PPC line-up at the start: [back row, LtoR] Tiny, Borey, Ratana, Sopanha, Sothearith, Vanthan [front row] Narith, Chaya, Visokra, Sokumpheak, NarongPhnom Penh Crown coach Bojan Hodak bemoaned his team's wayward finishing after watching Crown dominate the goal chances tally but fail to convert in their 1-1 draw with the Cambodian national team XI at Olympic Stadium this afternoon. "The first 45 minutes was okay. They didn't create any chances, we hit the post , had a few more chances but our finishing was poor. Mostly we controlled the game for 60 minutes but when I started to make changes, you could see some players are not ready for this level. In the first half, if we had creativity and finishing we would've been 2 or 3 up. Overall we're fine, we're good for an hour but we need to use our brain more. We have 3 more games before we begin the Hun Sen Cup and in my mind I have the first 8 or 9 and I'm looking for two more players for my starting line-up."
The match began as it was to continue, with Crown pressing and Khim Borey dragged a shot wide of the far post after a couple of minutes. There were interruptions aplenty with the referee pulling up players for niggling fouls before Chan Chaya skipped his way past two latch-ditch tackles on 20 minutes, only to watch his carefully rolled shot strike the post and rebound into the hands of national keeper Ouk Mic. Two minutes later, Soeng Vanthan's low cross was miscued in front of goal by Hong Ratana and his shot rolled agonizingly wide. Both teams were guilty of pettiness though it was Crown and San Narith who incurred the referee's wrath when he aimed a kick at Keo Chea as he lay on the ball, as the match petered out until half-time.
Hong Ratana sent a header over the top just after the restart, with his teammates Sun Sopanha testing Mic with a drilled 25-yard drive and Kouch Sokumpheak missing the target by inches with a neat flicked header from a Sopanha free-kick. Both coaches rang the changes with a flurry of substitutions but it was Crown's Kingsley Njoku who came closest to opening the scoring when he charged down a Mic clearance but his shot on the rebound was cleared off the line by Pheak Rady. Finally on 82 minutes, Crown broke the deadlock. Sun Sopanha swung over a deep corner and Tieng Tiny had the simple task of guiding his header into an unguarded net for 1-nil. More changes saw Crown blood trialists Samut Dalin and keeper Sin Pisal with five minutes to go and with his first touch, Sok Pheng raced clear only to see national keeper Hem Simay stand firm against his drilled shot.
With a minute to go Tes Sophat, a Crown sub just a few minutes earlier, pushed Tuy Sam in the chest during an altercation on the touchline and was shown a straight red card. It was handbags at five paces but the match had been boiling up since the start. Once the fuss had died down, the Cambodia national team won a corner in the first minute of time added on, and with their first direct effort on goal, Ke Vannak escaped his marker and headed in Chhun Sothearath's floated corner for an undeserved equalizer. The game finished a couple of minutes later, all square at 1-1.
Coach Hodak was philosophical as he explained after the final whistle. "In Cambodian football, I see fouls when there is no reason to foul. It is complete nonsense. Watch a Champions League game and you might see ten fouls per match. Today we saw 30 or 40 fouls. I'm trying to change it but you can't realistically change too much in a month." Did he learn anything from the game? "You always learn from each match. Some players surprised me positively, whilst others aren't ready to play at the very top level but might be useful in the league. A few players are coming back from injury and you can see the quality in some of them."
PPCFC line-up: Visokra (Sin Pisal 85), Sopanha (Sophat 85), Vanthan (Dara 45), Tiny (Sovan 91), Sothearith, Narong, Narith (Obadin 68), Ratana (Rathanak 68), Borey (Samut Dalin 85), Chaya (Njoku 68), Sokumpheak (Pheng 85).
Cambodia national team XI: Mic (Simay 59), Sam, Rady, Bunhieng (Tola 63), Piseth, Sothearath (Soksana 70 [Sothearath 88]), Chea (Sophal Udom 59), Chanrasmey, Soksana (Vannak 59), Chhoeurn, Saray.