Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The comeback kings

Emmanuel Frimpong celebrates as he leaves the pitch after scoring twice in Crown's 4-3 comeback
Phnom Penh Crown came back from the dead to beat the Metfone C-League leaders National Police 4-3 this afternoon in one of the finest comebacks seen in a long long while. They say a dog is at its most dangerous when its wounded and that could also be applied to Crown today. Reeling from three defeats in their first four league games, Crown then found themselves 3-0 down at half-time in this game and it called for head coach David Booth to dig deep into his reservoir of experience to weave his own particular brand of magic. A man motivator of the highest order, Booth told his team in his no-nonsense Yorkshire style to stop feeling sorry for themselves, get a grip, work as a team, get back into it, press the opposition all over the pitch and that they were still in this game. Prophetic words indeed. Crown went onto score four goals in a thirty-minute spell in the 2nd half that completely destroyed their opponents and might just prove the catalyst for a turnaround in the club's fortunes this season.

Crown began the game with a new face in goal, Sam Chamrouen, replacing the out-of-sorts Yok Ary and Sos Suhana in midfield for the suspended Chan Dara. Before some of the spectators had even taken their seats, the Police grabbed a sixth minute lead through their defensive lynchpin Say Piseth. Trying his luck from all of forty yards out, his on-target drive, which he hit with some venom, went straight through the outstretched arms of Chamrouen and Crown's goalkeeping curse had struck again. Two minutes later, a neat interchange of passes saw Khim Borey put Suhana behind the defence but his shot was blocked by the onrushing Police keeper Thong Chanreaksmey. On 18 minutes and Crown must've really started to believe the goalkeeping jinx as Chamrouen completely misjudged a high and hopeful punt into the box by Ly Arafin, as the youngster failed to grab the high ball leaving Nelson Oladiji with the simple task to nod into the empty net. Borey, booked for an innocuous challenge, was willing to shoot from any distance but without really causing any problems, while Kouch Sokumpheak and keeper Chanreaksmey collided as they both went for a 50-50 ball in the box. Sokumpheak was harshly cautioned for a high foot. Moments later Chhin Meng Seang came to the rescue to deny Suhana as he was about to pull the trigger. Six minutes before the half-time break and Police grabbed a three-goal advantage. Oladiji and Odion Obadin were in a sprint for a ball poked forward, Obadin slipped and that left the lanky Oladiji with the time to clip a neat finish past Chamrouen before Obadin could recover. It was his seventh goal of the campaign. Coach Booth immediately brought on an extra striker in Melvin Tarley and it was his touch that set up Borey for a fierce low drive that Chanreaksmey dived to push away from danger. It was a pretty even first-half from both sides though Police definitely held the upper hand with their three-goal haul.

Determined not to give up without one helluva fight, Crown began the second half purposefully. Perhaps an omen arrived after 56 minutes when Police changed their goalkeeper, with Prak Mony Phirum replacing Chanreaksmey. He quickly collected a low Borey drive but was helpless when Crown began their fightback on the hour mark. Piseth held onto Tarley two yards outside the box and in a central position. Emmanuel Frimpong stepped up to whip in a left-foot free-kick that struck the outstretched leg of a defender and looped over Phirum into the net. Game on. Crown pumped up the pressure and two minutes later another Frimpong free-kick, this time much further out, was headed powerfully in by Obadin, only for the defender's joy to be cut short by a ridiculous linesman's flag. No one could believe it. More strikes on goal followed as well as near misses for Sokumpheak on a couple of occasions before Crown's pressure finally paid off. Substitute Sok Pheng chased a lost cause and wrestled the ball from the grasp of Phirum, only for the keeper to grab his legs and pull the striker to the floor. Frimpong stepped up to confidently strike home the penalty kick on 76 minutes to make it 2-3. In a rare foray out of their half, Police nearly ended Crown's comeback hopes but Noung Borey's bobbling shot rebounded into play off the inside of the upright and it was still game on. Both Sokumpheak and Tarley had shots that nestled into the midriff of Phirum, before Tarley's tenacious tackle, allowed Sokumpheak to lay a perfect pass into the path of sub Hong Pheng, and he kept his nerve and composure to find the net with the equalizer on 85 minutes. In what can only be described as a grandstand finish by the current league champions, stung by recent criticism and their own individual errors, with just two minutes remaining, they claimed all three points with the game's winning goal. Obadin's hopeful high ball was controlled with a deft touch by Tarley who laid the ball back to Khim Borey. He sidestepped a defender and whipped in a low drive that clipped the far post before ending up in the back of the net. Cue wild celebrations from the Crown players and bench. Booth's words had been heard and his team had done him proud.
PPCFC line-up: Chamrouen, Rady (S Pheng 75), Sovan, Tiny, Obadin, Sothy (Tarley 39), Suhana, Frimpong, Chaya (H Pheng 68), Borey, Sokumpheak. Sub not used: Oudom, Vanthan, Lika, Seyha, Sophanal, Rathanak, Sovanna, Makaram. Bookings: Borey, Sokumpheak.
PPCFC v Police: Back Row LtoR: Tiny, Frimpong, Chamrouen, Obadin, Rady, Sovan. Front: Sothy, Suhana, Chaya, Sokumpheak, Borey
Ouk Sothy, Tieng Tiny and Chan Chaya in the middle of the huddle
David Booth's parting words to his players - he had to dig deep to coax them into their 2nd half comeback

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