Crown line-up: Back Row LtoR: Njoku, Dara, Obadin, Sovannrithy, Sopanha, Bunchhay. Front Row: Tiny, Narong, Narith, Sokumpheak, ChayaHead coach David Booth was pretty pleased with Phnom Penh Crown's opening 45 minutes in their 4-1 victory over the students of Build Bright that kept them on course to retain their Metfone C-League Championship title. "We started very well, almost too well. We were sharp and bright. I told them to get into the box and it worked from the off. The 2nd half didn't go so well though but the result was all important today," quipped Booth as he sped away at the final whistle for a quick trip to see his family in Bangkok. I think most coach's would've been pleased with Crown's start in this match, as they led by three goals inside the first twenty minutes, two of them penalties. The coach was without Sok Pheng (suspension) and Suong Virak (knee injury) and rested Thul Sothearith and Takahito Ota, giving the captain's armband to Sun Sopanha for the first time this season.
Crown got off to the best possible start in the seventh minute when Kouch Sokumpheak was shoved in the back by In Virak as he weaved his way into the box. San Narith took on the spot-kick duty and coolly stepped up to send Hem Simay the wrong way from the penalty spot. A minute after Chhun Sothearath had fluffed BBU's only chance of the first half, snatching his shot wide of the target from close in, Kouch Sokumpheak extended Crown's lead at the other end of the pitch on 13 minutes. Sun Sovannrithy's 40-yard pass over the BBU defence bypassed Simay as he left his area, leaving Sokumpheak with the simple task of steering the ball into the gaping goal. In quick succession both Chan Chaya and Kingsley Njoku broke clear of the BBU backline but failed to find the finish they were seeking with Njoku's the most glaring miss. Sun Sopanha's passes had set up both players and he was at it again on 20 minutes when he released Sokumpheak in on goal and Simay's outstretched arm caught the striker's foot for another penalty award. After the protests died down, Narith confidently placed his second spot-kick to the other side of the goal, again thwarting Simay's despairing attempt to save. Crown have had problems with penalties this season but Narith showed no signs of nerves in despatching his two spot-kicks. Njoku then contrived to miss the target from just five yards out as Narith and Chan Chaya set up the Nigerian striker, who wasn't having one of his best days in front of goal.
The first half came to a controversial end when Sovannrithy was cautioned by referee Khuon Virak for an innocuous handball on the edge of his own area, with the player protesting his innocence into and beyond the half-time interval. He claimed he'd chested the ball down. Njoku and his fellow Nigerian compatriot, Odion Obadin went close with opportunities before the hour mark, with the latter just a whisker away from his second goal in as many games, heading a Sopanha free-kick the wrong side of the post. BBU defender Nhim Sovannara denied Hong Ratana a certain goal with a last-ditch tackle, following a neat one-two with Chaya, and then made an impact at the other end, when his 40-yard screamer sailed over the head of a stunned Peng Bunchhay in the Crown goal for a remarkable strike on 74 minutes. Whether he meant it or not, only Sovannara will know. With a few jitters creeping into the Crown defence, and Chan Dara misplacing a pass to Obadin, Heng Sokly failed to cash in as he screwed a glorious chance wide when it seemed easier to score. In the fifth minute of time added on, and with BBU pushing up, three Crown players sprinted clear of the half-way line and as Simay left his area, Chan Chaya rolled the ball into the path of San Narith who gleefully accepted the gift for his hat-trick goal. It was the midfielder's first 3-goal haul since joining Crown in the close season from Preah Khan Reach. That was game over and Crown retained their four point lead at the top of the league table with just five games remaining, after their nearest rivals, Naga Corp, beat PKR 2-0 in the earlier game.
Crown line-up; Bunchhay, Dara, Sovannrithy (Sothearith 73), Tiny, Obadin, Narong (Ota 80), Narith, Sopanha, Chaya, Sokumpheak, Njoku (Ratana 59). Subs not used: Visokra, Vanthan, Sovan, Sophanal, Sophat, Sochivorn, Rathanak, H Pheng. Bookings: Sovannrithy.