Monday, January 31, 2011

Quarter-final match-ups

Now that the quarter-finalists have been decided in the Samdech Hun Sen Cup competition, here is a reminder of who will play who on the weekend of 26 and 27 February. The matches have been put off until then as the Cambodian national team have two matches against Macau, home and away, in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifying round. On Saturday 26 February Preah Khan Reach will kick-off at 2pm as they face the underdogs from Prek Pra Keila. Phnom Penh Crown and Build Bright United provide the juiciest encounter of the last eight of the competition, with a 4.30pm start. BBU finished 2nd in the regular C-League campaign last term though Crown eventually won out in the play-off final to claim the Championship trophy. Crown were also beaten finalists in the Hun Sen Cup when they were beaten by the Army. The Sunday match-ups will see Naga Corp take on the new C-Leaguers in National Police Commissary at 2pm. The later match will pit the Army team against a resurgent Kirivong Sok Sen Chey. The Golden Boot award is currently tied at 16 goals apiece between PKR's Khuon Laboravy and Kirivong's In Vichheka. My money is on Laboravy, after his hat-trick in the last round against Rithy Sen - the man is on fire.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Breaking sweat

Coach of the winning Naga team, Prak Sovananara
The quarter-finalists for the Hun Sen Cup 2011 have been decided after today's two remaining 2nd round matches. Naga Corp hardly broke sweat in brushing aside Koh Kong 4-0, whilst Kirivong Sok Sen Chey found their province neighbours Takeo a tough nut to crack before recording a 4-1 success. Naga scored all of their goals in the 1st half with 2 goals in as many minutes effectively undoing Koh Kong's rearguard action. The first arrived on 23 minutes when Teab Vathanak deftly flicked in a header from Meas Channa's corner to the near post. That was followed up by Channa grabbing his own goal, latching onto a Pok Chanthan through ball. Just after the half hour Vathanak showed off his deadball talents with a direct free-kick from the edge of the box that arrowed past Koh Kong's replacement keeper Chhin Leang Srun. Six minutes before the interval, Chin Chum raced onto Om Thavrak's 45-yard pass and kept his cool with a neat chip over Srun's head. 4-nil at half-time and the game was over. Naga took their foot off the pedal and only briefly sparked whilst Koh Kong found their way to goal blocked with neither side troubling the scoreboard in the 2nd half.
Naga Corp, sporting their unappealing grey kit, won 4-0
Koh Kong found themselves unable to break down the Naga Corp defence
Meak Chhordaravuth netted twice for Kirivong against Takeo in their 4-1 win
With two teams from the same province contesting the final round 16 match, something had to give. Whilst Takeo were the obvious underdogs against their C-League neighbours, the minnows gave as good as they got in the first-half and even struck the crossbar from distance. Kirivong were harried out of their normal game, with Takeo spirited, busy and yapping at Kirivong's heels throughout and nil-nil at the interval was a great platform for a cup shock. However, Kirivong got their noses in front with two goals in 3 minutes, the first coming on 58 minutes with Sos Nasiet credited with the final touch. Adding a further nail in Takeo's coffin, new signing Meak Chhordaravuth from Chhma Khmao gladly accepted a pass from Mech Sophasith and slotted home. No-one had told Takeo that the game was over and they bounced back five minutes later when Hy Sokveng's free-kick split the defensive wall and bounced wickedly over Keum Makara in the Kirivong goal. It was nip and tuck for a while, with the crowd behind the underdogs but Kiriviong didn't buckle and with ten minutes to go they added a killer third goal. The scorer was 16-goal In Vichheka, who had prodded and poked at the Takeo defence all game and finally found room to toe-poke the ball past keeper Sos Isa from Chhordaravuth's slick pass. In time added on Chhordaravuth added his second with a cool finish to send Takeo out of the cup and Kirivong marching on.
Kirivong SSC beat their Takeo rivals 4-1
No it's not Arsenal, its the Takeo team, who went down 4-1 today

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hello, hello, hello

Two goals from Commissary skipper Sophal Udom undid Stung Treng
The National Police Commissary starting line-up that triumphed 3-0
The clash of the police in Saturday's opening Hun Sen Cup 2nd round match-up went the way of the formbook with the National Police Commissary, a new addition to this season's approaching C-League, proving too strong for the Military Police unit from Stung Treng. Former national teammates, Hok Sochivorn and Ung Kanyanith were in charge of the two teams, with Kanyanith taking the honours at the final whistle. With a sprinkling of familiar names to C-League watchers, the Commissary team grabbed the all-important first goal just three minutes before the break as Ly Arafine headed in Hou Sambo's cross to the far post. Stung Treng huffed and puffed at the start of the 2nd half but failed to breakthrough and just after the hour, Sophal Udom lashed in the second Commissary goal after confusion in the Stung Treng backline. Though they struck the crossbar with a searing 25 yard free-kick, the team from the northernmost province along the Mekong River were sunk by a second from Sophal Udom on 76 minutes, when he fired into the roof of the net from Sambo's byeline pull-back to make it a convincing 3-0 scoreline.
The MP's from Stung Treng
Ex-Cambodian international striker Hok Sochivorn, now coach at Stung Treng
Winning coach Ung Kanyanith of Police Commissary
It's a big day out in the city for the party from Stung Treng
The later game on Saturday also finished as expected with the National Defense Ministry overpowering Chhma Khmao 2-1 but the bottom club in last season's C-League put up a spirited fight and better fitness might've just proved decisive. The first half was devoid of much goalmouth activity with the Army team taking the lead just five minutes after the interval when substitute Phuong Soksana broke into the box and fired across keeper Phorng Ratana into the far corner. On 66 minutes, they extended their lead when Thong Udom ventured upfield and powered his header home from Ieng Piseth's perfect center. Five minutes later Chhma Khmao's task was made even harder when referee Khuon Virak over-reacted to a mistimed tackle and sent off Houng Rady. Undaunted, the team from Svay Rieng got back into the tie when Oung Dara's 25-yard free-kick sailed into the top corner with 14 minutes remaining but they never quite had the legs, or the skill, to unlock the Army defence a 2nd time.
The Army starting line-up which made heavy weather of beating Chhma Khmao
Chhma Khmao gave a good account of themselves despite losing 2-1
Thong Udom leads out his Army side in red, followed by keeper Sou Yaty

Facebook phenomenon

The Facebook phenomenon is catching on...amongst players throughout the C-League clubs. One of the most prolific facebook posters is Preah Khan Reach and Cambodian national team striker Khuon Laboravy and the interest in online communication is spreading rapidly amongst his teammates and C-League colleagues. Other PKR players with a Facebook page include Chea Samnang, Prak Monyudom and Sam El Nasa, whilst Naga's Om Thavrak and Pok Chanthan have signed up. National teammates Thong Udom and Penh Pancharong have pages, whilst BBU have Chhun Sothearath, Heng Sokly, Prom Putsethy and Ung Marady online. Over at Phnom Penh Crown, Tieng Tiny was the first to join the Facebook revolution, closely followed by Khim Borey, Kouch Sokumpheak and Penh Bunchhay. Former C-League players now playing in Thailand also use Facebook to keep in touch. Keo Sokngon, Chan Rithy and Srey Veasna amongst them, as are Justine Uche Eke, Friday Nwakuna and Sani Saidu. Most of the players have posted photos of themselves and their teammates, team line-ups and so on. If you are a football fan in Cambodia it's worth logging in and taking a look.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

3pm on the 9th - be there

Coach Lee Tae-Hoon (white shirt) giving instructions to his squad before a recent friendly game
The Cambodian national team are currently preparing for the first leg of their AFC Challenge Cup qualification tie against Macau, to be played at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh on Wednesday 9 February, with a 3pm kick-off time. The squad are undergoing strict training preparation under South Korean coach Lee Tae-Hoon at the national training center at Cheng Meng, though the last sixteen round matches of the Hun Sen Cup have caused some disruption to the coach's rigid schedule. With less than two weeks before this vital must-win qualifier, the coach is still leaving the door open for anyone that stands out in the Hun Sen Cup matches, the last of which are played this weekend. He was also keen to involve three players who are now parading their football talents in Thailand, though it looks like that may be thwarted as the Thai domestic season is due to begin a couple of days after the first leg match against Macau. The second leg will be played at Macau's Campo Desportivo stadium on 16 February. The last meeting between the two countries was in Bangladesh when Cambodia beat Macau 2-1 with goals from Teab Vathanak and Keo Sokngorn in an April 2009 qualifier. Lee Tae-Hoon has taken the chunk of his 24-man training squad from two clubs, with Phnom Penh Crown and Preah Khan Reach both supplying seven players. The only Naga Corp player is Sun Sovanratha, the brother of former U23 skipper Sun Sovanrithy, who is conspicuous by his absence. The squad will be reduced to 18 in the week before the first leg. Cambodia, ranked at 165th in the FIFA world rankings (a place below Equatorial Guinea and one above Vanuatu), will be expected to beat Macau, who lie in 193rd place, in both legs.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Familiar faces

Keo Sokngorn nailing his colours to the mast of his new Thai club side
A few familiar faces were spotted at the Hun Sen Cup matches at Olympic Stadium yesterday including teenage national team striker Keo Sokngorn, who came along to watch his former club Phnom Penh Crown sail through to the next round. Sokngorn netted 15 goals for Crown last season before deciding to try his luck in pastures new for the coming season, recently signing for Thai Regional Division 2 team Samut Sakhon FC. He met up with the Cambodian national team coach Lee Tae-Hoon at the ground though it's unlikely that Sokngorn will feature in the forthcoming AFC Challenge Cup matches against Macau as they clash with the start of the Thai league season in the 2nd week of February. Two more former Crown players from last season, Sani Saidu and Friday Nwakuna, will also be plying their trade in Thailand, for Division 1 team Songkhla FC and were at the game as well, alongwith former Crown manager Makara Be. Two players who I didn't see were Prince Justine and Julius Ononiwu, who have signed up with Thai Division 1 team Chula United, who have just this minute changed their name to, wait for it...Big Bang Chulalongkorn University. Yes, BB-CU FC. Don't ask.
Prince Justine (middle) and Julius Ononiwu (right) join BB-CU FC

Crown in cruise control

A long distance look at Tieng Tiny's successful spot-kick
There was only ever going to be one winner from the moment Phnom Penh Crown kicked off against the Navy team, Chhlam Samuth, in yesterday's Hun Sen Cup last 16 match-up. Crown kept the ball, waited for the right moment and put the Navy to the sword, without really breaking sweat for much of the game. Crown coach Bojan Hodak declared himself “70% happy with our performance” after watching his team cruise to a 5-1 win to earn themselves a quarter-final tie with Build Bright United, to be played a month from now, on Saturday 26 February (4.30pm). “I wasn’t happy with our defending at a couple of set pieces, one of which they scored from. Though we held the ball nicely, we still try to overcomplicate in the final third instead of playing it simple,” commented the coach at the final whistle. He continued; “The opposition were quite good, they kept their discipline and didn’t make it easy for us. When you look at the number of chances we created, we need to get more clinical and improve our finishing.” As for their next opponents, he said; “We’ll need to focus but we’re confident against anybody.” Crown won't underestimate BBU who played well to kill off Rithy Sen 6-1 on Saturday.
Already without the ex-Army duo of Khim Borey and Suong Virak due to a still-to-be resolved suspension by the football federation, head coach Hodak was also without the injured Chea Virath and wasn’t happy that seven of his players had trained hard yesterday whilst with the national team, instead of resting. Nonetheless, all seven made the starting line-up but the lack of urgency in the 1st half indicated that some players weren't on the top of their game. It was also noticeable in the earlier game with PKR also looking out of sorts, having had six players training with the national squad before the weekend.

Crown dominated possession from the kick-off and Sok Pheng was inches wide with a header which he should’ve done better with. On 26 minutes, Pheng and Hong Ratana combined to set up Kouch Sokumpheak at the far post and the deadly marksman made no mistake, as he chested down a cross and rifled his shot through the keeper’s legs. Four minutes before the half-time break, Crown went two ahead. Sokumpheak was tripped as he burst into the penalty area by Chham Bunchhay and Tieng Tiny, given the responsibility for spot-kicks by his coach, made no mistake from the penalty spot.

Two minutes after the interval and a Pov Samnang header was kept out by the fingertips of Crown keeper Peng Bunchhay as Chhlam Samuth refused to lie down. However, they fell further behind on 71 minutes when a speculative 30-yard strike from Hong Ratana crept through the hands of the 'Sea Sharks' teenage keeper Hel Udom and over the line. Five minutes later and Chhlam Samuth had a moment to savour. Crown switched off at a corner and the ball fell kindly for Ek Sovannara, who netted against his former club, by stabbing the ball home.

Crown continued to spurn chances through Pheng and Chim Rathanak before left-back San Narith went on a remarkable run that brought him a goal on 82 minutes. He collected the ball on the half-way, brushed aside two challenges as he headed for the penalty area, then beat another defender for pace and somehow managed to squeeze his shot into the net from an acute angle. In the first minute of time added on, Kouch Sokumpheak took a pass from Chan Chaya and fired past Hel Udom from the edge of the box to complete the rout and net his tenth goal of the competition. All in all a good day at the office, with Crown's superior class telling throughout and their extra fitness allowing them to add to their tally in the last twenty minutes.

Crown line-up
: Bunchhay, Dara, Narith, Sothearith, Tiny, Narong (Sophat 84), Sopanha, Ratana (Rathanak 77), Chaya, Sokumpheak, Pheng (Vanthan 88). Subs not used: Visokra, Sovan.
Bookings: Narong (foul).
Chhlam Samuth provided the opposition but were undone by a Crown team in cruise control
Thul Sothearith, who's been in excellent form this season, leads out the Crown team in red
Thul Sothearith (red), referee Khoun Ly and Chhlam Samuth's Kao Niso
A quick look at the Crown bench before the game begins. Coach Bojan Hodak is nearest the camera.
Sok Pheng (right) demonstrates the art of pre-match stretching
Kouch Sokumpheak with the ball in the pre-match warm-up, overseen by Bojan Hodak

Laboravy 3 Neak Khiev 2

Preah Khan Reach just squeezed through to the QF's with a slender win over Neak Khiev
Yesterday's Hun Sen Cup games went according to expectations in terms of wins for Preah Khan Reach and Phnom Penh Crown, but for PKR they will breathe a huge sigh of relief after coming back from behind to kill the hopes of the underdogs with just 5 minutes of the game remaining. It was tough luck on the plucky players of the rubber plantation-backed Kompong Cham team Neak Khiev, under their coach Prak Vuthy, the brother of Naga coach Prak Sovannara. PKR had begun according to plan, taking a 10th minute lead when Khuon Laboravy volleyed in the dropping ball after Sam El Nasa's header had rebounded off the crossbar. Neak Khiev dusted themselves down and came storming back, not allowing PKR to settle into a rhythm, and they drew level on 23 minutes when lanky striker Yarb Ramatorn outpaced his marker and smashed the ball past Ouk Mic. Just after the half hour, the provincial team took the lead and deservedly so. Taing Sul, who'd set up Ramatorn for the 1st goal, flicked on a long ball and Sok Rithy reacted quickly to cut it out, only to send a toe-poke over the head of his own keeper to give Neak Khiev a 2-1 interval lead.
PKR were picking up bookings but little else, including a silly yellow card for Sam El Nasa for dissent that was soon to come back and haunt him. Then, 15 minutes into the 2nd half, Laboravy again showed his class to draw PKR level. A needlessly conceded free-kick, 25 yards out, was all he needed for a sight on goal as he curled his shot inside the near post of keeper Soun Pisal. Five minutes later and El Nasa was on his way to an early bath as PKR were reduced to ten men. He stuck out an arm to control the ball and gave referee Thong Chankethya little option to flash yellow and red in quick succession. Laboravy tested Soun Pisal with two more efforts before Taing Sul held his head in disbelief at the other end, when he fired wide when it looked easier to score. Up stepped Laboravy to win it for PKR with five minutes on the clock, and a penalty shoot-out looming. He was on the spot as Prak Mony Udom's corner was swung in and a well-placed header sent his team through to the quarter-finals, amidst some mightily-relieved PKR fans and officials.
Plucky is the perfect word for the performance of Neak Khiev against PKR
PKR skipper Sam El Nasa (red) and Neak Khiev's Phoeurn Saoroum

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Crown cruise through

PPCFC line up against Chhlam Samuth [Back row LtoR] Dara, Sopanha, Bunchhay, Tiny, Narong, Ratana [front row] Pheng, Sokumpheak, Narith, Chaya, Sothearith.
Full match reports to follow, for now, suffice to say that Phnom Penh Crown and Preah Khan Reach both progressed to the quarter-finals of the Hun Sen Cup today with expected victories. Crown coasted to a 5-1 win over Chhlam Samuth whilst Preah Khan made heavy weather of putting down Rithy Sen, eventually running out 3-2 winners. Kouch Sokumpheak netted twice for Crown with Ting Tiny (pen), Hong Ratana and San Narith scoring the others. PKR had Khuon Laboravy to thank for their success, he scored a hattrick with the winner coming just five minutes from time.
PKR's Khuon Laboravy has just scored a hattrick to win the tie, but you wouldn't know it from his expression

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Short shrift

13 goals in two games and the Hun Sen Cup announced it was back in town this afternoon at the Olympic Stadium. Following the group games in the provinces, it was back to the capital for the last sixteen round and the two C-League regular teams, Prek Pra and BBU, gave their provincial opponents short shrift in today's games. Prek Pra brought their noisy fans with them and handed out a 5-1 thrashing to Battambang, whilst Build Bright wore down Rithy Sen and eventually ran out comfortable 6-1 winners. Tomorrow's two games involve Preah Khan and Phnom Penh Crown meeting lesser (on paper) opposition, so we can expect more goals on the menu.
Prek Pra Keila won with ease, 5-1 against Battambang in today's 1st Hun Sen Cup tie
In the 2pm kick-off this afternoon, Prek Pra Keila wasted little time in taking the lead as their opponents from Battambang started sluggishly and paid the price. Two minutes in, Ha Rithy tried to cut out a pass but only succeeded in looping the ball over his own goalkeeper and giving Prek Pra an easy head-start. With 32 minutes on the clock You Arafat slipped the ball under keeper Tith Engsrun for number two and three minutes before the interval, Sen Poukhory burst between two defenders and finished with ease. The result was never in doubt after that, even though Battambang netted a penalty five minutes after the restart through Oum Tola. Prek Pra's 4th came thirty minutes into the 2nd half as Mat Hasan sped away from his marker, who collapsed with cramp, and slotted his shot inside the far post. Sos Souhana completed proceedings 9 minutes from time when he lobbed the ball over Engsrun with the Battambang defence notable by their absence. 5-1 to Prek Pra and a job well done.
Battambang were no match for Prek Pra
BBU showed their class with a 6-1 win over Rithy Sen
A large crowd awaited the 2nd game of the day. Rithy Sen from Kompong Chhnang will be plying their trade in the C-League this coming season and gave notice of intention for the first 20 minutes of this last 16 cup tie. They harried and took the game to BBU and earned their lead on 16 minutes when Mich Chanta picked out Seth Kamel and he finished past Hem Simay with confidence. BBU eventually got their neat passing moves together as the first half wore on and with 28 minutes played they levelled with a tap-in for Prum Putsethy after keeper Oum Veasna got in the way of Oum Chandara's shot. Now on top, BBU should've done better before the break but found Veasna in great form as he denied two long range efforts from Chhun Sothearath and a closer in chance for Putsethy. A goal after less than a minute of the second half gave BBU the upper hand and they never looked back. Nuth Sinoun, sporting a new short back and sides haircut, rolled in his strike as Rithy Sen were still wiping the sleep from their eyes. Five minutes later and Putsethy added to the agony of the C-League newboys as he guided a header past Oum Veasna from a delightful Chandara centre. Putsethy's well deserved hattrick arrived on 70 minutes as he benefited from a mistake by Thang Channarith. Nine minutes left on the clock and substitute Chan Sokunthina netted at the far post after Heng Sokly unselfishly set him up and there was still time for Nuth Sinoun to smash home a sixth for BBU in the first minute of added-on time. It was no more than BBU had deserved after seeing off the early promise of their opponents.
Rithy Sen started brightly before fading against BBU

Back in action

Phnom Penh Crown are back on the cup trail tomorrow at 4.30pm when they meet Chhlam Samuth (aka Phuchung Neak) in the last sixteen round of the Hun Sen Cup at Olympic Stadium. Coach Bojan Hodak has a full squad to select from with no injury worries and three players returning from suspension, Tieng Tiny, Sun Sopanha and Chan Chaya. The football federation ban on Khim Borey and Suong Virak is still in force. Their former team, the Army, weren't happy when they lost a glut of their best players in the off-season and the federation have bowed to their demands to suspend the players. There is no legal reason for the players to be missing games as they were free agents when they moved clubs and the sooner this situation is resolved the better. In the cup ties this weekend, Battambang may spring a surprise on Prek Pra whilst BBU should be too strong for Rithy Sen. Tomorrow, Preah Khan Reach will put out Neak Khiev and Crown face the boys from the Navy. The remaining 4 ties will take place next weekend.

The Cambodian national squad for the upcoming AFC Challenge Cup qualification matches against Macau has been announced. 7 Phnom Penh Crown players are included in the 24-man training group, which will be reduced to 18 before they meet Macau at the Olympic Stadium on 9 February. No real surprises as the national coach Lee Tae-Hoon has had his squad playing friendly matches in the last couple of months, though a few faces that should be included are still missing. There is also talk about inviting three Khmer players currently plying their trade in Thailand, to join the squad. They are Keo Sokngorn, Srey Veasna and Chan Rithy. The 24-man squad is (Crown players are in bold): Mic, Bunchhay, Simay; Raksmey, Veasna, Rithy, Rady, T Udom, Narith, Tiny, Pancharong, Chhoeun, Sopanha, PM Udom, Sothearath, Sovanratha, Soksana; Borey, Sokumpheak, Pheng, Laboravy, El Nasa, Vichheka.

The long-running saga of where former Crown starlet Keo Sokngorn will be playing his football this season has finally been resolved, with the teenager joining Thai Regional Division 2 Central & Eastern team Samut Sakhon FC in the third tier of Thai football. In recent weeks a handful of players who left Crown after the end of last season, have signed up with Thai teams. Prince Justine has joined Chula United, whilst Sani Saidu and Friday Nwakuna have thrown their lot in with Songkhla FC and Srey Veasna is now with Loei City.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Met on arrival

Bayon reporter Kong Ren listens to a translation from Bouy Dary after coach Bojan Hodak (center) returns to Phnom Penh from Croatia tonight
A Bayon television camera was lying in wait for Bojan Hodak as he appeared through the arrivals lounge doorway at Phnom Penh airport this evening. The coach of Phnom Penh Crown had been back home in Croatia for the past couple of weeks, whilst his squad of players have been engaged in Hun Sen Cup group action in Kompong Thom. Hodak didn't spend the time seeing family and friends though, instead he took part in the second of four residential sessions in his quest for the most sought-after football coaching qualification in Europe, the UEFA 'Pro' license. Learning the tricks of the trade with thirty other participants, there were a host of international coaches such as Lars Lagerback to pass on their words of wisdom, as Hodak seeks to become the only coach in Cambodia with Europe's version of a football doctorate. Bayon TV are expanding their coverage of football this year and look set to cover the Hun Sen Cup competition with live coverage of the last sixteen round and beyond. Tonight's interview with Hodak will be broadcast in their normal sports programme.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Crown wrap up group win

Crown line-up v Baksey Chamkrong; [Back row LtoR] Dara, Sothearith, Sovan, Bunchhay, Virath, Narong [front row] Ratana, Pheng, Narith, Sokumpheak, Vanthan
The group matches in the Hun Sen Cup came to a close for Phnom Penh Crown this afternoon, with their third successive win, this time a fairly straightforward 5-0 victory over a determined Baksey Chamkrong from Siem Reap. It was the third game in five days on the bumpy and bone-hard surface at the Kompong Thom stadium and Crown opened the scoring from the penalty spot through Kouch Sokumpheak on eleven minutes after a handball. Sok Pheng (pictured) doubled the lead eight minutes before half-time. Three more goals in the second period sealed the win and leave Crown sitting pretty on top of Group D. Chan Dara moved upfield to find the net on 68 minutes with a cross-shot that deceived the keeper, substitute Tes Sophat scored with eleven minutes to go, finishing off a pass from Kouch Sokumpheak, who then netted his 8th goal in three games, scoring in the 2nd minute of time added on with a 1-on-1 with the keeper. Peng Bunchhay in the Crown goal, making his first appearance in the cup, did well to keep Baksey out on a couple of occasions as the province team showed their mettle, but to no avail. Crown were without five of their all-Khmer squad through suspension and the ban by the football federation. In the last sixteen round, they now meet the 2nd best team in Group C (which will be decided tomorrow), on Sunday 23 January at 4.30pm at Olympic Stadium.
Crown line-up: Bunchhay, Dara, Vanthan, Sovan, Sothearith, Narith, Narong, Virath (Sophat 74), Ratana, Sokumpheak, Pheng. Sub not used: Visokra.
Update: Chhlam Samuth (the Navy team that used to be called Phuchung Neak) lost 2-nil to Preah Khan Reach today and so finish as runners-up in Group C. That means they'll face Crown in the last 16 round on 23 January.
The match officials and team captains complete the toss-up, which Baksey won. Crown won the game however, 5-0.

Transfer gossip

There's nothing better than a bit of football transfer gossip and the word on the street is that 4 players who were plying their trade in the Metfone C-League last season, have been snapped up on contracts ahead of the new season that kicks-off next month in the Thailand 1st Division. They include 3 players who appeared for Phnom Penh Crown last season, with top scorer Uche Prince Justine (pictured) hooking up with the C-League's top scorer last term with 25 goals, Kirivong's Julius Ononiwu, at Chula United. That means Chula have the two best marksmen over the last two seasons in Cambodia on their roster. The other two former Crown players who will be donning the kit of a Thai team next month will be Sani Saidu and Friday Nwakuna, who have joined the 'Fighting Bulls' at Songkhla FC. No news as yet on other players who were strutting their stuff in the C-League last season and who have been conspicuous by their absence this time around.

Individual performances

A couple of individual performances stand out in the Hun Sen Cup group matches played over the past week. In Kompong Thom, on a pitch that I've seen myself and can confirm is not easy to play on, let alone control the ball with any degree of certainty, so for Khuon Laboravy to score 10 against Preah Vihear in a 20-nil rout yesterday, is no mean feat. However, even Laboravy's ten was eclipsed the day before when Kirivong's In Vichheka (pictured) went one better and scored eleven goals in a 16-0 victory over Kompong Speu, the match being played in Takeo. Both players are known for their dribbling skills and close ball control. The group matches have one more series of games before they come to a close on Wednesday. The top two teams from each of the eight groups then progress to the knockout rounds beginning on 22 January in Phnom Penh.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Incident-filled victory

Crown starting XI; [Back row, LtoR] Ratana, Tiny, Sopanha, Visokra, Vanthan, Dara, Sothearith [front row] Sokumpheak, Sophat, Rathanak, Pheng
Phnom Penh Crown meted out a footballing lesson to the province novices of Kompong Thom yesterday but not without incident in their second Hun Sen Cup Group D match played at the Kompong Thom stadium. Crown cruised to a 6-1 victory but were aided by a rash challenge by the home goalkeeper Heang Seng Hong after 21 minutes, that saw him sent off and Crown's Chim Rathanak rushed to hospital nursing a head injury. Thankfully, the winger appears okay though he will have a head scan just to make certain of no lasting damage, after he was on the receiving end of a high-footed challenge by the goalkeeper. Both sets of players squared up for a few seconds immediately following the incident even though referee Khuon Virak brandished the red card without hesitation. Kompong Thom's skipper Lida Prathna donned the keeper's gloves and a few minutes later pulled off a superb one-handed save to deny a downward header from Tieng Tiny. Two goals in the last two minutes of the first-half put Crown in command. Sun Sopanha claimed the first with a neatly-taken sidefooted shot after a one-two with Sok Pheng sent him clear. Moments later, Tieng Tiny headed in a Chea Virath corner to put Crown in the driving seat.
Four minutes after the restart, Hong Ratana was tripped as he broke into the box and Kouch Sokumpheak fired home the rebound after stand-in keeper Prathna blocked his penalty kick. Sun Sopanha turned provider for Sokumpheak on 53 minutes after he raced clear onto a Ratana pass and unselfishly squared for his teammate to finish with ease for his sixth goal in two matches. Sokumpheak is a native of Kompong Thom province and his elder brother Kouch Sovireak was playing in attack for the provincial team. Sokumpheak fired against the woodwork before Hong Ratana netted on 68 minutes with a neat finish after good approach work by Chan Dara and Sok Pheng.
Crown will be without Sun Sopanha and Chan Chaya for their final group match on Tuesday after both players picked up needless yellow cards and an automatic ban. Eight minutes from time, Sok Pheng got on the scoresheet when he headed in off the underside of the crossbar after Chan Chaya's floated cross picked him out in acres of space. A booking for Tieng Tiny with five minutes to go was compounded when he caught Chay Em Dara in the final minute, was shown a second yellow card and then a red by Khuon Virak, and the striker got up to fire the resultant penalty past Hong Visokra to give the home side a consolation goal. It was only the second time Visokra had touched the ball in the match. Both teams ended the match with ten players.
Crown now go into their third and final group match on Tuesday against Baksey Chamkrong without three players who will miss the game through suspension, concerns over Chim Rathanak's health, as well as already shorn of Khim Borey and Suong Virak by the football federation's decision to impose a ban on them in the cup competition.
Crown line-up: Visokra, Dara, Vanthan Tiny, Sothearith (Sovan 72), Sopanha (Chaya 59), Sophat, Ratana, Rathanak (Virath 29), Pheng, Sokumpheak. Subs not used: Bunchhay, Narong, Narith.
Chim Rathanak receives attention to his head injury from physio Chhin Sophorn
Kompong Thom line-up before the start
Kouch Sokumpheak (left) and his elder brother Kouch Sovireak after yesterday's match

Sunday, January 9, 2011

More from day 1

Crown skipper Thul Sothearith makes a hasty retreat from the after-match ice-bath
Phnom Penh Crown's Hun Sen Cup competition began with that 4-0 success over Neak Khiev early on Friday morning. Here are the final photos from the match itself and the aftermath.
Tieng Tiny and Sok Pheng immerse their lower bodies into the ice-bath
The final scores on the scoreboard, showing Crown's 4-nil success
Kouch Sokumheak fires home from the penalty spot for his 4th goal against Neak Khiev
The half-time team talk and on-going injury repairs
Kouch Sokumpheak challenges Neak Khiev keeper Chea Sojeun
Sun Sopanha plys a short corner kick to his teammate Sok Pheng
A general view of the Kompong Thom stadium, a few kilometres outside of the city