Monday, February 6, 2012

Leading from the front

PPCC v Boeung Ket. Back Row LtoR: Tiny, Sothy, H Pheng, Chamrouen, Socanna, Sovan. Front: S Pheng, Seyha, Makara, Suhaha, Sokumpheak
Group D of the Hun Sen Cup was decided by this afternoon's matches at the Army Stadium. Phnom Penh Crown defeated Boeung Ket 1-0 to knock the Kompong Cham-based team out and then National Police ran riot against a demoralised Kratie team, winning 22-0 and claiming top spot in the group at the same time. It means that Crown now face Preah Khan Reach in a mouth-watering quarter-final on Wednesday, same venue, at 1.45pm, whilst Police meet BBU a little later.

For Crown, the talismanic Kouch Sokumpheak, given the captain's armband by coach David Booth for today's game, led by example and scored the only goal of the match to win the tie. And it was a goal worthy of winning any match as the striker began the move from deep and finished it with a blistering drive from a tight angle that gave the Boeung Ket keeper no chance. More of that later. Needing a victory to qualify themselves, Boeung Ket began like a train and their former Crown starlet, Keo Sokngorn twice came closest to scoring. On six minutes he flashed a header inches too high and then struck the cross-bar with a long distance speculative free-kick four minutes later, that Sam Chamrouen in the Crown goal, mysteriously left. Fifteen minutes in and Crown's first real effort saw Sok Pheng's twenty yard shot deflected wide. Soon after, Sokumpheak fed Pheng and his shot on the turn was parried out by opposition goalkeeper Sin Pisal, with no-one following up. Ouk Sothy was next to try his luck for Crown but Lor Pichseyla blocked the attempt. The last action of the first-half saw Sok Pheng again test Pisal with a stinging drive but to no avail as the keeper blocked it low down.

After the interval, Crown maintained their grip on possession and Sokumpheak was off target with a glancing header from a Hong Pheng cross twelve minutes in. The Crown captain then began and ended a quick-passing move with Sos Suhana by unleashing a powerful drive across the face of Sin Pisal and into the Boeung Ket net on 68 minutes. It was his 11th goal of the competition and an unstoppable effort that livened up the tense game considerably. Boeung Ket's best chance of an equaliser fell again to Sokngorn on 73 minutes. Yob Romaton set him up with a chested ball down but the Boeung Ket skipper's flashing drive sailed over the crossbar from the edge of the area and their fate was effectively sealed. After his 12 goals two days before, Sokngorn's shooting boots were definitely not in good working order. The game petered out into a scrappy finale with too many free-kicks, injuries, bookings and then a straight red card in injury time when Touch Pancharong left his foot in on Crown's Chhun Sovanna as he made a clearance. It's a characteristic of Pancharong's game that he regularly lets himself, and his team down. He had a dust up with Phoung Narong last season and now with Sovanna, all three of them were colleagues at Crown in the past.

Winning coach David Booth mused on the tie: "I thought we worked hard throughout the team today. They started well, passed the ball well for 15 minutes but then we got into the game and controlled it for the rest of the match. Our defending was good, the midfield did well, in fact the whole team did well today. I started with Makara at full-back in Dara's absence. He's usually a striker but I've seen him in training, how hard he works and runs and I knew he could play there, and he did. We must remember that we had only 2 players playing - Sokumpheak and Tiny - who were regulars last season. We have a lot of boys who are not experienced at this level. So we've not done too bad with this team so far." When asked about the situation with Khim Borey, still suspended by the federation and kicking his heels in the stands this afternoon, Booth said: "I don't have any faith in the federation resolving this issue. It's been going on for far too long already. I don't know what the Army are trying to prove by stopping him from playing football. It's a real shame what the Army are doing to the boy."

PPCFC line-up: Chamrouen, Makara (Sophanal 82), Seyha, Tiny, Sovan, Sovanna, Sothy, Suhana, Sok Pheng, Hong Pheng (Sochivorn 78), Sokumpheak. Subs not used: Ary, Oudom, Da, Vanthan, Lika, Kimhor, Srin. Bookings: Seyha, Makara, Sothy. Referee: Khuon Virak.
Kouch Sokumpheak shakes hands with Keo Sokngorn of Boeung Ket
A final team huddle before the kick-off
The Crown bench before the start
Kouch Sokumpheak leads out the Crown team this afternoon
Sokumpheak stretches in the tunnel before the start
Kouch Sokumpheak, stretches before the game
Leng Makara, facing camera, gets ready for his full Crown debut, at full-back

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