|PPCFC v Army, back row, LtoR: Obadin, Makara, Srin, Thierry, Katanha, Yaty. Front Row: Boran, Bisan, Pheng, Sokumpheak, Borey - click to enlarge|
Phnom Penh Crown will be kicking themselves that they failed to turn their greater share of possession into goals as they were held to a 1-1 draw with National Defense Ministry, aka Army, at Olympic Stadium, in the televised game. With injuries ruling out Kok Boris and Rafael Oliveira, Hong Pheng was retained at centre-half after his game there in midweek, and Newton Katanha got his first run out in a Crown shirt as the main striker. With Army concentrating on defense rather than offense, the pattern of the match quickly settled down with Crown keeping possession and pushing forwards. Leng Makara fired into the side netting and Kouch Sokumpheak's fierce drive cannoned off a defender as it headed for goal. On fifteen minutes a couple of Khim Borey efforts kept Army keeper Um Vichet on his toes, with Borey's low drive fumbled for a corner at the foot of the post and from the corner, Borey's shot from distance was tipped over the cross-bar. Ke Vannak cleared the danger as George Bisan and Katanha combined on the edge of the box and then Bisan went within a whisker of scoring, robbing Pom Tola but sending his low drive a few inches wide of the upright. It was all one-way traffic in Crown's favour, though Army defender Vannak repeatedly lay on the ground and required a stretcher to ferry him to the touchline - perhaps a result of him being overworked? Bin Thierry's long-range passing was a feature of the game, though his 30-yard free-kick cleared the cross-bar by a couple of feet. His next involvement, a minute into injury time, was decisive. He played a one-two with Katanha on the edge of the penalty area and let fly with a powerful drive that arrowed into the far corner to give Crown a deserved lead.
The pattern of the first-half continued after the break, with Crown pushing forwards but they were rocked to their core, seven minutes after the restart. Sokumpheak was caught in possession 20-yards from goal and Op Kamol sent a skidding shot through the legs of Odion Obadin and out of the reach of Sou Yaty, as it struck the upright and levelled the scoreline at 1-1. Army were cock-a-hoop that they now had something to hold onto with their first shot on goal. At the other end, Bisan ducked low to send a header into the arms of Vichet from Obadin's headed lay-back, and Katanha saw his 22-yard free-kick smothered by Vichet at the foot of the post. A cross-shot from Bisan nearly caught out the Army keeper as it floated inches over and Crown's best chance came, and went, on 73 minutes. Bisan robbed a defender, dazzled three Army players with his quick feet and sent in a rasping drive that had 'goal' written all over it. That was until Vichet produced an outstanding leaping save that will be amongst the best of the season without a doubt. Crown made changes and continued to push on, but were frustrated by their own ability to create clear-cut opportunities, as Sos Suhana sent their final goal attempt wide from Sokumpheak's corner. It was simply one of those days.
Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber was a disappointed figure at the final whistle. "The whole game we dominated possession, we were here to win and to play football - some moments where it worked and lots of moments where it didn't work. The other team was here to clearly get a draw, wasting time from just 15 minutes in, people sat on the floor and getting carried off again and again, making it really difficult to have a flowing game at times. It went our way as we nicked a goal just before half-time and then we needed to be smart and control the game. I thought that would be the case. How we then gifted the other team a goal is just shocking and then we didn't manage to turn possession into clear cut chances and get a 2nd goal. We were a bit slow and not positive enough at times. We just have to do it quicker and better against tight defences. We had about 12 corners today and almost none of them were dangerous - why, after we scored 2 corner kick goals last week?"
PPCFC v Army: Yaty, Srin, Boran (Tola 90), Pheng, Obadin, Thierry, Sokumpheak, Makara (Sosela 65), Borey, Bisan, Katanha (Suhana 74). Subs not used: Ary, Soksela, Sarak, Dara, Pisa, Da, Sothy, Sokheng. Bookings: None. MOTM: Thierry - showed great range of passing and a superb strike for his goal. Goal: Thierry (45+1).