Saturday, January 8, 2011

All smiles for Sokumpheak

Kouch Sokumpheak nursing an ankle strain after bagging 4 goals against Neak Khiev
True to form, Kouch Sokumpheak produced the goods on his return to his hometown, with all four of Phnom Penh Crown's goals in their 4-0 Hun Sen Cup Group D victory over Kompong Cham's Neak Khiev on Friday morning. Born in Kompong Thom, Sokumpheak relished the opportunity to play in front of family and friends and despite a sore ankle picked up in training the day before, played through the pain barrier to grab all the glory. If Crown thought it would be a stroll against Neak Khiev, they were made to think again. The club has the backing of one of the province's rubber barons and have invested with a view to getting C-League status this season. Coupled with a pitch that was hard, uneven and mostly sand and mud, a strong wind in their favour gave the Blue Dragons an advantage in the 1st half though it was Crown who settled quicker and took the lead after just three minutes. San Narith swung in a left wing center and Sokumpheak's flicked header bounced over the top of goalkeeper Chea Sojeun's despairing dive and into the far corner. Savy Setsody and Thang Sul fluffed opportunities for Neak Khiev before Hok Visokra pulled off a smart point-blank stop from Setsody to deny them an equaliser. At the other end, Sojeun came out quickly to smother Sun Sopanha's shot after the midfielder had sidestepped two players. Before the break both Tieng Ting and Sokumpheak limped off the field after turning their ankles on the uneven surface.

Seven minutes after the restart, a neat one-two between Sokumpheak and Sok Pheng left the hometown striker in space and he netted with a curling shot around the keeper. Another six minutes later and Sokumpheak claimed his hat-trick. Tiny pushed forward though his mis-placed pass fell kindly for Sokumpheak, who ghosted past three defenders with ease and fired in from ten yards out for a fine solo goal. Pheng was unlucky not to get his name on the scoresheet when Sojeun kicked his close range shot away after Chan Chaya's effort rebounded off the upright, and then full-back Math Nou got in a last-ditch tackle to deny Pheng after the striker had rounded the goalkeeper. Sokumpheak registered his and Crown's 4th with just four minutes remaining. Pheng went down with a loud shout under a challenge from Him Rosithy and referee Hun Veasna pointed to the penalty spot, from which Sokumpheak duly despatched the spot-kick. Bookings for Sopanha (swinging arm) and Chaya (retaliation) were a disappointment for Crown's coaching team, who were without head coach Bojan Hodak who's in Croatia taking his UEFA Pro coaching badge, whilst players getting treatment for ankle injuries after the game ended may give Crown a selection headache in their 2nd group match on Sunday against hosts Kompong Thom. Crown will also be without Khim Borey and Suong Virak after the federation put a block on their involvement in the competition pending resolution of a transfer objection from their former club, the Army.
Crown line-up: Visokra, Dara (Vanthan 62), Narith (Sovan 79), Tiny, Sothearith, Sopanha, Narong (Sophat 72), Ratana, Chaya, Pheng, Sokumpheak.
With an 8am kick-off the early morning sun is in the eyes of Crown before the start. [Back row LtoR] Sothearith, Dara, Visokra, Ratana, Sopanha, Pheng [front row] Chaya, Sokumpheak, Narith, Tiny, Narong.

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