Saturday, November 13, 2010

Crown success

PPCFC starting line-up. LtoR: (back) Sopanha, Tiny, Dara, Bunchhay, Ratana, Saidu; (front) Narith, Rathanak, Borey, Sokumpheak, Sothearith (capt).
Phnom Penh Crown made heavy weather of beating their France-based compatriots 2-nil at Olympic Stadium this afternoon and will need to improve in the eyes of their new head coach Bojan Hodak. "I was happy with the result, we won 2-0 and restricted them to one serious shot on goal, but I'm not happy with how we played." The Croatian-born coach identified a few areas needing improvement. "Physically we weren't up to scratch, but I expected that as we've done only fitness tests so far. We're at about 40% of where we need to be but we have 7-8 weeks to get into shape, more than enough time," he said. "Our creativity was poor, technically we are behind where I want to be, our passing will need to improve and our movement without the ball wasn't good enough. But the attitude from the boys was good and we will get much better with a full pre-season behind us," stated the head coach at the final whistle. He also felt that the Olympic Stadium pitch would really benefit from a large roller to rid the surface of some awkward bounces seen during the match.

The highlights of the match against the French-Khmer Select XI occurred at the start and at the end. In between there honestly wasn't much to write home about. On two minutes, Sun Sopanha opened the scoring when he arrowed in a 20-yard free-kick that evaded the defensive wall and the despairing dive of keeper Bun Tea who could only fingertip it into the roof of the net. The free-kick was awarded when Frederic Perrin upended Khim Borey and it was the Cambodian international who should've done better on a hat-trick of occasions later in the game. In a scrappy first-half, Hong Ratana sent a diving header over the crossbar and Borey screwed a shot across the face of goal as Crown kept possession without really forcing the pace. After the break, with Hodak making 4 substitutions before the restart, Crown increased their goal threat but failed to find the target until 2 minutes into time added on. Central defender Tieng Tiny took advantage of Sopanha's absence from the field by taking control of a 20-yard free-kick to send a raking low drive through the wall and past Bun Tea. The French-Khmer goalkeeper had floored a rampaging Kingsley Njoku for the free-kick and in a competitive game would've been shown a red card for his last-man late tackle.

Khim Borey had two good opportunities to get on the scoresheet but showed his rustiness in front of goal. On 54 minutes he swayed his hips past three defenders but smashed his shot well over the crossbar, and on 70 minutes, he touched the ball around Bun Tea but lost his balance, sending his drive high and wide. The tourists from France, all of whom have Khmer ancestry, rallied briefly towards the end and lanky substitute Tarek Rezgui walloped a shot against the cross-bar with seven minutes to go, though that was the sum total of their attacking intent in the whole match. Tes Sophat, on trial, was his usual busy self in midfield for Crown, who gave a run out to their two new Nigerian signings, Kingsley Njoku and Odion Obadin in the 2nd half.
Crown line-up; Peng Bunchhay, Chan Dara, Thul Sothearith, Tieng Tiny, Sani Saidu (Odion Obadin 45); San Narith (Kingsley Njoku 45), Sun Sopanha (Tes Sophat 45), Hong Ratana (Sok Pheng 76), Chim Rathanak ( Chea Virath 45); Khim Borey, Kouch Sokumpheak (Chan Chhaya 62). Subs not used: Hong Visokra, Soeung Vanthan, Sok Sovan, Phoung Narong.
The teams were introduced to the French Embassy representative before the start of the match and the game was played in a good spirit with Chan Dara picking up the only booking for a late challenge just before the break. Crown gave a start to young winger Chim Rathanak who has been sidelined for two years with a knee problem.
The two teams join together in the spirit of pre-match friendship
As the sun beats down, the PPC starting line up wait to exchange flowers
PPC President Rithy Samnang greets his own players before kick-off
Crown coaches Vann Piseth and Bojan Hodak (right) speak to the media after the match

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