Saturday, July 6, 2013

Crown finish in 3rd spot

PPCFC. Back Row LtoR: Da, Seyha, Pisa, Ary, Narin, Lika. Front Row: Morslim, Dara, Phearun, Sothy (capt), Suhana - click to enlarge
Phnom Penh Crown's final regular match of the Metfone C-League season, to determine final league positions but not the championship, which will go to play-offs over the next two weeks, was against Kirivong, who had everything to play for. Crown's place in the play-offs was already assured. Crown coach Sam Schweingruber, with a list as long as your arm of players sitting on 1 yellow card away from suspension, took the obvious option and sidelined them all. That meant game-time for the remainder of his squad players, who must've thought they'd have a tough game on their hands, with Kirivong still able to make the top 4 if results went their way. Especially as Kirivong had recently beaten league leaders Boeung Ket 7-5. How wrong they were. It beggars belief how Boeung Ket could've conceded that many goals against a Kirivong team led by Friday Nwakuna but which turned out to be toothless and offered practically zero threat after the break. For Crown players like Mak Phearun, Ly Morslim and Chhom Pisa, who were starting a league game for the first time, their baptism in a game devoid of real star quality, was much less frenetic as they may've expected. With Friday just one goal behind the league's top scorer, you would've expected him to pose a threat and he twice came close in the first 15 minutes. At first he connected with a cross at the far post, but his touch deserted him and moments later, he fired in a low drive that Yok Ary saved with his feet. The Crown goalkeeper was in good form in the opening exchanges and soon pushed a far post header by Ek Vannak for a corner. A double save from Vannak and Heng Seyha followed as Kirivong sought an opening goal, whilst at the other end, Morslim put in Phearun but he rushed his shot and it hit the side netting. Sos Suhana sent a long range drive over the bar as Crown found their feet. How a swinging arm from Nhim Sovannara on Phearun didn't warrant at least a yellow card no-one could fathom and from the free-kick, Pisa fired in a 25-yard effort that struck the outside of the near post.

For all of the second half, bar a final last few minutes flurry, Kirivong were absent as an attacking force. That left Crown, with a makeshift strikeforce of Phearun and Morslim, to take control and with better finishing they could've and should've registered a goal. First Pisa and then Phearun chased balls into the box but couldn't get a shot away, then Suhana latched onto Leng Makara's header but fired straight into the hands of keeper Kim Makara. The same pair carved open the Kirivong defence soon after but the result was the same, with Makara stopping Suhana's effort. The match fizzled out into a midfield muddle until the closing minutes when Phan Bunlong shot wide, Friday did likewise and a free-kick from Heng Koemhoung was fisted clear by Ary in the final action of the match. A second string Crown line-up had held Kirivong with relative ease and at the same time, registered a new record with only 13 goals conceded in 18 league matches, beating the previous record held by Phnom Penh Empire of 15 goals in 2008. That was a real plus for coach Schweingruber. "While Kirivong had 2 or 3 good chances in the first-half, very hard defensive work by Crown restricted them to a few shots from distance after that. Our inexperienced attackers failed to get their shot away early enough when we went forward. We had better chances in the second half and on three occasions should have scored with one-on-one attempts with their keeper. Though we didn't score, we did succeed in our main objective of keeping a clean sheet for a 7th time and set the new record of conceding only 13 goals in the entire season - a big achievement and the result of many hours of hard work on the training pitch focusing on solid defense. Having released a lot of defenders and then losing Rady and Dani during the season, its an achievement to be proud of."
With superior goal difference to their nearest rivals Svay Rieng, it looked as though Crown would finish the season in second spot in the table with both teams finishing on 33 points, but in the game at the Old Stadium, AEU offered up no resistance as they were bullied into a 10-3 defeat, giving Svay Rieng second place by virtue of the same goal difference as Crown, but by scoring more goals. Crown wrapped up the regular season in 3rd spot.
PPCFC line-up: Ary, Da, Seyha, Narin, Lika, Sothy (capt), Pisa, Suhana, Phearun (Kano 72), Dara (Makara 57), Morslim (Ratana 81). Subs not used: Seiha, Srin, Pheng, Thierry, Sokumpheak. Bookings: Phearun. MOTM: Ary.

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