Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pheak on target

PPCFC line-up. Back Row LtoR: Oladiji, Hasan, Da, Pheng, Obadin, Narin. Front: Sothy, Suhana, Seiha, Borey, Sokumpheak - click to enlarge
Practice makes perfect. Well it certainly did for giant Phnom Penh Crown centre-half Odion Obadin in Sunday's Metfone C-League encounter with Army at Olympic Stadium. With just over an hour of the game gone and match-winning opportunities at a premium, Obadin trotted forward for a couple of corners, hoping to make use of his height advantage. Crown coach Sam Schweingruber admitted after the match that hours on the training ground with Obadin heading hundreds of balls into the goal paid dividends. Initially, Obadin was thwarted when his downward header from Kouch Sokumpheak's flag-kick was palmed aside by Army keeper Um Vichet as it bounced towards the top corner. Four minutes later and Obadin was celebrating his first goal of the season with a forward role and joyful embrace with his Nigerian teammate Nelson Oladiji. This time, Ouk Sothy's corner from the right cleared everyone in the box except the leaping defender, who powered his header into the unguarded net on 64 minutes. It broke the deadlock. Five minutes later and Crown registered a second strike and the match result was settled. This time the celebrations were just as joyous as it was Kouch Sokumpheak, enjoying his first start in a Crown shirt for eight months, who was on hand to tuck the ball under Vichet's body, after Hong Pheng and Oladiji undid the Army defence on their right flank and Khim Borey got the slightest of touches to steer it into Sokumpheak's path. The fans favourite made no mistake from six yards out. His job done, he left the pitch moments later to deserved applause.

With three regulars missing, coach Schweingruber had to alter the make-up of his team for this revenge duel after the Army knocked Crown out of the Hun Sen Cup a month ago. Sokumpheak sent a left-foot drive wide early on and Borey went over in the box but didn't convince the referee that Vichet had caught his foot. Next, a close-range Borey header caused Vichet to tip over and a few dangerous balls into the box failed to produce the killer touch from either Sokumpheak or Sothy. The Army's best chance fell to Meak Chhordaravuth but he screwed his clear opening wide. The final chance of the first-half fell to Oladiji but his shot from Sokumpheak's pull-back was deflected over the cross-bar. The Army briefly found their voice at the start of the second half. Phoung Soksana touched a Pom Tola center onto the bar and Leng Narin cleared the danger, and Chhordaravuth spanked a powerful drive that stung the hands of Samrith Seiha. That was effectively it as Crown took control and killed off their opponents with two goals in a five minute spell. With Obadin and Sokumpheak's efforts in the bag, Sos Suhana blasted over after a neat interchange between Borey and Oladiji had set him up. Hong Pheng, pushed forward from full-back, swung his right foot at a Sothy cross and sent it skyward, while Suhana's header was deflected at the death by the outstretched leg of Net Vesana.

Crown coach Schweingruber was happy with the points but not the performance. "For the first 20 minutes were were extremely poor. I don't think we won any ball in midfield, or 50-50 balls, we were really struggling. After that we were better organised but all in all too many mistakes and a lack of quality all over. First ten minutes after the interval, we nearly conceded one, so I put in some fresh legs but we still struggled until we scored from the corner kick. If you look at the corners, we had about 12 to 3, we were more in their area but we failed to create great chances and we made too many individual mistakes. We spent 3 days this week after training, working with Tony (Obadin) and he must've had 250 headers in total. Obviously that makes me proud that he scored today. I'm very happy to see Sokumpheak on the scoresheet too. We still have to work on his fitness over 90 minutes and fitting him better into the team, but I'm happy for his confidence that he scored today." The win takes Crown up to second place in the MCL table.
PPCFC line-up: Seiha, Da (Rady 60), Pheng, Narin, Obadin, Sothy, Hasan (Seyha 60), Suhana, Oladiji, Sokumpheak (Pisa 70), Borey. Subs not used: Ary, Dara, Lika, Srin, Dary, Kano, Phearun, Morslim. Bookings: Pheng, Seyha. MOTM: Obadin.

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