|PPCFC line-up, back row, LtoR: Mesa, Senteang, Chanpolin, Sodavid, K Chhaya, Sovann (capt). Front Row: Titchhy, Ponvuthy, Noeut, Piphop, Baraing - click to enlarge|
Phnom Penh Crown Academy recorded their first ACT success, and they did it the hard way, winning 2-1 on foreign soil. After going through last season’s competition without a victory, that all changed Saturday afternoon in Guangzhou, China. Against the Provincial FA Academy, Bouy Dary’s youngsters showed they learned lessons from last year and did moire than enough to win the opening game of this season’s Trophy. Crown dominated much of the possession and most of the chances in the first half, and though the second half was effectively ruined by torrential rain and strong winds, goals by Chhuot Senteang and captain Ouk Sovann carried the Khmers through to success.
Crown began strongly and Pov Ponvuthy tested the Guangdong keeper with a thirty-yard drive that he tipped wide in the fifth minute. Suon Noeut and Kim Chhaya pushed up from full-back and sent shots wide of the mark before Seut Baraing’s long through ball nearly fell kindly for Sraing Titchhy, but the keeper intervened. In Sodavid back-headed the ball into the net from Sovann’s free-kick on 12 minutes but the linesman’s flag was raised and the effort didn’t count. Soon after Senteang latched onto Sodavid’s pass but was challenged as he shot and his mistimed drive rolled a few yards wide. With 22 minutes gone, Crown hearts stopped briefly when the referee from Malaysia gave the home team an indirect free-kick on Crown’s six-yard box, judging Sovann’s touch to keeper Sem Mesa as a back-pass. As the team lined up on the goal-line, Guangdong rolled the ball across the face of goal but Mesa was out quickly to smother Li Canming’s shot and the danger was averted. Orn Chanpolin and Titchhy tried their luck to no avail, until Crown deservedly got their noses in front. On 35 minutes Sraing Titchhy spotted Chhuot Senteang’s run from the halfway line and as the striker approached the penalty area, he lifted the ball over the advancing goalkeeper and into the empty net. A calm finish and one which Crown were worthy of. Ponvuthy tried his luck again from distance but the shot was deflected before Baraing robbed a defender in his own box when he failed to clear a corner, only to see his left-foot fizzer miss the near post by a few inches. The last action of an enthralling first-half came when Titchhy chipped a lovely ball into Senteang’s path in the box, only for the home keeper, Pang Jiajun to smother the ball at his feet. Half-time, 1-0 in favour of the Crown Academy and looking good for their lead.
In the second minute after the restart, Crown pressed again. Chhaya’s shot from a corner and pass by Sodavid, was hastily cleared from the goal-line by Tang Ruiqian and Chhaya sent the resultant corner well over the cross-bar. With the floodlights on as dark clouds grew overhead, Senteang robbed a defender and broke into the box, only to be tackled as he shot. At the other end, Mesa was off his line smartish to deny Liang Jinhun. Within seconds, Guangdong unsportingly failed to return the ball from a throw-in, pressed quickly and it needed a saving tackle from Sovann to deny Chen Guokang. After a couple of minutes of very heavy rain, referee Syed Kamar called the two teams off the pitch for a ten-minute break while the rain subsided. It did briefly but continued from the restart and well beyond the final whistle, being joined by thunder and lightning late on. The pitch became waterlogged in places and made it impossible for either team to play football. Sovann tried his luck with a forty-yard free-kick but it sailed wide, as most of the play was stuck in the middle of the park.
With ten minutes of normal time remaining. On the pitch for less than a minute, Vat Samnang was sent clear by Chhaya and the Guangdong keeper came out and flattened him, just outside the area. A yellow card was deserved and only the presence of a defender saved him from a red. Up stepped captain Ouk Sovann and with one of his trademark inch-perfect free-kicks, his dead-ball effort was too strong for the keeper to keep out and Crown went two goals ahead. Crown players were going down every few minutes, most of them with cramp, not helped by the previous day’s full-day of flying and sitting in airports. Guangdong netted in the final minute of normal time when the ball dropped like a stone in the area and Liao Jintao forced it home. In the four minutes of injury time, Li Guohao’s inswinging corner was tipped onto the bar by Sem Mesa, who then dived bravely at the feet of Chen Junzhou to see out the match and a Crown success, celebrated by the players with knee and body-slides across the waterlogged pitch.
PPCFC v Guangdong: Mesa, Noeut, K Chhaya, Baraing, Sovann, Chanpolin (Chanchav 87), Sodavid, Piphop (Rozak 68), Ponvuthy (Muslim 82) Titchhy, Senteang (V Samnang 76). Subs not used: Chanvuthy, S Samnang. Bookings: Titchhy. MOTM: Baraing – rock solid throughout, though it was a tough choice as so many players performed admirably. Goals: Senteang (35), Sovann (80).