Crown line-up v Army. Back Row LtoR: Sovannrithy, Tiny, Ota, Obadin, Sopanha, Bunchhay. Front Row: Sokumpheak, Njoku, Narith, Chaya, SothearithKouch Sokumpheak was one of the big differences between Phnom Penh Crown and their military opponents from the Army in yesterday's Metfone C-League clash. Not only did he score the game's only goal but he played like a man possessed, covering every blade of grass on the pitch and getting his foot in the way when the Army had their best, and only real chance of the game, twenty minutes from the end. Crown keeper Peng Bunchhay and Tieng Tiny had collided when going for a high ball and Sokumpheak spotted the danger, closing down and blocking Phuong Soksana's goal-bound effort eight yards out. His goal, on 27 minutes, was the perfect execution of a training ground routine that the team had worked on, in coach David Booth's words, "a million times." A foul on Kingsley Njoku, 25 yards from goal, looked a certain shooting opportunity for Sun Sopanha. I thought it and so did the Army defenders. Sopanha disguised his run up perfectly but instead of going for goal, he played a short pass to Njoku, who in turn flipped the ball to Sokumpheak, who'd peeled off the end of the defensive wall. In on goal, Sokumpheak took a touch before firing past Sou Yaty for what turned out to be the match-winner. The same player scored the only goal of the game when the two teams met in June. The Army will be glad to see the back of him. In truth, Crown dominated much of the game, particularly in the first-half. They started brightly and continued until the interval, pressing when Army had the ball and using their passing game to good effect, whilst the military team were content to hoof the long ball. Without their keeper Sou Yaty in great form, the Army would've been out of the game before the break.
Tieng Tiny's 50-yard lob that only just cleared the bar, signalled Crown's intentions after just forty seconds on the clock. On ten minutes, Sokumpheak's nod put in Takahito Ota but his whipped shot struck the outside of the upright. A minute later, Chan Chaya screwed a chance across the face of the goal and then it was Njoku's turn to miskick badly when set up by Chaya. A neat one-two between Sopanha and Sun Sovannrithy saw the rampant full-back in on goal, only to be denied by Yaty's stop. Sokumpheak finished off the text-book free-kick move on 27 minutes to put Crown's noses in front, but it was no more than they deserved for piling on the pressure. Yaty was being kept a busy man, holding onto a long distance effort from Njoku and then finger-tipping a Chaya header over the top from Sokumpheak's cross. The Crown marksman fizzed an effort just wide from the edge of the box before Yaty had the final say, a minute into added on time, when he again got his fingers to a Njoku blast to keep his team in the match. After the break, Crown remained in control but produced fewer goal-bound efforts though Yaty was again in the thick of it when he acrobatically tipped over a rasping free-kick from Sopanha and late on, stood firm when Hong Ratana fired an effort on target from an acute angle. I counted five excellent saves from the Army stopper who must've impressed the national team coach enough to warrant a starting spot in the forthcoming SEA Games squad.
Crown's victory was the 7th successive success since David Booth took over as coach. "I'm very pleased with my team in the 1st half, we pressed, we won the ball and we created chances. I was also very happy