|PPCFC v Army - Line-up, back row, LtoR: Obadin, Pisa, Srin, Borey, Bisan, Ary. Front Row: Da, Sothy, Makara, Sokumpheak, Pellegrino - click to enlarge|
Phnom Penh Crown were looking to confirm top spot in the Metfone C-League with this game against Army, but coach Sam Schweingruber had selection headaches before kick-off. Touch Sokheng and Hong Pheng reported sick with fever the day before, Sos Suhana and Bin Thierry were out with leg injuries and Kok Boris wasn't yet back to full fitness. He also gave Yok Ary a rare run out in goal at the expense of Sou Yaty in a game Crown needed to win to keep up the pressure amongst the leading pack of clubs. As early as the fourth minute, the adventurous Ngoy Srin lobbed a shot that took the paintwork off the far post and then headed over a center that George Bisan challenged for but sent his header over the cross-bar. Odion Obadin connected with Adriano Pellegrino's deep corner but nodded straight into the keeper's hands, before Phourng Soksana went close at the other end with a surge into the box and a shot that missed the far post by a foot. Pellegrino was looking to make the same impact as he did on his debut but he was out of luck as one shot was blocked by a forest of legs and another whistled inches past the far post, after a neat turn and quick look-up. Leng Makara moved swiftly onto Bisan's pass and had the keeper to beat, but chose to try to squeeze his shot inside the near post and found only the side-netting. Soksana was proving to be a thorn as he raced onto a ball down the middle, Ary came out quickly to block but the rebound fell nicely for the Army striker, only for Obadin's big frame to get in the way of his shot. A let-off for Crown. Makara's lob over the backline let in Pellegrino but his first-time shot from an angle went wide, while Soksana stung Ary's hands with a 25-yard free-kick on the half-hour. Crown continued to press with Makara and Chhom Pisa attempts from distance making no headway and Pellegrino's deft touch missed Bisan's run into the box by a whisker. Twice in quick succession, Obadin arrived late at the far post to get his head to Pellegrino corners, but both times they found the welcoming arms of the Army stopper, Um Sereyrath. An elbow on Bisan gave Khim Borey the chance to float in a free-kick, which Sereyrath punched clear as the whistle blew for the interval.
The second period was even more pronounced in Crown's favour as they dominated from the kick-off and launched wave after wave of attacks into the Army half of the pitch. A positional switch for Kouch Sokumpheak, after a first-half spent in central defence, seemed to do the trick. Khek Khemarin had to act smartish to foil Borey's sprint into the area early on, and Bisan's pass to Makara looked to have unlocked the military defence, only for Sereyrath to stand firm and deflect the goal-bound shot for a corner. Nine minutes in and a 25-yard effort from Borey had Sereyrath scrambling in his six-yard box to get a hand to it only for Bisan to volley in the rebound, then turn around and see the assistant referee's flag raised. Just a minute later and Ung Vita's cross into the Crown box created a moment of uncertainty as Srin got his head to the ball but only managed to divert it up and over Ary and under the crossbar. Army had a shock lead, completely against the run of play. Bisan soon had a shot deflected into the hands of Sereyrath while Chea Dara pushed up to the edge of the box only to fire wide. On 66 minutes, Crown made good on their threat and equalised. Srin won a tackle in the middle, slid the ball out to Sokumpheak, who raced into the box and hit a low drive with his left foot that eluded Sereyrath and found the corner of the net at the far post. 1-1 and game on again. Crown continued their bombardment as Bisan evaded three challenges, only for Borey to blast the loose ball well over, while Ouk Sothy got a touch to a Borey corner, but could only steer it wide. The goal opened up for Makara as Bisan chested a Thourng Da cross into his path, but his shot went straight into the hands of Sereyrath, rather than either side of him.
Crown's pursuit of more goals paid dividends on 74 minutes as Sokumpheak's quick pass to Bisan, gave the striker space to cut back onto his right foot and from twelve yards out, he blasted the ball into the roof of the net, to put his team ahead. It was the Nigerian's 11th goal of the season and certainly no more than his side deserved. A minute later, Srin was again in an advanced position, weaved past a defender and powered in a drive that Sereyrath parried out of harm's way. Noeu Sosela entered the fray after a recent injury stint and made inroads with his quick feet. With seven minutes to go, Ary was forced to leave the field after a collision damaged his knee and Sou Yaty took his place. At the other end, another pinpoint Pellegrino corner was powerfully headed down by Obadin but the bounce of the ball cleared the cross-bar, much to the defender's disappointment. Sensing a chance for glory, Da got to the byeline but instead of pulling the ball back, went for goal only to find the side netting. Yaty was forced to tip over a Pom Tola free-kick from distance and in the closing stages of five minutes of added-on time, Borey miskicked in the penalty area for a second time and then booted the ball well over from Bisan's pass. It didn't matter, Crown collected another three points to return to top spot in the Metfone C-League table.
Schweingruber spoke after the match. "I'm happy with the result. We are progressing, things are getting better. Lots of individual technical mistakes in the 1st half. We couldn't keep the ball well enough, a few players not on their game. The changes certainly helped. After the break we showed what we are capable of. It wasn't the best ever performance, but we had showed flowing, attacking football, and created chances. Obviously we lost a goal to a miscommunication between goalkeeper and defender, that can happen. But the reaction after that, I was very pleased. Two goals and many more chances. In particular our midfield was much improved. We deserved the win, we were the better team. We needed character and I'm proud of the team for showing that today, to get the win we needed."
PPCFC v Army: Ary (Yaty 83), Srin, Da, Sokumpheak, Obadin, Sothy, Pisa (Dara 46), Borey, Makara (Sosela 80), Pellegrino, Bisan. Subs not used: Soksela, Boris, Morslim. Bookings: None. MOTM: Sokumpheak - never stopped working & scored. Goals: Sokumpheak (66), Bisan (74).