PPCFC v National Police. Back Row LtoR: Dara, H Pheng, Chamrouen, Seyha, S Pheng, Tiny. Front: Suhana, Sothy, Sovan, Sovanna, SokumpheakThe absence of Khim Borey from the Phnom Penh Crown starting line-up meant a last-minute change to coach David Booth's gameplan and it showed as Crown began their Hun Sen Cup Group D match against National Police in sluggish mode at the Olympic Stadium. The first action of note took place in the 13th minute when Crown's new keeper Sam Chamrouen flapped at a cross and a few minutes later, came out to challenge Srey Udom, who went down as if he'd been shot, with referee Chuob Visal having none of it. Crown were looking a pale shadow of the team that walloped Kratie 16-0 two days earlier but should've taken the lead on 27 minutes. A disguised free-kick set up Ouk Sothy in space, ten yards out, but his shot cleared the crossbar and the chance was gone. Another free-kick gave Sok Pheng time and space to send a 25-yard drive goalwards, only for Police stopper Thong Chanraksmey to push it around the foot of his post. Hong Pheng went close on his Crown starting debut with a backward header on 36 minutes, which Chanraksmey did well to fingertip past the post as he backpedalled. Crown had the better of the first half but were still waiting to click into top gear.
The Police began the second half with more purpose and Crown keeper Chamrouen had to be alert to catch Noun Borey's downward header. Police looked to the linesman when Srey Udom's close range header was ruled offside, but it was the correct decision, though they were much happier on 58 minutes when Tith Dina's first-time strike from 30 yards out fizzed past Chamrouen and nestled inside the net. The ball fell kindly to Dina and his hit 'n' hope dipper caught Chamrouen by surprise. Crown's day went from bad to worse on 69 minutes when Chan Dara was dismissed for a deliberate trip as Ngoun Chansothea broke through the defensive back-line. Dara was caught for pace and his ankle-tap as Chansothea looked to enter the box was cynical, leaving referee Visal no option but to produce a straight red card. Dina launched the free-kick miles over the bar. A couple of minutes later and Crown skipper Tieng Tiny registered his intentions when his 40 yard punt into the penalty area was fumbled over his head by Chanraksmey, whose blushes were saved when Say Piseth hooked the ball off the goal-line.
Chanraksmey stood firm to punch away another Tiny goal-bound effort soon after and then acrobatically denied Kouch Sokumpheak, when the Crown striker whipped in a shot on the turn that had goal written all over it. Sokumpheak held his head in his hands. A minute later, Crown coach Booth sent on the experienced campaigner Hok Sochivorn as skipper Tiny prepared to take a free-kick. He curled in the dead ball from 35 yards out, from the left-side touchline, which Chanraksmey saw coming but took his eye off the flight as Sochivorn challenged and the ball ended up in the net. Tiny claimed the goal, Sochivorn concurred and Crown had come back from the dead to share the spoils with his match-saving equalizer arriving on 86 minutes. Five minutes of injury time produced a Sok Pheng hit and hope that sailed harmlessly wide and the match ended all-square. Crown will meet newcomers Boeung Ket Rubber Field on Monday 6 Feb (2pm at Army Stadium) and need a point to progress to the knock-out stage of the Hun Sen Cup. Boeung Ket demolished the hapless Kratie 17-1 in the 2nd game of the day, with Keo Sokngorn netting no less than 12 times, as his teammates lined-up to lay his chances on a plate in an obvious attempt to earn him the Golden Boot award.
PPCFC line-up: Chamrouen, Dara, Seyha, Tiny, Sovan, Sovanna (Sochivorn 85), Sothy, Suhana, Sok Pheng, Hong Pheng (Makara 61), Sokumpheak. Subs not used: Ary, Oudom, Da, Vanthan, Lika, Kimhor, Sophanal, Srin, Borey. Bookings: Suhana, Tiny, Dara (red card). Referee: Chuob Visal.
Tieng Tiny and Srey Udom are the opposing captains
Tieng Tiny leads out the Crown starting line-up
David Booth giving his team last-minute instructions in the changing rooms
The National Police starting line-up
Hong Pheng, moments after he's told he's making his starting debut