Phnom Penh Crown coach Bojan Hodak wasn't happy despite his team whitewashing Rithysen 9-0 in Sunday's Metfone C-League encounter. "We were more or less good enough in the first half but we found our motivation a problem in the second period. We looked heavy-legged, our final pass was missing and finishing became a problem for us. We slowed down and became too predictable. Defensively, we were good, they only entered our penalty box once in the match, with Ra making a good stop, and in midfield we more or less kept our shape. Kingsley did well with his three goals but he could've scored more and I know he can improve. To be honest, we need the break from playing and training, most of our players, especially those with the national team have been training for five months without a rest, so the break will freshen them up."
Though Crown managed to find the net on nine occasions yesterday, they missed another half dozen presentable chances in the first half and no less than a dozen opportunities after the break. Perhaps the most glaring was in the last minute of the first half when Suong Virak set up Kouch Sokumpheak for a virtual tap-in, but he managed to poke his shot against the upright and away to safety. It was an awful miss and he knew it. The same player had five more chances after the break but his goal-scoring touch had truly deserted him as he because more and more frantic in his attempts on goal. But it was Sokumpheak, regarded as one of the country's best marksmen for the last few seasons, who had opened up the floodgates on 10 minutes, when he was on hand to whack a loose ball past the Rithysen keeper after teammate Kingsley Njoku had failed with two attempts, the second one rebounding off the post straight to his fellow striker who made no mistake. A minute later it was Sokumpheak's visionary 30-yard pass that gave Sun Sopanha the opportunity to fire in an unstoppable shot from a tight angle for number two.
After both Sopanha and Virak had missed, we then enjoyed the eight-minute Kingsley show, where the striker's touch turned to gold with a whistle-stop hat-trick that almost took your breath away. He had Sopanha to thank for his first, with a perfect pass across the face of goal for the Nigerian to add the finishing touch. A hopeful punt forward by Kenneth Nwafor then saw Kingsley use his strength to knock off two defenders, dance his way around the keeper and walk the ball over the line. For his third, the muscly goal-machine took advantage of a defensive blunder to arrow home his hat-trick goal from 10 yards. With everyone expecting him to demonstrate his somersault prowess, he merely collected the ball and calmly returned it to the centre-circle. Rithysen replaced their keeper, Sam Vibol with the more experienced Oum Veasna almost immediately. I think back-ache was the cause.
On the half-hour Rithysen's Tam Yousos brought down Kingsley in what looked like a penalty but the referee pointed to an inch outside the box instead. With all eyes on a Tieng Tiny thunderbolt, Suong Virak stepped up, picked his spot and arrowed his free-kick into an unguarded corner of the net. Five minutes before the break, Rithysen's day went from bad to worse when Yousos was shown a 2nd yellow card, plus a red one, for clattering into Chan Dara, leaving his teammates with a veritable mountain to climb.
Virak was again on target just four minutes after the interval, homing in on a threaded San Narith pass and kept his cool to fire a low shot under the body of Veasna. Then came a string of misses that included two Njoku attempts that brought out the best in Veasna, two more Virak chances that would've seen him claim a hat-trick and a succession of opportunities that Sokumpheak failed to cash in. Sok Pheng replaced Njoku and scored with a ferocious drive from 2o yards that gave Veasna no chance, whilst another substitute, Hong Ratana, finished off a smart Pheng cross with a tap-in to take the score to 9-nil in the first minute of injury time. A tenth goal would've given the Crown squad an extra day's holiday over New Year but they failed to reach double figures.
Two decisions by the officials also meant Crown had to disrupt their team make-up during the game. A booking for Kenneth Nwafor on twelve minutes for an innocuous tackle took away his bite in the middle of the park and he was subbed at half-time. Just after the hour, Sun Sopanha had a minor altercation with the Rithysen bench. It had died down when the 4th official, Yien Kivatanak called the referee over and recommended a booking for Sopanha, even though match referee Sang Sopheak had seen it all. Sopanha was replaced almost straightaway. On the one occasion Rithysen did breach the Crown backline, after a miscue by Dara, Hong Visokra's strong right-hand kept out a vicious Seth Kamel drive. It was too little too late and the team from Kompong Chhnang will have gone home to lick their wounds from this hammering.
Crown line-up: Visokra, Dara, Sothearith, Tiny, Obadin, Narith, Nwafor (Narong 45), Sopanha (Ratana 69), Virak, Sokumpheak, Njoku (S Pheng 77). Subs not used: Bunchhay, Bunna, Sophat, Sochivorn, H Pheng, Sophanal.
Booked: Nwafor, Sopanha, Ratana.