|PPCFC v Western, back row, LtoR: Pellegrino, Thierry, Kim, Srin, Ary. Front Row: Bisan, Pheng, Makara, Da, Borey, Sokumpheak - click to enlarge|
Crown were without four first-choice regulars for this Metfone C-League game against Western Uni at the Army Stadium, when Kok Boris was withdrawn minutes before the kick-off. Injury ruled out Odion Obadin and Sou Yaty, while Ouk Sothy (suspended) were also missing. With Adriano Pellegrino prominent, Crown were on the front foot from the start and it was the Australian who fired the games' first opportunity over the crossbar with five minutes played. A Pellegrino pass saw George Bisan try his luck from the edge of the box, but the league's top scorer was also off target. However on 14 minutes it was Bisan's burst to the bye-line that gave Crown their first goal when his center was headed goalwards by Khim Borey and Leng Makara got his head to it to claim the goal. A minute later Pellegrino got on the end of Borey's cross but steered his shot wide. Ly Saroth broke through the Crown high backline on 25 minutes and referee Khuon Virak awarded a penalty for an ankle tap by Ngoy Srin. Saroth took the spot-kick but fired it against an upright only for the linesman to flag for encroachment by Crown keeper Yok Ary. Saroth retook his kick and this time Ary dived to his left to keep it out. Just after the half hour mark, Bisan turned on a sixpence and unleashed a fierce thunderbolt from 25 yards, that was only equalled by a superb fingertip over the bar by Western keeper Ngoy Boranoch. A Hong Pheng drive from a cleared corner was deflected before Bin Thierry fed Pellegrino and his run and vicious drilled shot went agonisingly wide. With five minutes of the half to go, Pellegrino's 30-yard free kick missed everyone in the box and clopped the crossbar on the bounce. Boranoch dived low to save a Bisan drive from wide out but it was Ary, who came to Crown's rescue with a one-handed stop to deny Saroth's break and whipped shot. In the second minute of stoppage time, referee Virak brandished a red card to Thierry, only after he saw Western skipper Krouch Mol with a cut on his forehead, judging the Crown midfielder to have used his elbow illegally.
Crown, down to ten men, grabbed the initiative at the start of the second-half with their second goal. Just ninety seconds in, a Pellegrino corner to the far post found Jeongho Kim on his own and his expertly executed left-foot volley crashed into the net. A stunning strike. Reo Nakamura skied a good chance as Western offered some resistance but it was Pellegrino who went closest, taking a pass from Kouch Sokumpheak and exchanging a one-two with Bisan, but his first-time drive nicked the crossbar as it went over. Kim's free kick from distance was blocked twice, while Western's Isa Kolawole blasted high and wide at the opposite end. Bisan was found lurking at the far post by Pellegrino but his volley only found the side netting, and Touch Sokheng's drive was held by Boranoch. In stoppage time, Western's Sor Piseth broke through but shot weakly at Ary and Saroth headed over as the whistle blew and Crown cemented their lead at the top of the MCL leaderboard. Head coach Sam Schweingruber gave this after-match reaction. "It's always a gamble on this field, it doesn't encourage the game we want to play. But it is what it is. We are very happy with the 3 points. Very disciplined, good performance in the 2nd half. We kept things nice and tight, applied ourselves really well, did what we wanted to as a team and really happy with the result. Jeongho is unstoppable with some of the things he does. He's the best player we have in the air, he's extremely good with his free-kicks - I think he did really well today. And what a cracking goal. We needed 3 points from this game, and without Tony, Boris and Messi (Sothy), but that's no reason why we should go down to an average team like Western, just because of a few players missing."
PPCFC v Western: Ary, Da, Pheng, Srin, Kim, Sokumpheak, Thierry, Borey (Sokheng 86), Makara (Sosela 89), Pellegrino, Bisan (Suhana 93). Subs not used: Yaty, Soksela, Dara, Boris, Pisa, Morslim. Bookings: Thierry (+red card), Sokumpheak. MOTM: Pellegrino - involved in everything. Goals: Makara (14), Kim (47).