|PPCFC v Boeung Ket. Back Row LtoR: S Pheng, Obadin, Tiny, Dara, Rady, Frimpong. Front: Chaya, Seiha, Asonibe, Sokumpheak, Borey|
It was billed as a game Phnom Penh Crown had to win. They didn't. Not only did they not win, they didn't play with the passion and the fire in their bellies that they needed to display and that clearly hurt head coach David Booth during his after-match analysis. He'd just watched his team go down 5-1 to the new kids on the block, Boeung Ket. "I thought we started the game quite brightly, we were okay, After 15 minutes it just deteriorated and quite frankly I was ashamed of it all by the end. It was a disgrace. That was our most experienced team and if that's how they are going to perform, then they are not the team I thought they were. Never ever in my life have I had a team perform like that." Tough talking from the Crown boss, acutely disappointed with his team, who looked a shadow of the side that captured the league championship and reached the AFC President's Cup final last season. Inconsistency has been their downfall this term and it reared its ugly head again today, after an encouraging 2-2 draw with Preah Khan a few days earlier. For today's early kick-off, Crown were without suspended striker Kingsley Njoku but that was soon forgotten as they took the game to Boeung Ket with Emmanuel Frimpong, back in the line-up after injury, trying his luck from 35 yards which BK keeper Peng Bunchhay pushed aside and gathered. With nine minutes on the clock, Crown drew first blood. Khim Borey, out wide on the left, rolled the ball to Frimpong who was lurking twenty yards from goal and his well-struck effort looped off the foot of his own player, Henry Asonibe and left Bunchhay clutching at straws as it sailed over his head. For much of the opening half-hour, Crown were displaying the majority of the attacking intent. Another Borey set piece, from a corner, found Asonibe free at the far post but his header was off-target. A few moments later, Sok Pheng fed Kouch Sokumpheak but his drive was too high to trouble Bunchhay. At the other end Odion Obadin made a crucial tackle as Yob Ramaton shaped to shoot, while Chan Chaya pushed a pass into Sokumpheak's path but his angled drive was well-held by Bunchhay, diving at full stretch to his left.
Two quick bookings for Frimpong and Asonibe were sandwiched by the replacement of Hong Ratana by Keo Sokpheng for Boeung Ket and his impact on the outcome of the game would prove to be telling. With two minutes of the first-half remaining, a corner fell at the feet of Savy Sethsoudy and his low shot took a deflection off Asonibe and arrowed into the far corner for the equaliser. The final action of the half saw Boeung Ket snatch an undeserved lead. Sokpheng tried his luck from twenty yards out and the ball spun up off the boot of Tieng Tiny and dropped over the head of a stranded Samrith Seiha in the Crown goal. 2-1 to Boeung Ket at the whistle, which also signalled a torrential downpour that left the Olympic Stadium pitch covered in pools of water for the second half. Free-flowing, passing football was out of the question. Crown began the second-half with a purpose. Sok Pheng headed a Borey corner against the post, and a hopeful Borey punt from the touch-line was tipped over by Bunchhay from under his crossbar. Just past the hour, Chan Dara failed to clear the danger and Boeung Ket made him pay dearly. Friday Nwakuna fed Romaton on the edge of the box, who passed it quickly onto Sokpheng and he kept his nerve to beat Seiha at his far post.
Crown boss Booth responded by replacing a defender with another attacker, going to three at the back in an attempt to get something from the match. Borey sent a twenty-five yard shot skidding dangerously wide and a Frimpong free-kick caused panic at the far post but Tiny failed to get the all-important touch. Referee Neang Sorithya was unmoved when Borey was sent sprawling in the penalty area and Crown lost skipper Sokumpheak to a knee injury sustained in a challenge with Bunchhay. In his absence, Boeung Ket broke quickly on 78 minutes with Nwakuna releasing Romaton and the lanky striker went down after a tap on his ankle by Crown keeper Seiha, who was booked. Nwakuna netted from the twice-taken penalty kick, after his first was chalked off for encroachment. With time running down, Sokpheng made a hash of a timely Nwakuna pass, screwing his shot wide. A wind-assisted drop-kick from Seiha found Borey running in on goal, only for Bunchhay to fingertip his chip past the post, as Crown saw their final chance of the match go begging. In the first minute of injury time, Boeung Ket rubbed salt in Crown's wounds with a fifth goal. Obadin's timely intervention halted Nwakuna's run on goal but the ball squirmed out to Sokpheng and he completed his hat-trick from six yards out. As Crown left the field, referee Sorithya brandished a red card in Frimpong's direction for comments made by the frustrated midfielder. It just about summed up his team's disastrous afternoon.
David Booth continued with his post-match thoughts. "I spent three days talking about the game, about how we have to win to go into the top 4, I covered everything, but today I didn't get any response whatsoever from our most experienced players. At 3-1 down I had to do something [we went to three at the back], to try and win the game. It didn't work because the players didn't help to make it work. I'm very very disappointed with the players, every single one of them. It leaves us looking for next year as far as I'm concerned. Because if these players cannot play in a game like that today, then do they deserve to play? Maybe it's time to look at one or two of the younger boys and see if they will come good for next year. I thoroughly expected them to perform and play today and I did not see anything of the sort. We've done everything right in the lead-up to the game, but we've got nothing back from them today. Nothing at all." Clearly the coach was not in the mood to let his players off lightly after a performance that left them in fifth spot in the Metfone C-League, four points adrift of Boeung Ket.
PPCFC line-up v Boeung Ket: Seiha, Dara, Rady (H Pheng 65), Tiny, Obadin, Asonibe, Frimpong, Chaya, Borey, S Pheng (Suhana 59), Sokumpheak (Makara 79). Subs not used: Ary, Vanthan, Lika, Seyha, Srin, Sovan, Sothy, Sovanna. Bookings: Frimpong (+ red card), Asonibe, Seiha.
|Kouch Sokumpheak leads out the PPCFC team, followed by Samrith Seiha|
|Coach David Booth explaining defensive duties to Obadin and Tiny|
|The Boeung Ket starting line-up|
|A look at the electronic scoreboard at the final whistle, which displays an advert for the main PPCFC sponsor|