|PPCFC starting line-up: Back LtoR: Lika, Obadin, Chamrouen, Njoku, Dara, Sovan. Front: Asonibe, Suhana, Sothy, Sokumpheak, Borey. Click to enlarge.|
The final match of the 1st round of this season's Metfone C-League summed up Phnom Penh Crown's season so far. Inconsistent. With five players unavailable for one reason or another, Crown met the Army at the Olympic Stadium languishing one place off the Super 4 qualifying spots and with a split record of four wins and four defeats from their eight league matches to-date. Sam Chamrouen came in at goalkeeper after Yok Ary was absent because of a family bereavement, whilst new signing Samrith Seiha needs to wait for a qualifying period according to the federation. Vi Lika got the nod alongside Odion Obadin in the middle of defence with Tieng Tiny and Peak Rady sitting in the stands under suspension. Emmanuel Frimpong is still nursing a painful calf injury, so Henry Asonibe took his place in midfield. The game began in the worst possible fashion for Crown after pre-match rain left the surface slippery. With just 39 seconds on the clock they found themselves behind after Pov Phearith's cross skidded under Obadin's foot and fell kindly to Phoung Soksana, who took a touch and planted his drive inside the post from fifteen yards out. That was the Army's only shot on target in the first-half though Crown keeper Chamrouen's decision to punch anything that came into his box, gave his defenders a few heart-stopping moments. Sou Yaty, in the Army goal, came to his team's rescue with a stunning stop on 22 minutes. Kouch Sokumpheak's right wing cross was inch perfect to a waiting Kingsley Njoku at the far post and his shot had goal written all over it until Yaty's one-handed point-blank save denied the Nigerian striker. Two minutes later though, Njoku found himself in space twenty yards from goal and his aim was unerring as he arrowed a low drive inside the far post, with Yaty helpless. Crown continued to press with Sokumpheak sending two efforts high over the bar from the edge of the penalty area. Four minutes from the interval, Yaty was at it again, denying Khim Borey's header at close range after Obadin had nodded on Sokumpheak's corner and thirty seconds later, spread himself to deny a Njoku header, after Sokumpheak picked him out with a well-aimed center.
With Crown making little impression at the start of the 2nd half, coach David Booth was just about to make a double change when the Army grabbed a second goal from nowhere on the hour mark. Chhin Chhoeun chased down and robbed Vi Lika, got to the bye-line and rolled in a low center where Phearith and Obadin challenged for the ball, which squirmed over the line. For the last twenty minutes Crown peppered the Army penalty area with high balls but without success. Sokumpheak flighted a neat cross to the far post but Sos Suhana seemed surprised to reach the ball and his effort went the wrong side of the upright. Njoku fed Sokumpheak inside the box but the ball escaped him and Yaty was out quickly to smother. Obadin pushed forward but lent back and blasted over when Borey's free-kick fell to him fifteen yards out. Their final chance came and went in the first minute of injury time when Borey's corner was met with a downward header by Hong Pheng and Yaty was there again, in the right place at the right time, to fingertip the rising ball over the crossbar. And that was it, Crown went down 2-1 and with BBU drawing 1-1 with Kirivong, they slipped down to seventh spot in the C-League table. They meet leaders National Police on Saturday and will need to up their game by a considerable margin if they are to begin to resurrect their flagging league fortunes.
Crown's head coach David Booth was left open-mouthed at his team's performance. "That was the worst game I've ever seen from a team I've ever taken. The worst performance I've ever had from any team. From start to finish. I was disappointed in every area, the number of times we gave the ball away, the number of times we passed the ball to them, we didn't win any tackles, we talked for three days about this game, about not making mistakes, but within fifty seconds we were a goal down because we made a mistake. The whole thing just got worse and worse, we went to three at the back, to get around the back of them, but we've just not played at all today. It was absolute rubbish.
There was nothing in the game, no speed, no determination, no passion, no feeling, nothing. I just felt the game was empty, and it's not just one or two players, it was everyone. Everything was flat. For what reason I don't know."
PPCFC line-up v Army: Chamrouen, Dara, Sovan, Lika (H Pheng 73), Obadin, Asonibe (Sovanna 61), Sothy (Chaya 61), Suhana, Njoku, Borey, Sokumpheak. Subs not used: Vanthan, Srin, Seyha, Sophanal, Rathanak, Makara. Bookings: Asonibe, Borey.
|Kouch Sokumpheak and his Crown team just before the match begins|