Sunday, February 24, 2013


PPCFC v Naga. Back Row LtoR: Obadin, Boris, Thierry, Oladiji, Srin, Pheng. Front: Seyha, Makara, Seiha, Suhana, Da - click to enlarge.
Phnom Penh Crown will be soul-searching this week after letting NagaCorp take a point from Sunday's Metfone C-League at Olympic Stadium. They deserved to win this clash of the titans but fell short when it came to troubling the electronic scoreboard. In fact it took 88 minutes before Crown finally clawed back a lead that NagaCorp had grabbed after just twelve minutes. In a first half that Crown dominated in possession and chances but couldn't turn their superiority into goals, it was Naga who took advantage of a defensive lapse. With the Crown backline pushing up, Ishola Abiodun marked his debut with a timely break and cool finish as Samrith Seiha left his goal-line. Two minutes earlier, Nelson Oladiji, on his Crown debut, had fizzed a drive inches wide of the far post after collecting a headed pass from Sos Suhana. Moments after taking the lead, Naga's Teab Vathanak blasted over when well-placed and that was it, as the Hun Sen Cup holders retreated into their own half. Inviting Crown to attack, Oladiji fired wide from 25 yards and Hong Pheng did likewise on the turn. Just after the half hour, Suhana fed Pheng but his stinging effort was tipped over by Naga stopper Phorn Ratana. Twice in as many minutes, Leng Makara found himself with two far post headers but was awry with both. A Suhana corner and a Ratana flap presented him with the first chance, which he headed down and wide. Then Suhana again fed Pheng, his drive was parried into the air by Ratana and Makara sent the opportunity wide again. As half-time approached, Suhana tried his luck but his 25-yard shot skidded wide. The last action of the half saw Oladiji and Odion Obadin challenge Ratana for a deflected Bin Thierry free-kick and somehow the ball ended up going for a corner.

Ten minutes into the second-half and Naga fluffed their second clear opportunity. Choun Chum weaved his way into the box and rolled his pass across the face of goal, only to see Abiodun miscue his touch wide when it seemed easier to score. That was the last we saw of Naga as an attacking threat. With Chum booked for simulation and their players finding any excuse to waste time and role around on the ground, Crown set about their task with gusto. Injury returnees, Khim Borey and Kouch Sokumpheak entered the fray, the latter after a 7-month lay-off with ligament damage, to pep up the team and the crowd, and it was Borey who was instrumental in a change in Crown's fortunes with a telling 20-minute cameo. After Pheng had headed a Thourng Da cross wide, Borey fired in a shot on the turn which Ratana did well to keep out low down at the near post. Sokumpheak sent over a telling cross which Makara and Obadin challenged each other and combined to fluff a great far post opportunity. With eight minutes left on the clock, a Borey foray into the box was ended by a Tieng Tiny trip but Crown found their route to an equaliser blocked when Ratana dived low to his left to halt Thierry's penalty kick, and then used his chest to block the follow-up. Crown's pressing finally paid dividends with just two minutes of normal time to go. Borey pulled out a sublime bye-line cross and as Oladiji challenged Ratana, the ball fell at the feet of Makara and he dispatched it into the net with power and accuracy. Crown sought a winner but Naga's spoiling tactics frittered away five minutes of injury time and the match finished all square at 1-1.

Crown coach Sam Schweingruber spoke of his frustration after the game. "From the beginning we were the better team. From the overall performance we deserved to win. They went one goal up and had a couple of half chances, but there was only one team in it. We struggled with the second ball in the middle of the pitch but corrected that in the 2nd half. We had much better energy and much better purpose, so I'm very disappointed with the result. Being down in the 88th minute, missing several good chances, some hard luck here and there and missing a penalty as well, you might think its not your day. So its good that we got a point and didn't lose. Borey came on, gave the final pass for our goal and had some instrumental touches at the end. And of course we are very happy to see Sokumpheak back on the field. Now we will work on shaping the team, finding out how we work best together and play together."
PPCFC v NagaCorp: Seiha, Da, Seyha (Borey 67), Srin, Obadin, Boris (Sokumpheak 74), Thierry, Suhana, Pheng, Makara, Oladiji. Subs not used: Ary, Dara, Kano, Lika, Narin, Sothy, Dary, Morslim, Pisa. Bookings: Seyha, Srin. MOTM: Borey.

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