Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tough lessons to learn

PPCFC v Preah Khan: Back Row LtoR: S Pheng, Seyha, Tiny, Chamrouen, H Pheng, Sovanna. Front: Sothy, Sovan, Suhana, Makara, Sokumpheak
If you hand a team like Preah Khan Reach guilt-edged opportunities as early as the first minute of a cup tie, then you know you are in for a tough task. And so it proved for Phnom Penh Crown in today's Hun Sen Cup Quarter-Final. With coach David Booth admitting beforehand that the match was a "tough game for my team, but it will show where we are at this moment," whilst a "keep it tight for the first fifteen minutes" was his advice to his starting line-up, his new-look charges gifted their old foes a goal in the first minute. Tim Saray's hopeful center found Khuon Laboravy in all kinds of space at the far post and without a marker in sight, he made no mistake from fifteen yards out. It was a punch in the kidneys for Booth and his boys, and easy pickings for the cup's top scorer. But two minutes later it could've all been so different. Tieng Tiny's free-kick from 25 yards out found the head of the diving Kouch Sokumpheak but his firm header cleared the crossbar by inches and the chance to level was lost. Two excellent reaction saves by Crown stopper Sam Chamrouen, first from Sok Rithy's close range volley and then from Laboravy, after he'd outpaced Leng Makara, earned the admiration of his teammates. But it was to no avail as another schoolboy howler gifted PKR their second goal on 19 minutes. Chhun Sovanna tried to play his way out of a tight spot, was robbed of the ball leaving Laboravy with a sprint into the box and a low center that was easily converted by Phany Rotha at the far post. As if that wasn't bad enough, eight minutes later, Sok Sovan repeated his teammates' faux pas, losing the ball to Sok Chanraksmey and he rolled the ball across the face of goal to give Laboravy the easiest of tap-ins. Crown had given themselves a veritable mountain to climb.

Kouch Sokumpheak was wayward with a couple of half chances as the interval approached and Hong Pheng was equally wasteful on the stroke of half-time. Crown did their best to get back into the tie after the break but found the bumpy pitch, and their opponents, hard to dominate. Hong Pheng leaned back and fired wildly over, whilst Sok Pheng blasted the ball into the side netting after Sokumpheak fed him in the box. PKR keeper Sar Sophea flapped at an Ouk Sothy free-kick, but recovered to tip Hong Pheng's rebound header an inch past the far post. Sokumpheak and Sok Pheng had further attempts, the latter's 30-yard grubber was held by Sophea diving to his right, but with eight minutes remaining, Sok Pheng lost his cool, was booked for dissent, and ordered off for his second caution of the game. That mountain just got considerably tougher for Crown. Chamrouen again showed his quick reactions with a stunning double save from Chea Samnang as PKR used their numerical advantage well, but also saw red with a minute of the tie to go. Prak Mony Udom sprang through Crown's backline and the goalkeeper touched his foot, sending the striker sprawling. Referee Neang Sorithya brandished the red card despite Chamrouen's protestations, leaving Udom to fire the penalty past substitute keeper Am Oudom a minute into time added on. It was the final nail in a weighty coffin for Crown to bear.

David Booth's succinct, "Three mistakes, three goals. It's as simple as that," summed up his team's first-half ineptitude and signalled the groundwork that the English coach will have to focus on before the start of the league season in a couple of months. His team is young and inexperienced, even compared to PKR's youthful line-up, and today it was clear for all to see. The loss of Khim Borey to the football federation's appalling shenanigans was a real blow to Crown's confidence before the game, but individual errors in key areas of the pitch are going to be punished by a team of PKR's calibre. Those are some of the lessons that must be learned by Booth's youngsters.
PPCFC line-up:
Chamrouen, Makara, Seyha, Tiny, Sovan, Sovanna, Sothy, Suhana, Sok Pheng, Hong Pheng (Oudom 91), Sokumpheak. Subs not used: Ary, Dara, Da, Vanthan, Lika, Kimhor, Srin, Sophanal, Sochivorn. Bookings: Sovan, S Pheng (+ red card 82), Chamrouen (straight red card 89).
Kouch Sokumpheak focusing on the game ahead. Khuon Laboravy (11) also in shot.
The teams introduce themselves to each other

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