Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Playing against 12

PPCFC v Boeung Ket. Back Row LtoR: Boris, Pheng, Thierry, Obadin, Narin, Srin. Front Row: Suhana, Ary, Makara, Borey (capt), Sokumpheak.
In an eagerly-awaited Metfone C-League clash at Olympic Stadium, Phnom Penh Crown were looking to dent the 100% record of leaders Boeung Ket after six matches, but didn't realise they'd be up against the match referee as well. Without goalkeeper Samrith Seiha, out with a fever, Crown had some early jitters with Leng Narin completely missing his clearance kick and needing Odion Obadin to strong-arm Yob Romaton out of the danger area. Then Keo Sokngorn got above Ngoy Srin but his header sailed wide, before Srin cleared his lines as Chan Vathanaka broke through. On 16 minutes Boeung Ket took the lead with another Sumaila Momoh special. A poor decision gave the leaders a free-kick which was cleared out to Momoh, who by-passed Sos Suhana's challenge and fired in an arrow-like drive from 20 yards that struck the inside of the post and nestled in the net. Crown's first real effort came as Suhana's drilled free-kick was put behind by Ly Ravy, before match referee Yean Kivatana stepped up to put his stamp on the match. Srin and Vathanaka challenged for the ball, both connecting at the same time as video evidence shows, but the Boeung Ket striker's reaction and squeal made up the referee's mind. A yellow card for Srin. Seconds later, Kivatana was brandishing a red card, allegedly for insulting behaviour by the Crown defender, recalled to the team after sitting out the last few matches. The match was 25 minutes old and Crown were reduced to 10-men. Stung into action, Kouch Sokumpheak sent a drive over the top from the edge of the area and then headed another effort wide of the upright. Referee Kivatana, never one to shy away from the spotlight, decided on 37 minutes that Crown hadn't suffered enough, by awarding a soft penalty for a collision between Obadin and Romaton in the penalty box. It was a very questionable award, for which Vathanaka stepped up to send Yok Ary the wrong way with the spot-kick. As the teams entered the fourth minute of time added on at the end of the 1st half, another poor decision gave Crown a free-kick about 20 yards from goal. Bin Thierry's left-foot curler took a wicked deflection off the head of Romaton and landed in the far corner of the Boeung Ket net. 2-1 down at half-time but Crown were not dead in the water. Game on.

Vathanaka's goal-bound free-kick early after the restart was headed clear by Obadin, before Thierry was cautioned, even though he never touched his opponent. Fourteen minutes after the break, Khim Borey's cross found Sokumpheak all alone in the box but his header sailed harmlessly wide, and seconds later his turn and shot hit Ly Ravy and went for a corner. The best opportunity fell to Sos Suhana on sixteen minutes when Peng Bunchhay's punch landed at his feet on the edge of the box but he blasted his drive over the top with the goalkeeper on the floor. Sam Schweingruber tried to enliven his team with a couple of substitutions and positional changes and it very nearly paid dividends on 69 minutes. Another Thierry free-kick, this time 30-yards from goal, was heading for the top corner only for Bunchhay to leap to his left and claw the ball away for a corner. Fabulous stuff from both players. Moments later and Suhana sent a looping header over the cross-bar. Unable to find an equaliser, Crown paid a heavy price as Boeung Ket broke quickly, Vathanaka out-muscled Pheak Rady and played a one-two with Sokngorn, racing into the box and finishing with confidence, on 76 minutes. Crest-fallen, Crown replied with a looping overhead kick from Leng Makara after Bunchhay's weak punch, but Boeung Ket raced clear again, only for new signing Befolo Mbarga to find Ary in no mood to concede a fourth goal. In another five minutes of added on time, Crown continued to press with Borey having a shot blocked, Bunchhay pulling off another finger-tip full-length save this time from Nelson Oladiji's bobbling drive, Hong Pheng hammering a 25-yarder inches high and finally, Oladiji mis-kicking in front of goal with the final kick of the match. Game over, 3-1 to the league leaders to extend their run to seven straight wins, but it was far from plain-sailing and without referee Yean Kivatana's intervention, the match would've been a much closer affair.

For coach Schweingruber, there were pluses to take from the game. "It definitely didn't go our way today. I don't understand what happened with the red card, but we were already a goal down which came pretty much out of nowhere and was unstoppable. Then the red card and a second goal. That's when we finally woke up and I saw a PPC team who though we didn't dominate, you didn't know who had less players and I have to compliment my team for working extremely hard until the 70th minute. Up to that point we looked like the team who could walk off as winners, 10-men and at 2-1 down we looked the better team in my opinion. They were restricted to a few counter-attacks and we were creating chances, moving well, fighting hard, everyone was working for each other. We had a great chance with a free-kick and also from a corner, but its those chances you have to take when you are in our position. We couldn't manage to score, which is the story of our season, we don't score enough of our chances. We had to do something, we made a couple of changes but it didn't work. They scored on a break, which wasn't a surprise and that finished the game off. Then again in the last ten minutes I have to compliment my team, we were down but we were fighting and that's the kind of spirit I want to see and in any other game, we'd walk off with a victory." 
PPCFC line-up: Ary, Srin, Pheng, Narin (Rady 62), Obadin, Boris, Thierry, Suhana, Makara (Pisa 84), Sokumpheak (Nelson 69), Borey. Subs not used: Dara, Sothy, Lika, Dary, Seyha, Morslim, Kano, Phearun. Bookings: Srin (+ red card), Thierry, Obadin. MOTM: Thierry.

No comments: