Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Academy blues

PPCFC Academy. Back Rown LtoR: Sovann (capt), Titchhy, Baraing, Senteang, Chanpolin, Mesa. Front Row: Ponvuthy, Nuron, Piphop, Chansopheak, Sodavid.

The Phnom Penh Crown Academy made the two-day trek to Timor-Leste just a few hours after suffering a 4-1 home defeat to Chonburi and took on the mantle as the first Cambodian sports team to visit the country, also known as East Timor. It was Crown's fourth FAM-Frenz U-15 Asean Champions Trophy tie with one draw and two defeats to their name so far. They flew in via Singapore, a night in Bali and arrived in Dili, the Timorese capital, lunchtime Monday, with the match scheduled for mid-afternoon Tuesday. Late Monday afternoon, the Academy shook off their travel weariness with a warm-up at the national training center, sharing a synthetic surface with the Timor-Leste U-15 and U-23 teams. A crowd of 3,200, admitted free but smaller than expected, welcomed the two teams, with a highly-visible security presence around the stadium.

It took just nine seconds for Timor to liven up the the spectators as Sraing Titchhy's backheader was touched on by Ricardo Mendonca, only for Sem Mesa to grab the ball and avert the danger. Timor's Juliao Ximenes gave Mesa some catching practice a few minutes later, while Pov Ponvuthy fired over the cross-bar from distance. Timor made their first of five substitutions after just twelve minutes and seconds later a Seut Baraing free-kick caught the home defence all at sea, but Mat Nuron, in acres of space, headed wide of the target. With a section of the crowd chanting for the visiting team, it was the home side who threatened with Feliciano Goncalves mistiming his header before Ximenes latched onto a long ball, outpaced the Crown back-line and rounded Mesa, only to lob his shot over the gaping goal. It was a let-off for the visitors, who looked set to take advantage on 31 minutes. Pov Ponvuthy's footwork on the right wing had been a feature of the opening exchanges and it was a poorly timed tackle and caution for Amilcar Belo, caught out by Ponvuthy's quick feet, that gave a Crown a penalty. Skipper Ouk Sovann took the spot-kick but keeper Ricardo Da Cruz, diving to his right, saved at the foot of the post and also blocked Sovann's follow-up attempt.

However the disappointment was quickly forgotten and on 37 minutes, Crown took the lead with a passing move that oozed quality. Ken Chansopheak started it, Ponvuthy's drag-back and pass to Chhuot Senteang reached the box and his inside pass was met by Men Piphop, who swept the ball over the keeper and into the net. It quite literally had the crowd on their feet. As half-time approached, In Sodavid tested Da Cruz in the Timor goal with a 35-yarder that the keeper grabbed at the second attempt. The home side, forced back by Crown's positive approach, had a five minute spell before the whistle where Sem Mesa blocked a delayed shot by Gelvanco Marcal and then got a whack on the head after a good run and cross by Domingos Araujo. In the fourth minute of time added on, Crown were caught cold by a darting run on the right by Goncalves and his cross to the far post was met by the head of Mendonca for the equaliser. A cruel blow to PPCFC's hopes and a kick in the teeth for their first-half efforts.

Timor, buoyed by their late leveller, started the 2nd half like a train.Chansopheak blocked a Marcal header with less than a minute in but two minutes later and the home fans were in seventh heaven. Sem Mesa misjudged a long ball over his back-four and stayed on his line, as Gaudencio Monteiro raced clear of everyone and slotted inside the keeper's near post. In quick succession, Sodavid (hamstring) and Mesa (groin) were replaced by Crown coach Bouy Dary but not before Titchhy made a timely saving tackle on Mendonca. With Svang Samnang replacing Mesa, he was only on the pitch for 42 seconds before he conceded a third goal. Mendonca, out wide on the left, swung over a high cross and as Samnang back-pedaled, he could only manage to tip the ball onto the upright and it rolled over the goal-line. From a position of strength, Crown's hopes were in tatters. Chansopheak was on hand to clear an Araujo header off the line moments before Timor extended their lead even further on 66 minutes. Another long ball over the top stretched the Crown backline to breaking point, with Marcal running clear to power a shot past Samnang. Timor went down to nine players for a few minutes as cramp took hold and Amindo Gusmao's corner curled in and struck the cross-bar. With Timor in the driving seat, Crown found their second wind and began to make inroads into the home team's defenses. Piphop tried his luck from the edge of the box without success, as did Sovann, whose indirect free-kick was lashed into the wall after Da Cruz was pulled up for holding the ball too long. It was all Crown for the final fifteen minutes, as Mat Nuron put in Senteang but Da Cruz came out to smother his attempted flick and Ponvuthy fired a 20-yard drive into the keeper's arms. Ponvuthy and Sovann combined to set up Theang Chhaya, but the tiny midfielder shot straight at Da Cruz when it seemed easier to score. Senteang sent a free-kick wide of the mark, Kim Chhaya's powerful drive was punched clear by Da Cruz and in time added on, Piphop's long range effort was collected by Da Cruz, as he and his teammates celebrated the final whistle, and their first victory.

Academy coach Bouy Dary offered up this assessment of his team's performance in defeat. "For the first-half we played great but for the last five minutes before the break they had a lot of the ball and we couldn't clear it, we were nervous. We have to learn where and when not to play when defending. Two players stood out in the 1st half, Ponvuthy and Senteang, and our goal was wonderful, excellent combination play, a great goal. But a lack of experience at the start of the 2nd half cost us. We came back again later on but we couldn't score. Honestly, we were the better side but our recovery from playing a few days ago wasn't good as we were travelling non-stop. Timor were fresh, they didn't play and of course they were at home and motivated to do their best." The Academy now head for Thailand, with a stopover in Bali and Bangkok, as they meet Chonburi FC on Saturday in their third Asean U-15 match in a week.
PPCFC line-up: Mesa (S Samnang 55), Chansopheak (K Chhaya 69), Baraing, Sovann, Titchhy, Chanpolin (Sakrovy 76), Sodavid (Rozak 50), Piphop, Ponvuthy, Nuron (T Chhaya 86), Senteang. Subs not used: Chanchav, V Samnang, Dara. Bookings: None. MOTM: Ponvuthy.
The Timor-Leste U-15 starting line-up

A big crowd came to watch the PPCFC Academy in Dili

Captain Ouk Sovann (4) introduces his teammates to the Secretary of State

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