Saturday, June 29, 2013

Elroy magic helps Crown qualify

PPCFC. Back Row LtoR: Obadin, Ha-Neul, Pheng, Boris, van der Hooft, Sokumpheak. Front Row: Sothy, Da, Suhana, Seiha, Borey
Elroy van der Hooft has a knack of grabbing the headlines. He did it again today, when he burst through the Asia Euro University defence like a hot knife through butter and then used the deftest of touches to finish off a fine piece of individual magic in only the third minute. It's not the first-time either - his acrobatic overhead-bicycle kick from last week is a YouTube hit - and we hope won't be the last, as he inspired Phnom Penh Crown to a 3-0 victory over AEU, which confirmed their spot in the end of season Super 4 play-offs. However, the Dutchman will miss next Saturday's final match of the regular domestic season after he picked up a booking and will have to sit it out with a one-match suspension. Crown were looking for nothing more than a win against Asia Euro University at the Olympic Stadium this afternoon, but had to do it without Bin Thierry, handed a suspension after collecting five yellow cards this campaign. His place in midfield went to Ouk Sothy. An early goal will settle any nerves and van der Hooft duly provided it. Receiving a pass forward by Kok Boris, he headed it on and burst between three defenders to the bye-line, taking on two more opponents he then poked the ball past the AEU keeper for a remarkable solo goal, his 11th since joining the club mid-way through this season. In the tenth minute, Lee Ha-Neul showed a defender a clean pair of heels but found keeper Um Sereyrath blocking his path at the near post. Moments later he robbed the keeper of the ball but was closed down as he shaped to shoot. With little goalmouth activity, a wild swinger from Khim Borey after a neat Crown move summed up the rest of the half, with only an Ouk Sothy rising shot that cleared the bar, worthy of mention before the half-time break.

An early booking for van der Hooft after an off-the-ball altercation and a knee injury nullified his impact in the second period. Crown were gunning for a second goal and Kouch Sokumpheak's pass found its way to Borey, but the skipper's low shot was blocked by Sereyrath's feet. At the other end, Samrith Seiha was called into action to save a Sary Mathnorothin free-kick that bounced awkwardly at the foot of the upright. On 70 minutes, Crown finally made the game safe with their second goal. Men Seyha and Hong Pheng combined to send Ha-Neul to the bye-line and his low center looked food and drink for Sereyrath, but the young keeper let the ball slip through his grasp and Sos Suhana gleefully tapped in the loose ball from close range. Seconds later Borey's neat chip put in Ha-Neul but his bobbling shot lacked power to beat the keeper. Five minutes after their second goal, Crown claimed their third. Borey had too much time to steer his pass into Hong Pheng's run into the box, and he chested it down and touched it past Sereyrath in one clinical movement to seal the result and confirm Crown's participation in the play-offs. Samrith Seiha had to deal with long range efforts from Oriola Adeseye and Sun Sovanrotha, but it was too little too late from AEU. Borey and then Chhom Pisa had late opportunities but both were snuffed out as Crown recorded the win they required.

Crown coach Sam Schweingruber was reservedly pleased. "It was our game plan to score early, but it didn't give us what I was hoping for. We were a bit over-confident maybe, were were a bit lazy in some situations too. We had a good shape but were too fragile after losing the ball and not coming back quick enough. I would've expected us to be more in control after scoring an early goal. The 2nd half was about being patient, in our build-up and stick to the game plan so I was happy that we scored 2 more goals to give us a comfortable win and progress to the semi-finals. Elroy's first goal was a touch of individual class, we know he can do that, but AEU were asleep and it was embarrassing for them how easy he was able to score." Crown have one game left, against Kirivong next Saturday, before they find out their play-off semi-final opponents, with the game set for the Army Stadium (unfortunately) on Saturday 13 July.
PPCFC line-up: Seiha, Da, Pheng, Boris, Obadin, Sothy (Pisa 81), Sokumpheak, Suhana (Morslim 82), Ha-Neul, Borey, van der Hooft (Seyha 63). Subs not used: Ary, Narin, Lika, Hasan, Dara, Makara, Srin, Phearun. Bookings: van der Hooft. MOTM: Ha-Neul.

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