Sunday, August 28, 2011

Njoku's team goal

Skipper Sun Sopanha (center) and his team acknowledge their supporters after their victory
Crown's starting line-up: Back Row LtoR: Njoku, Obadin, Sopanha, Sovan, Dara, Bunchhay. Front Row: Ota, Tiny, Narith, Chaya, Sokumpheak
Kingsley Njoku scored the all-important winning goal for Phnom Penh Crown as they defeated Preah Khan Reach to claim the 2011 Metfone C-League Championship and promptly declared; "This is a team goal, a team win. I'm happy to score for my team." The Nigerian's goal came three minutes into the second half of a match that Crown dominated for long periods, creating numerous chances but never really put to bed until referee Tuy Vichhika blew the final whistle to ignite scenes of on-pitch celebration. Crown head coach David Booth included teenager Sok Sovan at left-back for his first start of the season in place of suspended skipper Thul Sothearith, with Sun Sopanha taking the captain's armband for this crucial encounter. Crown knew that a win would give them the league title and in the fifth minute Odion Obadin had the first real attempt on goal, when keeper Sar Sophea got down well to smother his header from Sopanha's corner. A minute after Kouch Sokumpheak's break into the penalty area was snuffed out, Sopanha blasted a free-kick against the Preah Khan crossbar with one of his trademark curling efforts from twenty yards out. That was with 20 minutes on the clock and three minutes later, the Crown skipper let loose with another pile-driver which Sar Sophea pushed over from under his bar. Kingsley Njoku's snap shot from the edge of the area was deflected inches wide before the bustling striker got in another low drive that the PKR keeper blocked at the near post as half-time arrived with no goals for either team.

Crown began the second period in determined mood and Odion Obadin's headed pass sat up perfectly for Kingsley Njoku to try his luck with an overhead kick that Sar Sophea tipped over the crossbar with just three minutes gone. From the resulting corner, Sun Sopanha's perfectly-flighted center was met by the forehead of Njoku inside the six-yard box and Crown had taken the lead they deserved. Preah Khan threw on two substitutes including their top scorer Khuon Laboravy and he provided the only real moment of danger on the hour mark. Crown keeper Peng Bunchhay pushed aside his dangerous cross and then stood firm as Sok Chanraksmey fired in a low drive from a tight angle. As an attacking force, that was it for PKR, who soon had to deal with a San Narith goal-bound blaster that Sok Rithy cleared, and a weaving Chan Chaya dribble that ended with his harmless chip over the crossbar. Njoku got his head to a Sok Sovan cross but could only direct it straight at Sar Sophea, as did Kouch Sokumpheak, with his 20-yard drive, a few minutes later. Crown substitute Sok Pheng, fed by Sokumpheak, let fly with a fierce drive that fizzed past the upright, a Sokumpheak effort was blocked on its way to goal and Pheng saw another effort skid well wide before referee Vichhika brought down the curtain on the proceedings and Crown could celebrate their second successive C-League title success.

For English coach David Booth it was his 8th win in as many games since he took charge of the team. "For me, it's a job done. I came here to win the league, so I'm happy," he declared after the match. "I would have liked to have scored early to be honest. In our other games we've scored early and although they didn't have a shot at goal in the first-half, I thought we were in a little danger of losing our cool. I just told my players at the break not to lose their heads, it would come, just keep pressing and keep passing. They had to work very hard to stop us. If teams worked as hard in every game, as they work against us, the league would be that much better. We were comfortable in the second half, though a little on edge as it was only 1-nil. They are one of the best passing teams in the league but they didn't cause us any real problems at all. I'm very pleased for the players, they've worked very hard to achieve this," commented the tactician who has worked all over Asia in the last twenty years. His final comment was reserved for some of his opposing coaches. "I must say that I'm sick of coaches here saying how they will beat us, do this and that to us. We have too much respect for the teams we play to say this kind of stuff. They don't seem to realize that it motivates us. They should really show more respect to their opponents."
Crown line-up: Bunchhay, Dara, Sovan, Tiny, Obadin, Narith, Sopanha (H Pheng 92), Ota (S Pheng 70), Chaya (Ratana 64), Njoku, Sokumpheak. Subs not used: Visokra, Bunna, Vanthan, Sophat, Sophanal, Rathanak, Sochivorn, Virak. Bookings: Tiny, Dara, Njoku.
In the dressing room, coach David Booth delivers his pre-match instructions
Sun Sopanha (23) leads out his teammates to face Preah Khan Reach
Crown coach David Booth speaks to the television cameras after the match
The Crown Academy boys and friends get together to make some noise in the grandstand

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