|PPCFC v Nat Police, back row, LtoR: Srin, Boris, Sokheng, Borey, Ary, Sokumpheak (capt). Front: Sothy, Da, Suhana, Pheng, Thierry - click to enlarge|
With TriAsia winning 15-1 earlier in the day, Phnom Penh Crown knew they had yo get at least a point from tonight's evening kick-off at the Olympic Stadium in order to progress into the quarter-finals. National Police, their opponents were already assured of a place, but who would top the group. Crown were without Leng Makara, enjoying a special match of his own, his marriage, while Neou Sosela was suspended and Long Boran out with a knee injury. Yok Ary got the nod over Sou Yaty between the sticks, as he has done for all three cup matches. The first ten or so minutes passed without incident before Police had their goalkeeper Thorng Chanraksmey to thank for two spectacular saves to keep Crown at bay. On fourteen minutes Khim Borey fed Sos Suhana and his shot from 15 yards was pushed one-handed around the post by the stopper. From the corner, Suhana's weak effort was pounced on by Kouch Sokumpheak just eight yards out, but Chanraksmey somehow managed to get a palm to his piledriver and a corner was the result. Moments later, Touch Sokheng pulled-back his delivery to the edge of the box, where Bin Thierry blasted his shot well over the bar. Little had been seen of Police as an attacking force though Noun Borey's drive was blocked by Kok Boris for a corner. On 33 minutes, an unforced error by Chanraksmey was to haunt him for the rest of this cup tie. Thourng Da's lofted cross from the left flank was a bread and butter catch for the keeper, but he dropped it behind his head and Khim Borey, lurking at the far post, stuck out a foot and Crown were a goal ahead. It was Borey's eighth goal of the competition. A few minutes later, Yok Ary took an age to clear his lines and Borey nearly robbed him, then Thierry sent a long range free-kick into Chanraksmey's hands and to close the half, a clearance from Hong Pheng saw Borey spurt into the Police box but there was no-one on the end of his cross. A comfortable first-half for Crown who went in deservedly a goal front.
Crown keeper Ary got a hand to Ol Ravy's curling free-kick early in the second half, before Khim Borey sent a shot past the post and then crossed invitingly but Suhana and Thierry both failed to get a decisive touch in front of goal. Fifteen minutes in and Boris was booked after he vented his frustration at referee Thong Chankethya, in charge of a Crown game for the second time in five days. Police, in his view, had handled the ball twice during a build-up that saw Lun Chamroeun blast his shot over the top. A couple of minutes later and Tith Dina clipped the top of the Crown cross-bar with a snap shot, which was the closest Police came all evening. Thierry send a shot well wide and then Suhana's cross saw Chanraksmey collide with a defender, and with both on the ground, Khim Borey's effort was stopped at the foot of the post by Say Piseth. That was the last we saw of Chanraksmey who was replaced. A minute later and Suhana's break into the box was cleared, before Sokumpheak's perfect cross bounced too high for Borey with just the keeper to beat, and all he could do was punt it into the air. Ary was called into action to drop on a back-header from Srey Udom and as Police pressed late on, Boris again was in the way of a San Thydeth goal-bound drive. Five minutes of added on time made no difference as Crown collected the three points to end the group matches on top with 7 points from their three games, and book a quarter-final tie with BBU in a week's time. In the match before this one, BBU had drawn 2-2 with Army.
Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber gave his view of the tie: "I was quite surprised at how passionate and intense Police were, considering they'd already qualified. They pushed to try and get a result. Against a physically strong, hard-working team, it wasn't an easy game for us and we didn't help ourselves, we are still not at that level of patience and not relaxed enough in situations, rushing things and giving away possession too quickly and putting ourselves under pressure. So in that sense, it was a real hard-fought victory and one we can be proud of, Police challenged us and we certainly had to be at our best. I'm very pleased with the overall defensive work of the team, who managed to keep a clean sheet, particularly at set pieces, which we worked on - we were much more switched on today. Now we meet BBU, and we cannot be complacent after our recent win over them. Games against them are never easy and I will make sure the players understand that ahead of the Quarter-Final next week."
PPCFC v Nat Police: Ary, Pheng, Da, Srin, Boris, Thierry, Sothy (Morslim 84), Sokumpheak, Sokheng (Tola 62), Suhana (Dara 89), Borey. Subs not used: Yaty, Soksela, Sarak, Titchhy, Pisa, Phearun. Bookings: Srin, Boris, Pheng. MOTM: Boris - a rock in defence. Goal: Borey (33).