Saturday, June 1, 2013

Oh, so close to success

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

Ouch... it's very painful to concede a goal in the dying moments of such an important match but its another step on the learning curve for the Phnom Penh Crown Academy as they take on the best youth players around the Asean region. Today it was the Frenz United A team representing Malaysia who came to the party for the Crown Academy's first home game in the FAM-Frenz U-15 Asean Champions Trophy. A large crowd gathered to witness this historic first encounter, with Crown seeking to recover from last week's 4-0 reverse in Ho Chi Minh against Vietnam's PVF. Frenz had defeated Singapore in their opening game and were looking to add weight to their competition favourites tag. Sam Schweingruber took charge in Bouy Dary's absence - he's in Myanmar with the U-14 national team - and made two changes to last week's starters, bringing in Boeung Ket's young goalkeeper Sim Mesa and strengthening midfield with Men Piphop. The match began tentatively though Crown's subtle passing and organisation was much in evidence. In Sodavid had the first attempt on goal after five minutes though his 20-yard effort was easily collected by the goalkeeper. A minute later Sim Mesa showed strong hands to deny Naaim Razak from close range after a scramble in the Crown box, and then was down quickly to gather a drilled effort by Hafizuddin Zuki on the twenty minute mark. Seut Baraing placed a 30-yard free-kick into the hands of Frenz keeper Adam Zaini, but it was his surging run and finely timed pass that gave Crown the game's opening goal on 34 minutes. Baraing broke from his left-back position, surged through midfield and found Chhuot Senteang's run behind the defense, and Senteang's finish was clinical as Zaini came off his goal-line. The players obvious delight was matched by the roar of the crowd. Five minutes later Mesa was again down smartly to fall onto a goal-bound header from Razak. In the final minute of the first half, Mesa came our bravely to block Akhmar Haiqal's run with his foot and then easily collected Syafiq Helmi's weak shot. The first-half ended with Crown ahead, which prompted Frenz coach Matdinos Talib to comment; "Cambodia were very fast with good individual skill and simply better than us in the 1st-half."

After the restart, Frenz upped the tempo noticeably, but Crown responded by battling bravely and working hard to close down spaces and limit their opponents. Mesa's punch didn't go far though Aidel Nekmat's shot was also weak in return, while Haiqal's blast from fifteen yards went sailing over the cross-bar. Crown were forced to make changes as cramps and injuries took their toll but they looked comfortable enough without creating too many problems for Frenz at the other end. The nearest miss came as Orn Chanpolin was unlucky not to connect with a dropping ball after a scramble in the Frenz area before he was replaced, one of five changes Crown made. As the game entered five minutes of injury time, it looked as though Crown were heading towards a memorable victory until two minutes into time added on, Frenz struck to grab a point and break a few hearts. Mesa collected the ball and tried a quick drop-kick, but the ball came straight back and Ouk Sovann attempted to head it back to his keeper, only for Akhmar Haiqal to spot the opportunity and direct his header into the net before Mesa could collect. It was a deflating moment for Crown's otherwise immaculate captain Sovann and Mesa, who had an outstanding match.

Coach Sam Schweingruber was upbeat despite the late leveller. "I'm very proud of the boys. They showed a great game, a lot of discipline and worked very hard. Our objective was to keep a clean sheet for as long as possible - we didn't have enough possession to create lots of chances, but we were on track after the first-half - and were well-organised and well-disciplined. The longer the game went on we had players who had injuries and cramps, so I had to make changes, but we kept our shape so we were disappointed with the final result as it was our own mistake that led to the equaliser. It was physically and mentally tough for our boys, playing 90 minutes against such strong opposition, and our players don't play this length of match regularly. I'm very proud of our performance. We are learning, we are developing and we need to get our energy levels up so we can play a full game at a high level."
Academy line-up: Mesa, Chansopheak, Baraing, Titchhy, Sovann, Piphop (T Chhaya 80), Sodavid, Chanpolin (V Samnang 91), Muslim (Rozak 57), Nuron (Ponvuthy 95), Senteang (Noeut 66). Subs not used: Chanvuthy, Phearath, K Chhaya, Chanchav. Booking: Piphop. MOTM: Mesa.
The Frenz Malaysia A starting line-up

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