Saturday, May 7, 2011

Getting into good habits

PPCFC Back Row LtoR: Njoku, Sopanha, Obadin, Narong, Dara, Bunchhay. Front Row:
Tiny, Narith, Chaya, Sokumpheak, Sothearith.
It was a hot one and the players felt it. Today's scorching 2pm kick-off in the Metfone C-League saw Phnom Penh Crown put Chhlam Samuth in their place with a fairly comprehensive 2-0 victory to extend their lead at the top of the table. The former Navy team have done well in their return to the top flight but found the going a lot tougher against the reigning league champions. Crown had too much know-how and guile though the Sea Sharks deserve their dues for not allowing the leaders to run away with it. Crown coach Bojan Hodak made a couple of positional changes, bringing in Chan Chaya and Phoung Narong and adopted a slightly different pattern of play. The Sea Sharks had two half chances in the first twenty minutes and that was about it as the sum of their attacking intent. Maxwell Woko had a header chested off the line by Narong, whilst Meas Sophana poked his shot wide from the edge of the box. They didn't manage to entice Crown keeper Peng Bunchhay into making a save throughout the game. Crown had already escaped the clutches of their opponents on two occasions, with Kingsley Njoku firing inches wide and Chan Chaya reacting too slowly to latch onto a Kouch Sokumpheak through ball. The same two players had further chances which they wasted, Njoku mistiming his shot and Chaya screwing his first-time shot across the face of goal and wide before Crown took the lead on the half hour. Sokumpheak timed his run to perfection to meet a Thul Sothearith through ball, rounded the keeper and then kept his cool to fire his drive past the defender on the goal-line. Two more opportunities came and went before the interval whistle gave the players a well-deserved break from the heat. Njoku pulled out some magic tricks to leave two defenders in his wake to set up Chaya but his drag-back went the wrong side of the upright, whilst Sun Sopanha flashed his shot well wide when he should've set up his teammates.

The second half was pretty similar, with Crown showing all of the attacking intent and Chhlam Samuth finding it tough to make any inroads against a tight Crown back-line. Just after the restart, Sokumpheak set Sopanha free of the Navy defence but his toe-poke went badly awry. Seven minutes into the 2nd half and Crown went two goals ahead. Chan Chaya was clattered by keeper Sam Chamroeun, who was booked, as he reached a Chan Dara pass and the referee pointed to the spot. Tieng Tiny stepped up twice to take two penalties, after the first was ordered to be retaken for encroachment. Both went past Chamroeun in exactly the same spot. Sun Sovannrithy came on for a run around after his recent knee injury and Hong Pheng got his first fifteen minutes as a Crown player, though he missed the opportunity to get a strike on goal when he completely missed Sovannrithy's pull-back late on. 2-0 was the final score as Crown pulled three points clear of the Sea Sharks, who were well beaten on the day. Coach Hodak expressed his pleasure with the improved performance from his team. "It was a better game for us than the last game, we showed improvement and my target is to peak in time for the President's Cup. There are still many things that we can improve, but physically, we were good for 90 minutes, which was a credit to the team in that heat. I dare anyone to stand for 45 minutes in that heat and not feel utterly drained. I commend both teams but especially my own for their strong physical display. It was also important that we made it three games without conceding a goal. This is a good habit to have."
PPCFC line-up: Bunchhay, Dara, Sothearith, Tiny (Sovannrithy 82), Obadin, Narong, Narith, Sopanha, Chaya, Sokumpheak (H Pheng 77), Njoku (Virak 70). Subs not used: Visokra, Bunna, Vanthan, Ratana, Sophanal, Nwafor, Sochivorn, Sophat. Bookings: None.
Crown in the 'tunnel' before the teams enter the pitch area
Crown line-up before the handshakes take place

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