Sunday, July 31, 2011

Metfone round-up

Naga Corp, 2-0 winners
With Phnom Penh Crown maintaining their 4-point Metfone C-League lead with their 4-1 defeat of BBU yesterday, it was left to the other three games to make up the weekend's remaining fixtures.
In Saturday's opening game, it was that man Julius Oiboh who proved to be the difference between his 2nd-placed Naga and Preah Khan Reach. The latter's defence was all at sea when Oiboh opened the scoring on 32 minutes, taking a pass from Chin Chom in his stride, shrugging off a defender and putting his foot through a low drive into the corner. As easy as shelling peas. Seven minutes later the same player rattled the crossbar with one of his trademark pile-drivers. That was about the sum of the opening half though it ended with PKR's former coach Rith Dikar, racing down the grandstand steps to remonstrate with match referee Neang Sorithya, and twice grabbing the referee's arm as he left the arena. Khuon Laboravy, as close to the Khmer version of Julius as you can get, went close four times after the break for PKR but it was his shocking miss three minutes from time that summed up his afternoon, heading over from Prak Mony Udom's pinpoint cross with the goal at his mercy. Naga's highlight of the 2nd half was Oiboh's second goal and what a highlight it was. Holding off challenges from two defenders, the Nigerian hitman gave himself space and a better angle before toe-poking his drive into the far corner with 79 minutes on the clock. Game over and Oiboh celebrated his 17th goal of the season, with Naga keeping the league leaders in their sights.
Preah Khan Reach had no answer to Naga's Julius Oiboh
In the opening match on Sunday, the National Police Commissary found Chhlam Samuth tricky opponents and it was the Sea Sharks who had the ball in the net first, only for a flag to rule it offside. Five minutes before the break, Police's Long Nasy curled in a sweetly-struck 25-yard free-kick, between post and goalkeeper, for the opening goal. Sunday Ayodele took advantage of a loose ball to fire Chhlam Samuth level six minutes after the interval but they held on for just 5 more minutes before Police skipper Sophal Udom set up Mat Ritavann and he made no mistake with a neat finish. Ayodele should've done better with a couple of chances but it was Police who closed out the game with two goals in the latter stages. With three minutes remaining, Nasy ran onto a Ngoun Chansothea ball over the top and calmly finished, and then three minutes into time added on, the same player registered his hat-trick with an audacious chip over keeper Pich Rovinyothin to make it 4-1. Next week Police face the considerably more threatening league leaders, Phnom Penh Crown, whilst Jimmy Campbell's Chhlam Samuth are struggling to avoid the relegation dog-fight.
National Police, for whom Long Nasy netted a hat-trick
Chhlam Samuth, still involved in the relegation dog-fight
The final game of the weekend was a yawn. The National Defense Ministry started like a train against bottom-club Rithysen but after taking an early two-goal lead they took their foot of the gas and eventually ran out 3-1 winners. On six and nine minutes, the Army whipped in two goals with Oum Kumpheak sidefooting in the first and Pov Phearith whacking in the second from close range. Half-time substitute Phuong Soksana belted in a third, four minutes after the break and they should've scored more but they didn't and Rithysen got a late consolation, two minutes from time. Ly Sokhour handled in the area and the impossible to pronounce Okwuchukwu Obiawuchi steered home from the penalty spot.
The Army coasted to a 3-1 victory
Rithysen are down and out

Police given a lesson

This is the Academy starting XI v National Police U-15s
The Academy boys of Phnom Penh Crown put in another sterling performance this morning, on a surface resembling a swimming pool rather than a footy pitch. Hours of rain had threatened the game for the U-13 boys against the bigger and older opponents from National Police's U-15 team, but it went ahead despite the conditions and in hindsight, I'm sure the Police team wish it hadn't. When a team is given a footballing lesson by boys two years their junior and considerably smaller in stature, it must be hard to stomach. That probably accounted for some of the rougher passages of the match, which was played in three halves. Phoeun Sopheak began the 6-1 rout from the penalty spot and Yeu Muslim netted a second. The Police netted a consolation effort in the second half before four more goals for Crown emphasized their superior passing and teamwork. Sopheak scored two more to complete a hat-trick with his third coming direct from an inswinging corner kick. Sraing Titchhy and the smallest player on the pitch, Theang Chhaya rounded off the victory. Watching the Academy boys is pure joy. Not only do they play football the right way but they are smashing kids as well.
The starting team for the 2nd of three halves
Chhuot Senteang was as brave as a lion in goal
Goalmouth action as Theang Chhaya tries to get the last touch against much bigger opponents
The Academy coaches giving their interval team-talk
This time Theang Chhaya sends a header the wrong side of the post
The Academy squad stretch and warm-down after this morning's game

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Narith comes up trumps

A well done from coach David Booth to his hat-trick hero San Narith after the game
Crown line-up: Back Row LtoR: Njoku, Dara, Obadin, Sovannrithy, Sopanha, Bunchhay. Front Row: Tiny, Narong, Narith, Sokumpheak, Chaya
Head coach David Booth was pretty pleased with Phnom Penh Crown's opening 45 minutes in their 4-1 victory over the students of Build Bright that kept them on course to retain their Metfone C-League Championship title. "We started very well, almost too well. We were sharp and bright. I told them to get into the box and it worked from the off. The 2nd half didn't go so well though but the result was all important today," quipped Booth as he sped away at the final whistle for a quick trip to see his family in Bangkok. I think most coach's would've been pleased with Crown's start in this match, as they led by three goals inside the first twenty minutes, two of them penalties. The coach was without Sok Pheng (suspension) and Suong Virak (knee injury) and rested Thul Sothearith and Takahito Ota, giving the captain's armband to Sun Sopanha for the first time this season.

Crown got off to the best possible start in the seventh minute when Kouch Sokumpheak was shoved in the back by In Virak as he weaved his way into the box. San Narith took on the spot-kick duty and coolly stepped up to send Hem Simay the wrong way from the penalty spot. A minute after Chhun Sothearath had fluffed BBU's only chance of the first half, snatching his shot wide of the target from close in, Kouch Sokumpheak extended Crown's lead at the other end of the pitch on 13 minutes. Sun Sovannrithy's 40-yard pass over the BBU defence bypassed Simay as he left his area, leaving Sokumpheak with the simple task of steering the ball into the gaping goal. In quick succession both Chan Chaya and Kingsley Njoku broke clear of the BBU backline but failed to find the finish they were seeking with Njoku's the most glaring miss. Sun Sopanha's passes had set up both players and he was at it again on 20 minutes when he released Sokumpheak in on goal and Simay's outstretched arm caught the striker's foot for another penalty award. After the protests died down, Narith confidently placed his second spot-kick to the other side of the goal, again thwarting Simay's despairing attempt to save. Crown have had problems with penalties this season but Narith showed no signs of nerves in despatching his two spot-kicks. Njoku then contrived to miss the target from just five yards out as Narith and Chan Chaya set up the Nigerian striker, who wasn't having one of his best days in front of goal.

The first half came to a controversial end when Sovannrithy was cautioned by referee Khuon Virak for an innocuous handball on the edge of his own area, with the player protesting his innocence into and beyond the half-time interval. He claimed he'd chested the ball down. Njoku and his fellow Nigerian compatriot, Odion Obadin went close with opportunities before the hour mark, with the latter just a whisker away from his second goal in as many games, heading a Sopanha free-kick the wrong side of the post. BBU defender Nhim Sovannara denied Hong Ratana a certain goal with a last-ditch tackle, following a neat one-two with Chaya, and then made an impact at the other end, when his 40-yard screamer sailed over the head of a stunned Peng Bunchhay in the Crown goal for a remarkable strike on 74 minutes. Whether he meant it or not, only Sovannara will know. With a few jitters creeping into the Crown defence, and Chan Dara misplacing a pass to Obadin, Heng Sokly failed to cash in as he screwed a glorious chance wide when it seemed easier to score. In the fifth minute of time added on, and with BBU pushing up, three Crown players sprinted clear of the half-way line and as Simay left his area, Chan Chaya rolled the ball into the path of San Narith who gleefully accepted the gift for his hat-trick goal. It was the midfielder's first 3-goal haul since joining Crown in the close season from Preah Khan Reach. That was game over and Crown retained their four point lead at the top of the league table with just five games remaining, after their nearest rivals, Naga Corp, beat PKR 2-0 in the earlier game.
Crown line-up; Bunchhay, Dara, Sovannrithy (Sothearith 73), Tiny, Obadin, Narong (Ota 80), Narith, Sopanha, Chaya, Sokumpheak, Njoku (Ratana 59). Subs not used: Visokra, Vanthan, Sovan, Sophanal, Sophat, Sochivorn, Rathanak, H Pheng. Bookings: Sovannrithy.
Coach David Booth and his substitute's bench moments before kick-off
Lost in concentration, skipper Sun Sopanha leads his Crown team out against BBU
The Crown players get ready with David Booth's words still ringing in their ears
BBU were well and truly sunk with 3 goals in the first 20 minutes of today's game

Status quo

San Narith, or Owen as he's known to everyone, takes a rest after scoring his first hat-trick for Crown this afternoon
No change at the very top of the Metfone C-League. Phnom Penh Crown and Naga Corp both win, so both remain 1 and 2 in the league table. Naga scored a 2-nil win over a disjointed Preah Khan Reach with Julius Oiboh netting two more to take his tally to 17 goals for the season. He's pretty much unstoppable and both goals today were fine efforts. He was the difference between the two sides. In the 2nd game, Crown roared into a three goal lead inside twenty minutes with San Narith, restored to central midfield, scoring twice from the penalty spot and Kouch Sokumpheak also netting. BBU scored with a 40 yard hit and hope before Narith popped up in time added on to claim his hat-trick with a tap-in for a 4-1 success. It was Crown's 4th win in as many games since David Booth took charge and they remain four points in front of their nearest rivals.

Players must still dream

One of the best footy bloggers in this neck of the woods, Antony Sutton, also pens a regular column in the Jakarta Globe daily newspaper in Indonesia. His column this week is on a topic close to my heart, the hard-to-get-my-head-around belief around these parts that the SEA Games is a more prestigious tournament than the FIFA World Cup. In his article he includes quotes from current Phnom Penh Crown coach David Booth and former Cambodian head coach Scott O'Donell.

If the World Cup Is Not The Main Thing, Players Still Must Dream - by Antony Sutton

One of the first things Djohar Arifin Husin, the new head of the Indonesian Football Association, said in his new post was that the priority for what remains of this year is success at the Southeast Asian Games. With World Cup qualifiers on the horizon, a tricky home and away affair against Turkmenistan, it struck many fans as odd that the organization, known as the PSSI, would prioritize an Under 23 tournament instead of the more global tournament. Indonesia, though, is not alone in deciding that the world’s biggest competition, for all its recent travails, isn’t worth the effort. The South Korean coach of the Cambodian national team, Lee Tae-hoon, also made similar comments recently.

Surely, football fans relish the chance to see their national teams go toe to toe against some of the region’s powerhouses. The SEA Games, after all, are held every two years against the same old teams. But former Cambodian coach, Australian Scott O’Donell, views things differently. He said that every game was important — even friendly games. “Every time the players put on the national shirt, I tried to emphasize the importance of playing for their country. If I had prioritized the importance of respective games, then I would have been contradicting what I had been telling them,” he said.

A few years back, when Charlton Athletic was in the English Premier League, then-manager Alan Curbishley once said that for him the important games were not against the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea because he expected to lose those games. For him, it was far more important to rise to the challenge against the other teams in the lower half of the table. But is football that simple? Can players — and by extension coaches and managers — just decide when to turn on the style and when to coast?

English coach David Booth has spent several years working in Southeast Asia with both club and national sides and he is clear on this point. An FA president, Booth said, once told him that he wanted the team to place second in order to avoid playing a really tough opponent in the next round. Booth tried to explain that “our team was not able to play and decide how many goals to score.” But, after serving time as a coach in the region, Booth can empathize. He says he has “come to understand that face is very important here. As such, worrying about playing stronger teams creates a feeling of not wanting to play them and get beaten badly,” he explains. But Booth retains his Englishness and says he wants to win every game his team plays. “As a coach I hope to win any game my team performs in at any level. That is the English combative style which I am happy to have,” he said.

Then again, despite there being only eight or 10 nations involved in the SEA Games or its older brother, the AFF Cup, there are still no guarantees, a point made by O’Donell, referring to Thailand’s implosion in 2010 when they were considered favorites by many. This weekend sees countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore take their first steps on the road to Brazil in 2014. Chances are high none of them will make the long journey all the way to the World Cup, but for the players involved, they will still have their dreams.

Football allowed us to dream. Coaches and officials should allow the players their dreams of stardom and glory. Without dreams, football loses one more piece of magic that separates it from other sports.
  • You can read Antony's Jakarta Casual Blog here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

President's Cup latest

Today's AFC President's Cup draw
Defending champions Myanmar’s Yadanarbon have been drawn alongside debutants Kyrgyzstan’s Neftchi and our very own Phnom Penh Crown in Group B of the 2011 AFC President’s Cup Final Stage draw, which took place at the AFC House this afternoon in Kuala Lumpur. Yadanarbon ended Central Asian teams’ stranglehold on the third-tier AFC club competition last year by beating Kyrgyzstan’s Dordoi 1-0 in the final at home and could face a formidable challenge in the final stages this time around. Taiwan Power Company (Chinese Taipei), FC Balkan (Turkmenistan) and Istiklol (Tajikistan) were placed in Group A. Istiklol will take on home team Taiwan Power Company on the first day on 19 September while Phnom Penh Crown will meet Neftchi at 4pm in the opening match. Crown then face the Myanamar champions Yadanarbon on 21 September at 7pm. The six-team Finals will be played in Kaohsiung City, Chinese Taipei, from 19-25 September at the National Stadium. Top teams from each group will qualify for the final.

Booth rings the changes

Phnom Penh Crown can put more daylight between them and the chasing pack at the top of the Metfone C-League tomorrow if results go according to plan. However, this is football afterall, so no one is counting their chickens. Crown will meet the in-form team of the moment, BBU, in the 2nd game of Saturday afternoon. BBU were the team who dumped Crown out of this year's Hun Sen Cup in a penalty shoot-out, though Crown did gain a measure of revenge in the league encounter, winning 3-0 in May. There will be changes in David Booth's line-up for the game against the students, after the coach opened up his reign with three straight wins. The forgotten man of the Crown squad, striker Sok Pheng, who Booth brought in from the cold and who repaid his faith with 3 goals in his last three games, picked up a second yellow card last week and will sit out this one with a 1-match suspension. Also missing is likely to be speedy wingman Suong Virak, who got a knock on his knee last week and will be rested as a precautionary measure. That opens the window of opportunity for others to stake their claim in the team for the final run-in towards capturing the C-League title, with just six games remaining and with Crown currently holding a four-point lead. Booth was hoping to add another face to his squad this week but that iron is still in the fire and he hopes to have more news on that front after the weekend. The coach wasn't best pleased with his team's defensive showing against Chhlam Samuth last Saturday when they conceded three goals despite working all week on keeping clean sheets, so the back four are under the microscope too. With BBU showing some good form in recent weeks, the game promises to be a cracker.

The AFC President's Cup final round draw is being made at 4pm this afternoon in Kuala Lumpur and Crown will soon know who they will face in one of the two 3-team groups. The leading team in each group then meet in the cup final. All matches will be played in Chinese Taipei between 19-25 September. Watch this space.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Oladiji hits the dozen mark

Kirivong temporarily moved into fifth place in the Metfone C-League table tonight following their 3-0 midweek victory over Prek Pra Keila, stepping over the Army in the process. That man Nelson Oladiji (pictured) took his tally to 12 goals for the season with two more, though to be honest, if he scored half of the chances he gets he'd be well out in front of the race for the Golden Boot, whilst Ek Vannak got the other one, after his recent move from Naga. Prek Pra on the other hand, remain in the bottom two. I didn't attend the game so cannot comment on the behaviour of the Prek Pra fans after they let themselves down badly last Saturday. Kirivong have now had three successive Wednesday matches, and won 3 of their last four games. However, the juiciest games in the C-League are taking place this coming Saturday when the top four teams are paired against each other. The 2pm kick-off is Naga Corp against Preah Khan Reach, or 2nd v 3rd, whilst at 4pm league leaders Phnom Penh Crown meet the in-form 4th placed team, Build Bright United. It promises to be the best afternoon of football so far this season.

Confusion reigns

Sun Sovannrithy lifting the 2009 BIDC Cup as the Cambodian U-23s claimed the trophy
I'm trying to get my head around this year's BIDC Cup, which by all accounts will be held at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh between the 6-17 October and has the moniker of the Mekong Region U-21 International BIDC Cup 2011 (aka MRIBIDC Cup - sorry that bit's tongue in cheek). I stupidly thought it was serious preparation for Cambodia's SEA Games football squad, which of course is competed for at U-23 level, and which will take place between 11-22 November. So when I heard it had been flagged as an U-21 competition, I wondered why we would go to the trouble of hosting it, if not everyone in our U-23 squad couldn't take part. Now I gather that it's actually intended as an U-19 tournament, which is moving even further away from my expectation. Hence my confusion, and it's not been helped by the, so far, rather scant information coming from the hosts, the Cambodian football federation. So what do we know so far. There will be six teams coming from the following countries: Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. I think they will national squads from those countries but I've not heard definite confirmation of that. You may recall that the previous edition of the BIDC Cup in 2009 had both, two national teams and two club teams, and the Cambodian U-23 team won it. The 6 teams taking part will be split into two groups. There will be semi-finals on 10 October and the final two days later, with the winning team picking up a $20,000 cheque from the sponsors, the Vietnamese Bank BIDC. The latest I've heard is that Vietnam will definitely use the competition to give their U-19 national squad some practice before they take part in the AFC U-19 2012 Championship qualifiers being held at the end of the same month. Cambodia will not be taking part in those qualifiers, but the other five BIDC competing countries will. The following federations decided against competing in the AFC U-19 Championships: Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Timor Leste. That's all I have for now. It looks like it maybe a tournament of U-19 national teams except the Cambodian squad, who will be U-21, who will be preparing for the U-23 SEA Games. Do you get my drift? Confusion reigns.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

So far so good

Bojan Hodak just a few days before leaving Phnom Penh Crown for China
I thought it was time to catch up with Phnom Penh Crown's former head coach Bojan Hodak, who made the move to the Chinese Super League champions Shandong Luneng at the start of June. Bojan is assistant coach to his Croatian colleague Rajko Magic and together the pair have overseen the team in 7 matches since Bojan arrived. Of those 7 matches, 5 have been away, 2 at home and Shandong have yet to lose, winning 4 of them and drawing the other 3. Whilst leaders Guangzhou are way out in front, Shandong are currently in 4th place in the league table, but just two points from second spot. So as you can imagine, Bojan is pretty pleased with everything so far. The club attracts home attendances above 20,000 and there were 45,000 to watch their game in Beijing recently. I asked what was the difference between football in Southeast Asia and in China. Bojan replied: "It's a different world if you compare to anything in SE Asian football. The stadiums, the money, training facilities, and of course the quality of the players. We have a Brazilian defender who played in Italy for nine years, latterly with Lecce. We have a Lebanese international who came from FC Koln in the Bundesliga, a Honduran who was with Parma in Serie A and Torino, we have 5 Chinese internationals, one who played at Schalke and 1 played at PSV Eindhoven. The quality of players I am working with is a massive difference. In addition, I am positively surprised with the lifestyle here in Jinan for me and my family." So all in all, a dream move for Bojan and his family. Long may it continue.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I was absent from today's Metfone C-League matches. I don't miss many but a friend's house-blessing ceremony took precedence. In my absence, Preah Khan Reach drew 2-2 with the Army whilst the National Police scraped a 1-0 win over Rithysen. For the Army, Meak Chhordaravuth was making his debut after leaving Krivong and opened the scoring with a 25 yard free kick, only for Phany Y Rotha to level before the break. Chin Chhoeurn put the Army back in front only for Khuon Laboravy to head in the equaliser on 73 minutes. Honours shared. The sole goal of the Police v Rithysen game arrived via Sim Vutha just eight minutes from time. Tough luck on Rithysen who remain rock bottom with just 2 points from twelve games.

BBU move into third

BBU move into 3rd place and meet leaders PPCrown next week
The football became secondary at the end of BBU's regulation 3-0 win over Prek Pra yesterday afternoon, but it all went wrong for Prek Pra at the start of the match. In the 12th minute, Prek Pra's goalkeeper Yok Ary left his area to tackle the rampaging Oum Chandara, he mistimed it and left referee Yien Kivatanak with no option but to produce the red card. The smallest keeper in the league, Sen Mansoth joined the proceedings as his replacement with Prek Pra reduced to ten men for the remainder of the game. Within six minutes BBU were in front when Nhim Sovannara's cross was deflected into the path of Chea Sophany and he made no mistake from close range. BBU stopper Hem Simay blocked Mat Hasan's attempted chip as Prek Pra offered up their best efforts but BBU netted their second on 37 minutes effectively killing off their opponents. Sovannara's cross was mis-kicked by Sos Hanafy at the far post and In Virak rifled in his shot off the underside of the crossbar. BBU settled it on the hour when Mansoth made a complete hash of a simple catch, leaving Nhim Sovannara with a tap in from five yards out. Prek Pra's frustrations on the field boiled over with a couple of bookings and in time added on they were denied a consolation goal when Maliki Rohan broke through four tackles but found Hem Simay too big to beat. That was the cue for the after-match disturbances with the crowd fury directed at the match officials, who took cover as water-bottles rained down from the main grandstand. Prek Pra remain rooted in one of the two relegation places at the bottom of Metfone C-league while BBU move into third spot, and play the league leaders next Saturday.
Prek Pra were reduced to 10 men early on and never recovered

Shame on Prek Pra

The outnumbered military police try in vain to control the situation in the grandstand
Prek Pra are well known for their vocal supporters and their large numbers of Muslim followers who come and watch all of their matches at the Olympic Stadium but what we witnessed at the end of yesterday's game has no place in football. Displeased with some of the match officials' decisions, a handful of Prek Pra followers decided to express their anger by throwing water bottles from the grandstand as the match ended and the players and officials were about to leave the pitch area. Players took cover as a barrage of water bottles rained down, injuring one of the ball-boys on the leg. As half a dozen military police moved in to stop the disturbance, it escalated and the police were surrounded, outnumbered and were forced to withdraw. The vociferous Prek Pra fans continued to voice their outrage which had now turned its wrath onto the police before the team's manager calmed the situation down and the fans dispersed. From my viewpoint, the fury displayed by a couple of females in the crowd egged on the others and the police then exposed themselves with their ineffectual handling of the situation. There were not enough police officers to handle the size of the crowd and their 'bull in a china shop' attempt to diffuse the angry fans only inflamed them. The whole episode brought considerable shame on the Prek Pra supporters and may necessitate segregating their fans at future matches. Football has appeared to act as a catalyst for the Muslim community in Prek Pra to openly display their support for the football team but yesterday exposed how easily that can be used as a vehicle for public disturbance, which is a road Cambodian football does not want to go down.
The Prek Pra manager El Fatel (in light shirt) confronts the Prek Pra followers
The Prek Pra crowd surge forward to confront the police with some of the agitators in shot
Confrontation in the main body of the grandstand as the police beat a hasty withdrawal
The helmeted military police move into the crowd to dispel the initial disturbance

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Crown rattle up five

Odion Obadin scored his 1st goal of the season against Chhlam Samuth
Let's just say that Phnom Penh Crown's 5-3 win over Chhlam Samuth wasn't exactly a vintage Crown display and at one stage with the Sea Sharks leading 3-2, a worried frown crossed my brow. Thankfully, I didn't have to wait long before Crown levelled and then went onto win the game and remain on the top of the Metfone C-League pile for another week. But credit to third from bottom Chhlam Samuth, they made a real fist of it and their three Nigerian players give them a definite advantage over the other teams at the wrong end of the table. Crown coach David Booth was not a happy man after the game; "We couldn't do anything right today, but sometimes the result is more important than the performance, and today was one of those days." The coach changed his team's formation, playing with two central strikers fifteen minutes into the 2nd half and despite Chhlam Samuth taking the lead, the move eventually worked with Crown recovering their momentum and both strikers getting their names on the scoresheet. The match had begun pretty much to plan with Crown taking the lead on 20 minutes as Sun Sopanha floated a cross to the far post where Odion Obadin rose above his marker to head powerfully home, for his 1st goal of the season. Tieng Tiny made a timely tackle on Dauda Sanni as the opposition wingman was just about to pull the trigger before Sun Sopanha gave Crown a two-goal lead on 36 minutes. A quick corner played to Thul Sothearith was returned to Sopanha and from 25 yards out he unleashed a stunning drive that gave Pich Rovinyothin in the Sea Sharks goal, absolutely no chance. Just three minutes later and Chhlam Samuth's Sunday Ayodele caught Peng Bunchhay in the Crown goal napping with an unexpected swinger from the left that eluded the stopper and sailed into the net. In time added on, Sanni's inswinging corner struck the bar and San Thydeth lent back and blasted the loose ball over the bar to leave Crown 2-1 ahead at the interval.

On 63 minutes, Chhlam Samuth grabbed an equalizer when Pov Samnang's retrieving header at the far post caused some panic in the Crown defence and Sanni drove the ball through a forest of legs to make it 2-2. A Kingsley Njoku header cleared the far post by an inch whilst at the other end Bunchhay was alert to cut out the danger when Olabode Abosede squirmed his way between two defenders. It was a warning, as on 73 minutes, Tiny failed to clear his lines, Sunday Ayodele sped to the bye-line and Abosede headed his pull-back powerfully into the roof of the net. Chhlam Samuth had taken a 3-2 lead against the league leaders. Tiny nearly made amends from a free-kick awarded for a back-pass but his fierce strike was diverted over the bar by Ayodele. Obadin also saw a header skip past the upright before Chan Chaya popped up to make it 3-3 on 78 minutes. Hong Ratana crossed from the left, Njoku failed to control but the ball fell kindly to Chaya who poked it in from close range. Less than two minutes later and Crown were back in front. Njoku skated past two players on the left wing and his lofted cross allowed Sok Pheng to pick his spot inside the far post with a firm header. Njoku's well struck shot was pushed aside by Rovinyothin before the Nigerian hitman went on a solo run that bamboozled the Sea Sharks backline. Forty yards from goal, he turned and ran at three players before rounding the goalkeeper and rolled the ball into the net for Crown's fifth and final goal of a pulsating match. Crown retain their leadership and the crowd went home thoroughly entertained.
Crown line-up: Bunchhay, Narith, Sothearith, Tiny, Obadin, Sopanha, Ota (Njoku 59), Chaya, Virak (Ratana 45), Sokumpheak, S Pheng. Subs not used: Visokra, Dara, Vanthan, Sovan, Sovannrithy, Narong, Sochivorn, Sophat, H Pheng. Bookings: S Pheng, Bunchhay.
Crown line-up: Back Row LtoR: Tiny, Obadin, Sopanha, Narith, Sothearith, Bunchhay. Front Row: S Pheng, Ota, Virak, Chaya, Sokumpheak.A final 'all for one' before the game begins
Sok Pheng (19) scored for the 2nd consecutive match
The Crown players escape the fury above them before the game starts
Chhlam Samuth battled bravely before going down 5-3 to Crown

More Crown success

Football in Cambodia is full of ups and downs, twists and turns and today was no exception. League leaders Phnom Penh Crown were coasting at 2-0 with goals from Odion Obadin and Sun Sopanha against Chhlam Samuth but conceded just before half-time. The Sea Sharks sensed a chink in the Crown armour and netted two more to take a shock lead after 73 minutes. 4 minutes later Chan Chaya poked in the leveller, quickly followed by a pinpoint Sok Pheng header and rounded off with a solo goal from Kingsley Njoku to earn Crown a 5-3 success. They remain at the top of the table but coach David Booth admitted they had some work to do on the training pitch in the next week to avoid a repeat of today's showing. Full marks to Chhlam Samuth for making a real fight of it. In the first Metfone C-League game of the day, BBU ran out easy 3-0 winners over Prek Pra. However, there were ugly scenes in the main grandstand at the final whistle as Prek Pra fans voiced their disapproval of the match officials and launched a water-bottle attack on the police in attendance. There were some brief scuffles and punches thrown before the furor died down. The Prek Pra coaching staff should be applauded for their efforts to maintain the peace. More from both matches, with photos, later.

Another thumping

The starting line-up for the Academy v CColt United. Back Row LtoR: Baraing, K Chhaya, Chanchav, S Samnang, Titchhy, Rozak; Front Row: Piphop, Noeut, T Chhaya, David, V Samnang
Another Saturday morning, another comprehensive victory for the Phnom Penh Crown Academy youngsters at their Tuol Kork home. Playing against a team two years older, the Academy youngsters, who are all 13 or under, handed out a 7-1 thumping to the U-15 boys of CColt United, one of the teams from the Cambodia Children's Organisation for Learning & Training. The CColt team turned up late so the Academy had already played half a game against the Crown U-16 team before taking on the late arrivals. Coach Bouy Dary has the luxury of putting out two 11-a-side teams in each half and their superior skill and ability was too much for CColt to handle. Vat Samnang with a solo effort and Kim Chhaya gave the Academy team a 2-nil lead at half-time. 2nd half goals came from Orn Chanpolin, Pov Punvuthy (2), Ken Chansopheak and Chhuot Senteang. CColt scored a last kick consolation goal. As I left the boys were just starting another game against the Crown U-16s. I think they could quite literally play all day. Photos to follow.
The Academy team that began the 2nd half. Back Row LtoR: Sopheak, Sovann, Senteang, Sakrovy, Chanpolin, Sovannaroth. Front Row: Phearath, Sodavid, Muslim, Chansopheak, Ponvuthy.
Vat Samnang takes the perfect corner kick
Suon Noeut tries a shot on goal in the 1st half
Coach Bouy Dary gives his Academy players their final instructions

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pressure on

Naga Corp kept up the pressure on leaders Phnom Penh Crown with a midweek Metfone C-League win this afternoon over a resurgent Kirivong Sok Sen Chey team. They won 2-1 after Kirivong took the lead through Song Dara a minute after the break. Julius Oiboh and Teab Vathanak scored for Naga just after the hour mark. Kirivong's Heng Koem Houng was given a 2nd yellow card and a red five minutes from the end for simulation in the penalty area. Naga are now 1 point behind Crown, having played 1 game more. The weekend's games see Crown taking on Chhlam Samuth in Saturday's later kick-off, with BBU likely to overcome Prek Pra in the 1st match. Preah Khan Reach face the Army in an interesting 2pm tussle on Sunday with Rithysen v National Police completing the fixtures.

2nd success

Arranged in order to give some of the Phnom Penh Crown squad players some valuable match practice, a PPCFC eleven took on the African All-Stars XI at Tuol Kork yesterday afternoon. Three previous friendlies against the African team, made up of players looking to get contracts with clubs in the Cambodian League, had ended in 1 win, 1 draw and 1 defeat, effectively honours even. Yesterday, Crown chalked up a second win over the visitors with a 3-0 success, with goals by Koem Sophanal and Hong Ratana (pictured) on 20 and 35 minutes respectively, before Hong Pheng rounded it off with 4 minutes remaining on the clock. All of the PPCC players train daily but there's nothing better than matches and some of the squad, who've been sitting on the bench in recent months, needed the game-time. It was also a good opportunity for Crown coach David Booth to run the rule over the squad players who don't normally feature in the starting line-up on a regular basis. The Crown team was: Visokra, Dara, Sovannrithy, Sovan, Sochivorn, Vanthan, Sophat, Sophanal, Rathanak, Ratana, H Pheng. Two young trialists from Battambang were also given ten minutes at the end.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Saray settles the nerves

A 3-0 success keeps Preah Khan Reach in 3rd place in the table
The second match of the afternoon was far less controversial and to an extent, pretty mundane by comparison. Though Preah Khan Reach would argue that it was another three points for them to secure their place in the top three of the Metfone C-League table, just 1 point behind Naga. Before PKR took a 19th minute lead, the National Police skipper Sophal Udom was thwarted by a Sok Rithy goal-line clearance and a save from Sar Sophea. An early injury to Tith Dina didn't help the Police cause and then neither did Tum Saray's goal, when he reacted quickly to a poke forward, rounded Thong Chanraksmey and rolled in his shot. The Police's Man Ritavann lashed a shot on the turn well over the top from close range and then PKR's Prak Mony Udom did likewise just before the break. Sophal Udom missed another good chance with his head just after the restart before PKR introduced Khuon Laboravy from the bench. Before he had time to get involved, Samuth Dalin blasted high and wide from inside the six-yard box after PKR keeper Sar Sophea was penalized for holding onto the ball for too long. On 64 minutes, PKR effectively put the game to bed. Lay Raksmey, on one of his marauding runs, laid the perfect ball to Phany Y Rotha and the youngster showed great poise with a neat chip over the head of Chanraksmey from twenty yards. Laboravy showed his prowess in the air, again, when he flicked on Prak Mony Udom's corner and celebrated his 11th goal of the campaign, in the 72nd minute. The same player and Lay Raksmey should've added at least one more, but both missed chances when put clean through. Rith Dikar, the PKR coach, was back on the bench after rethinking his decision to quit and will be pleased with his team's regulation win over a mediocre Police side to keep them in the hunt for the championship.
The National Police went down without too much of a whimper
PKR skipper Sam El Nasa (red) refuses to watch ref Tuy Vichheka's coin-toss. He's simply having none of it.

BBU spurred on

BBU coach Meas Samoeurn (black top) remonstrates with the match officials in the grandstand
So what was all this controversy you might be asking? Or you may not, but I'll tell you anyway. Today's 2pm kick-off in the Metfone C-League pitted Naga Corp against the students of BBU. Everyone expected a Naga win especially as they had their goal-machine Julius Oiboh back after suspension. Well, it didn't exactly work out the way they'd planned. Oiboh fired blanks, so did his team and with the crowd on their side, BBU weathered the storm of controversy to post a suprise 2-1 win and put a dent in Naga's title hopes. With Naga's Nuth Sinoun facing his old team just a week after leaving them in acrimonious fashion, there was always going to be some spice to the game and that was helped by BBU taking a 5th minute lead when Oum Chandara finished with a neat volley from Nhim Sovannara's measured cross. The latter, usually a defender, was pitched into attack following Sinoun's departure and worked like a trojan throughout the game. Oiboh was booked soon after and that may've had an effect on him as he failed to convert two chances in the first twenty minutes. Sinoun also had an open goal denied him by a last-ditch clearance from In Virak. With referee Sang Sopheak allowing a few Naga challenges to go unpunished, the crowd's favour began to sway towards BBU, who twice clipped the cross-bar through Chhun Sothearath and saw a Prum Putsethy shot fingertipped aside by Naga keeper Phorn Ratana at the end of the first-half.

Early doors after the restart and Naga will kick themselves for not doing better when Oiboh's shot was saved by Hem Simay and then Neang Chenla headed against the crossbar with the goal gaping in front of him. Next came the moment of controversy, on 56 minutes. With the linesman's flag raised for offside against Oiboh, BBU's defenders froze expecting the whistle from referee Sang Sopheak, that never came. The alert Chin Chom reacted like lightning, took the ball on, rounded Hem Simay and rolled his shot over the line. Cue bedlam as BBU surrounded the referee and then looked set to walk-off the pitch when he refused to change his decision. The crowd joined in the mayhem and then the BBU coach sprinted up the grandstand steps to remonstrate with the match commissioner, but to no avail. The referee's decision is final and technically the goal was a sound one, though the passive offside rule is open to interpretation and that's what the crowd, and BBU, didn't like. Aggrieved, BBU restarted the game after the 15 minute delay and within ten minutes they were back in front, much to the crowd's obvious delight. It was another Sovannara cross, Chea Sophany supplied the touch and Putsethy crashed in what proved to be the winning goal from six yards out. I think you could say that the BBU skipper was a happy man. Both Sovannara and Putsethy fluffed chances to increase the lead and then at the death, Naga's Chin Chom fired a shot against Hem Simay's legs and BBU were left to celebrate a remarkable turnaround. I love a bit of controversy with my Sunday afternoon football and this had a bit of everything.
BBU's match-winning skipper Prum Putsethy
Build Bright United rallied after the controversy to win 2-1
Naga slumped to a 2-1 defeat and a dent in their title hopes