|PPCFC line-up. Back Row LtoR: Lika, Rady, Dara, Frimpong, Njoku, Tiny. Front: Suhana, Seiha, Chaya, Vanthan, Borey. Click to enlarge.|
On occasions, why is watching your favourite team like poking yourself in the eye with a sharp stick? Because football is a game in which your team can look like world-beaters one week and then look like Sunday morning amateurs the next. That's the nature of the beast. And it's especially hard to swallow if your team is used to success, as it's a longer drop when things are simply not working out as you hope, and expect. Phnom Penh Crown had arguably their best ever season last year. This season, we started badly and have been playing catch-up ever since. But we haven't been quite good enough. Today for example, we had to win to keep the pressure on the clubs above us in the race for a top 4 play-off place at the season's end. We failed miserably to be honest. Crown started this afternoon's Metfone C-League game on the front foot and after Sos Nasiet got his foot in to deflect Chan Chaya's early shot, Crown took the lead on five minutes. Tieng Tiny's punt forwards saw two defenders clatter into the back of Kingsley Njoku, with the ball going over their heads and into the path of Sos Suhana, who wasted no time in dinking his chip over the head of Kirivong keeper Kun Thnou and into the empty net. So far so good for David Booth's team and Suhana had another chance two minutes later, but fired straight at the keeper. At the other end, Samrith Seiha had the start of an off-day with crosses, palming the ball to Ashola Abiding who volleyed over the bar from close-in. Soon after, Heng Kimhong's 25-yard free-kick bounced to safety after it thundered against the cross-bar before Kirivong levelled the scoreline on 25 minutes. In Vichheka used his body to turn Tieng Tiny thirty yards from goal and left the defender in his wake before finishing coolly. Four minutes later, he was johnny-on-the-spot when Seiha made a hash of catching a cross from Rada Meganed and Vichheka was left with a simple tap-in. Crown were shell-shocked and Abiding headed another deep cross wide of the upright soon after as Kirivong hit their strikers early and long. Frustration crept in and Njoku picked up a booking for a late tackle, though his impatience with referee Chi Samedy was plain for all to see. With Crown's midfield unable to function, Booth substituted Emmanuel Frimpong, back after suspension, and finished the half with five recognised strikers on the pitch.
Already behind, Crown's day went from bad to worse just seven minutes after the break. Njoku caught Touch Sokheang a little late and Samedy was lightning quick to flash a yellow and a red card to the Nigerian hitman, who trooped off the pitch and straight down the tunnel. Crown's mountain to climb had just become a lot more difficult to ascend. On the hour Hong Pheng took too long to unleash his shot and the opportunity was gone, and then Suhana scuffed his drive after a surging run by Pheak Rady. With twenty minutes to go, Seiha had to fist away a stinging shot from Ouk Thon and then made a spectacular tip over when Giwa Bolaji had time to powerfully head goalwards from Abiding's pull-back. Despite their ten men, Crown looked dangerous from Khim Borey's pinpoint corners with Chaya flashing a near post header across the face of goal. With just three minutes remaining, Souch Makara's deep cross avoided Tiny's head at the far post but Ek Sopheap was on hand to volley the ball past Seiha for the killer third goal. In time added on, Sopheap sent a dink wide of the target and Crown's Tiny couldn't force the ball in from another Borey corner as referee Samedy brought proceedings to a close.
Crown's hopes for a top 4 spot all but disappeared with this 3-1 reversal and left head coach David Booth scratching his head. "I can't understand it - it was just very poor. We started well, scored a good goal and then we went to pieces. We keep playing like this - it's not what we do in training, what we do at work, not how we plan things and it's not how we can play. Quite frankly, it's like I am wasting my time - they are not learning anything at all.
Emmanuel cannot play like that in our team. He's not marking, not supporting, not doing anything, not moving around, letting players go past him - he cannot play like that in my team. Kingsley's sending off was stupid, no need for it, just a stupid tackle. No reason to make a tackle like that. It just put us under more pressure.
It would be easy for me to turn around and say there were players missing today, we had injury and illness all week, but the players who come in and the others have got to show some work, some effort, some enthusiasm, some determination and discipline, but today everything was missing. We've worked and talked about it for two days at training. There's no excuse whatsoever."
Crown line-up: Seiha, Rady, Vanthan (S Pheng 80), Lika, Tiny, Dara, Frimpong (H Pheng 37), Borey, Chaya, Suhana, Njoku. Subs not used: Ary, Da, Seyha, Sophanal, Asonibe, Rathanak. Bookings: Dara, Njoku (+ red card).
|Crown huddle together before today's kick-off|