|Crown v AEU. Back Row, LtoR: Obadin, Thierry, Boris, Pheng, Narin, Ary. Front: Seyha, Suhana, Makara, Borey (capt), Sokumpheak.|
After a good start to their Metfone C-league season, Phnom Penh Crown's recent slippages against the top two teams was compounded by a lacklustre showing against newcomers Asia Euro University at the Olympic Stadium this afternoon. A goal-less draw and a below-par performance was not what coach Sam Schweingruber was looking for going into the Khmer New Year break. "We were terrible today. In the first half we had zero purpose in what we were doing. Nothing worked. All in all a deserved draw, we were definitely not the better team. Simply not good enough in my opinion. Fair to say, definitely a wake-up call to me and the whole team. We will have to work very hard in training to correct this situation. If we continue to play like this, we will struggle to make the play-offs." A frank assessment from the Swiss-born coach, who had just watched his team struggle to overcome one of the league's less-fancied teams. The game highlighted Crown's shyness in front of goal, despite a team boasting national team players and big reputations. For their part, AEU are a team of journeymen and youngsters, new to the C-League this year, and proving that hard work and a fighting spirit will occasionally prevail. Granted, they didn't produce one single shot on target throughout today's game and Crown's goal was never seriously threatened, but they proved to be an obstacle to the former champions getting back on track following defeats to Preah Khan Reach and Boeung Ket. A wake-up call, as Schweingruber points out, is exactly what it was.
With Samrith Seiha missing through illness, Yok Ary retained his place in the Crown goal and had one of his quietest-ever games. At the other end, Um Sereyrath was tested by Bin Thierry's 30-yard free-kick on eleven minutes, with the keeper pushing out the goal attempt and then thwarting Sos Suhana's follow-up. Ten minutes later, Hong Pheng crashed through two tackles but his final shot lacked the power to beat Sereyrath who collected cleanly at the second attempt. Less than a minute late, Kouch Sokumpheak fed Leng Makara but his lobbed attempt cleared the goal-frame. On the half-hour, Suhana and Khim Borey played a clever one-two and the latter's thunderous left-foot shot on the run crashed against the cross-bar and into the arms of a grateful Sereyrath. Moments later, Pheng took a pass from Borey in his stride but his low drive again lacked conviction. AEU's first real attempt was a free-kick on 37 minutes that flashed wide of the target. Coach Schweingruber left his team in no doubt at the half-time dressing-down, what he thought of their first-half showing.
Twelve minutes after the break, Borey found the net with a superb finish over Sereyrath's head but his joy was short-lived as the flag was raised. Video replays show that Borey was onside as Pheng's pass struck a defender and looped into his path. Two minutes later Borey broke down the left wing and his cross to the far post saw Makara attempt an audacious mid-air volley that whistled a yard wide. On 67 minutes, Pheng's pass found Borey goal-side of his marker and as Sereyrath came to meet him, the striker's attempted chip wasn't quite high enough and the keeper's fingertips diverted it for a corner. Crown, seeking to gain maximum points, sent on Nelson Oladiji and his first touch inadvertently sent Odion Obadin's downward header into the hands of Sereyrath. A minute later, Oladiji was booked on what would be his final Crown appearance. Borey was determined to end Crown's drought but skyed his shot from 20 yards out, when set up by Makara. Chhom Pisa entered the fray and sent a 30-yarder over the top and picked up a booking two minutes later. AEU's free-kick from the infringement sailed harmlessly over the cross-bar. Crown's final chance fell at the feet of Makara but his two attempts came to nothing, his second keeping the ball-boys busy, as the match ended all-square. Crown now have a break for the new year until they face Kirivong in the final match of the first round of the MCL on 27 April. Fifteen-year-old keeper Keo Soksela made his first appearance on the bench as understudy to Ary. It was confirmed after the match that Pheak Rady has retired for injury and business reasons, while Nelosn Oladiji's short-term contract would not be renewed.
PPCFC line-up: Ary, Boris, Seyha (Oladiji 72), Narin (Lika 28), Obadin, Thierry, Suhana (Pisa 82), Pheng, Makara, Sokumpheak, Borey. Subs not used: Soksela, Dara, Kano, Sothy, Dary, Morslim, Phearun. Bookings: Borey, Nelson, Pisa, Pheng. MOTM: Borey.
|Coach Sam Schweingruber makes his point forcibly at half-time|
|Khim Borey leads out Crown followed by Yok Ary|