Saturday, May 24, 2014

Injury-time agony

PPCFC v Frenz, back row, LtoR: Mesa, Chanpolin, Sodavid, Titchhy, Senteang, Sovann (capt). Front: Ponvuthy, Noeut, Piphop, Baraing, Chhaya - click to enlarge
Result: Phnom Penh Crown Academy 2 Frenz United Malaysia 3 (Asia U-16 Champions Trophy).
Phnom Penh Crown Academy's preparation for one of their toughest assignments in this season's Asia U-16 Champions Trophy, playing in the backyard of one of the favourites, and the competition sponsors, Malaysia's Frenz United, was ruined by torrential rain, causing the match to be put back three hours and putting the playing conditions on a par with last week's visit to China. At this rate, the youngsters will be doing their midweek training in a swimming pool. That said, Frenz were reeling from a defeat to Chonburi the week before and were obviously looking to put that right in front of their home crowd. Crown coach Bouy Dary made no changes to his starting line-up, that won 2-1 against Guangdoing last weekend. With the pitch covered in water just below the surface, a passing game was impossible and Frenz used the conditions to their advantage as they pressed hard from the start. Crown goalkeeper Sem Mesa would be the busiest player on the pitch in the opening half and in the second minute he pushed aside a 30-yard stinger from Zuki Hafizuddin. With the home side dominating early possession, Fikri Syafiq tried his luck twice from long distance, with both shots easily clearing the cross-bar but the pressure paid off in the 8th minute when Ismawi Rahman sent in an inviting cross and Azhar Akhmar got between two defenders and deftly touched the ball past Mesa, for the opening goal. Frenz captain Razak Naaim broke free but his low drive was gathered by Mesa before a long range free-kick from Ouk Sovann was Crown's first real attempt on goal in the fifteenth minute.

In their next attack, on 19 minutes, Crown levelled when Men Piphop's pass forward went under the foot of Salleh Hafizi and Chhuot Senteang took advantage by calmly sliding his shot wide of the despairing Frenz keeper Zaini Adam. Akhmar went looking for his second goal but a combination of Suon Noeut and Sovann blocked his way to goal, and at the other end, Sraing Titchhy's pull back to Senteang was closed down and the shot blocked. Twice in a minute, Mesa stood firm to deny Rahman's surge into the box and fierce drive at the near post, and again, batting away Naaim's attempt after Crown failed to clear their lines. Crosses into the Crown penalty area were causing concern and Hafizuddin should've done better with one that fell to him at the far post. On 41 minutes the advantage swung in the visitors favour as Senteang capitalised on an error and broke clear, only for Rasmizal Amirul to bring him down from behind, receive his second yellow card and an early bath. A straight red card should've been the decision. Sovann's free-kick attempt, from 25 yards out, brought out a good diving save from Adam. From the corner, the keeper looked to have pushed Pov Ponvuthy in the back but the referee waived play on, as Orn Chanpolin lobbed the ball back in, missing the cross-bar by inches. In the first minute of time added on, Crown's pressure paid off as Chanpolin's pass was fluffed by Suhaimi Syazwi and Titchhy took full advantage, rolling the ball coolly into the far corner to give the Academy a half-time lead.

The second-half by comparison to the opening 45 minutes, began rather tamely. Crown were the first to try their luck when Ponvuthy touched in In Sodavid but his shot went wide. From a Sodavid corner, Kim Chhaya arrived late but sent his drive well over the cross-bar. Frenz made a series of changes to freshen up their ten-men, but again it was Sodavid who sent his shot into the arms of Adam from distance. With their first real dangerous move of the half, with fifteen minutes on the clock remaining, Frenz equalised. A corner was directed on target by Fadzrul Danel but Chhaya was on hand to head it clear, only for Hafizi to steer the ball over the goal-line as Crown failed to snuff out the danger. Nekmat Aidiel was fortunate to escape with just a yellow card for a two-footed lunge on Piphop as the referee continued his policy of leniency. Crown introduced three new faces, though it was Noeut who was stretchered off after an elbow in the face, not seen by the officials. With the match in time added on, Frenz made one final push for victory and it paid off. It was in the sixth minute of stoppage time that Aidel's high ball into the box saw substitute Jeffery Fareez get the jump on Noeut and steered his header into the far corner. It was a crushing blow for the gutsy Crown Academy players as the final whistle blew almost immediately. Crown Academy coach Bouy Dary offered these words after the final whistle. "The players are very disappointed and there were lots of tears after the game. The boys need to adapt with the type of situation we found ourselves in, leading and with the opposition having only 10 players. We need to play to our style, keep the ball more and find the space to attack. We don't need to hurry. We knew they would attack us because they were at home and they lost in their first game - and we saw they tried to do everything to win the game. It was tough out there for our players. We need to look back at the game closely and see how we can improve for the future." PPCFC v Frenz: Mesa, Noeut, Chhaya, Baraing, Sovann, Chanpolin (Rozak 90+5), Sodavid, Piphop, Titchhy (Muslim 85), Ponvuthy (V Samnang 87), Senteang. Subs not used: Chanvuthy, S Samnang, Chanchav, Phearath. Bookings: None. MOTM: Sovann - calm at the back. Goals: Senteang (19), Titchhy (45+1).

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