Friday, July 19, 2013

Making a habit of 3rd

PPCFC. Back Row LtoR; Boris, Srin, Makara, Sokumpheak, Borey. Front Row: Obadin, Thierry, Pheng, Ha-Neul, Seiha, van der Hooft - click to enlarge
Phnom Penh Crown are making a habit of finishing in third place. They've now completed the double after landing third spot in the Hun Sen Cup earlier in the season, and with today's 1-0 win over Build Bright United (BBU), they also claimed the third place in the Metfone C-League play-offs. The winning goal, obviously, came from the boot of Crown's ace marksman Elroy van der Hooft, in what is likely his last outing for the club. Due to take a holiday on the south coast, the Dutch striker who has shown his class, willingness to run for lost causes, all-round team effort and his knack of scoring crucial goals since joining Crown at the mid-point of the season, netting twelve times in all, is due to return to his country of birth before deciding his future. He has certainly created a stir here in Cambodia with his goals-per-game ratio, some fabulous individual efforts and a willingness to interact with the fans on the terraces. It's clear he would be welcome back anytime though he has his sights set on playing at the highest level possible, so we'll have to see what transpires. As for the game itself, Crown had to pick themselves up after the disappointment of losing the semi-final last weekend and coach Sam Schweingruber's only change was Leng Makara for Sos Suhana. The match kicked-off as the rain arrived and referee Tuy Vichheka made his point early on, booking Elroy van der Hooft after just seven minutes for kicking the ball, moments after he blew for offside. It was a very harsh decision and looked even harsher when the same official ignored an identical situation minutes later when BBU did exactly the same. BBU's only effort on target in the whole of the first-half came when Seng Komsen launched a hopeful ball forwards that took a wicked bounce as Crown keeper Samrith Seiha came to collect. It was much as he could manage to push the ball into the air and as Pech Sina challenged, Seiha made a point-blank save to keep him out. Two other long-range efforts that fizzed well wide was all BBU could muster. At the other end, on 25 minutes, Leng Makara fed van der Hooft in the box and the striker found a yard of space but his powerful drive struck the cross-bar and bounced to safety. Three minutes later, Kouch Sokumpheak's delightful pass saw the Dutchman racing into space but his first-time left-footer flashed across the face of the goal and wide. As the first-half came to a close, a Makara shot was blocked and Ngoy Srin's menacing cross eluded everyone, before Lee Ha-Neul's one-two with Khim Borey saw the South Korean screw his shot wide of the target after creating a good opening.

Another early booking, in the second-half, for Crown's Hong Pheng was keeping referee Tuy Vichheka's pencil sharpened. This time it was for simulation after Pheng went over in the penalty box. Tow BBU players were quick to follow him into the referee's book. Twenty minutes into the second period and Makara will wonder how he missed the target. Bin Thierry's inswinging corner kick was missed by keeper Sos Proshim and Makara, standing five yards from goal, cushioned his free header wide of the mark. Five minutes later the same player burst into the penalty area only to fire his shot straight at a grateful Proshim. It was all Crown at this point, as van der Hooft had a shot blocked and Suhana, on as a sub, saw his goal-bound effort deflected for a corner. Searching for a winner, Suhana volleyed straight at Proshim and Makara's fierce drive was blocked by a defender and keeper combination. Shouts for a penalty when the ball struck Adewale Olugbami's arm went unheeded and the same player was cautioned for hauling down van der Hooft as he broke away. The final action of normal time saw Thierry's 25-yard free-kick well taken at the foot of the post by Proshim. Extra-time was next.

Under the floodlights, Thierry was first to test Proshim with a free-kick that the keeper punched clear. Referee Vichheka then decided to take matters into his own hands with two yellow cards for Kouch Sokumpheak within six minutes of each other, both for lunging tackles, leaving Crown a man short. Within two minutes that numerical disadvantage was swept away as Makara broke into the box, and as van der Hooft challenged for the cross, he was upended by Proshim and a penalty was awarded. The Dutch marksman got to his feet to crash the ball home for his 13th goal of the season. It was timed at 104 minutes on the clock and greeted with loud cheers from the majority of the crowd. A neat one-two between Suhana and van der Hooft opened up the BBU backline five minutes into the second period of extra time but on this occasion the striker sent his hurried shot over the top. A small sign of resistance from BBU skipper Prum Putsethy, as he flashed a shot wide, but it was all too brief as Crown maintained control and saw the match out to claim third place in the MCL play-offs.

PPCFC coach Sam Schweingruber had this to say at the end of the game. "We've seen in the 2nd Round that BBU are a very difficult team to break down, they only lost by a single goal in the semi-final, so we knew they had a well-organised defence. I thought we could've played better but for me our discipline was much improved from our last game, and that helped us to have a clean sheet again, and if you work hard, you get that piece of luck you need. It was a penalty but it was also a bit of a struggle to get to that point. We were dominant, we were better, we just didn't create enough clear chances." He also took a moment to look back at the whole season, his first in charge of the club. "I would've been quite happy with two 3rd places if you'd asked me before the season. At that time we didn't know what kind of team we'd have and we initially struggled with young and inexperienced Cambodian players. The decision to sign foreign players after a few games obviously gave us more depth and helped us to, with lots of hard work, create a solid team that we've seen in the last few months, take positive results against every single team. We've shown we have the qualities to compete and to be champions. I'm obviously disappointed about that, both times we were very close, in the cup and the league. All in all this season, I've learned a lot of lessons and a lot of things that can be improved upon in the future." 
PPCFC line-up: Seiha, Srin, Pheng (Seyha 70), Boris, Obadin, Thierry, Sokumpheak, Makara (Sothy 106), Borey, Ha-Neul (Suhana 70), van der Hooft. Subs not used: Ary, Soksela, Da, Dara, Lika, Morslim, Phearun, Pisa. Bookings: van der Hooft, Pheng, Makara, Seiha, Sokumpheak (+ red card). MOTM: van der Hooft.

1 comment:

Andy Brouwer said...

The more I watch the video of this match (v BBU) the more I believe the referee, Tuy Vichheka, had an agenda. The booking of Elroy van der Hooft after a few minutes sticks out like a sore thumb. The referee blows his whistle for offside against Elroy as Elroy's foot is in motion to kick the ball. How the hell could he stop himself? Players are told to play to the whistle. It was an UNFAIR and UNJUST yellow card.
Then to not book the BBU player a few minutes later for an identical infraction is clearly favouritism. How much more blatant can it get?