Saturday, April 27, 2013

Elroy Explodes

PPCFC line-up v Kirivong. Back Row LtoR: Obadin, Ha-Neul, Thierry, Boris, van der Hooft, Narin. Front: Seyha, Suhana, Seiha, Makara, Sokumpheak (capt) to enlarge
Now that is what I call setting down a marker on your debut, as Elroy van der Hooft bagged a hat-trick in Phnom Penh Crown's 3-1 Metfone C-League victory over Kirivong this afternoon. The Dutch striker with just a couple of training sessions under his belt and nursing a hamstring strain, announced himself in the best possible fashion and his team needed it, after getting pegged back to 1-1 and having another debutant, South Korean Lee Ha-Neul sent off just before the interval. Starting the match without his skipper Khim Borey as well as Hong Pheng and Ngoy Srin, coach Sam Schweingruber handed a first start to two of his recent signings and the captain's armband to Kouch Sokumpheak. And the first real action saw a piece of individual brilliance by one of those new faces, Elroy van der Hooft, open the scoring after ten minutes. Bin Thierry sent van der Hooft racing away on the right and with some deft footwork, he sidestepped two Kirivong defenders and coolly flicked the ball past keeper Kim Makara and inside the near post to send his teammates into raptures. The rainy season announced its early arrival with the start of a downpour that was to progressively get a lot worse and ruin the match as a footballing spectacle. On 24 minutes Kirivong got back into the game after battling work by David Njoku set up Ek Vannak and Crown keeper Samrith Seiha's fingertips could only help the ball over the line from his first-time shot. With the rain coming down in sheets, the match officials decided to carry on despite lightning flashes just outside the stadium. Anyone with a brain would've called the players off the pitch for safety reasons alone. Not referee Khuon Virak. Crown tried a few long range attempts through Sokumpheak, Odion Obadin and Thierry without much joy but found themselves with an uphill battle on their hands four minutes before the half-time break. Lee Ha-Neul had already been cautioned for a late challenge and referee Virak took an instant dislike to another of his lunging tackles on the soaking wet surface, flashing a straight red despite Savorn Ratanak Raksa quickly getting to his feet. It sent Crown into the dressing room with ten men and Kirivong rubbing their hands with glee. The usual 15-minute break was extended to 90 minutes as the rain continued to fall, covering the pitch in pools of water, until the officials decided it was okay to proceed. Anywhere else, the game would've been abandoned a long time before.

Crown started the 2nd half like a runaway train, after Seiha had dived bravely at the feet of Kirivong striker Ntim Spirit with just 18 seconds on the clock. Moments later, a Men Seyha throw-in was fired into the side-netting on the turn by van der Hooft. He was just warming up. Soon after he tried his luck from 40-yards, which Kim Makara gathered easily enough. Kirivong were unlucky to see Spirit's attempt bounce back into play off the foot of a post, but it was Crown who nosed in front, 11 minutes after the restart. Seyha found Sokumpheak and his threaded pass forward was taken in his stride by van der Hooft who cleverly fired a left-foot shot under Kim Makara to give his team the lead once more. Just four minutes later, van der Hooft and his teammates were celebrating again as the Flying Dutchman registered a debut hat-trick. Leng Makara sent Sos Suhana away on the right wing and his first-time center behind the defenders found van der Hooft steaming in to deliver the killer punch at the far post. He sank to his knees in jubilation as Crown took a 3-1 lead despite their inferior numbers. A minute later and Sokumpheak took a pass from Suhana into the box only to see Kim Makara push aside his stinging effort. A beautifully flighted Thierry free-kick was a whisker away from meeting van der Hooft's diving header as Crown pressed, though Akeem Bolaji will be disappointed his header didn't find the target at the other end. Makara rose high to head Thierry's cross inches past the far upright and then Thourng Da raced onto Makara's pass only to send his drive straight at the Kirivong keeper. With full-time fast approaching, Kirivong's Phan Bunlong was booked for a second time, for an elbow on Sokumpheak and was dismissed and despite five extra minutes, there was no way back for the Takeo-based outfit as Crown leapfrogged them into 4th place in the league standings. Certainly a debut to remember for Elroy van der Hooft, who was mobbed by Crown fans as he left the field, a new hero in their midst.
PPCFC line-up: Seiha, Boris, Seyha, Narin (Da 46), Obadin, Thierry, Suhana, Ha-Neul, Makara (Pisa 85), Sokumpheak, van der Hooft (Sothy 91). Subs not used: Ary, Ratana, Dara, Lika, Dary, Morslim, Kano, Phearun. Bookings: Ha-Neul (+ red card), Obadin, Thierry. MOTM: van der Hooft.

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