|PPCFC v Albirex, back row, LtoR: Katanha, Boris, Kim, Thierry, Bisan, Sokumpheak. Front Row: Srin, Da, Pheng, Borey, Yaty - click to enlarge|
Phnom Penh Crown coach Sam Schweingruber was without Odion Obadin (suspended) and Sos Suhana and Neou Sosela (injured) for this top versus bottom Metfone C-League clash at the Olympic Stadium this afternoon. The first half accurately reflected the two teams positions in the table with Crown completely dominating possession and chances for the opening forty-five minutes. The second-half was a different story with Schweingruber opting for a formation change at half-time that failed to work though Crown still ended the game well on top to claim the three points and remain in first place. Hong Pheng had the first attempt on goal after a minute but blazed high and wide. With nine minutes on the clock, Crown took their expected lead with Pheng's cross field pass finding Khim Borey, and he took the ball on a few yards before sending in a low drive from the edge of the box that found the bottom of the far corner. It was his 11th goal of the season. Another Borey effort was deflected wide for a corner and from that set piece, Bin Thierry cut in from the flank and thundered in a dipping 25-yard effort that eluded everyone including the Albirex goalkeeper. Sixteen minutes gone and a reward for a player who completed sixty passes out of an attempted sixty-nine throughout the match. Five minutes later and Newton Katanha smacked a 20-yard shot over the top. Within sixty seconds the Zimbabwe striker was holding his head in his hands after he touched a Pheng cross goalwards, it hit the keeper, and rolled the wrong side of the upright from two feet. But on 28 minutes he was smiling again. Lurking 30 yards from goal, a clearance landed at his feet and he let loose with a first-time arrowed drive that beat the keeper and nestled in the net for his third goal in as many games. Seconds later and Albirex spurned their only chance of the half when Kataoka Michimori broke free but sent his shot wide as Sou Yaty rushed out. On 32 minutes, Crown netted their fourth of the first half and it was a special moment for South Korean striker Jeong Ho Kim, starting a match for the first time. Another Pheng long pass found Borey in the box but his touch was too strong and the ball rolled to Kim on the edge of the area, who smashed an unstoppable cannonball strike into the roof of the net. Katanha sent a 30-yard free kick a few inches wide of the upright, Kim headed an inswinging Thierry free-kick into the keepers hands and George Bisan whistled a drive wide as half-time came with Crown in full control.
Schweingruber opted for a formation change at the break, with three at the back and two strikers up top and within fifty seconds, Bisan had sent a volley over the top after Ngoy Srin had set him up. But for the next 25 minutes that was it as far as the action was concerned. Albirex coped easily with Crown's tactical switch and pushed on themselves in search of a consolation goal. After Borey sent a diving header wide at the other end, Albirex managed to give Crown a headache when Michimori curled a free-kick from the edge of the area and despite getting a hand to it, Yaty couldn't keep it out. That came on 74 minutes. A minute later and Bisan slotted a perfect pass for Katanha to run onto but his shot was too central and Albirex keeper Mat Muslim gratefully saved. Desperate to kickstart his team into life, Katanha snatched the ball off a defender's toe and sent in a rasping 30-yard effort that rebounded back into play off the cross-bar. Tough luck on the striker. Kouch Sokumpheak took a pass from Borey in his stride but sent his effort over the top, before Katanha skimmed a header wide of the target at close range from Leng Makara's cross, when it seemed easier to score. In the closing stages, he had the ball in the net but the whistle had gone for offside and to add insult to injury, he was booked by the referee for time-wasting. It was that sort of day. Coach Sam Schweingruber's verdict; "We played really well in the 1st half, we could've scored more, the team did what I wanted and expected them to do. A couple of real cracking goals - played well, patient build-up, the things I'd asked they did, so quite happy with that. We changed formation at half time and tried something new. We thought we would try it today - we only tried it in training one time - and if it worked out, we could use it in the future. We can all see it didn't work, yet. Changed to 3-4-1-2 but it didn't work so we changed back again after 25 minutes."
PPCFC v Albirex: Yaty, Pheng, Da (Makara 46), Srin, Boris, Thierry, Sokumpheak, Borey, Kim (Pisa 86), Bisan (Tola 78), Katanha. Subs not used: Ary, Sarak, Sothy, Dara, Sokheng, Boran, Morslim, Titchhy. Bookings: Srin, Bisan, Katanha. MOTM: Thierry - great goal and 60 passes out of 69 completed. Goals: Borey (9), Thierry (16), Katanha (28), Kim (32).