Sunday, July 27, 2014

The sweet smell of success

Crown collect their 5th Championship - photo by Masayori Ishikawa, click to enlarge
Match Result: Phnom Penh Crown 2 Boeung Ket 1 (Metfone C-League).
Phnom Penh Crown signed off their season with a final game against  runners-up Boeung Ket and looking to settle a score after the Rubbermen won their first round encounter. Only Kok Boris was absent with an infected foot injury, Bin Thierry taking his place alongside Odion Obadin. In front of a massive Olympic Stadium crowd under the floodlights, the match came to life on eight minutes as Ly Ravy underhit a back pass which George Bisan quickly read and with Peng Bunchhay in no-man's land, the Crown striker lobbed the ball into the unguarded net for his 20th strike of the season from all of thirty yards out. Two minutes later and Thourng Da found Adriano Pellegrino with a through ball but his run into the box was halted by a lunging Ravy tackle. Chan Vathanaka weaved his way to the edge of the Crown penalty area but Ouk Sothy made a timely interception. Chukwuma Ohuruogu's long throw-ins are a known menace and Sou Yaty was under pressure from Mohammed Tijani before Obadin cleared his lines. At the other end, Khim Borey cut inside his marker only to see his shot deflected for a corner, from which Sos Suhana sent a fizzing shot a foot wide as it was cleared to him 35 yards from goal. Crown were forcing the pace and a Borey dink saw Bisan get a touch as Bunchhay came out to smother at his feet. The striker sustained an ankle injury and a few minutes later was replaced by Leng Makara. From the corner, a training ground move between Pellegrino and Thierry saw the latter's low drive blocked and cleared. Vathanaka's dipping free-kick almost caught out Yaty, who collected the ball at the second attempt with Sok Pheng closing in. Borey's deep cross was an inch or so too high for Pellegrino who sent a skimming header wide of the target. Boeung Ket's best chance fell to Khuon Laboravy, but he blasted high and wide, and looked a pale shadow of last season's top scorer and MVP. On the half hour of a pulsating encounter, a Pellegrino corner seared its way across the face of goal and Makara somehow managed to put his effort over the bar from close range. Referee Tuy Vichheka had already booked Hong Pheng for dissent and then harshly cautioned Pellegrino for kicking the ball at the Boeung Ket goal, at the same instant as he blew his whistle. Borey sent a 30-yard effort a few feet wide and twice Kouch Sokumpheak broke into the box but both times his shot was blocked by a forest of legs. The half ended with Yaty racing out of his area and then falling at the feet of Laboravy after recovering his position.

Another Ohuruogu throw into the six-yard box was caught by Yaty at the second attempt early on, but it was Crown who upped the stakes with a second goal after just four minutes of the restart. A foul on Makara near the left-hand touchline allowed Pellegrino to swing in one of his trademark pinpoint free-kicks and Obadin stabbed the ball goalwards with his right foot, with Bunchhay unable to stop it rolling over the goal-line. Boeung Ket made an early double change, though Tijani was the culprit as Yaty was hurt catching a free-kick. A late challenge on Thierry earned the Boeung Ket striker a yellow card two minutes later. Moments later Ohuruogu went into the book for a last-man trip as Sokumpheak broke clear onto Pellegrino's pass, though he was fortunate the referee was in a lenient mood. From the free-kick, Thierry curled the ball a foot wide of the far post. There was no such leniency from referee Vichheka on 59 minutes when Vathanaka spurted forward and the ball brushed the hand of Pheng. He immediately reached for his cards and flashed a yellow followed by a red. It was harsh in the extreme. Vathanaka's free-kick was easily handled by Yaty. The keeper was caught by Laboravay's boot in their next attack as Vathanaka's bye-line center caused concern, though Laboravy then went into the referee's notebook for an obvious trip on Sothy. Vathanaka was Boeung Ket's only source of danger and his 25-yard free-kick was acrobatically tipped over the bar by Yaty. From the corner, Momoh Sumaila will feel he should've done better with his blind run and far post header. Another Vathanaka free-kick fell onto the top of the bar before referee Vichheka handed the Rubbermen a lifeline they didn't really deserve. Touch Pancharong's lunge as Makara cleared his box should've been a caution but instead the referee saw it the other way and booked Makara, before pointing to the penalty spot. The Crown players simply couldn't believe their eyes and no amount of complaining would change the match officials' view. The clock had ticked into stoppage time as Vathanaka fired home the penalty which Yaty got his fingers to but couldn't stop. To add insult to injury, Vichheka allotted an additional six minutes but Crown were determined to hold onto their hard-fought success and they did so without any difficulty, finishing the game as 2014 champions and leaving Boeung Ket to lick their wounds, trailing some seven points behind in the final league standings. All that was left was for Crown to step up to the stage and collect their fifth Championship trophy.
PPCFC v Boeung Ket: Yaty, Da, Pheng, Thierry, Obadin, Sokumpheak, Sothy, Borey, Suhana, Pellegrino (Srin 90+2), Bisan (Makara 25). Subs not used: Ary, Soksela, Dara, Sokheng, Morslim, Pisa, Sosela. Bookings: Pheng (+ red card 59), Pellegrino, Yaty, Makara. MOTM: Obadin - rock solid and the winning goal. Goals: Bisan (8), Obadin (49). 
PPCFC v B/Ket, back row, LtoR: Pheng, Obadin, Thierry, Bisan, Borey, Yaty. Front: Da, Suhana, Sothy, Sokumpheak, Pellegrino - click to enlarge

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