Crown starting XI: Back Row LtoR: Nwafor, Tiny, Obadin, Sopanha, Sothearith, Bunchhay. Front Row: Njoku, Virak, Narith, Dara, SokumpheakSensing his team needed an injection of pace to break the deadlock, Phnom Penh Crown head coach Bojan Hodak sent on Chan Chaya and five minutes after his introduction, the speedy striker came up trumps with the game's only goal. Crown's 1-0 victory over Prek Pra Keila on Sunday took them back to the top of the Metfone C-League table, with a better goal difference (+10) than Chhlam Samuth (who Crown meet next Saturday 7 May) and National Police Commissary. Returning to C-League action after a three-week break, Crown looked a little rusty but still held the upper hand from the start of the game. Suong Virak fizzed an early shot across the face of the goal quickly followed by Kouch Sokumpheak who volleyed a shot over the top and then mis-cued another when set up by Kenneth Nwafor just before the half-hour mark. A trip on Kingsley Njoku gave Sun Sopanha the opportunity to test his range from 25 yards but his curling free-kick flashed inches wide. Prek Pra sought to take advantage of a mis-firing Crown and nearly made them pay just after the half-hour. Philip Ali raced onto a long ball over the top and shaped up to put his team in front, but instead shot weakly into the arms of Crown keeper Peng Bunchhay, who'd been recalled to the starting line-up.
Crown kicked off the second half and the pattern of the game remained unchanged as they dominated possession but lacked a killer touch. Njoku and Virak again failed to find the target though just after the hour, Njoku met a Sopanha corner with a powerful header at the near post, only to see the ball flash agonizingly wide. A training ground routine nearly brought Sokumpheak a goal as he pretended to tie his shoelaces and instead latched onto a Sopanha free-kick only to blast his shot wildly over the top. On 68 minutes, substitute Chan Chaya proved the inspiration with the game's only goal. On the pitch for just five minutes, he'd already been fouled twice by Prek Pra defenders, both of whom were booked. Sokumpheak spotted Chaya lurking out wide on the right and pushed through a pass, which he took in his stride and fired a low drive into the far corner, much to the delight, and relief, of the Crown camp. There was still time for Sokumpheak to replicate the move, meeting a breakaway pass from Njoku, but his fizzing low drive evaded the far post by an inch. Crown coach Hodak was pleased with the victory though highlighted areas to improve. "In the first half we were too slow when we had the ball and then lacked movement without the ball. We were standing still and waiting instead of moving and creating space. The second-half was better. We introduced some pace on the flanks, especially with Chaya, when they began to tire. I knew he might cause them problems as he did it in a friendly against them. You must credit Prek Pra. When you play against a team that has ten men behind the ball, who are fighting for everything, not allowing you a lot of space, that causes pressure when you don't score early. And we didn't play for three weeks as well, so we lost a bit of rhythm to our play due to the break."
Crown line-up: Bunchhay, Dara, Sothearith, Tiny, Obadin, Narith, Nwafor, Virak (Chaya 63), Sopanha, Sokumpheak (Ratana 85), Njoku (Narong 79). Subs not used: Visokra, Bunna, Vanthan, Sophanal, S Pheng, H Pheng, Sophat, Sochivorn. Booking: Narith.