The Crown starting XI. Back Row LtoR: Tiny, Njoku, Sopanha, Sovannrithy, Obadin, Bunchhay. Front Row: Borey, Narith, Chaya, Sokumpheak, SothearithPhnom Penh Crown took Cambodian football to new heights tonight by securing a place in the AFC President's Cup Final on Sunday, with a 4-0 thrashing of last year's cup winners, Yadanarbon, the champions of Myanmar. Leading 3-0 by the interval, Crown had to withstand some pressure from the cup holders in the 2nd half but weathered the storm and netted a beautifully worked counter-attack goal to seal the win and celebrate reaching their first AFC cup final. Head coach David Booth kept the same starting line-up for the 2nd successive cup game and Crown quickly got into their stride. Khim Borey jumped well but sent his header over the top from Kingsley Njoku's right-wing cross after two minutes and just a minute later, it was the Nigerian hitman who was celebrating his 2nd goal in as many games, taking a Borey pass in his stride and slipping his shot wide of the advancing goalkeeper. Njoku had a perfect opportunity to add to his tally with just eight minutes gone, when Chan Chaya was felled out wide by goalkeeper Zaw Naing. However, his well-struck spot-kick hit the foot of the left-hand upright and bounced into the arms of the grateful keeper. On 15 minutes, a rehearsed corner kick routine allowed Njoku a free header at the far post but his effort bounced tantalizingly across the face of goal and wide. Njoku was on fire and sent a looping header into the keeper's hands before working his way along the bye-line, only for a defender to block his low drive. Borey went very close with two more efforts, one a near post header from Sun Sopanha's corner, before a touch of Kouch Sokumpheak magic gave Crown their 2nd goal. Winning a tackle thirty yards out, he sped towards the penalty box and with three defenders converging on him, he took aim and found the corner of the net from the edge of the area. Just before the half-hour mark, Peng Bunchhay was called into action twice, pushing a shot over the top and then producing a superb one-handed stop from Dway Chit's goal-bound header. Chaya fed Sokumpheak and as he raced towards the box, he was felled by Hein Zaw a yard from the area. Sun Sopanha stepped up and aimed his free-kick, low and hard, into the bottom right-hand corner for Crown's third goal on 32 minutes. It was just getting better and better. Bunchhay had to clear up two more attempts on goal from Yadanarbon but it was Sokumpheak who had the best sight of goal, after Njoku had chased, and won, a Tieng Tiny punt forwards and fed his strike partner 15 yards out. On this occasion, Sokumpheak was off-target with his fierce drive.
As expected, after the half-time break, Yadanarbon came out fighting but found Bunchhay in top form between the Crown posts or their own shooting was wayward at the crucial moment. Five minutes in and Bunchhay stopped Htoo Aung's shot with one-hand, whilst That Naing and Pai Soe volleyed over the crossbar. At the other end, Chaya was denied by a feet-first tackle by keeper Zaw Naing and then Odion Obadin fired wide after a corner fell to him. On the hour, Sokumpheak looked to have added another but Zaw Naing made a full-length diving save after Sopanha had cleverly set up his teammate. The Burmese team continued to press and Bunchhay got his fingertips to a long-range Aung Moe drive and then did even better to deny a certain goal for substitute Khin Maung Tun, with Sun Sovannrithy also blocking a Pai Soe effort on its way to goal. With seven minutes remaining, Crown broke out of their half with pace and purpose as Sokumpheak and Njoku exchanged neat passes before the latter was left with space to whip his shot past Zaw Naing and book Crown's place in the AFC President's Cup final. There was still time for Bunchhay to thwart two more Yadanarbon efforts and for Tun to blast a 20-yard effort against the cross-bar, as well as Arkar Naing to see a straight red for a whack on Njoku's legs with a minute to go. Crown celebrated their success at the final whistle and now have until Sunday to focus on what they need to do to continue the hunt for their first AFC silverware.
Crown's line-up: Bunchhay, Sovannrithy, Sothearith, Tiny, Obadin, Narith, Sopanha, Borey, Chaya, Njoku (S Pheng 92), Sokumpheak. Subs not used: Visokra, Dara, Vanthan, Sovan, Sophanal, Sophat, Virak, Ratana, H Pheng. Bookings: Borey. Attendance: 422.