Saturday, July 6, 2013

Game-changing decision

PPCFC Academy. Back Row LtoR: Chanpolin, Titchhy, Baraing, Senteang, S Samnang, Sovann (capt). Front Row: Chansopheak, Nuron, Piphop, Sodavid, Ponvuthy.
With a 4-1 defeat in Timor still fresh in the memory, albeit in a match which the Phnom Penh Crown Academy gave as good as they got for an hour, there was optimism in the camp that an upset might be on the cards with the Timor-Leste U-15 national team making the trip to Phnom Penh. With the Olympic Stadium unavailable, the Asean U-15 Champions Trophy match was played at the Old Stadium and in front of an expectant crowd, the first-half went according to plan for the home team. The difference in size was obvious but there was little to choose between the teams on a tactical level as both sides came close on a few occasions. Seut Baraing got in a decisive block early on and Svang Samnang showed good hands to deal with a drive from Gaudencio Monteiro. In Sodavid tried his luck from 25 yards with Crown's first attempt, but it bounced into the keeper's hands. On the half-hour, Men Piphop sent Chhuot Senteang skating clear and in a high-foot challenge with the keeper, Nuno Belo, the ball rolled harmlessly wide. Two minutes later another one-two with Pov Ponvuthy sent Senteang racing clear again, only for his attempted lob from 35 yards out to stick in the gloves of Belo. A dangerous free-kick from Sebastiao Dos Santos gave Samnang a few jitters as he pushed it away amongst a bevy of players. At the other end, Senteang slipped his marker but his cross was inches from the boot of Piphop and the danger averted. On 37 minutes, Samnang's weak punch saw Feliciano Goncalves shot blocked by a posse of defenders before Ricardo Mendonca blasted a 20-yard effort that Samnang finger-tipped onto the cross-bar. As play switched from end to end, Sodavid's through ball found Ponvuthy on the edge of the box, but his blast went too high. It was all-square at the break.

With just 40 seconds on the clock after the re-start, referee Suresh from Malaysia left his lasting mark on the match. The official judged a tackle by Crown's central defender Sraing Titchhy, on the edge of his own box, as a bookable offence and showed the youngster a second yellow, followed by a red card. Titchhy had been deservedly booked in the first-half for a pull-back. Titchhy and the Crown bench were mortified, with Titchhy claiming he'd played the ball. The referee disagreed and the home team were down to ten men. From the resulting free-kick, Mendonca unleashed a ferocious drive that gave Samnang no chance and Timor were ahead. It was a double devastating blow. With Senteang pulled back as a makeshift defender, Crown tried to weather the storm but Timor smelled blood and piled on the pressure. Ten minutes into the half and they went two goals to the good. A poor clearance landed at the feet of Pelagio Da Costa and his 20-yard screamer hit the back of the net before Samnang could move. Two goals in ten disastrous minutes for the home side.

Just past the hour mark and referee Suresh decided to even up the numbers. Timor keeper Belo came charging out of his area to challenge a high ball from Sodavid that had sent Senteang scurrying forward, and the keeper's momentum and hand, apparently, touched the ball. Referee Suresh was adamant and a straight red card was flashed at Belo. The defensive wall stood firm to thwart Baraing's powerfully struck free-kick. Crown coach Bouy Dary made three substitutions to add more urgency and two of the new faces, Mat Sakrovy and Suon Noeut combined to send the latter into the box, with stand-in keeper Ricardo Da Cruz getting down low at the post to deny the effort on 73 minutes. Kim Chhaya whipped over a left-foot cross to the far post which Senteang failed to connect to and with their next attack, Timor hammered in the final nail of Crown's coffin. With ten minutes of the match remaining, Ouk Sovann and Baraing failed to cut out a long ball and Mendonca was left to run on and lob the ball over the stranded Samnang for Timor's third goal. With Crown winded, Samnang was forced to make telling saves from Dos Santos and Ervino Soares late on as Timor-Leste celebrated their success. Crown coach Dary identified the reasons for the defeat. "We played okay in the 1st half. But a red card at the start of the 2nd and the game changed. We made too many mistakes and our communication was not good either. We tried to play too much when a simple pass was the right thing to do. We tried to change the game with some subs when they lost their keeper but it didn't work. We must improve our game and cut out these individual mistakes for the next matches."
PPCFC Academy line-up: Samnang, Chansopheak, Baraing, Sovann, Titchhy, Sodavid, Piphop (Sakrovy 71), Chanpolin (Rozak 80), Ponvuthy (Noeut 69), Nuron (K Chhaya 54), Senteang. Subs not used: Chanvuthy, Muslim, Chanchav, V Samnang, T Chhaya. Bookings: Titchhy (+ red card). MOTM: Samnang.

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