|PPCFC v Kirivong. Back Row LtoR: Tiny, Dara, Frimpong, Sovan, Tarley, Ary. Front: Njoku, Rady, Suhana, Sokumpheak, Borey|
How the heck did Phnom Penh Crown lose to Kirivong? On the number of chances alone, we should've put the game beyond doubt by half-time. We didn't, we found it impossible to hit the back of the bleedin' net and paid a very high price for three defensive lapses. We are not exactly making a good fist of defending our championship crown this season. This 3-1 reversal to Kirivong, who were thumped 4-0 by Chhlam Samuth in their last outing, was a shock, no two ways about it, and was precisely the exact opposite of the result we were seeking, going into next week's AFC President's Cup. It can work two way, it will act as a kick of the backside for all concerned, or it will come back to haunt us in a few ways. Anyway, back to this afternoon's 2.30pm kick-off.
A one-match suspension for central defender Odion Obadin required a few changes to the Phnom Penh Crown starting line-up against lowly Kirivong, with Chan Dara coming in at full-back and Melvin Tarley recalled alongside Kingsley Njoku in attack. Crown were in confident mode having won their previous three Metfone C-League matches but found themselves a goal down after just three minutes. A hopeful punt forward caught the Crown defence flat-footed and Mohamed Zaky outpaced Tieng Tiny before slipping his shot neatly past Yok Ary. Ten minutes later it required quick reactions from Ary to deny Ishola Abiding after he broke away rather too easily from Sok Sovan's shackles. Kingsley Njoku and Kouch Sokumpheak attempted to draw level soon after, both firing narrowly wide from the edge of the penalty box with powerful drives as Crown began to find their feet.
Emmanuel Frimpong is fast earning a reputation for his free-kicks and on 26 minutes his 22-yarder was too hot to handle for Kirivong keeper Kem Makara though the rebound evaded three onrushing Crown attackers and bounced to safety. Sos Suhana was next to try his luck after he jinked his way to the bye-line but his shot was blocked by Makara at the near post. A Khim Borey corner somehow managed to evade everyone in the six-yard box and as the first half drew to a close, Crown squandered two more guilt-edge opportunities. A minute before the break, Njoku weaved past two defenders on the byeline and his pull-back to Melvin Tarley had goal written all over it, but the Liberian striker took too long to pull the trigger and the chance was taken off his toe. With the referee just about to blow for half-time, Sokumpheak laid the ball into the path of Tarley and this time his thunderous shot cannoned off the frame of the goal and away from danger. Kirivong were fortunate to remain ahead at the break.
Kirivong's half-time substitute Egyptian Rada Badry announced his arrival by lashing a shot against the upright after six minutes but for much of the second half it was one-way traffic as Crown went in search of an equalizer. Njoku's lay-off header allowed Sokumpheak room for a half volley which Kem Makara was equal to with a smart one-handed save to his right. Tiny and Suhana were wasteful with off-target headers before Tarley looked to have cashed in on a fumble by Makara, but blasted the loose ball clear of the cross-bar. Borey and Sokumpheak combined, only for the Crown skipper to volley his opportunity into row Z. On the hour, Njoku robbed Ouk Thon and raced goalwards but his attempted chip over the onrushing Makara missed the goalframe by a foot. A deft touch was definitely missing today. The catalogue of near misses continued when Njoku fed Suhana as he broke into the area, only to see his shot deflected onto the post by Makara's foot. Njoku tried an ambitious overhead kick and Borey screwed a Suhana pass over the top from fifteen yards out. On 78 minutes, Crown struck the woodwork again when Ouk Sothy's free header rebounded off the cross-bar. It just wasn't Crown's day as Sokumpheak's power-header went straight into the hands of Kem Makara and his long dropkick found Em Phanna in acres of space in the Crown half with nine minutes to go. Yok Ary thought better of rushing out of his area and was caught back-pedaling by Phanna who spotted him off his line and lobbed the ball into the net. It was a kick in the guts for Crown who'd been camped in the Kirivong half for the previous forty minutes.
As the final minutes ticked by, Sokumpheak had a shot blocked, Sothy screwed a good chance wide and Njoku's diving header missed the far post by inches. To add insult to injury in the fourth minute of time added on, Sok Sovan dallied on the ball instead of clearing his lines, Phanna got a touch and instantly whipped his low shot past Ary. With the last kick, actually header, of the game Ouk Sothy netted a consolation for Crown in the 96th minute, benefitting from Njoku's touch to Frimpong's free-kick. But it was too little too late as Crown finished the match scratching their heads over their numerous missed opportunities and defensive lapses that cost them so dearly.
PPCFC line-up: Ary, Rady, Dara (Sothy 76), Tiny, Sovan, Frimpong, Suhana, Borey (H Pheng 76), Njoku, Tarley (S Pheng 68), Sokumpheak.Subs not used: Chamrouen, Vanthan, Lika, Sophanal, Seyha, Sovanna, Chaya, Makara. Bookings: Rady, S Pheng, Tiny.
|Kouch Sokumpheak smiles in the players tunnel|
|Under the new electronic scoreboard, the Crown team get final instructions|