Monday, January 24, 2011

Crown in cruise control

A long distance look at Tieng Tiny's successful spot-kick
There was only ever going to be one winner from the moment Phnom Penh Crown kicked off against the Navy team, Chhlam Samuth, in yesterday's Hun Sen Cup last 16 match-up. Crown kept the ball, waited for the right moment and put the Navy to the sword, without really breaking sweat for much of the game. Crown coach Bojan Hodak declared himself “70% happy with our performance” after watching his team cruise to a 5-1 win to earn themselves a quarter-final tie with Build Bright United, to be played a month from now, on Saturday 26 February (4.30pm). “I wasn’t happy with our defending at a couple of set pieces, one of which they scored from. Though we held the ball nicely, we still try to overcomplicate in the final third instead of playing it simple,” commented the coach at the final whistle. He continued; “The opposition were quite good, they kept their discipline and didn’t make it easy for us. When you look at the number of chances we created, we need to get more clinical and improve our finishing.” As for their next opponents, he said; “We’ll need to focus but we’re confident against anybody.” Crown won't underestimate BBU who played well to kill off Rithy Sen 6-1 on Saturday.
Already without the ex-Army duo of Khim Borey and Suong Virak due to a still-to-be resolved suspension by the football federation, head coach Hodak was also without the injured Chea Virath and wasn’t happy that seven of his players had trained hard yesterday whilst with the national team, instead of resting. Nonetheless, all seven made the starting line-up but the lack of urgency in the 1st half indicated that some players weren't on the top of their game. It was also noticeable in the earlier game with PKR also looking out of sorts, having had six players training with the national squad before the weekend.

Crown dominated possession from the kick-off and Sok Pheng was inches wide with a header which he should’ve done better with. On 26 minutes, Pheng and Hong Ratana combined to set up Kouch Sokumpheak at the far post and the deadly marksman made no mistake, as he chested down a cross and rifled his shot through the keeper’s legs. Four minutes before the half-time break, Crown went two ahead. Sokumpheak was tripped as he burst into the penalty area by Chham Bunchhay and Tieng Tiny, given the responsibility for spot-kicks by his coach, made no mistake from the penalty spot.

Two minutes after the interval and a Pov Samnang header was kept out by the fingertips of Crown keeper Peng Bunchhay as Chhlam Samuth refused to lie down. However, they fell further behind on 71 minutes when a speculative 30-yard strike from Hong Ratana crept through the hands of the 'Sea Sharks' teenage keeper Hel Udom and over the line. Five minutes later and Chhlam Samuth had a moment to savour. Crown switched off at a corner and the ball fell kindly for Ek Sovannara, who netted against his former club, by stabbing the ball home.

Crown continued to spurn chances through Pheng and Chim Rathanak before left-back San Narith went on a remarkable run that brought him a goal on 82 minutes. He collected the ball on the half-way, brushed aside two challenges as he headed for the penalty area, then beat another defender for pace and somehow managed to squeeze his shot into the net from an acute angle. In the first minute of time added on, Kouch Sokumpheak took a pass from Chan Chaya and fired past Hel Udom from the edge of the box to complete the rout and net his tenth goal of the competition. All in all a good day at the office, with Crown's superior class telling throughout and their extra fitness allowing them to add to their tally in the last twenty minutes.

Crown line-up
: Bunchhay, Dara, Narith, Sothearith, Tiny, Narong (Sophat 84), Sopanha, Ratana (Rathanak 77), Chaya, Sokumpheak, Pheng (Vanthan 88). Subs not used: Visokra, Sovan.
Bookings: Narong (foul).
Chhlam Samuth provided the opposition but were undone by a Crown team in cruise control
Thul Sothearith, who's been in excellent form this season, leads out the Crown team in red
Thul Sothearith (red), referee Khoun Ly and Chhlam Samuth's Kao Niso
A quick look at the Crown bench before the game begins. Coach Bojan Hodak is nearest the camera.
Sok Pheng (right) demonstrates the art of pre-match stretching
Kouch Sokumpheak with the ball in the pre-match warm-up, overseen by Bojan Hodak

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