Saturday, July 13, 2013

Crown falter in semi-final

PPCFC v Svay Rieng. Back Row LtoR: Obadin, Boris, Ha-Neul, Thierry, van der Hooft, Srin. Front Row: Pheng, Suhana, Seiha, Sokumpheak, Borey (capt).
With a place in the Metfone C-League play-off final at stake, this semi-final, played at the Old Stadium on a less-than-satisfactory surface, pitched 2nd-placed Svay Rieng against Phnom Penh Crown, the third-place finishers in the 18-game domestic league season. Attracting a crowd of over 1,500, the match referee was the inexperienced Chi Samedy and he was the focus of a deluge of criticism at the final whistle. With Crown kicking off, they were almost caught napping after just 47 seconds as Sok Chanrasmey raced clear but fired weakly at Samrith Seiha with the goal at his mercy. Crown's first effort of note came on 8 minutes as Elroy van der Hooft headed a Bin Thierry corner wide of the target. At the other end, Svay Rieng's only corner of the match found Khuon Laboravy's head at the near post but Seiha was down smartly to thwart the danger. Moments later, Seiha needed treatment for a kick in the head after Laboravy left his foot dangling in a challenge. A Kouch Sokumpheak effort gave Am Sovannarath little trouble in the SR goal and Lee Ha-Neul's surge to the byeline and cross eluded everyone. On 24 minutes a weakly-struck clearance from Seiha landed at the feet of Tum Saray 25-yards from goal, and as Kok Boris backed off, Saray's shot from the edge of the box gave the former Preah Khan Reach team a soft one-goal advantage.

Crown threatened when Thierry's inswinging free-kick was fisted clear by Sovannarath but it was Svay Rieng who were celebrating a second goal on 36 minutes. Laboravy controlled a long pass, cut inside his marker and laid the ball off to Saray, who placed his low shot wide of Seiha's despairing dive and inside the post. A faltering start by Crown had been severely punished. However, less than a minute later, Crown were back in it, courtesy of Kouch Sokumpheak. Khim Borey was the provider and with a neat shimmy, Sokumpheak moved inside the penalty box and let rip with a vicious drive that gave Sovannarath no chance. Just four minutes later and it was level-pegging. Odion Obadin's cross-field pass was dummied by van der Hooft and Borey took the ball in his stride, cut in-field and unleashed a 25-yard screamer that dipped over Sovannarath's head and sent the Crown fans into raptures. It was a cracking goal and 2-2 was the half-time score.

Twice at the start of the second half, Sovannarath was forced to leave his goal-line and race out quickly to deny Borey and Hong Pheng. With Ha-Neul booked for kicking the ball against the hoarding and van der Hooft muscled to the ground, Crown were guilty of waiting for the whistle and Svay Rieng took advantage with a quick break ten minutes into the half. Laboravy crossed from the right and Saray got his head to the ball and though it lacked power, Seiha couldn't stop it crossing the line. It was Saray's hat-trick goal. Svay Rieng's James Adekunle was cautioned for challenging Ha-Neul with a leading arm that caused a mini confrontation between both teams. Seiha was in the way as Chanrasmey shot from Saray's pass and at the other end, Sos Suhana failed to attack a Ngoy Srin pass to the far post. A golden opportunity fell to substitute Leng Makara on 77 minutes, on for Ha-Neul, after Sokumpheak's cross fell to him fifteen yards out. Instead of guiding his shot inside the post, he stabbed it wide and the chance was wasted. Moments later, a lucky bounce sent Sokumpheak scrurrying clear but Sovannarath was quick to smother the breakaway. With twn minutes to go, one of Sokumpheak's succession of corners was met powerfully by the run and leap of Obadin but his goal-bound header was fisted over from under the bar by Sovannarath.

Seiha was alert to repel a drive to the near post by Lay Raksmey and Adekunle just managed to clear the danger in his own six-yard box as van der Hooft lunged for a Thierry pass. In the third minute of time added on, Svay Rieng sealed their win with a fourth goal. Catching Crown on the break, Prak Mony Udom crossed to the near post and Laboravy got a touch that out-foxed Seiha and the ball rolled agonisingly over the line. Two minutes later and Crown grabbed a goal but it was too little too late. Thierry's 20-yard free-kick was pushed onto the cross-bar by Sovannarath and as the ball bounced down onto the goal-line, van der Hooft dived to head in. Referee Samedy blew his whistle a minute later as Svay Rieng celebrated their success and the crowd took out their anger on the match officials. Crown coach Sam Schweingruber was understandably frustrated immediately after the game. "We should've been down after a minute. Some players were asleep, not concentrating, certainly not how we expected to start the game. 3 of their 4 goals would not normally go in. We've conceded just 5 goals in our last 9 matches and then we concede 4 goals like this in 1 game. We didn't deserve to win. We started off the 2nd half okay and with a bit of luck could've taken the lead, but we got frustrated with the referee and had all kinds of issues. On the counter attack we got punished, which is something we do to teams, but they did it to us. We were complaining too much, we lost the ball too much and we lost our discipline. We weren't the better team today and our lack of discipline at important moments cost us dearly." Crown must pick themselves up as they meet BBU in the third-place decider on Friday after the students were beaten 1-0 in extra time by Boeung Ket at the Olympic Stadium in the other semi-final.
PPCFC line-up: Seiha, Srin, Pheng, Boris, Obadin, Thierry, Sokumpheak, Suhana, Borey, Ha-Neul (Makara 71), van der Hooft. Subs not used: Ary, Soksela, Da, Narin, Lika, Dara, Seyha, Sothy, Morslim, Pisa. Bookings: Ha-Neul. MOTM: Sokumpheak.

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