Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Setting the scene

Click to enlarge - Setting the scene for this Sunday
To prepare you for the scenes that will follow the Phnom Penh Crown v Naga Corp match on Sunday at the Olympic Stadium, when Crown will be presented with the Metfone C-League trophy, their prize money cheque and winners medals, here are some pictures from immediately after the Crown victory over Preah Khan Reach that confirmed their championship success. The photographer is Masayori Ishikawa of the CN Information Office, who captured perfectly the players happiness at the final whistle.
Sok Sovan enjoying the moment of success
The Crown bench erupts with joy at the final whistle
Goalscorer Kingsley Njoku is congratulated by his head coach David Booth

Monday, August 29, 2011

Chamnan's late winner

Kan Chamnan, Prek Pra's injury-time goalscoring hero, who just might've saved his team from relegation
There was a second game at the Olympic Stadium yesterday, albeit it paled into insignificance after Phnom Penh Crown beat Preah Khan to capture the Metfone C-League Championship for the second year running. Though for Prek Pra Keila it was just as good as winning the C-League title. Two points behind Chhlam Samuth, Prek Pra must've thought their hopes of avoiding relegation were slim when facing the National Police but an injury time winner from substitute Kan Chamnan brought them all 3 points in a shock 2-1 success and judging by the celebrations at the final whistle, they might just believe they can pull off a great escape. Mat Keilab scored one and missed an easier chance for Prek Pra just after the interval to give them hope, but that was cruelly dashed ten seconds from the end of normal time when Ly Arafine netted for the Police team. Prek Pra's Mat Hasan then wasted a glorious opening moments later but it didn't matter as Chamnan took his time to pick his spot two minutes into time added on. The pitchside celebrations said it all. In the deciding round of matches this week, Prek Pra face the Army on Wednesday and Chhlam Samuth meet Kirivong next Saturday. I don't expect either team to get anything out of those matches, so if that's the case then Prek Pra will stay up at Chhlam Samuth's expense, and Kan Chamnan might just get the freedom of the city.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Picture parade

"Go out there and win," says Crown coach David Booth to his charges
To wrap up today's Metfone C-League Championship deciding success for Phnom Penh Crown over Preah Khan Reach, here's a few more photos from today's proceedings.
Warming-up exercises for Crown before the game
The Crown bench just before kick-off
Youthful opponents in Preah Khan Reach
Sok Pheng and Kingsley Njoku decide its time to whip off their shirts in celebration
David Booth leads the congratulations with Odion Obadin
Kouch Sokumpheak reflecting on Crown's success in the dressing room
A final "well done, you deserved it" from coach David Booth after the game
All smiles for David Booth and one of the Academy boys after the game
Interviewing David Booth for the television network
The players & staff retire to Sou Sou Suki Soup for an after-match celebration

Njoku's team goal

Skipper Sun Sopanha (center) and his team acknowledge their supporters after their victory
Crown's starting line-up: Back Row LtoR: Njoku, Obadin, Sopanha, Sovan, Dara, Bunchhay. Front Row: Ota, Tiny, Narith, Chaya, Sokumpheak
Kingsley Njoku scored the all-important winning goal for Phnom Penh Crown as they defeated Preah Khan Reach to claim the 2011 Metfone C-League Championship and promptly declared; "This is a team goal, a team win. I'm happy to score for my team." The Nigerian's goal came three minutes into the second half of a match that Crown dominated for long periods, creating numerous chances but never really put to bed until referee Tuy Vichhika blew the final whistle to ignite scenes of on-pitch celebration. Crown head coach David Booth included teenager Sok Sovan at left-back for his first start of the season in place of suspended skipper Thul Sothearith, with Sun Sopanha taking the captain's armband for this crucial encounter. Crown knew that a win would give them the league title and in the fifth minute Odion Obadin had the first real attempt on goal, when keeper Sar Sophea got down well to smother his header from Sopanha's corner. A minute after Kouch Sokumpheak's break into the penalty area was snuffed out, Sopanha blasted a free-kick against the Preah Khan crossbar with one of his trademark curling efforts from twenty yards out. That was with 20 minutes on the clock and three minutes later, the Crown skipper let loose with another pile-driver which Sar Sophea pushed over from under his bar. Kingsley Njoku's snap shot from the edge of the area was deflected inches wide before the bustling striker got in another low drive that the PKR keeper blocked at the near post as half-time arrived with no goals for either team.

Crown began the second period in determined mood and Odion Obadin's headed pass sat up perfectly for Kingsley Njoku to try his luck with an overhead kick that Sar Sophea tipped over the crossbar with just three minutes gone. From the resulting corner, Sun Sopanha's perfectly-flighted center was met by the forehead of Njoku inside the six-yard box and Crown had taken the lead they deserved. Preah Khan threw on two substitutes including their top scorer Khuon Laboravy and he provided the only real moment of danger on the hour mark. Crown keeper Peng Bunchhay pushed aside his dangerous cross and then stood firm as Sok Chanraksmey fired in a low drive from a tight angle. As an attacking force, that was it for PKR, who soon had to deal with a San Narith goal-bound blaster that Sok Rithy cleared, and a weaving Chan Chaya dribble that ended with his harmless chip over the crossbar. Njoku got his head to a Sok Sovan cross but could only direct it straight at Sar Sophea, as did Kouch Sokumpheak, with his 20-yard drive, a few minutes later. Crown substitute Sok Pheng, fed by Sokumpheak, let fly with a fierce drive that fizzed past the upright, a Sokumpheak effort was blocked on its way to goal and Pheng saw another effort skid well wide before referee Vichhika brought down the curtain on the proceedings and Crown could celebrate their second successive C-League title success.

For English coach David Booth it was his 8th win in as many games since he took charge of the team. "For me, it's a job done. I came here to win the league, so I'm happy," he declared after the match. "I would have liked to have scored early to be honest. In our other games we've scored early and although they didn't have a shot at goal in the first-half, I thought we were in a little danger of losing our cool. I just told my players at the break not to lose their heads, it would come, just keep pressing and keep passing. They had to work very hard to stop us. If teams worked as hard in every game, as they work against us, the league would be that much better. We were comfortable in the second half, though a little on edge as it was only 1-nil. They are one of the best passing teams in the league but they didn't cause us any real problems at all. I'm very pleased for the players, they've worked very hard to achieve this," commented the tactician who has worked all over Asia in the last twenty years. His final comment was reserved for some of his opposing coaches. "I must say that I'm sick of coaches here saying how they will beat us, do this and that to us. We have too much respect for the teams we play to say this kind of stuff. They don't seem to realize that it motivates us. They should really show more respect to their opponents."
Crown line-up: Bunchhay, Dara, Sovan, Tiny, Obadin, Narith, Sopanha (H Pheng 92), Ota (S Pheng 70), Chaya (Ratana 64), Njoku, Sokumpheak. Subs not used: Visokra, Bunna, Vanthan, Sophat, Sophanal, Rathanak, Sochivorn, Virak. Bookings: Tiny, Dara, Njoku.
In the dressing room, coach David Booth delivers his pre-match instructions
Sun Sopanha (23) leads out his teammates to face Preah Khan Reach
Crown coach David Booth speaks to the television cameras after the match
The Crown Academy boys and friends get together to make some noise in the grandstand

Crown capture the title

Three happy Crown faces after their 1-0 victory over PKR. LtoR: Tieng Tiny, Kingsley Njoku and Odion Obadin
Phnom Penh Crown are the 2011 Metfone C-League Champions. Their 1-0 win over Preah Khan Reach was enough to confirm their second consecutive championship, ahead of Naga Corp, who they meet in the final match of the season, next weekend. Kingsley Njoku headed the winning goal three minutes after the half-time interval in a game which Crown dominated and restricted their opponents to just two shots on target. PKR's Sar Sophea was much the busier of the keepers and had no chance when Njoku timed his run to perfection, meeting Sun Sopanha's corner with his forehead and powering his header into the unguarded net from six yards out. It was no more than Crown deserved. Their English head coach David Booth said after the game; "I'm very pleased for the players, they've worked very hard to achieve this. They have a good work ethic. They've tried to do everything I've asked of them. It's not easy to keep winning but they have. Every time you win there's more pressure to keep winning, but that's exactly what they've done. And they've got their reward. For me, it's a job done. I came here to win the league, so I'm happy."

On another planet

Is it me or do the football authorities in Cambodia exist on another planet. Yesterday afternoon at 3pm they held a press conference and draw for the forthcoming BIDC Cup. It took place at Naga World. That was the same time as the C-League game between Naga and the Army was kicking off the 2nd half at the Olympic Stadium. So two football events at exactly the same time but in different locations. Presumably they were expecting only non-football media to be there, for what is essentially a football event. As if they were the football media, worthy of the name, they'd have been at the match. Anyway, they went ahead with their razzmatazz draw at Naga World for a competition that still has me scratching my head to understand the reasoning behind it. It's called the Mekong Region Youth U21 International Football Tournament BIDC Cup 2011, so that's MRYUIFTBIDCC for short. It's for six teams, who will be playing players in the under-21 age group with the games to take pace between 8-16 October. Essentially it's a warm-up competition for the SEA games which takes place in Indonesia in November. However, the SEA Games football tournament is pitched at U-23 level, so to hold an U-21 competition seems a little strange to say the least. I've also heard that at least two of the participants are sending their U-19 squads along. The draw set up two groups, with all the games due to be played at the Olympic Stadium with 3pm and 5.30pm kick-offs. Group A will host the teams from China (which could be a club side), Thailand and Vietnam, whilst Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar make up Group B. The winners will get $20,000 in prize money, with the matches being screened on local channel, My TV. Is it something I'm looking forward to? Not really. The thought of watching Cambodia's U-21 team play the U-19s from Vietnam doesn't exactly get my juices flowing. And it definitely doesn't capture the imagination as the BIDC Cup in 2009 did, when Cambodia under coach Scott O'Donell swept to success in the competition in front of tens of thousands of captivated fans before they headed off to the SEA Games that year.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Naga refuse to roll over

Naga kept up the pressure on leaders Crown with a 4-1 success
What was wrong with the Army today? Aside from Phnom Penh Crown, they had the best defensive record in the Metfone C-League and if they'd managed a victory over Naga Corp, they would've allowed Crown to win the title without playing. It was not to be. In fact, the military boys played their poorest game of football for a while and served the three points to Naga on a plate, mainly due to their inept marking of the league's runaway goalscoring machine, Julius Oiboh. He took just 14 minutes to break the deadlock when he collected the ball on the edge of the penalty box, easily sidestepped two defenders and precisely rolled the ball wide of Army keeper Sou Yaty and into the net. Confidence personified. It was like shelling peas for the Nigerian hitman as he took his season's tally to 26 goals. A couple of minutes later his 20-yard strike was palmed aside by Yaty and then another, on 35 minutes, had the best keeper in the league at sixes and sevens. Yaty failed to hold Oiboh's thunderbolt, Chin Chom pounced but was blocked by Yaty's recovery with Omogba Esoh then heading the loose ball wide from five yards out. Naga netted a second three minutes before the interval which Yaty won't be happy with. Esoh let fly from 25 yards out and goalkeeper dived to push it wide only for the ball to hit the foot of the upright and spin back over the goal-line. In time added on, Phlong Chanthou chipped the Army's best chance over the top.
After the break, it took the Army ten minutes to get back into the game, though Esoh had already whacked one against the woodwork at the other end. Pheak Rady got to the bye-line with one of his overlapping runs and Meak Chhordaravuth poked the ball home at the second attempt. Ten minutes later and Naga were back in front and the game was effectively over. Wayward marking allowed Julius Oiboh to skip past three defenders as he made progress from the half-way line and as he was about to shoot, Lok Sophorn whipped his standing leg from under him. Oiboh got up, dusted himself down and sent Yaty the wrong way from the penalty spot. Naga wrapped it up with a textbook cross from Meas Channa and a Teab Vathanak header from close-in on 78 minutes to make it 4-1 and keep alive their hopes of pipping Crown for the championship.
The Army went down 4-1 to Naga Corp
Kirivong hit bottom club Rithysen for six
In the second game this afternoon, Rithysen were hoping for a miracle that never came. Without a win all season, they had their fingers crossed against Kirivong, but even with striker Nelson Oladiji missing his usual hatful of opportunities, Kirivong were simply too strong, registering a 6-1 at the death. Whether he was heading wide or volleying over, Oladiji messed up five chances before his teammate Heng Kimhong showed him how to do it on 39 minutes. Taking the lead from his colleague, Oladiji finally found the net in the first minute of injury time, firing his shot under the keeper's body. Rithysen perked up considerably seven minutes after the break as Thiv Sophearom broke clear, only to see his drive rebound off the foot of the upright and straight to his teammate Ly Vina who rolled it into the empty net. The bottom club thought they were back in the game only to go further behind four minutes later when In Vichheka bamboozled three defenders and fired in to make it 3-1. Ten minutes from the end and Heng Kimhong floated in a beauty from the edge of the box, two minutes later Ek Vannak found lots of space to net easily and in time added on, Chheng Yang tucked in a sixth for Kirivong. Another bad day for Rithysen.
Rithysen went down, again, and are already relegated

Friday, August 26, 2011

Larger than life

11 Players 1 Heartbeat on the front door of the Crown Sports Bar on St 200
The Crown Sports Bar, adjoining Crown Massage on Street 200 has recently decorated its glass-frontage walls and doors with large photographs of the Phnom Penh Crown playing squad. The larger-than-life posters include the likes of Kouch Sokumpheak, Chan Chaya and Tieng Tiny. The sports bar has a large screen for watching live sports, especially football of course, and was the venue for the press conference to announce the arrival of head coach David Booth.
Larger-than-life player portraits adorn the outside walls of the Crown Sports Bar

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Nice to have

The latest pearls of wisdom emanating from the Cambodian national team coach, Lee Tae-Hoon, who recently admitted he was at fault for Cambodia's miserable exit from the World Cup qualifying rounds, is to take the national team to the country of his birth, South Korea, for training and practice matches before they embark on the BIDC Mekong Cup batch of games in October, but more importantly the SEA Games in Indonesia in November. He hasn't got the thumbs-up from the Federation as yet, though it sounds as if he's either homesick after 13 months in the Cambodian hot-seat or he's resorting to what he knows best to improve the squad, following their failure in the three major competitions they entered in the past year. His dream is for the national team to spend two weeks training and playing against 1st and 2nd division Korean League teams, who will provide a much better standard of opponents that are available either at home or in Southeast Asia. He feels his team is well below the standard of neighbouring countries like Thailand and Vietnam and to improve their basic techniques, he wants them to face better opposition. He comes from South Korea so that's where he would like to take his team. I wonder if he's got a game against the Korean women's team up his sleeve, as he used to help to coach them. Obviously, the trip could cost a pretty penny, so sponsors would need to be found to cover the costs. Usually, the national team take off for a stay in Vietnam before a big tournament, so this would be a departure from the norm. If it can be achieved, it might well be the shot in the arm that the national team needs after a few dismal performances, especially outside of the country. Even though our record against visiting South Korean university teams like Ulsan is poor, and better standard K-League teams might whip our arses, the experience and lessons learned could be invaluable. I say go for it, if it's financially viable.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Comparing the teams

Phnom Penh Crown's meeting with Preah Khan Reach was originally scheduled to be the final game of the season until the fixtures were redrawn by the FFC at the midway point. PKR started off like a train, winning the pre-season Hun Sen Cup in style and looking likely to be Crown's main rivals for the Metfone C-League championship this term. However, once Naga signed Julius Oiboh all that changed and PKR have slipped into the third spot, vying with the Army to maintain that position come the end of the season. Like Crown, PKR have seen a change in their head coach with Rith Dikar stepping down a few weeks ago to concentrate on his U-19 national team duties, passing the baton to Sam Vandeth. For Crown, David Booth assumed control of the team following the departure of Bojan Hodak and has won all 7 games in which he's been in charge. In looking ahead to Sunday's match-up, I thought it would be interesting to look through the possible respective line-ups and compare player for player ahead of the big game.

Let's start in goal where Peng Bunchhay, still only 19 years old, has kept 10 clean sheets in the 14 league matches he's played for Crown this season, looking pretty accomplished and confident, especially with his aerial handling this term. It came as a surprise to most observers when he lost his place in the national squad. Opposing him will be Ouk Mic, now the grandfather of Cambodian football, despite his official birthdate showing that he's only 27, and the current incumbent for Cambodia and PKR. If I had to choose, which I do, I'd go for the younger man. At full-back, Crown will be missing their rock-solid duo of skipper Thul Sothearith and goal-threat Sun Sovannrithy for the game due to suspension, so their places will go to the experienced Chan Dara and the rookie teenager Sok Sovan. PKR will field Lay Raksmey, the current national team right-back who has a penchant for overlapping, as well as the bright prospect Moul Daravorn. For this game only, PKR have an advantage in those positions. In the middle of defence, Crown shade it with the dependable Tieng Tiny and possibly Crown's player of the year, Odion Obadin, who has hardly put a foot wrong all season. For PKR, Sok Rithy partners Tiny in the national team, and is just as consistent as his Crown counterpart, whilst Suon Thuon is his partner for Preah Khan.

Looking at the midfield options, Crown have the know-how and experience whilst PKR have opted for the vitality of youth this season and reaped the rewards with that Hun Sen Cup success, though over the longer season, it hasn't quite worked out. In San Narith (pictured), Crown have a player who has seen it all and still relishes the battle, whilst Sun Sopanha is a matchwinner, frequently providing that killer pass to teammates. Japanese import Takahito Ota hasn't quite found his consistency but chips in with goals whilst Chan Chaya, with 8 goals to his name, can win games single-handledly or frustrate in equal measure. For some fans, it's a crime he's not in the national team. I'm not one of them. With those four patrolling the middle of the park, Crown will have just a bit too much for the PKR quartet of the intelligent Tum Saray and teenagers Chea Samnang, Suon Veasna and Prak Mony Udom. The latter trio are all in the national U-19 squad and are great prospects, judging by their performances this campaign. Veasna is the pick of the three though Udom can be a slippery customer when he's on song.

Scoring goals is where PKR have fallen down this season. They lag well behind Crown in the goalscoring department, though Khuon Laboravy has 13 to his name after netting a massive 22 goals in the Hun Sen Cup competition. When he's on top form he can be electrifying but PKR rely heavily on him, and the weight of expectation has proved too heavy at times this season. But he remains a real danger. Alongside him in recent weeks is another teenage recruit, Phany Y Ratha, who has come into the team in place of the injured experienced campaigner Sam El Nasa. Opposing them are Mr Consistent, Kouch Sokumpheak, who never seems to have a bad game and can turn any match in Crown's favour in an instant, and Kingsley Njoku. This is Sokumpheak's first season in Crown colours and he's been as good as he was for Khemara for the last few years. In many eyes, including mine, he's the country's most outstanding player. He's netted 17 times for Crown this term, 11 of them in the Hun Sen Cup, and is a nailed-on certainty every time the national team plays. Alongside him in recent games is Nigerian import Njoku, who arrived from Singapore before the start of the season, netted a hat-trick in his second match but hasn't quite established himself since, scoring 8 times in total. He has the strength and skill to bamboozle defences when he's on form, though Sok Pheng also gets the nod at times, having chipped in with 7 goals this term. So there you have it, the two teams laid bare in comparison, with Crown looking likely to get the win they need to claim the championship title if the game goes according to my predictions. But championships were never won on paper, so we'll have to wait and see.

Simple maths

The maths are simple, even for me. Phnom Penh Crown could feasibly be crowned champions of the Metfone C-League this coming weekend, or if results don't go their way, it could all go to the last weekend of the season. On Saturday, 2nd-placed Naga face a tough opponent in the Army, and if they lose then Crown will win their second successive championship. If the result goes in Naga's favour, then Crown will have their fate in their own hands when they play Preah Khan Reach at 2pm on Sunday. A win would see Crown claim the title for the 4th time, having previously won it in 2002, 2008 and 2010. If it doesn't pan out then it will go to the wire when Crown take on Naga on Sunday 4 September. For the neutrals they'd love to see that match as the decider. For me, bugger that, I want to win the championship as quickly as possible, so I'll be cheering on the Army come Saturday afternoon. Crown will be missing two key defenders for the game against PKR on Sunday. The ridiculous disciplinary system in Cambodian football which sees a player suspended for 1 game if he gets two yellow cards, has come into play for skipper Thul Sothearith and Sun Sovannrithy, who were both booked in the last game against the Army. That means coach David Booth, on the back of seven straight wins since he took over the helm, will need to change both full-backs, whilst trying to keep stability in the rest of his line-up. The team will have had eleven days to prepare since that 1-0 win over the Army, so there won't be any complaints about game fatigue. Though they had a complaint looming yesterday, when the federation informed them that top scorer Kouch Sokumpheak would also miss the game, after receiving a booking against the Army. The fact that he wasn't booked in that game was quickly pointed out to federation officials who just as quickly rescinded their original notice to everyone's relief. The game against PKR in the first round was the opening match of the league season and ended in a 2-2 draw. The teams know each other very well and the match promises to be one of the most eagerly-awaited clashes of the campaign.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

PKR claim third

PKR sitting pretty in 3rd place in the C-League
Preah Khan Reach claimed third place in the Metfone C-League table with just two matches to go, with a 2-0 win over Kirivong at Olympic Stadium this afternoon. Kirivong weren't really up to the task and PKR basically won it in second gear, though Nelson Oladiji, with more composure, could've given the Military Police-backed team a few heart flutters. He didn't and goals from Tum Saray just before the half-hour mark, with a low drive into the corner, and a close range volley from Moul Daravorn six minutes after the interval from a corner, did the damage. In the last 20 minutes Oladiji fired straight at Ouk Mic in the PKR goal and then headed over from six yards when presented with two golden opportunities.
Kirivong weren't up to the task against Preah Khan
The second game was played in torrential rain for much of the second half as the heavens opened just before the interval. By half-time Build Bright United had already gone two goals ahead against bottom club Rithysen, which came as no surprise. Prum Putsethy lobbed the ball into an empty net on ten minutes for the first of what turned out to be a hat-trick for the student's skipper. Their 2nd was more fortuitous when Chhun Sothearath's free-kick fizzed through the defensive wall and took a wicked bounce to deceive Rithysen's keeper Oum Veasna just three minutes later. On the half hour Seth Kamel rolled a shot agonizingly wide for Rithysen, and that was effectively it for the Kompong Chhnang-based club. BBU took control after the break with the help of a penalty, tucked away by Chan Veasna 7 minutes in once Putsethy had his legs swiped from under him. Two more from Putsethy, four minutes apart, completed his hat-trick haul. He finished with ease after 76 minutes and then lobbed another past Veasna soon after. In time added on BBU made it 6-0 when Seng Kosen fired in a 20 yard drive which took a deflection off defender Ly Rony.
BBU ran out easy 6-0 winners in the torrential rain
Rithysen hit another brickwall when losing 6-0 to BBU; they are the only team not to have won a game all season.
Briefly, an interesting development with the Cambodia national team is the resignation of the assistant coach Ieng Saknida, who has decided to pursue more coaching opportunities as well as his B-licence rather than stick with Lee Tae-Hoon and the squad for the forthcoming BIDC Mekong Cup and SEA Games competitions. Saknida last appeared for the national team as a player in the 2008 Suzuki Cup after long service with Samart United, Hello United, Naga, Preah Khan and Khemara before cutting his coaching teeth with the national U-13s. He's also been included in the AFC Project Future elite coaching scheme alongwith Keo Kosal, who is now assisting the U-19s. So his departure is a noticeable loss for the South Korean head coach, who is left with assistant Oum Savong, whose previous coaching experience was with local team Flying Bikes.

Police drop a clanger

Even though they walked off in their match recently, it looked like National Police were destined to do PPCrown a favour, but it never happened
I really thought the National Police team were going to do Phnom Penh Crown a big favour yesterday afternoon. A win for Police and Crown could celebrate winning the championship, without playing. As it turned out, the Police battled hard to keep Naga restricted to a few half chances in their Metfone C-League encounter and when Tith Dina pulled his foot back ready to whack in a shot on 68 minutes, it looked as if they'd take a deserved lead. Instead, Tiet Chandarasokha got a block in and even though the full-back was sent off three minutes later for a second yellow card, Naga went onto win. Pretty much against the run of play, substitute Chim Sambo burst between two defenders, sidestepped another and then toe-poked home the winner six minutes from the end. Naga, with top scorer Julius Oiboh firing blanks and the rest of his teammates looking less than impressive, were more than happy to grab the points with a 1-0 win to keep the pressure on Crown. Police's Ol Ravy headed against the bar at the end of the 1st half with their best chance but it wasn't to be and Crown still need to win one of their final two matches to claim the title. Bouy Dary, Crown's assistant coach, was TVK's half-time pundit for this game.
The Naga line-up who were ineffective for much of the game v National Police
I think Police captain Sophal Udom (7) is just about to kiss the hand of Naga skipper Om Thavrak (who is not royalty despite what he says)
PPCrown's Bouy Dary (center) at pains to tell the TVK commentators that Crown still have to win 1 match from their last two games to claim the title
In the first game yesterday, both teams needed to win to stay out of the relegation places and Chhlam Samuth were the team with more to offer as Prek Pra went down without much of a fight. They both have two games left but on this form, it's Chhlam Samuth that deserve to stay up. Two goals apiece in each half for Sunday Ayodele and Ros Samoeurn did the damage with the Sea Sharks running out 4-1 winners. Ron Roya had the best opportunities for Prek Pra in the first half but Ayodele headed in unmarked on 18 minutes and Samoeurn slotted in with 27 minutes on the clock, after Ayodele unselfishly provided the pass. Ayodele netted his second just 5 minutes into the second period and then missed a sitter for his hat-trick. Samoeurn wrapped it up on 70 minutes only for Prek Pra's Mat Keilab to grab a consolation goal a minute later. On this form it's curtains for Prek Pra alongwith Rithysen at the foot of the league table.
Kao Viso (5) for Chhlam Samuth appears to be asking to use the toilet
Prek Pra sent their fans home very unhappy with a weak showing in this do-or-die fixture

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Easy for Naga

Naga line up before their game against Chhlam Samuth
The curtain-raiser for the Phnom Penh Crown and Army clash yesterday afternoon was the replay of the Naga v Chhlam Samuth game that was abandoned at half-time due to a torrential downpour last Sunday. As expected, Naga ran out easy 5-0 winners but were given quite a scare for much of the 1st half. If the former Navy team had more composure they could've made it very uncomfortable for the 2nd-placed team but they didn't and Naga went onto win by a country mile. Needing a win to maintain any hope of pipping Crown for the Metfone C-League title, Naga were lucky to survive a 14th minute double fright when San Thydeth and then Sunday Ayodele should've done better with close range efforts for Chhlam Samuth. Phorn Ratana in the Naga goal stood firm for both and then used his legs to deny Ros Samoeurn before Naga, and of course, Julius Oiboh took the lead five minutes before the break. The lanky powerhouse striker netted his 25th goal of the season when Chhim Bunsan missed his defensive header leaving Oiboh with a simple finish. Two minutes into time added on, Naga scored a 2nd and the game was over as a contest. Chin Chom, or is it Chum, found space on the left, took Oiboh's pass in his stride and finished with ease. Two minutes after the restart and Naga netted a third when Chom pulled back a bye-line center and San Thydeth turned it into his own net. Oiboh showed he is human when he missed an absolute sitter from three yards out with the goal at his mercy before Chom got his second, volleying in Teab Vathanak's inch-perfect cross. With keeper Sam Chamroeun being kept busy, Chhlam Samuth managed to stem the tide of Naga attacks until two minutes from the end, when Chom was left with a simple headed tap-in from Meas Channa's deflected cross to complete his hat-trick and a five-goal whitewash.
Chhlam Samuth gave a good account of themselves in the 1st half
This is the Army starting line-up for their match against Phnom Penh Crown

The big difference

Goalscorer Kouch Sokumpheak (right) and Sun Sovannrithy take a rest after the 1-0 win over Army
Crown line-up v Army. Back Row LtoR: Sovannrithy, Tiny, Ota, Obadin, Sopanha, Bunchhay. Front Row: Sokumpheak, Njoku, Narith, Chaya, Sothearith
Kouch Sokumpheak was one of the big differences between Phnom Penh Crown and their military opponents from the Army in yesterday's Metfone C-League clash. Not only did he score the game's only goal but he played like a man possessed, covering every blade of grass on the pitch and getting his foot in the way when the Army had their best, and only real chance of the game, twenty minutes from the end. Crown keeper Peng Bunchhay and Tieng Tiny had collided when going for a high ball and Sokumpheak spotted the danger, closing down and blocking Phuong Soksana's goal-bound effort eight yards out. His goal, on 27 minutes, was the perfect execution of a training ground routine that the team had worked on, in coach David Booth's words, "a million times." A foul on Kingsley Njoku, 25 yards from goal, looked a certain shooting opportunity for Sun Sopanha. I thought it and so did the Army defenders. Sopanha disguised his run up perfectly but instead of going for goal, he played a short pass to Njoku, who in turn flipped the ball to Sokumpheak, who'd peeled off the end of the defensive wall. In on goal, Sokumpheak took a touch before firing past Sou Yaty for what turned out to be the match-winner. The same player scored the only goal of the game when the two teams met in June. The Army will be glad to see the back of him. In truth, Crown dominated much of the game, particularly in the first-half. They started brightly and continued until the interval, pressing when Army had the ball and using their passing game to good effect, whilst the military team were content to hoof the long ball. Without their keeper Sou Yaty in great form, the Army would've been out of the game before the break.

Tieng Tiny's 50-yard lob that only just cleared the bar, signalled Crown's intentions after just forty seconds on the clock. On ten minutes, Sokumpheak's nod put in Takahito Ota but his whipped shot struck the outside of the upright. A minute later, Chan Chaya screwed a chance across the face of the goal and then it was Njoku's turn to miskick badly when set up by Chaya. A neat one-two between Sopanha and Sun Sovannrithy saw the rampant full-back in on goal, only to be denied by Yaty's stop. Sokumpheak finished off the text-book free-kick move on 27 minutes to put Crown's noses in front, but it was no more than they deserved for piling on the pressure. Yaty was being kept a busy man, holding onto a long distance effort from Njoku and then finger-tipping a Chaya header over the top from Sokumpheak's cross. The Crown marksman fizzed an effort just wide from the edge of the box before Yaty had the final say, a minute into added on time, when he again got his fingers to a Njoku blast to keep his team in the match. After the break, Crown remained in control but produced fewer goal-bound efforts though Yaty was again in the thick of it when he acrobatically tipped over a rasping free-kick from Sopanha and late on, stood firm when Hong Ratana fired an effort on target from an acute angle. I counted five excellent saves from the Army stopper who must've impressed the national team coach enough to warrant a starting spot in the forthcoming SEA Games squad.

Crown's victory was the 7th successive success since David Booth took over as coach. "I'm very pleased with my team in the 1st half, we pressed, we won the ball and we created chances. I was also very happy with our free-kick that worked a treat. It's great when things like that come off. But we needed more goals and after half-time we stopped doing what we did well in the 1st half. The result was the most important thing today but I also want us to play well for 90 minutes." The team now have an 11-day break until they meet Preah Khan Reach in their penultimate game of the league season. Another win will clinch the title for the reigning champions.
Crown line-up: Bunchhay, Sovannrithy, Sothearith, Tiny, Obadin, Narith, Ota (Ratana 68), Sopanha (Dara 87), Chaya, Njoku (S Pheng 56), Sokumpheak. Subs not used: Visokra, Vanthan Sovan, Sophat, Sophanal, Sochivorn, Rathanak, H Pheng. Bookings: Sovannrithy, Sothearith.

Crown president Rithy Samnang and coach David Booth discuss the game
Thul Sothearith leads out his Crown teammates
The pre-match huddle for the Crown team and coach
Crown line-up for pre-match handshakes
Referee Tuy Vichhika with the two captains for the toss-up
Crown coach David Booth with Khim Borey, who Booth signed when he was at Sisaket