve been training with the team in recent days – strikers Koen Bosma, Joey Gibbs and Danish defender Franck Bodjo. Jeongho Kim opened the scoring on 35 minutes when he finished off a Koen Bosma free-kick that the keeper couldn’t hold. Dutch striker Bosma gave Crown a two-goal lead a minute later when he drove home from a Rafael Oliveira pass. Two minutes after the break, Australian Joey Gibbs poked into an open net after Ly Morslim’s shot was saved, and five minutes in, Bosma cracked in his second from Neou Sosela’s pass. TriAsia responded with two goals, the first a penalty before Bosma recorded a hat-trick on the hour with another competent finish. A pass by Gibbs and a strong run into the TriAsia box by Kok Boris, saw the defender score with a clean strike on 77 minutes, while TriAsia netted another late penalty to end the proceedings. 
PPCFC line-up: Soksela, Pisa, Srin (Bodjo 46), Boris, Kim, Sokheng (Dara 66), Suhana (Morslim 46), Oliveira, Sosela, Bosma, Gibbs. Goals: Kim (35), Bosma 3 (36, 50, 60), Gibbs (47), Boris (77).

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Crown slip up

PPCFC v Svay Rieng line-up, back row, LtoR: Obadin, Makara, Thierry, Bisan, Borey, Ary. Front: Dara, Da, Sothy, Pellegrino, Sokumpheak - click to enlarge
Match Result: Phnom Penh Crown 2 Svay Rieng 3 (Metfone C-League).
Phnom Penh Crown slipped to their first defeat in 16 matches and their first reversal in Round 2 of the Championship, which they had already guaranteed themselves with their win over NagaCorp last week. Kok Boris was suspended so coach Sam Schweingruber sprang a surprise by slotting Bin Thierry alongside Odion Obadin as the central defensive pairing. Hong Pheng missed the game as he was at a wedding. It took a while for the game to warm up before George Bisan's shot was blocked by James Adekunle and Obadin cleared the danger from Prak Mony Udom's low cross into the six-yard area. The best opportunity fell to Dzarma Bata when a fortunate rebound off Ouk Sothy fell into his path but he slipped his shot wide of Yok Ary and the upright. Ary looked a bit uncomfortable as he fumbled a low shot from distance by Nob Tola around the post, before an unfortunate clash required Svay Rieng to change their goalkeeper after just twenty minutes. Khim Borey slotted a pass through to Sothy but keeper Aim Sovannarath came out quickly to collect, but also got caught by Sothy's boot on his head and required stitches in a wound. Sar Sophea replaced him in goal. Bisan's long range free-kick was deflected for a corner and then his run across the pitch, exchanging passes with Adriano Pellegrino and Leng Makara, ended with the striker firing well wide of the target. A few minutes later Pellegrino played a one-two with Bisan and let fly from 25 yards, though his drive whistled a foot over the cross-bar. Borey's long ball send Bisan scampering clear on the left touchline but his sprint into the box was ended with a heavy touch allowing Sophea to collect. Bata forced a one-handed save from Ary though a raised flag meant it didn't count.

On 33 minutes Crown opened the scoring when Kouch Sokumpheak's lobbed pass, aimed at Bisan, found the head of Seuy Visal and in trying to direct his header to Sophea, sent it inside the far post for an own goal. It took just two minutes for Svay Rieng to equalise. Udom's curling free-kick was forced in at close range by Adekunle's high foot though Crown complained bitterly to referee Sang Sopheak that the scorer's foot was dangerously high, with a mark on Ary's ribcage to back up their claims. He waved aside the appeals. Stung by the decision, Crown forced the pace with halftime approaching. Borey released Bisan again and this time the striker cut inside but couldn't find the power to beat Sophea. Bisan nearly turned provider when his through ball looked to have caught out the Svay Rieng defence with Pellegrino looking to get a crucial touch, only for Sophea to clear the ball to safety off the Australian's toes. Udom's curler narrowly avoided the post after Tola had set him up and to close the first-half, Makara blasted well over after Pellegrino's shot was deflected into his path. It was all-square at the interval.

Crown will be disappointed to concede just three minutes after the restart as Svay Rieng broke, Tola laid the ball into the path of Bata, and he made no mistake, forcing the ball past Ary, to take him well clear of Bisan in the race for the Golden Boot award. Responding well to the reverse, Visal was forced to head the ball away from danger from Borey's cross, though at the other end it needed a timely intervention by Thierry to clear a similar situation. Bata's touch let him down as Udom sent him clear and Ary came out quickly to collect at the striker's feet. A trademark Pellegrino free-kick from 35 yards out looked destined for the net from Sokumpheak's flicked header but Sophea dived full-length to divert it around the post. Pellegrino's corner was met by Borey's head at the near post and though Sophea's stop gave Makara a close range header, he missed the target and sent the golden opportunity over the cross-bar. On 63 minutes, Crown got the goal their pressure deserved. Pellegrino, 30 yards out on the touchline, floated over a free-kick which missed everyone except Makara at the far post and his hook back across goal was nodded in by Sokumpheak from a couple of yards out to draw the teams level again. Nofiu Lawal swept a cleared corner past the post through a crowded area, before another Pellegrino corner was headed goalwards by Sokumpheak but stopped on the line by Visal and cleared. 

Ngoy Srin tried his luck from 35 yards when a poor clearance landed at his feet, but a back-pedalling Sophea saw it all the way and fingertipped it over the bar. A foul on Sothy gave Borey an opportunity for one of his curling free-kicks but he pulled it left and past the upright from 25 yards. The winning goal came out of the blue with twelve minutes to go. A long ball down the middle saw Ary race out to kick it away, only for the ball to hit Bata and ricochet into the path of substitute Samouen Pidor, who calmly volleyed it into the empty net. It was rough luck on Ary and his Crown teammates who quickly recovered their composure to take the game to their opponents. Pellegrino found Borey and he took aim from 30 yards only for his ferocious drive to strike the wrong side of the post. Sophea, not involved at all, remained motionless on the ground for two minutes as Svay Rieng played for time. Neou Sosela sent a hit and hopeful shot wide before the final chance of the match fell to Borey. Two minutes into stoppage time, Sokumpheak forced his way at the heart of the defence and slipped the ball to his teammate, but Borey's dipping drive was tipped aside by Sophea and referee Sopheak had seen enough and blew for time, and the end of Crown's nine-match winning sequence.

Coach Sam Schweingruber had this to say about the game. "The game was quite good, I thought they had a bit more in midfield, they keep the ball well and were a bit better organised in the 1st half. We had a couple of good opportunities and were a bit unlucky a couple of times. We got a fortunate goal and then they got one that shouldn't have counted for a high foot, though it was poor defending by us. I was quite happy with our possession, rotations and general build-up play. We made a little mistake at the start of the 2nd half and were too far away from Bata, and he showed why he's the top scorer. I was unhappy with that. We equalised, had more opportunities, we were the better team at that stage. Then as we were deciding on our next change, their third goal came. We did really well playing from the back today and Ary had some really good moments helping the build-up. And then to have this fairly easy ball, which he kicked at Bata and it bounced perfectly for a one-touch finish. These things happen. We tried to equalise, there wasn't much between the two teams and I'm disappointed we couldn't get a result out of this game. We deserved another goal." 
PPCFC v SVR: Ary, Dara (Srin 54), Da (Sosela 83), Thierry, Obadin, Sokumpheak, Sothy, Borey, Makara, Pellegrino, Bisan. Subs not used: Yaty, Soksela, Pisa, Morslim, Sokheng, Suhana. Bookings: None. MOTM: Pellegrino - for his 2nd half prompting. Goals: OG (33), Sokumpheak (63).

Monday, July 14, 2014

It's Crown's Championship

Week 20 and PPCFC have clinched the Championship with 2 games to go
Phnom Penh Crown clinched the Metfone C-League Championship with two games to spare - their 5th title success - with a 1-0 win over NagaCorp on Saturday evening under the floodlights of the Olympic Stadium. On a winning streak that has seen them forge ahead in the title race, Crown were nervous knowing that they had to find a win from their final three games and found it hard to break down Naga until captain Kouch Sokumpheak stole in unnoticed to head home just after the half-time break. It proved to be the only goal of the game and Crown's players and staff reacted wildly to the final whistle when it came. And why not. Their championship is well deserved. On Sunday, Boeung Ket, who had been Crown's closest chasers scored a predictable win against relegation certainties Kirivong, thanks in the main to a brace from Khuon Laboravy. But they are unable to catch the runaway leaders and will have to settle for the runners-up spot. Svay Rieng have upped their game in the last few weeks with striker Dzarma Bata sprinting ahead in the race for the Golden Boot, and helped himself to a tap-in for goal number 21 in the 3-0 defeat of BBU on Saturday. Nofiu Lawal, who was later red-carded for punching an opponent, and Samoeun Pidor netted the others. The Army showed no mercy towards bottom club Albirex Niigata, scoring with the last kick of the game to win 2-1. Sen Sarak had earlier put Albirex ahead with a superb strike. TriAsia were too strong for AEU winning 1-0 with a goal from Sok Chanrasmey. On Sunday Western Uni managed a creditable goalless draw with National Police, who have fallen off the pace in recent weeks.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Crowned as Champions

PPCFC v Naga, back row, LtoR: Srin, Boris, Bisan, Obadin, Borey, Ary. Front: Suhana, Sothy, Da, Sokumpheak, Pellegrino (and mascots) - click to enlarge

Match Result: Phnom Penh Crown 1 NagaCorp 0 (Metfone C-League).
Phnom Penh Crown's challenge for the Metfone C-League, winning all 8 matches in the second round of competition, gave them the comfortable position of having to win just one of their final three league matches to claim the title. With a full complement of players to choose from, only a late concern for Hong Pheng left him on the bench as coach Sam Schweingruber went with his tried and tested line-up, led out by captain Kouch Solumpheak. Opponents NagaCorp included no less than six ex-Crown players in their squad. Naga kicked off but it was Crown's Sos Suhana who had the first shot at goal in the second minute, but it was an easy pick-up for Samrith Seiha. Khim Borey cut in and let fly, but it sailed wide and Chhim Sambo gave an easy catch for Yok Ary at the other end. On fifteen minutes, George Bisan took a pass from Sokumpheak, turned his marker and sent in a dipping, bouncing shot that Seiha just managed to tip around the post. Five minutes later, Kok Boris rose high to head Borey's center firmly against the cross-bar and as the ball bounced down on the goal-line, the danger was cleared. It was the highlight of an otherwise nervy and inconclusive first-half for both teams. Odion Obadin stood strong to head away a dangerous Sun Sopanha corner and moments later Sun Sovannrithy found room in the box but headed over the top with Naga's best opportunity of the half. Borey sent a cross-shot across Seiha's goal, a rebound off Ngoy Srin sailed over the bar and Adriano Pellegrino's center was inches away from Bisan's boot in front of goal as referee Chy Samedy blew for half-time. 

Pheng replaced Srin at the break as Crown showed their determination to get the all-important win they required. Pellegrino tried a long range effort that was well wide, and Bisan set himself up for a drive from the edge of the box that took a deflection off Zogbe Anderson and cleared the bar by a matter of inches. With their next attack, Crown at last broke the deadlock and sent their fans into raptures in the grandstand. Pellegrino, as he has done so many times, sent over another of his pinpoint crosses from the right flank and Sokumpheak timed his run to perfection, sending his header past Seiha and into the corner of the net from twelve yards. A fitting reward for the captain who covered every blade of grass on the pitch. Bisan was next to threaten as he drove goalwards from 20 yards out with Seiha parrying and collecting at the second attempt. Sovannrithy headed wide and Ary dealt comfortably with a long range effort from Jang In Yong as the clock ticked down. In stoppage time, Anderson got a touch to a cross but steered it wide and with the final action of the game, Seiha rushed out of his area and clattered into Bisan, as the striker got to the ball first but sent it looping wide of the target. The whistle blew and Crown's players and staff began wild celebrations on the pitch as the three points confirmed their fifth Championship victory, with two matches still left to play.

Head coach Sam Schweingruber gave his verdict in the midst of the celebrations. "It's a great relief finishing the job in the first Final and not having to go through another two Finals. Lots of emotions, pressure, it's been building up over the week, trying to prepare, do everything right and hoping things will work out. The game was more difficult than I expected. They had almost nothing but we still couldn't create the chances and opportunities that we are used to. At the end of the day, just very happy, thankful to the fans who came today to support us, they were really amazing - and really thankful to the players who put in 90 minutes of excellent fight, showing the right spirit, showing the discipline and showing the commitment of champions. I was very happy with what we displayed, but we can clearly see we have a long way to go if we want to play at the next level. We have to get a lot more comfortable to play our style when we're under pressure, when things are a bit shaky because of the emotions, we have to develop that. Hopefully we can move forward as a club and the team can establish even more victories for the future of Crown."
PPCFC v NagaCorp: Ary, Srin (Pheng 46), Da, Boris, Obadin, Sokumpheak, Sothy, Borey, Suhana (Thierry 88), Pellegrino (Makara 90+2), Bisan. Subs not used: Yaty, Soksela, Dara, Pisa, Sokheng, Sosela, Morslim. Bookings: Boris. MOTM: Sokumpheak - the game's winning goal. Goal: Sokumpheak (53). 
Celebrations after the final whistle - courtesy of Masayori Ishikawa

Early hopes dashed

PPCFC Academy v Chonburi, back row, LtoR: K Chhaya, Senteang, Chanpolin, Sakrovy, S Samnang, Sovann (capt). Front: Phearath, Rozak, Noeut, Ponvuthy, Baraing - click to enlarge
Match Result: Phnom Penh Crown Academy 3 Chonburi Thailand 8 (Asia U16 Champions Trophy).
For their final home game in the Asia U-16 Champions Trophy, Crown coach Bouy Dary was without midfield regulars In Sodavid and Men Piphop and wideman Sraing Titchhy all because of injury. Chonburi were the 2013 champions and are topping Group B once again, and are odds-on favourites to take the 2014 championship as well. Crown kicked off on another hot morning at the Olympic Stadium and surprised their opponents by taking a very early lead, with less than two minutes played on the clock. Chhuot Senteang spotted the run of Mat Sakrovy and picked him out beautifully with his pass, Sakrovy's first touch seemed to be too much but he got his toe to the ball before the Chonburi goalkeeper and rolled it under his body. In the 13th minute Chonburi showed their prowess as Sittichok Paso let fly with a low shot into the corner past a hapless Svang Samnang in the Crown goal. Autthagowit Jantod headed a corner in Samnang's hands before Paso netted his second with a sweet first touch from Samart Authairatsamee's cross that eluded the Crown defence on 23 minutes. Visiting keeper Chakhon Philakhlang was off his line quickly to snuff out danger as Senteang raced onto Kim Chhaya's through ball, but Chonburi remained a constant threat each time they attacked. Chhaya got in the way of Saharat Sontisawat's fierce strike and Samnang was also quick to deny Kritthanaphong Paidaen's burst into the box. On 38 minutes, the league leaders pierced the home defence for a third time as
Authairatsamee got behind Long Phearath and though Samnang saved his shot, the ball squirmed under his body for Paso to make it a hat-trick with the easiest of tap-ins. Chhaya, playing in a wide right position for the first-time, sent a 30-yard shot harmlessly wide and then forced a near post save from Philakhlang in stoppage time, as the keeper reacted quickly to touch the shot around the upright.

Suon Noeut failed to re-appear for the second-half with Ken Chansopheak taking his place, to the delight of the crowd. Crown started the second period more brightly, with Chhaya's short corner to Seut Baraing catching the visitors unaware, but Baraing's shot was easily collected by the Thai stopper. In the fifth minute after the restart, Chonburi reasserted themselves due to some sloppy defensive play. Chansopheak's backpass was too weak, Paso challenged Samnang as the keeper went for it with his feet and the Thai striker rolled in the loose ball for his, and his team's fourth. Choun Chanchav replaced the limping Ouk Sovann, and Crown awoke from their slumber when Senteang got to Sakrovy's through pass but couldn't steer his shot on target. The partnership worked a treat a minute later as Sakrovy swerved past two defenders and rolled a pass into the path of Senteang, who made no mistake with his shot from ten yards to make it 4-2 on 57 minutes. The goal sparked the crowd into life, Orn Chanpolin sent a long distance effort into the keeper's hands and Chonburi quickly picked up three bookings for late challenges as Crown raised the tempo. In between, Sakrovy's free-kick to the far post was an inch or two from Chhaya's desperate dive but the extra effort was negated as Chonburi broke to extend their lead on 61 minutes. Authairatsamee's pass sent Paidaen sprinting clear from the half-way line, with a hint of offside, and the striker calmly slid his shot under Samnang's dive for their fifth. Paso sent a free-kick a foot wide before Crown again raised hopes when Chhaya won the ball, fed Senteang and he lashed the ball in from fifteen yards on 64 minutes. The goals were coming thick and fast, and as soon as the home team were looking to get back into the game, Chonburi showed their clinical side to put it further out of reach. Just a minute after Senteang's second, Paso netted his fifth and the best goal of the game, as a superb one-touch move carved open the home defence, leaving the hotshot to smash the ball home to make it 6-3. Pov Ponvuthy slipped in Senteang and the striker was denied an attempt on goal by Jantod's timely intervention.

Chonburi were not finished and Paidaen made Chanchav's weak clearance look even worse by quickly poking the ball past Samnang and in off the post on 69 minutes. Baraing came to the rescue to deny Nititorn Sripramarn with a last-ditch tackle, and Samnang held Paidaen's low drive as Chonburi created havoc each time they attacked. A flurry of substitutions allowed both teams some breathing space, but a rare mistake by Baraing saw Peerapat Kaminthong strike a shot which Samnang blocked well. The visitors final goal of the game came with three minutes of the match to go. Panawat Ketmala sped onto a through ball, evaded Chanchav and slipped the ball under Samnang to give Chonburi eight goals in a game for the second week running. Before the final whistle, home substitutes Theang Chhaya and Yeu Muslim both sent shots over the cross-bar, but the home side were well beaten by a team looking serious contenders for their second successive trophy. The Crown Academy must travel to Thailand for the return game in a week's time. Coach Dary gave this assessment. "Both teams didn't play their best but Chonburi finished their chances well and they have strikers who can do that. First half we scored early on but then we took it too easy, not serious or strong enough and let them score three easy goals. In the second-half I was more pleased with how we played, though whenever we scored, we made a mistake and they scored again. We played some good football, everyone wanted to fight back, which is what I want to see. Overall, we should do better than this." Crown donated $270 from the gate receipts and 60 One World Futbols to the Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children's Rights, from where thirty children joined us for the match.
PPCFC Academy v Chonburi: S Samnang, Noeut (Chansopheak 46), Phearath, Baraing, Sovann (Chanchav 50), Chanpolin, Sakrovy (V Samnang 87), Rozak (T Chhaya 68), Ponvuthy, K Chhaya, Senteang (Muslim 75). Subs not used: Chanvuthy, Piphop. Bookings: None. MOTM: Baraing - fought for everything. Goals: Sakrovy (2), Senteang 2 (52, 64).   
The Chonburi starting line-up v PPCFC

Our guests were from the Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children's Rights

Friday, July 11, 2014

Previewing the game

Sam Schweingruber

Bottom-line, if Phnom Penh Crown beat NagaCorp in tomorrow's late Metfone C-League clash under floodlights at Olympic Stadium, then they will be champions with two games to spare. If they don't win they have games against Svay Rieng and Boeung Ket to get the three points they need to make sure of the title, their first since 2011. Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber gave his thoughts to the Phnom Penh Post this week on tomorrow's mouth-watering clash between the first and third-placed teams.
“We are close to receiving the rewards for our hard work over the last 20 months. Yes, we know that we are facing the strongest opponents of this year for all of our final three matches and will take preparation as seriously as we can and not be affected by the comfortable view of the table. If we approach our game the way we have recently, I am confident we can lift the title as expected by many of our fans. But it will certainly not be easy as each of our opponents will do everything possible to see us stumble. While Naga’s and Boeung Ket's form has recently not been their best, Svay Rieng have shown similar qualities to last year when they were Champions - so we have been warned!”
"For the first time in many months every player is available for selection and I will have to make the right choices for this match, which we will treat as a Final. We have won all our 8 games of the second round and established some good ways to control games and get the results we want. We won't make many changes to the way we have recently played. For our first game with Naga, we were disappointed with the result and at the same time were fortunate as they missed a late penalty. Hopefully we can learn from that and find a way to overcome the best defence of the league (only conceded 13 goals so far) and show that we have the best attack (we've scored 52 goals) and score the goals we need."
"Obviously our foreign players have been important for us, just looking at George's 19 goals, the many assists by Adriano and the defence organised around Tony. Our Cambodian players have also developed very well which is recognized by the national team coach in selecting so many to his squad. In each position we have options and players have to fight for a starting spot, which creates healthy competition. The work rate and discipline of our team is very good and the unity is an additional strong factor. The coaching staff have as a team managed with hard work to get the team on a nice level in all aspects of the game and we are looking forward to further strengthen the ability of Phnom Penh Crown. Difficulties come along during a season, key players are injured or not fit and players suspended, but each time less recognized players have stepped up and did a good job for us."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The race is on

Dzarma Bata, knocking in the goals for Svay Rieng
The race for the Golden Boot award - the top scorer - in the Cambodian League just got much more intense as Svay Rieng's hotshot striker Dzarma Bata landed a five-goal haul against a sorry Kirivong team yesterday in a 9-0 thrashing to take him one goal ahead of Phnom Penh Crown netbuster George Bisan. Both strikers are Nigerian and Bisan has been knocking the goals in for the last three seasons in Cambodia with three different clubs, while Bata is a relative newcomer, only arriving in February. As Crown have forged ahead in the race to land the Championship title, Bisan has been instrumental in their success with his 19 goals. Svay Rieng, last year's champions, had a poor start to the season and were quickly knocked out of the AFC President's Cup and Singapore Cup but Bata hasn't let that stop him from regularly finding the back of the net and that five-goal blast against Kirivong has put him on 20 goals* for the season with a few hat-tricks thrown in for good measure. The tall 21-year-old was playing with Fico Tay Ninh in the Vietnam League 2 before crossing the border. Born in Kaduna, Nigeria, he went through the well-known Pepsi Academy system and tried out for the Nigerian U-17 and U-20 teams, including a stint in France, before joining Tay Ninh. Crown and Svay Rieng meet a week on Saturday, so the two hotshots will come face to face with each other. In the last meeting between the two sides, Bata netted a hat-trick inside the first-half  and Bisan didn't register on the scoresheet. It promises to be an exciting end to the season as far as the race for the Golden Boot is concerned.
* There is no official confirmation of the goals tally from the Football Federation.

Strengthening their grip

Week 19 of the MCL campaign, courtesy of
It sure looks like Phnom Penh Crown are in no mood to let their grip on the Metfone C-League Championship slip, condemning National Police to a 3-1 defeat in Saturday's clash at Olympic Stadium under lights. George Bisan, with goal number 19, Odion Obadin and on the hour, captain Kouch Sokumpheak getting on the Crown scoresheet, with Tith Dina scoring the Police's consolation. It was their 7th straight win. In contrast, Boeung Ket were frustrated by the Army on Sunday and have conceded that their challenge has faltered beyond repair, after a surprise 1-1 draw in a game they expected to win. The gap between the Rubbermen and Crown is now seven points and one more win in their next three games will give Crown the crown, so to speak. Mohammed Tijani scored for Boeung Ket but didn't know much about it, as an attempted clearance struck his body and rebounded back into the net. The leveller from Ung Dara came courtesy of a penalty conceded by Pheak Rady. Boeung Ket groaned as Army rode out a late surge to share the spoils. Elsewhere, BBU managed a 2-1 win over strugglers Kirivong with Thai Phalla and Takahito Ota scoring. A late late strike from Yusuke Ueda helped bottom dwellers Albirex Niigata to a 2-2 draw with AEU, but it won't help their plight as they are doomed to relegation. Western Uni did their survival hopes a power of good when Reo Nakamura's late goal proved decisive in beating TriAsia 1-0.
In Wednesday's midweek game, former champions Svay Rieng gave Kirivong a lesson they won't forget quickly, thrashing them 9-0 with Nigerian striker Dzarma Bata netting a personal tally of 5 goals to take him above Crown's George Bisan in the race for the Golden Boot. Prak Mony Odom grabbed a brace, with Nob Tola and Samoeun Pidor adding the others. In the later game, NagaCorp and National Police rode out a boring 0-0 draw.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Crown in mini World Cup

PPCFC players with children from Chrey Thom
Phnom Penh Crown spent yesterday afternoon in Chrey Thom, Kandal province near the border with Vietnam, on another of their community engagement missions. The senior Crown players and coaches joined in with 160 local children, aged 12-15, and took part in a mini World Cup fun competition, as part of Sports for Social Change by Volunteers In Asia (VIA), an exchange involving coaches from USA, Vietnam and Cambodia, including Crown's own Academy assistant coach Sorn Srey Teav and Samy Seng from SALT Academy. The coaches have held football camps in Tra Vinh in Vietnam and Chrey Thom in Cambodia that involve football skills and life skills development, and yesterday was a fun element which included all of the Crown first-team squad, taking a break from their league championship battle, and children from Sampeau Meas Elementary and Sampeau Poun High Schools. We gave the schools some of the One World Futbols that Crown is distributing to schools and organisations across Cambodia. Everyone had a great time. Pictures by Sabay/Sovanna Kem of the activities.

Phnom Penh Crown are actively engaged in a series of community and socially responsible projects including HIV Prevention, fighting malnutrition, delivering One World Futbols to encourage everyone to play football across Cambodia and other activities.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

3rd success on the road

PPCFC v Mandalay, back row, LtoR: S Samnang, Baraing, Chanchav, Senteang, Titchhy, Chanpolin (capt). Front Row: Sodavid, Piphop, Ponvuthy, Noeut, Phearath - click to enlarge
Match Result: Phnom Penh Crown Academy 1 Mandalay Academy - Myanmar 0 (Asia U-16 Champions Trophy).
 Taking their away victories in the Asia U-16 Champions Trophy to three, the Crown Academy produced another hard working away performance and will return home Sunday with another three points to their name after Chhuot Senteang's goal separated the two teams in Yangon. It was Senteang's 4th goal of the ACT campaign and will give the team a confidence boost with two more matches left to play. The Academy were without captain Ouk Sovann and Kim Chhaya, both ruled out with leg injuries earlier in the day and were looking to add to their victories on the road in China and Laos. They began brightly and went close with attempts from Chhuot Senteang and captain Orn Chanpolin. It was the same two players who split open the Mandalay defence on 37 minutes with Chanpolin's precise pass finding Senteang inside the box and he made sure with a great finish. After the break, the home side came into the game more, putting Crown under pressure but were restructed to ineffectual long range shooting that caused little worry for goalkeeper Svang Samnang. At the other end Senteang and substitute Ken Chansopheak had opportunities to extend the lead but couldn't make their efforts count. After their third win on their travels, coach Bouy Dary offered up praise for his team's hard work, team spirit and their adventurous style of football, particularly in the first-half. Senteang, Pov Ponvuthy, Sraing Titchhy and Chanpolin came in for particular praise from the coach. The Crown Academy will now finish with two matches against last year's champions and Group B leaders Chonburi from Thailand, both home and away. 
PPCFC Academy line-up: S Samnang, Noeut, Phearath, Chanchav, Baraing, Chanpolin, Sodavid (Rozak 90), Piphop, Ponvuthy (Chansopheak 84), Titchhy, Senteang (Muslim 78). Subs not used: Chanvuthy, Sakrovy, V Samnang, T Chhaya. Bookings: None. MOTM: Chanpolin - played a captain's role. Goal: Senteang (37).

Saturday, July 5, 2014

7 wins on the trot

PPCFC v Nat Police, back row, LtoR: Boris, Pheng, Obadin, Bisan, Ary, Borey. Front Row: Pellegrino, Da, Suhana, Sosela, Sokumpheak - click to enlarge
Match Result: Phnom Penh Crown 3 National Police 1 (Metfone C-League).
With three players missing due to suspension - Bin Thierry, Ouk Sothy and Ngoy Srin - coach Sam Schweingruber switched Neou Sosela for Leng Makara in his starting eleven for this potentially tricky game with National Police at Olympic Stadium under lights. Sosela is a former Police player. Crown's Khim Borey sent a long distance effort wide, while Police's Noun Borey aimed a low drive straight at Yok Ary as the match took a while to get into its rhythm. It took the league's leading goalscorer, George Bisan to bring the game to life, when he smashed in his 19th goal of the campaign, on 24 minutes. Borey moved into the middle and laid the ball back for the Nigerian hotshot to strike a 25-yard volley into the bottom left corner leaving goalkeeper Yasuyuki Yoshida clutching at straws. It was just what the game needed. Ieng Tin cynically took out Kouch Sokumpheak on the half-way line as the Crown captain scurried clear and having already been booked, Tin was fortunate to escape a second caution. Bisan was on target again with a header from Hong Pheng's center but Yoshida clutched it under the bar. At the other end, Ary had to be alert to fingertip a Samuel Oseika looping header over the top. With Crown on top, Adriano Pellegrino's free-kick found the head of Odion Obadin and his nod across the box found Bisan, but the striker swung his boot and miskicked. Thirty seconds later Sosela's pass sent Bisan on a charge but as he let fly, a long leg from Say Piseth saved Police's blushes. That let-off didn't last long. From the Pellegrino corner, Obadin dived forwards to head the ball past Yoshida from eight yards out, with five minutes of the half remaining. It was Obadin's fourth of the season, all of them headers. Bisan broke away again and attempted to set up Pellegrino but without success and the Australian then sent a shot on the turn straight at Yoshida. Noun Borey sent a header well wide in a rare Police break and the final action of the first-half, saw Sosela's cross deflected off Tin and spin inches wide of the near post.

It needed a Police revival at the start of the second-half to make inroads into Crown's lead and though they huffed and puffed, it never came. Two Borey free-kick's went straight to Ary and wide of the post before Crown took back the initiative and Obadin headed over the top from Pellegrino's deep corner. Police full-back Ieng Tin's rash challenges were his undoing, as he again caught Sosela late and referee Tuy Vichheka was spot-on to produce a yellow followed by a red card. That was two minutes before Crown netted their third goal on the hour. Sosela fed Pellegrino and his sublime chip over the defence was chested down by Sokumpheak, who took an extra touch and calmly rolled the ball wide of Yoshida. Crown were looking to put the result beyond doubt as Sokumpheak released Bisan through the middle but Yoshida stood firm and stopped the striker's shot with his feet. Barely ten seconds later, Pellegrino ghosted past the last defender but also found Yoshida equal to his goal-bound shot. Police had no answer to the waves of Crown attacks and Pellegrino slipped a pass wide to Sosela but the tiny winger's aim was off and he blazed the ball over the cross-bar. Bisan moved onto a pass from Borey and his powerful drive was fumbled by Yoshida, though the goalkeeper produced a dramatic fingertip save two minutes later as Bisan raced onto Sokumpheak's pass and unleashed a ferocious drive which the Japanese stopper somehow kept out. A contender for save of the season without a doubt.   
Pellegrino sent an effort from distance harmlessly wide and another of his dangerous corners saw substitute Leng Makara head the first of a trio of good chances over the top at the far post. Police's Say Piseth was fortunate to only see yellow for a shocking late tackle on Sokumpheak. With fifteen minutes of the game remaining, Police were offered a lifeline when Tith Dina collected a ball through the middle and slotted his shot past Ary. However, Crown continued to create chances, with Borey's free-kick headed back across goal by Bisan and Makara sent an overhead kick ballooning over the bar. Next, Sokumpheak slalomed through three challenges and set up Makara, only for his fierce drive to clear the cross-bar. Ary watched a 45-yard volley from Chhin Meng Seang dip at the last moment and touched it over the top, while Bisan was again on target with a powerful shot but Piseth's foot deflected it wide. In stoppage time of seven minutes, Ary was again alert to keep out two goal-bound strikes in a crowded penalty area, as Crown saw out their seventh straight victory and extended their lead at the top of the Metfone C-League table to eight points Head coach Sam Schweingruber reflected on the chances that got away. "The most difficult part of the game is scoring goals. Its been the story of our season. Its easier to defend and park the bus than create chances and break down a fairly decent defence. We've been struggling, not for the first time, to put the ball into the net. For example, George scored the most difficult chance he had, while the later chances he had were actually easier. Police didn't have anything to threaten us and it was a completely dominant first half from us. Good possession, the goals we scored were great and we should've scored more from the chances we had. We'll take the positives that we created those chances, so that's very good. Just sad that we didn't score more."
PPCFC v Nat Police: Ary, Da, Pheng, Boris, Obadin, Sokumpheak, Suhana, Borey, Sosela (Makara 70, Pisa 89)), Pellegrino (Sokheng 74), Bisan. Subs not used: Yaty, Soksela, Dara, Morslim. Bookings: None. MOTM: Sokumpheak - a captain's performance in every respect. Goals: Bisan (24), Obadin (40), Sokumpheak (60).

Friday, July 4, 2014

Miracle required

The current ACT2014 Group B table
The Academy of Phnom Penh Crown travel to Myanmar this weekend to play their third last Asia U-16 Champions Trophy fixture in Yangon against the Mandalay Academy. They still have a very slim chance of being one of the two teams that progress from Group B into the competition's semi-finals, but that chance will be extinguished if Thailand's Chonburi beat Guangdong FA from China this weekend, which is expected. Not only would it need a miracle for the Chinese to win their first match, but Crown would then need to beat Chonburi both home and away. A very tall order considering Chonburi lead the group with an undefeated record after seven matches and were also the champions of the ACT 2013 edition. They are undoubtedly one of the very best Academy teams in Southeast Asia. Bouy Dary's youngsters travel to Myanmar boosted by two consecutive wins, in Laos and last week at home to Guangdong, and will be looking for revenge after Mandalay won 1-0 in Phnom Penh a few weeks ago. Captain Ouk Sovann and Kim Chhaya are doubtful with injuries but have travelled with the squad. Whatever the outcome, they face Chonburi in the final home game of the competition in a week's time (12 July) and will expect a big crowd for the game, with the public always keen to witness a Cambodian victory over Thai opponents.