Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Back from the dead

PPCFC v Svay Rieng, back row, LtoR: Obadin, Bisan, Kim, Borey, Yaty, Sokumpheak. Front Row: Sothy, Sokheng, Pheng, Da, Makara - click to enlarge
Result: Phnom Penh Crown 3 Svay Rieng 3 (Metfone C-League).
In a match held-over from Round 1 due to Svay Rieng's involvement in the AFC President's Cup, Adriano Pellegrino, who made a substantial contribution to the 9-1 win over AEU on his debut a few days earlier, was ineligible for this match under the FFC's rules, and Crown were also missing the injured Sos Suhana, Kok Boris and Bin Thierry. Jeongho Kim returned to the line-up after serving a 4-match suspension. On a bobbly Olympic Stadium pitch, neither side posed any threat until the reigning champions took the lead on seven minutes when a break down the left by Muong Makara found Bata Dzarma unmarked in the center and he guided his header past a stranded Sou Yaty. The Nigerian striker had netted a hat-trick at the weekend and his first half-hour of this game would prove to be a repeat of his success. A wayward back-pass had Sar Sophea scrambling to kick the ball to safety with Jeongho Kim challenging, Ouk Sothy cleared the bar with a shot from 30 yards and Leng Makara bore down on goal only to be thwarted by a lunging Samouen Pidor tackle, as Crown stepped up their efforts. From a Kouch Sokumpheak cross, three Crown players failed to get a touch to the ball as it zipped across the face of goal, and Kim tried his luck from the edge of the box, but Sophea held on easily enough. George Bisan saw a shot from distance sail into the stands, another close range effort was blocked by James Adekunle, and a header from Hong Pheng's early cross should've gone in but went straight to the waiting Sophea. Svay Rieng ventured forward rarely and Prak Mony Udom's free-kick went well over, but against the run of play, his team extended their lead on 28 minutes. A punt forwards caught the Crown defence napping, Dzarma stole a yard on Odion Obadin and hit an early drive that beat Yaty as he came off his line. Just three minutes later and the Military-Police team were in seventh heaven, with Dzarma's hat-trick goal. Chea Samnang's simple pass freed the striker, who took the ball around Yaty and popped it in to give his team a serious advantage against the league leaders. Needing to get back into the game, Crown had their reliable defender Obadin to thank for that lifeline with 41 minutes of the match gone. He rose majestically to head the ball powerfully past Sophea from Sokumpheak's corner and give him team some much needed self-belief. Within a minute, Bisan was left to scratch his head after his 20-yard piledriver was superbly tipped over the bar by Sophea in full flight. Khim Borey sent a long range effort over the top and the teams went in at the break with the league leaders needing to step up their game after the break.

A tactical change saw Kim pushed up as the main striker and just five minutes in, he was mere inches away from connecting with Sokumpheak's fine cross. Sothy sent an effort into Sophea's hands and the keeper was on his best form when he caught a dipping Borey free-kick at full stretch. Crown coach Sam Schweingruber made a couple of changes to add new impetus and an almost casual lob from Bisan just cleared the bar. On the half-hour mark, Crown were back in the hunt when Sothy's long corner found the head of Obadin and his downward header was touched over the line by the forehead of a lurking Hong Pheng. Game on. Two minutes later and Bisan sent a fizzing drive against the cross-bar, Thourng Da saw two efforts sail harmlessly high and wide, and Makara sent a volley into Sophea's arms. The same befell Bisan as his header found the keeper in the way and as time ticked on and five minutes of extra time were indicated, Crown continued to throw themselves at the crumbling Svay Rieng backline. The pressure told two minutes into stoppage time as Sothy returned a Sophea punch out back towards goal, the ball fell to Borey and the acting captain, took a touch before lashing the ball inside the post for a dramatic equaliser. Crown had come back from the dead to claim an invaluable point, when all had seemed lost. Head coach Sam Schweingruber's after-match comments: "The intensity and high-tempo pressing I expected from my team didn't happen and we have to look at what went wrong at the start. The 1st goal I thought was offside but then an unmarked player in the middle headed home - that cannot happen, its not acceptable, we have to be switched on. We had about five chances before the second goal, so not everything was going wrong, but the 2nd and 3rd goals were shockers to give away. So we need to look at what went wrong and correct it quickly. We knew it was important to get back before half time. So I'm very happy with the delivery and with Tony's finish - an important goal at an important time. At half-time we had to make sure everyone believed we could get back. Some players needed to wake up, they were under-performing. We made some changes and in the second half they got punished for not finishing us off. In the end it was all us, so we're happy and they're frustrated."
PPCFC v Svay Rieng: Yaty, Pheng, Da (Morslim 88), Sokheng (Srin 67), Obadin, Sokumpheak (Pisa 57), Sothy, Kim, Borey, Makara, Bisan. Subs not used: Ary, Soksela, Dara, Boris, Sosela. Bookings: None. MOTM: Sothy - tireless midfield worker. Goals: Obadin (41), Pheng (75), Borey (90+2).

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