Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tough luck on Crown

Action from today's draw in Tajikistan
Holy crapola. Phnom Penh Crown got the draw we least wanted for the group stage of the finals of the AFC President's Cup. It took an email to the Tajikistan FA to find out the draw, which they made a few hours ago at a plush hotel in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe. Not only did we pair up with the two toughest teams left in the final stage, namely Dordoi (two times winners and six times finalists of the President's Cup) but we get to play the host team, Istiklol in the final match of the group stage, which could well be the decider to see who goes through to the cup final two days later.
The Group A matches will take place in Dushanbe as follows:
Mon 24 Sept Dordoi v Istiklol - 4pm
Wed 26 Sept PPCFC v Dordoi - 7pm
Fri 28 Sept Istiklol v PPCFC - 7pm
Sun 30 Sept AFC President's Cup Final - 7pm.
In Group B of the draw, Chinese Taipei's Taiwan Power, the current holders after they defeated Phnom Penh Crown 3-2 in last season's final, will meet Al-Ammari from Palestine and Khan Research Laboratories from Pakistan.

With bated breath

I am waiting patiently for the draw for the final stage of the AFC President's Cup which was made an hour ago in Tajikistan. Maybe the telephone lines and internet connections are piss poor. Phnom Penh Crown have made it through to the final stage for the second year running and wait eagerly to see who they will face in the three-team group stage, from which the winner will go onto the final itself, to be played on 30 September in Dushanbe. This was how the AFC website reviewed the draw yesterday:
The teams who have battled their way to the climactic stage of the 2012 AFC President's Cup will learn their initial opponents when the draw finals takes place in Dushanbe on Tuesday.
Six of the best club sides from the AFC's 'emerging nations' are in the pot for the draw, which will see the teams divided into two groups of three with the top two battling it out for the prestigious silverware in the September 30 final.
Host club Istikol will be looking to continue Tajikistan's proud record in the tournament with the clubs Central Asian republic having contested the trophy four occasions, with Regar TadAZ winning in 2005, 2008 and 2009 and Vaksh finishing runners-up in 2006.
Tajikistan's record in the competition is impressive but the real President's Cup powerhouse is six-time finalists Dordoi, winners in 2006 and 2007 and runners-up in 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010, and the Kyrgyzstan giants are also in Tuesday draw along with defending champions Taiwan Power Company and last year's beaten finalists Phnom Penh Crown.
Also in the fray are Pakistan's KRL (Khan Research Laboratories), who are taking part in the AFC President's Cup for the second time after being knocked out in the qualifying stage in 2010, and Al Amma'ri Youth, Palestine's champions who are making their debut in AFC competition.
The draw for the eighth edition of the AFC President's Cup takes place at 1100am local time at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Dushanbe.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Entertainment value

Preah Khan rescued the points with a great fightback to win 4-3
Goals were in plentiful supply at the Olympic Stadium this afternoon. The fans in attendance certainly cannot complain about the entertainment value of the Metfone C-League with eleven (11) goals in the two games and a cracker of a match in the early kick-off. Both National Police and Preah Khan Reach are nailed-on certainties to make the Super 4 play-offs. But they both need to improve their defensive frailties in double-quick time if they want to get their name on the C-League championship this season. The Police stormed into a two-goal lead eight minutes into the 2nd half and then promptly sat back thinking the hard work had been done. Nuth Sinoun, five minutes before the break and then Nelson Oladiji, with a downward header, gave Police the cushion against a Preah Khan side that looked out of sorts and a mere shadow of their normal selves. The tables began to turn when Phany Ratha stroked home the first for PKR on 65 minutes and in the next twenty minutes they struck four times to put the Police in a spin. It didn't help either than Police went down to ten men with San Thydeth limping off after they'd made their three substitutions. Chea Samnang's low shot will give Police keeper Thong Chanreaksmey nightmares tonight as the ball went through the stopper's hands and legs and crept over the line, with twelve minutes to go. Five minutes later, David Njoku served up one of his specials with a 25-yard screamer into the top corner before the icing on the cake with five minutes left on the clock. PKR's recent addition, Bologun Olawale, who had been missing goals for fun in his last few matches and had been benched for this game, took everyone by surprise, even himself, by whacking a 45-yard drive over a stunned Chanreaksmey's head for an absolute corker of a goal. Preah Khan then duly sat back and Police's Nov Soseila rattled them with a goal and with more purpose Police could've snatched an unlikely draw. They didn't and PKR went to the head of the league table. The second game didn't match the first for excitement but honours were shared when Chhlam Samuth equalised to make it 2-2 in the final minute. Sunday Ayodele poked home the opening goal for Chhlam Samuth before Kirivong's Ishola Abiding levelled just before the break. Three minutes after the restart, Chaing Sophal put Kirivong ahead only to see the points shared when Lawrence Mensah went down in the area and Ek Sovannara struck home from the penalty spot.
National Police were in charge and then blew it, losing 4-3

Saturday, July 28, 2012

We looked dangerous

Crown coach David Booth issues his final instructions
David Booth, the head coach of Phnom Penh Crown had mixed feelings after his team defeated BBU 3-0 at Olympic Stadium on Saturday afternoon. "They had a fair bit of possession but we don't mind them having the ball in their half, as long as we are in command when the ball gets played into the final third. To be fair I don't recall they had any clear cut chances at all. In the 1st half they had one free-kick and that was it. The biggest problem for me is the officials. They don't know the rules, they don't do the right thing at the right time, they don't make the right decisions and I simply can't believe they didn't give us a penalty. In England, the referee and linesman would be demoted next week. They were absolutely awful.
I felt we were comfortable in the 1st half, and positive but without really playing that well. We hit them well on the break today. As the game went on we had more chances, every time we broke we looked dangerous but we need to be a little more clinical, show a bit more quality, and release the ball at the right time, as we tended to run with it a bit too much in the 2nd half. Basically we are trying to do two things at the same time. We are trying to get the team organized for the President's Cup and if we can make it into the top 4, all well and good. We need to get the team into good habits, good discipline, and defensively well-organized because at the moment we give the other teams too much of the ball.
We don't have a big enough squad to afford to lose players like we have done, we've lost a lot of players to injury and to suspensions, so looking at it objectively, we've done well to be where we are at the moment. Yellow cards are being handed out like confetti - I think the referees just don't know what's going on."
Kingsley Njoku looking ahead to the game

Tieng Tiny (4) leads his Crown teammates to another success

The Crown substitutes before the kick-off

BBU line-up for a team photo before the match

No change in 4th

The scrap between Phnom Penh Crown and Boeung Ket for the fourth spot in the Metfone C-League continued without any change after both teams recorded victories at Olympic Stadium this afternoon. PPCFC were first to record their success, a 3-0 straightforward victory over Build Bright United, that temporarily pushed them into 4th spot, only for Boeung Ket to reclaim their place, beating the Army 2-0 in the later kick-off. For Crown, Chan Chaya netted a couple of goals, after 18 minutes and then again, six minutes into added on time at the end of the game. Sos Suhana popped up with the third PPCFC goal just after half-time. For the Rubbermen, Keo Sokngorn tapped in on eight minutes and then a disastrous own goal by Ke Vannak just after the half-hour effectively sealed the Army's fate. Boeung Ket had just enough to thwart any Army thrusts and grabbed back their fourth spot from Crown with the three points. They are a point ahead and have a game in hand, where they will play Preah Khan on Wednesday.

Chaya nets a brace

PPCFC v BBU. Back Row. LtoR: Njoku, H Pheng, Rady, Dara, Tiny. Front: Sovan, Chaya, Seiha, Sovanna, Borey, Vanthan. Click to enlarge
Result: Phnom Penh Crown 3 Build Bright 0
Phnom Penh Crown coach David Booth made it clear to the players in his dressing room team talk that only a victory was good enough and his players duly obliged, despite the absence of three of their 1st choice regulars, against Build Bright United at Olympic Stadium this afternoon. 3-0 was the final result and temporarily Crown moved up into fourth spot, though Boeung Ket's 2-0 success over Army in the late kick-off sent then back above Crown with a point advantage. In hot sunshine, Crown got their noses in front after 18 minutes when Khim Borey's run into the box and pass to Kingsley Njoku, squirmed out to Chan Chaya, who cut inside onto his right foot and aimed his low drive into the far corner. Crown keeper Samrith Seiha was called into action a couple of minutes later, when his full-length diving save kept out a stinging effort from Badmus Bolaji. On 26 minutes, Hong Pheng fed Njoku but his snap strike was smothered by goalkeeper Sos Proshim and Borey's follow-up shot was blocked by a forest of legs. Four minutes on and Sos Suhana replaced the limping Chhum Sovanna and a few moments later, referee Lim Bunthoeurn flashed a yellow card to BBU's Tuy Sam for an off the ball punch in the back of Chaya's head, but failed to award Crown a free-kick. A soft free-kick and caution for Njoku gave BBU a free-kick 25-yards from the Crown goal, from which Dan Ito swung his drive against the upright and Seiha was relieved to grab the loose ball, just after the half-hour. The first-half petered out with both sides being unable to hold onto the ball for long periods and with Crown leading by a single goal.

Six minutes into the second-half and Sos Suhana's deft touch and composed finish put Crown two goals ahead. Borey fed Chaya who cut inside his marker, before picking out Suhana's run and the Crown substitute spun neatly before rolling the ball past Proshim and inside the far post. It was pretty much one-way traffic with Chaya breaking clear only to shuffle his shot the wrong side of the upright and Njoku fired high and wide when well-placed. Prum Puthsethy headed over from close-in at the end of a rare BBU foray, but Njoku fired wide after leaving three defenders in his wake at the other end, as Crown pressed home their advantage. With ten minutes to go, Njoku latched onto a Sam back-header but his touch over Proshim saw the ball bounce onto the cross-bar and away to safety. Twice, in the space of as many minutes and substitute Sok Pheng will be scratching his head that he didn't increase Crown's lead. Released by Njoku, the striker screwed his shot a foot wide of the post when a goal seemed certain, and then raced clear onto a Borey pass, only to allow Proshim the opportunity to smother his delayed shot. In the sixth minute of time added on at the end of the game, Chaya finally claimed the goal Crown had been threatening when he cashed in on a poor clearance, saw his first shot kept out by Proshim but the ball fell neatly back into his path and he rolled it in to give his side a 3-nil success. It was fully deserved.
PPCFC line-up: Seiha, Rady, Vanthan (Srin 75), Thiny, Sovan, Sovanna (Suhana 30), Dara, Borey, Chaya, H Pheng (S Pheng 72), Njoku. Subs not used: Ary, Da, Lika, Seyha, Sophanal, Sothy, Asonibe, Makara. Bookings: Njoku, Borey.
Crown getting ready for the pre-match handshakes

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hotting up

As expected, Naga brushed aside Western University 3-1 in the midweek Metfone C-League game and took back the top spot on goal difference from National Police. Sun Sovannrithy scored twice, early on and then from the penalty spot, with Chhim Sambo getting on the scoresheet again, after netting twice at the weekend. Maxwell Woko had earlier equalized for Western. Naga, Police and Preah Khan have essentially qualified for the Super 4 play-offs, all bar the shouting, and would have to lose their remaining games to fail now. The other spot, currently occupied by Boeung Ket, is the one that four teams have their beady eyes on. Obviously, Boeung Ket are in pole position with five games left to play and are 1 point ahead of three teams, Phnom Penh Crown, Army and BBU. This coming Saturday could see changes in the placings. In the early game, Crown meet BBU and next up is Army v Boeung Ket. The big game on Sunday is Preah Khan against National Police. But it's the Saturday games that hold the interest for football fans this weekend with Crown desperate to claw their way back into the play-off places and the other three teams determined to get their own noses in front.
An over-hyped youth game between a Cambodian U17 side and a regional Japanese academy team (and not the Japan age-group national team that was expected by the crowd) drew a big audience at Olympic Stadium tonight under floodlights. Billed as Cambodia v Japan, we had the national anthems and all that razzmatazz before a disappointing game of football, that simply didn't live up to the huge billing it received. Cambodia had the size and strength advantage as well as up to three years age advantage against their willing opponents, who battled bravely but didn't play with the style or finesse that had been expected. Their long-ball style didn't cause the home team much difficulty at all and the Japanese goalkeeper was easily the best player on the park. Final result was 1-1 but honestly, it simply wasn't worth the excessive hype it received in the build-up.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Better late than never

The video for the Phnom Penh Crown 2-2 draw with Preah Khan Reach on 7 July has just surfaced. Goals from Sok Pheng and Khim Borey for Crown (in blue) and two from David Njoku for PKR. Although the video doesn't capture the incident in full, the follow-up where Preah Khan Reach surround and manhandle the referee, Khuon Virak, who subsequently changes his mind and disallows the goal is there for all to see. Both the referee and linesman had initially allowed the goal but were persuaded by the opposition to alter their decision. How does that happen? Did they have the benefit of video replay? Unfortunately, the match officials do not have to explain their decisions or their behaviour, so they can get away with murder.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The big question

Looking glum - Khuon Laboravy
The big question on everyone's lips is why Khuon Laboravy has not been included in the provisional squad of thirty players selected by Cambodia's new head coach Hok Sochetra. It's as clear as the nose on anyone's face that Laboravy is one of the few players in Cambodia that can win games on his own, with a burst of his electrifying pace or his eye for goal. He's proved that over the past couple of seasons in domestic football, time and again, both in league and cup competitions, and though an injury put him on the sidelines earlier this season, he's now back on the pitch and chipping in with goals in Preah Khan Reach's push for a Super 4 slot. However, that doesn't hold sufficient sway with Sochetra, who has decided to omit the lanky frontman from his AFF Suzuki Cup preparations, which began last week, much to the consternation of the football fraternity in the capital. Laboravy would be a kingpin in pretty much everyone else's squad, except the newly-appointed head coach. It's a decision that needs investigating, though Sochetra's response when the question was put to him yesterday was abrupt and to the point: "Ravy cannot play in my system.  I need players who will run forwards and run back." Sorry coach, but that won't wash with me and many others. Firstly, there are so very few quality strikers available to you, that to jettison one of the best is opening the door wide for a shower of criticism so early in your stint in charge and secondly, if it's the case that the player doesn't defend enough to your liking, make him do it or at least give him a chance to fail in the attempt. To simply leave him out of the reckoning for such an important series of competitive games for the national team, their first in over a year, is mind-boggling. On the other hand, a coach will live or die, figuratively-speaking, by his decisions on who to include and who to leave out and the country's football fans will be able to judge for themselves by the results when Cambodia go to Myanmar in October for the qualifying competition.

Of course, in any other country, the sports press would be asking these questions, putting the new coach through the ringer about his squad selections player by player, his preparations for the competition, in-depth queries about his preferred style of play and tactical awareness, why other countries have lined up a glut of friendly matches and yet Cambodia seem intent with just a couple of warm-up games, and so on. Not so in Cambodia, where the sports press is toothless, inept and blatantly couldn't give a shit unless there's something in it for them. Take the Phnom Penh Post for example, who are only interested in tennis and coverage of the Olympics on the back of sponsorship from Naga-World - apparently the best integrated business, leisure and entertainment hub in Indochina - my foot. They finally got around to mentioning that the AFC President's Cup finals have been awarded to Tajikistan in today's edition, after the announcement was made last Wednesday. Pathetic.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dan the man

Dan Ito, the matchwinner for BBU - courtesy of Masayori Ishikawa
It was a day for the underdogs in the Metfone C-League this afternoon at Olympic Stadium, and a day for celebration by the two student teams who caused major upsets. First up was the Western University team's 1-0 win over Kirivong, thanks to a looping header from Oum Tola on 72 minutes. The Uni team simply wouldn't lie down and their Takeo-based opponents didn't have enough firepower to get past the student keeper Ngoy Boranoch, despite busy sub Chaing Sophal looking lively whenever he got the ball. Kirivong had three consecutive headers late on which they should've done better with but it was the day of the underdog and Western lifted themselves off the bottom of the table with this rare win. In the second game, it was the turn of Build Bright United, to create mayhem in the race for the Super 4 play-off spots with a surprise single goal victory over fourth-placed Boeung Ket. The Rubbermen pulled the strings in the first half but sat back and allowed BBU to push forward in the 2nd half and new face Badmus Bolaji watched in horror as his four-yard header cannoned back off the crossbar. In a stop-start game with half a dozen bookings, Boeung Ket also struck the woodwork when Friday Nwakuna hit a rasping shot against the upright but it was BBU who had the last laugh. In the third minute of time added on, a hopeful punt forward was seized upon by their skipper Dan Ito, and the well-travelled Japanese import sent a half-volley into the net to begin the celebrations. The win puts BBU on level points with Phnom Penh Crown and the Army, just a point behind their beaten opponents.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sambo's the match-winner

Naga's experience told in the end, with a 4-3 success
Naga Corp effectively sealed their spot in the Super 4 play-offs with a hard-fought 4-3 win over Preah Khan Reach in this afternoon's Metfone C-League opener, but they had to grind out the victory against opponents who were reduced to ten men as early as the 33rd minute. The PKR coaching staff chose a vastly inexperienced line-up for the game against their older and wiser opponents but felt vindicated as early as the eighth minute when Sok Chanraksmey dinked his touch over Phorn Ratana to give his side an early lead. Booked for leaving the pitch to celebrate the birthday of his daughter with a t-shirt message, his action would come back to haunt him soon after. In the twelfth minute, Naga squared the score-line as Sun Sovannrithy headed in under little pressure from Sun Sopanha's free-kick, with PKR's second-string keeper Aim Sovannarath all at sea. Naga then grabbed the lead on 24 minutes as Kop Isa was allowed to run unopposed through the middle and he lashed his shot into the roof of the net. Preah Khan's misery was compounded on 33 minutes as referee Chi Samedy decided that Chanraksmey's shoulder challenge on Sopanha was worthy of a second yellow and he took an early bath. Maybe he will give his daughter a birthday card next time around. The messing about continued seven minutes before the break as Om Thavrak's control let him down and let in Bologun Olawale, who couldn't believe his luck and rolled the ball into an empty net to make it 2-2. Just after the hour mark, Khuon Laboravy nicked the ball off the fingers of Ratana and slotted his side ahead but it was Naga substitute Chhim Sambo who had the last laugh. Almost immediately he netted to make it 3-3 and then in time added on, four minutes to be precise, he grabbed the match-winner as Sovannarath and his youthful defence crumbled.
Preah Khan's youthful 10-men went down 4-3 in time added on

A win is a win

Crown coach David Booth looks ahead to the game

Phnom Penh Crown head coach David Booth wasn't exactly blown away by his team's 5-1 demolition of Chhlam Samuth this afternoon. But then again, when is any coach really happy unless his team has just won the league championship or cup final. For Crown, they remain a point behind their biggest rivals for a spot in the Super 4 play-offs, but have played two games more than Boeung Ket. With just four games left to play, Crown have to win all of them and rely on Boeung Ket losing matches in their run-in, which looking at it on paper, is unlikely. Immediately after Crown's success this afternoon, this is what David Booth had to say: "For the first thirty minutes I thought we struggled to play the way I wanted us to play. I wonder if we put too much pressure on them to play a certain way at times. I thought the referee was absolutely abysmal today, absolutely awful. He booked three of our players for nothing. We knew the goals would come if we persevered - as the half went on we put pressure on at the right time, got in behind them and got two tap-ins. We had to change it in the second half. After fifteen minutes we hadn't had a shot on goal. We needed to push on more than we did. It was okay, overall it was a better performance but nothing to go crazy about. A win is a win and five goals is always welcome."
Tieng Tiny leads out PPCFC in red v Chhlam Samuth

Khim Borey (7) behind Kingsley Njoku (20) - Crown's goalscorers this afternoon

Referee Chuop Visal speaks to Tieng Tiny at the toss-up

Crown too hot to handle

PPCFC Line-up v Chhlam Samuth. Back Row LtoR: Obadin, Sovan, Njoku, Seiha, Dara, Tiny. Front: Sovanna, Rady, H Pheng, Chaya, Borey

Even with a team devoid of the injured Kouch Sokumpheak and two of their foreign midfield imports, Phnom Penh Crown were far too strong for lowly Chhlam Samuth, notching up a 5-1 win in the knowledge they must win their final five matches to give themselves any chance of making the end of season play-offs in the Metfone C-League. With Emmanuel Frimpong and Henry Asonibe out through suspension, the central midfield roles went to Chan Dara and Chhun Sovanna with Sok Sovan returning at left-back and the recalled Kingsley Njoku partnering Hong Pheng in attack. Tieng Tiny had headed over and Khim Borey had a shot pushed aside before Crown eased into the lead after just nine minutes, as Kingsley Njoku had all the time in the world to head in Borey's corner kick. A couple of minutes later and it looked odds on for Njoku to head a second from Dara's center but Chhlam Samuth's goalkeeper Phon Udom made a flying save to deny him. On 19 minutes and with their first attack, the relegation-threatened Sea Sharks equalised, catching Crown unprepared for Bisan George's center and Sam Minar's accurate volley. Referee Chuop Visal then took centre-stage with a rash of bookings for what appeared harmless challenges by Sovanna, Tiny and Odion Obadin that could prove costly in Crown's remaining matches. Borey was prepared to try his luck on a few occasions and a 25-yarder saw Udom scrambling across his goal to palm the shot aside. The goalkeeper was left exposed by his errant defence with four minutes of the half remaining as Chan Chaya skated to the bye-line and set up Njoku for an easy tap-in. Two minutes later and Crown strengthened their grip on the match with a third goal. Sok Sovan ventured forward and saw his drive rebound off the crossbar, only for Njoku to lay the ball into Hong Pheng's path, and though Udom saved his toe-poke shot, Borey was on hand to sidefoot the ball into an empty net.

Obadin missed the target at the start of the second half after a Borey corner had fallen to him at the far post. Almost a spectator, Samrith Seiha left his line quickly to snuff out the danger when Ros Samoeun broke clear. On 62 minutes, Crown extended their lead when Borey's cross found Njoku in space, the striker swivelled on a sixpence and his aim was true as the ball nestled in the corner and the Nigerian hitman celebrated his hat-trick goal. A minute later he was replaced as Crown boss David Booth looked to freshen up his line-up. Bisan George threatened twice but found Seiha a tough nut to crack with the goalkeeper defying the bulky striker who had a quiet game by his standards. Tiny headed over the top, again and sub Leng Makara stung the fingertips of Udom with a low drive from the edge of the box. With nine minutes of the game left, Borey scored his second and Crown's fifth. Sos Suhana was a livewire on his introduction and his square pass to Sok Pheng, who let the ball run to Borey, was duly buried in the opposition net by the striker recently recalled to the national team set-up. Two more chances fell to Suhana but Udom caught the first from point-blank range and did enough to close down the second after the striker raced through. In time added on, Crown twice struck the woodwork. Obadin chested Borey's corner against the upright and then Sok Pheng rolled his tame effort against the same post after more good work from Suhana. A comprehensive success for Crown, who will be happy with the 5-1 victory but will need more in their remaining games to keep their slim hopes of a play-off place alive.
PPCFC line-up: Seiha, Rady, Sovan, Tiny, Obadin, Dara, Sovanna, Borey, Chaya (Makara 75), H Pheng (Suhana 64), Njoku (S Pheng 64). Subs not used: Ary, Da, Vanthan, Lika, Srin, Sophanal, Sothy, Rathanak. Bookings: Sovanna, Tiny, Obadin.
Listening to the coach David Booth before the start

Odion Obadin (12) looking like he means business

The Chhlam Samuth line-up today

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Referee capers

Thong Chankethya - never far from trouble
Controversy is never far from referee Thong Chankethya. And yesterday afternoon was no exception with the match official dismissing three Army players as they were downed 3-1 by the National Police, who moved to the top of the Metfone C-League table. Games between the services and military departments always have an extra edge that often boils over and this was no different. Chankethya issued his first red card in less than ten minutes to Army skipper Khek Khemarin and then whipped it out again to dismiss Cambodia's number 1 goalkeeper Sou Yaty with twenty minutes to go. Yaty didn't go quietly with the Army team incensed by the decision. Add a third red card for Ung Dara and the Defense Ministry team will not want to see Chankethya in charge of their games for a long while. As for the Police, they handled the situation by scoring goals and keeping out of trouble, with midfielder Man Ritavann netting a hat-trick. Phlong Chanthou scored for Army. The next batch of games this weekend will see Naga take on Preah Khan Reach in Saturday's early start, followed by Phnom Penh Crown against Chhlam Samuth. Missing from Crown's line-up will be the suspended pair of Emmanuel Frimpong and Henry Asonibe as well as the ligament-damaged Kouch Sokumpheak. Sunday's games will pair Kirivong with Western Uni and BBU against Boeung Ket.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tajikistan is the host

I've just heard that the AFC Competitions Committee earlier today awarded the hosting rights of the AFC President’s Cup 2012 Finals to Tajikistan. The 24-30 September Finals will go to Tajikstan's capital city of Dushanbe, where their champions FC Istiklol play. There were three countries in the hunt to host the finals, with Cambodia and Kyrgyzstan (with Dordoi as their champions) also throwing their hat to into the ring. In their wisdom, the AFC suits have gone with Tajikistan. The committee's decision has to be ratified by the AFC Executive Committee to take effect but that's merely a rubber-stamp process. Phnom Penh Crown, Istiklol and Dordoi will be joined in the finals, the third tier of AFC club football in Asia, by Palestine’s debutants Al Amma’ri, Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) of Pakistan and defending champions Taiwan Power Company. The finals will be be played amongst the six clubs in a league-cum-knockout format, with the top two sides playing in the final. Dordoi, the two-time winners of the competition, topped Group B ahead of Phnom Penh Crown in May’s qualifying round held in Phnom Penh, while Istiklol won the qualifiers leaving Palestine's Al Amma’ri in 2nd place when they hosted Group C in the qualifiers held in May. Champions Taiwan Power Company won both their matches in Group A to qualify ahead of KRL. The draw for the finals, which will include two groups of three teams with the winners going through to the actual final on 30 September, will be made in Dushanbe on Tuesday 31 July.

Sochetra's Thirty

Cambodia coach Hok Sochetra (right) with his assistant Meas Channa
Time to spill the beans on the Cambodian national team. New coach Hok Sochetra will begin his preparations for October's AFF Suzuki Cup Qualifiers tomorrow morning at 7am when he calls a thirty-strong squad of players together for their first training session. The players who he has listed, and who he hasn't listed, will be of intense interest to the footballing public, who appear to be split down the middle over Sochetra's appointment as head coach; between those who are invigorated by the arrival of the country's best-ever goalscoring striker as the new man in charge, and those who were looking for someone with a proven track record. His first squad of thirty players, which will be whittled down to twenty for the actual competition, will begin their familiarization sessions tomorrow and will meet three times per week until September, when two training camps, at home and abroad, are planned. So who is in the frame you ask? First of all let me mention one name which doesn't make the thirty notified to all the C-League teams last weekend. Khuon Laboravy, the Preah Khan Reach striker who has rattled in the goals for the last couple of seasons but who has been on the sidelines with injury this term, is omitted. That will come as a shock to most, as Laboravy's pace and talents are not in dispute, though he's still coming back to match fitness after his lay-off. Another noticeable absentee is arguably the country's best player, Kouch Sokumpheak but his knee ligament injury sustained last week whilst playing for Phnom Penh Crown will rule him out of football for the foreseeable future.

Now, let's look at those selected. Sochetra has named four goalkeepers and the surprise amongst them is Naga's Phorn Ratana, especially after his glaring error at the weekend. Defensively, the Army will supply Khek Khemarin and Ke Vannak, whilst old-hand Tieng Tiny is included alongside his Crown teammate Sok Sovan. Naga's Om Thavrak is also in despite playing sparingly this season. One surprising omission is PKR's leggy centre-back Moul Daravorn. The squad is packed solid with midfield options and another old stager that Sochetra has included is Naga's Teab Vathanak, who has been playing a midfield role for his club side this season, as well as his teammate Sun Sopanha. As expected, National Police's Tith Dina and Crown's Sos Suhana are in, alongwith Pov Phearith of the Army, just three of the U-22 squad members who have booked a spot in the senior squad. Players who can double-up in more than one position include BBU's Prum Puthsethy and PKR's Tum Saray, as can Keo Sokngorn from Boeung Ket. Up front, Sok Pheng (Crown), Srey Udom (Police) and Chuon Chum, Naga's and the C-League's leading scorer, also come into the reckoning. And one name that will please many national team fans after his exploits in previous years in a Cambodia shirt is Khim Borey, back from the wilderness imposed by the previous head coach. Army supply the most players with seven of their team included. There are no overseas players, though one or two might come into the picture when the Khmer-Europe team come here in September for a few games. Also, there are still quite a few Metfone C-League matches to play over the next few weeks, so one or two faces might yet force their way into Sochetra's plans between now and the qualifiers in early October in Myanmar.

The 30-strong squad invited to begin training tomorrow are:
Goalkeepers; Sou Yaty, Um Vichet (Army), Sar Sophea (PKR), Phorn Ratana (Naga).
Defenders: Sok Sovan, Tieng Tiny (PPCFC), Om Thavrak (Naga), Say Piseth (Police), Lay Raksmey, Nen Sothearoth (PKR), Khek Khemarin, Ke Vannak (Army), Khiev Vibol, Touch Pancharong (Boeung Ket).
Midfielders: Sos Suhana (PPCFC), Sun Sopanha, Teab Vathanak (Naga), Tith Dina (Police), Suon Veasna, Tum Saray (PKR), Prum Puthsethy, Chhun Sothearath (BBU), Pov Phearith (Army).
Forwards: Khim Borey, Sok Pheng (PPCFC), Chuon Chum (Naga), Srey Udom (Police), Chhin Chhoeun, Phuong Soksana (Army), Keo Sokngorn (Boeung Ket).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Weekend aspirations

Back in April I told you to keep your eyes peeled for a plan to uncover the very best young footballers in the country. Aspire Football Dreams is a worldwide search for the stars of tomorrow. Since 2007, when the project was launched, over 1 million young footballers from Asia, Latin America and Africa have been tested to see if they have what it takes to become a top player of the future. With support from Nike and Unicef, and with the involvement of coaches from Barcelona, the top players from each region travel to Doha in Qatar and are hosted at Aspire Academy, where they receive top-level training during their sports scholarship. Now Aspire are bringing their search to Cambodia and will hold trials this coming weekend in four centers to identify the best footballing talent aged 13-15 years old. The first trial will be at the RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork on Friday when 200 boys are expected to attend, including members of the Phnom Penh Crown Academy, then the trials will move onto Pursat, Battambang and Kompong Chhnang with similar numbers of youngsters involved. The coach-scouts from Aspire and local coaches such as Bouy Dary and Sam Schweingruber will pick only the very best, perhaps three at the most, who will move onto the final selection stage, to be held in Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam next month, and from there the best of the best from Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam will go to Qatar. This is a never-before opportunity for the cream of Cambodian youth football to rise to the top. Let's hope they make it.

Preparing the ground

The Cambodian national team will soon kick-off their preparations for the AFF Suzuki Cup Qualifiers to be played in October under new head coach Hok Sochetra. Squad training - the 30-strong squad has not yet been formally announced by the federation - will begin this Thursday and will place a considerable strain on the players and their domestic clubs as the federation are demanding the attendance of the players at three sessions a week, which will include fitness and tactical sessions as well as test matches, on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of each week, from 7am in the morning for a couple of hours, at the Olympic Stadium. This is smack-bang in the middle of the end of season run-in for the Metfone C-League championship and play-offs and will also impact on external cup competitions that Phnom Penh Crown and the National Police are involved in. I understand that Sochetra will jettison five players after a month and then reduce it again, concentrating on a squad of twenty players for the four matches that begin on 5 October when they face Timor Leste, with the games being played in Myanmar. Playing every two days, Cambodia then face Laos (7 Oct), Brunei (9 Oct) and hosts Myanmar (11 Oct). The schedule issued by the federation has test matches for the national team squad scheduled for every Tuesday in July and August and then September will be taken up by two training camps, one at the federation's new Tonle Bati HQ for the first half of the month, followed by an overseas training camp (Malaysia has been mentioned) for the second half of the month, before the squad departs for the qualifiers in Myanmar on 3 October. The training camp idea could be a sensible one, though it will not work for any Phnom Penh Crown players who might be involved. Crown will play their AFC President's Cup final stage matches from 24-30 September and will not want their own preparation compromised during the month of September. Let's hope the club v country situation can be resolved amicably. A little bird tells me that five PPCFC players have been invited to join the squad sessions: Khim Borey, Tieng Tiny, Sok Pheng, Sos Suhana and Sok Sovan.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Run of the mill

Preah Khan kept hold of the C-League top spot with a 2-0 win
Preah Khan Reach retained their top billing in the Metfone C-League this afternoon, with a run of the mill 2-0 victory over Kirivong. It was pretty tame stuff in the first half with Kirivong goalkeeper Kun Thnou getting in the way of a couple of PKR efforts and this theme continued in the second half. On the hour, PKR finally broke through and had Sos Nasiet to thank for a miss-kick that foxed his keeper and ended up in his own net, after Phany Ratha had sent in a harmless center. Eight minutes later and they extended their lead as Khuon Laboravy broke clear of the final defender and easily avoided Thnou's challenge to roll the ball into the unguarded net. Thnou saved a couple more and Chea Samnang struck the cross-bar but PKR were always ahead of their opponents and now lead the table by two points from the National Police.
National Police were held to a 1-1 draw with BBU and stay 2nd
In the first match of the afternoon, BBU were trying to stop National Police from getting their noses in front of the C-League table and managed a creditable 1-1 draw in Sunday's early kick-off. National Police's Nelson Oladiji came up with a nick flick and finish to open the scoring on 17 minutes. The word was that he'd spent the previous few days trying out at a lower league club in Germany. Kao Viso headed an own goal from a Nov Soseila cross on the half-hour only to see the referee wipe it out for an offside, which bemused many in the audience. On 55 minutes BBU's Prum Puthsethy headed in after Saing Komsen took advantage of a rush of blood to the head by Police keeper Thong Chanraksmey and lobbed the ball into the six-yard box. No more goals though Komsen missed a glorious headed opportunity with ten minutes remaining. Police went top momentarily but only until PKR finished off Kirivong in the second game.
BBU will be happy with their fighting draw with the Police

Academy frustrated

Ouk Sovann curls a free-kick against the crossbar

The starting XI for the Academy this morning
Grrr. Earlier this morning the Phnom Penh Crown Academy boys did everything right except put the ball in the net, and paid a heavy price when the Preah Khan Reach U-16s nicked a winner with three minutes remaining. To say it was against the run of play is a massive understatement. Games between the two sides are always close, despite the two-year advantage enjoyed by the Military Police-backed team. However, the Academy set out their stall from the start of today's friendly game, playing a quick passing game that left PKR frustrated and ineffectual for each of the three thirty-minute halves. Hitting long hopeful balls up to their speedy strikers was PKR's gameplan and it failed repeatedly with Ouk Sovann in majestic form. Crown kept the ball in midfield until ready to release a through ball and only desperate defending by PKR kept them at bay. Orn Chanpolin headed inches wide before Sovann curled a 20-yard free-kick onto the crossbar in the first half. Yeu Muslim was the centrepoint for much of the Academy's good work but he was denied by the PKR keeper after evading two tackles and bursting through. The second period came and went and in the third, it was Crown that again forced PKR onto the back foot. Ken Chansopheak and Vat Samnang had shots saved by the PKR stopper and Chhuot Senteang broke free but lifted his chip over the keeper and past the far post. Preah Khan grabbed their goal with a rare probe forward with the game entering its last few minutes. As Crown pressed for the equaliser, Senteang outpaced the PKR defence but fired his golden opportunity wide of the target and the game was over.
Orn Chanpolin puts this header inches wide

Last minute instructions from the Academy coaches

The PKR keeper denies Long Phearath

Yesterday, two of the Crown Academy team guested for the Banteay Meanchey Phnom Svay team that collected the FFC U-13 Championship, played at the new Tonle Bati HQ of the federation. The Phnom Svay team ran out 5-0 winners against Chhlam Samuth and included Svang Samnang and Nop David in their line-up. Thy Ronaldo, who is part of the Crown Academy but was not included the original 22 selected as the club's first intake, also played for Phnom Svay.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Naga stumped

The Army will be chuffed with their 1-0 win over Naga
 A mixed bag of Metfone C-League football today. The Army shocked high-flying Naga with a 1-nil win courtesy of a Pom Tola free-kick, whilst Chhlam Samut's Bisan George effectively won the game on his own, with a hat-trick as they beat Western Uni 4-1 in a basement battle. There wasn't much to choose between Naga and the Army in the early kick-off, as their respective league positions belied the closeness of the two sides. Referee Khuon Virak started as he meant to continue with the first of seven bookings but it was the Army who drew first blood. A free-kick was awarded when a penalty looked the correct decision but it made no difference as Army's Pom Tola curled his shot over the wall and on target, jumping for joy as Naga keeper Phorn Ratana make a complete hash of it and pushed it into the net on 35 minutes. The cautions continued either side of half-time as neither team could find their rhythm and a Chuon Chum header against the upright after an hour was the solitary highlight to that point. The Naga marksman, the league's top scorer with 14 goals, blasted two left-foot shots high and wide after creating space for himself, whilst Tola lifted a 40-yard cross onto the top of the cross-bar at the other end. With Army defending with determination, Naga were clueless and the Army could even afford a change of goalkeeper, Sou Yaty replacing Um Vichet, with seven minutes remaining, in order to see out their best win of the campaign. They leapfrog Phnom Penh Crown into fifth spot with the 1-0 success. In the basement clash, the obvious difference between the two sides, Chhlam Samuth and Western Uni, was Bisan George, on loan to Chhlam Samuth from Boeung Ket. The students had no answer to his strength and quick feet and his first goal on 28 minutes demonstrated that to perfection. Picking the ball up on the half-way line, George simply turned on the gas and outpaced half a dozen Western pedestrians and finished with ease. To add to their woes, Western lost Min Chanrath to a 2nd yellow on 36 minutes and the game was effectively over. On the hour, Chhlam Samuth's skipper Sunday Ayodele neatly clipped in their second and eight minutes later, George struck a perfectly flighted free-kick from a considerable distance, around 45 yards out, that sailed over the head of Western keeper Ngoy Boranoch. Western's Long Boran headed a consolation effort with nine minutes remaining, but it only served as the appetiser for George to grab his hat-trick a few minutes later as he bustled unopposed into the area. Western went to the foot of the C-League table with this 4-1 defeat.
Naga were ineffectual against Army and went down 1-0

Chhlam Samuth brushed past Western 4-1 with Bisan George (29) scoring three

Out with the old (Lee Tae Hoon in red) and in with the new (Hok Sochetra in blue) as Cambodia's national team coaches watch from the main stand

Stepping-up to AFC Cup

So under what criteria are clubs selected by the AFC to enter the AFC Cup, the second-tier of international club football in the Asian Football Confederation? We saw two Myanmar clubs invited to join the AFC Cup this season, despite the Taiwan Power club winning the AFC President's Cup, the third tier, last season. Winning the President's Cup does not guarantee you promotion to the next step-up. In fact, its a combination of whether the football federation and the league competition of that country manages to satisfy the qualification criteria set by the AFC. Obviously, Myanmar met those criteria.

There are 12 clubs that currently enter the AFC President's Cup. There are another 7 member nations of AFC who do not enter any club cup competition, namely Afghanistan, Brunei, North Korea, Guam, Laos, Macau and Philippines. Of the twelve teams, all champions of their respective domestic league championships in 2011, which country might be able to convince the AFC that they should be elevated? To do so they will have to meet minimum requirements set by the AFC and which apply to the federation, the league competition and the clubs themselves.

In Cambodia the C-League already meets conditions such as the number of teams in the top division, number of matches, duration of the season, league regulations and a disciplinary code. Other regulations include home and away matches (though it doesn't stipulate each club must have their own ground), there must be 1,000 minimum attendances at the games, and they must reach a certain technical standard according to the AFC system, including suitable floodlighting, dressing room facilities, etc. There cannot have been any match fixing in the previous year, the C-League management must have competition, marketing, media and financial management structures in place, as well as issuing one of the following; league guidebook, match-day programmes or a suitable website.

For the clubs, they must have a media officer, as well as a media room, TV broadcasting facilities and press conferences after each game. The clubs must be coached by a qualified AFC B-licensed coach. There are far more stringent conditions if a country is keen to make the AFC Champions League. For Cambodia to gain elevation to the AFC Cup - regarded as a competition for 'developing nations' - as Myanmar have done this year, doesn't appear to be that difficult. There needs to be a will and determination by the federation to meet the requirements, which they didn't appear keen to try last season. Let's hope that if invited again this year, that the federation pick up the gauntlet thrown down by the AFC.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Captain Sokumpheak sidelined

Kouch Sokumpheak lies injured at the feet of the match referee in yellow. Courtesy of Sabay.com
In what amounts to a double punishment for Phnom Penh Crown after they were tonked 5-1 by Boeung Ket on Wednesday afternoon, the club now have to face the loss of their talismanic captain Kouch Sokumpheak for at least six weeks, effectively ruling him out of the remainder of their Metfone C-League campaign. Fifteen minutes from the end of Wednesday's match and Sokumpheak went down clutching his leg under a challenge from BK goalkeeper Peng Bunchhay, a former teammate at Crown. As he hobbled off the pitch, initial fears were for an ankle injury but pain in his knee and a scan that same evening, revealed knee ligament damage that will require up to six weeks of rest. With Crown's final domestic match scheduled for 26 August against NagaCorp that would suggest he will play no further part in the club's outside challenge of making the top 4 league places and gaining entry into the play-offs. His recovery target will therefore be the AFC President's Cup final stages, at a location still to be decided by the AFC, which will be held during 24-30 September. Crown will be keeping their fingers and legs crossed that their skipper will be back to fitness in time for their important season finale.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Homegrown coaches

Cambodia held its first-ever AFC A-licence coaching course as long ago as February. The coaching instructor was the Naga coach Prak Sovannara, the only accredited instructor in the country. It's believed up to ten Cambodian coaches qualified for their A-licence by passing the theory and practical sessions at the end of the month-long course, though the federation have not officially announced any results. The FFC spokesman dropped a hint when he said Cambodia now has ten A-licence coaches when recently discussing the national team head coach position, but still no formal confirmation has been forthcoming. Which seems very strange. I would've thought that if so many had passed the course on home soil, then the federation would've been shouting it from the rooftops. Qualifying for the A-licence is a big deal. The federation rarely give out any information unless pressed or prodded, which is disappointing as you'd think the home football body would be busting a gut to actively promote and celebrate its football successes.
Unofficially, I've been told that the ten homegrown coaches who passed the course are as follows, with their club affiliation in brackets: Prak Vuthy (Boeung Ket), Hok Sochetra (PKR), Keo Kosal (PKR), Phea Sopheaktra (PKR), Meas Channa (Naga), Long Rithea (Army), Tep Longrachana (Army), Ung Kanyanith (Nat Police), Kim Pheakdey (Chhlam Samuth), Hok Sochivorn (none). Amongst those who didn't qualify were Prak Sokmony, who recently led the Cambodia U-22 squad in the AFC Asian Cup, and BBU's Meas Samoeun. Twenty-six coaches began the course including coaches from Laos, Myanmar, Japan, Nigeria and Switzerland. Success on the course has certainly paid off for Hok Sochetra, who has since been appointed the national team head coach, whilst other successful attendees, Meas Channa and Hok Sochivorn, Sochetra's younger brother, have been taken on as the senior team's assistant coaches.

Suzuki draw

Hok Sochetra's first major test as the new head coach of the Cambodian football team will be the AFF Suzuki Cup 2012 Qualifiers. The draw for the qualifiers and the competition proper was made in Bangkok yesterday and pitches the Cambodian team against Timor Leste in the first tie of the five-team qualifying group, which will be played in Myanmar. The first match will be on 5 October. Playing every two days, Cambodia then face Laos (7 Oct), Brunei (9 Oct) and hosts Myanmar (11 Oct). The two qualifiers from the group will go onto the competition proper which is being held jointly by Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.

The Metfone C-League continued yesterday with Phnom Penh Crown going down 5-1 to newcomers Boeung Ket, who retained their top 4 spot with the victory. Young substitute Keo Sokpheng overshadowed everyone else with a hat-trick and might be an outside contender for a spot in Hok Sochetra's initial 30-man squad for the AFF Suzuki Cup. I was a mite surprised he wasn't involved in the recent U-22 squad. In the second match yesterday afternoon, there was little to choose between National Police and Kirivong, even though Police have been one of this season's revelations and sat in second place before the match began, whilst Kirivong hovered just outside the relegation places. The first-half was instantly forgettable but the game came alive on the hour when Ek Sopheap fired Kirivong into a deserved lead. Police refused to lie down and when Joel Omoraka poked home through a crowd of players with twelve minutes to go, they breathed again. The point from the 1-1 draw puts them level with Preah Khan Reach in top spot.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Crown sunk in the rain

PPCFC v Boeung Ket. Back Row LtoR: S Pheng, Obadin, Tiny, Dara, Rady, Frimpong. Front: Chaya, Seiha, Asonibe, Sokumpheak, Borey

It was billed as a game Phnom Penh Crown had to win. They didn't. Not only did they not win, they didn't play with the passion and the fire in their bellies that they needed to display and that clearly hurt head coach David Booth during his after-match analysis. He'd just watched his team go down 5-1 to the new kids on the block, Boeung Ket. "I thought we started the game quite brightly, we were okay, After 15 minutes it just deteriorated and quite frankly I was ashamed of it all by the end. It was a disgrace. That was our most experienced team and if that's how they are going to perform, then they are not the team I thought they were. Never ever in my life have I had a team perform like that." Tough talking from the Crown boss, acutely disappointed with his team, who looked a shadow of the side that captured the league championship and reached the AFC President's Cup final last season. Inconsistency has been their downfall this term and it reared its ugly head again today, after an encouraging 2-2 draw with Preah Khan a few days earlier. For today's early kick-off, Crown were without suspended striker Kingsley Njoku but that was soon forgotten as they took the game to Boeung Ket with Emmanuel Frimpong, back in the line-up after injury, trying his luck from 35 yards which BK keeper Peng Bunchhay pushed aside and gathered. With nine minutes on the clock, Crown drew first blood. Khim Borey, out wide on the left, rolled the ball to Frimpong who was lurking twenty yards from goal and his well-struck effort looped off the foot of his own player, Henry Asonibe and left Bunchhay clutching at straws as it sailed over his head. For much of the opening half-hour, Crown were displaying the majority of the attacking intent. Another Borey set piece, from a corner, found Asonibe free at the far post but his header was off-target. A few moments later, Sok Pheng fed Kouch Sokumpheak but his drive was too high to trouble Bunchhay. At the other end Odion Obadin made a crucial tackle as Yob Ramaton shaped to shoot, while Chan Chaya pushed a pass into Sokumpheak's path but his angled drive was well-held by Bunchhay, diving at full stretch to his left.
Two quick bookings for Frimpong and Asonibe were sandwiched by the replacement of Hong Ratana by Keo Sokpheng for Boeung Ket and his impact on the outcome of the game would prove to be telling. With two minutes of the first-half remaining, a corner fell at the feet of Savy Sethsoudy and his low shot took a deflection off Asonibe and arrowed into the far corner for the equaliser. The final action of the half saw Boeung Ket snatch an undeserved lead. Sokpheng tried his luck from twenty yards out and the ball spun up off the boot of Tieng Tiny and dropped over the head of a stranded Samrith Seiha in the Crown goal. 2-1 to Boeung Ket at the whistle, which also signalled a torrential downpour that left the Olympic Stadium pitch covered in pools of water for the second half. Free-flowing, passing football was out of the question. Crown began the second-half with a purpose. Sok Pheng headed a Borey corner against the post, and a hopeful Borey punt from the touch-line was tipped over by Bunchhay from under his crossbar. Just past the hour, Chan Dara failed to clear the danger and Boeung Ket made him pay dearly. Friday Nwakuna fed Romaton on the edge of the box, who passed it quickly onto Sokpheng and he kept his nerve to beat Seiha at his far post.
Crown boss Booth responded by replacing a defender with another attacker, going to three at the back in an attempt to get something from the match. Borey sent a twenty-five yard shot skidding dangerously wide and a Frimpong free-kick caused panic at the far post but Tiny failed to get the all-important touch. Referee Neang Sorithya was unmoved when Borey was sent sprawling in the penalty area and Crown lost skipper Sokumpheak to a knee injury sustained in a challenge with Bunchhay. In his absence, Boeung Ket broke quickly on 78 minutes with Nwakuna releasing Romaton and the lanky striker went down after a tap on his ankle by Crown keeper Seiha, who was booked. Nwakuna netted from the twice-taken penalty kick, after his first was chalked off for encroachment. With time running down, Sokpheng made a hash of a timely Nwakuna pass, screwing his shot wide. A wind-assisted drop-kick from Seiha found Borey running in on goal, only for Bunchhay to fingertip his chip past the post, as Crown saw their final chance of the match go begging. In the first minute of injury time, Boeung Ket rubbed salt in Crown's wounds with a fifth goal. Obadin's timely intervention halted Nwakuna's run on goal but the ball squirmed out to Sokpheng and he completed his hat-trick from six yards out. As Crown left the field, referee Sorithya brandished a red card in Frimpong's direction for comments made by the frustrated midfielder. It just about summed up his team's disastrous afternoon.
David Booth continued with his post-match thoughts. "I spent three days talking about the game, about how we have to win to go into the top 4, I covered everything, but today I didn't get any response whatsoever from our most experienced players. At 3-1 down I had to do something [we went to three at the back], to try and win the game. It didn't work because the players didn't help to make it work. I'm very very disappointed with the players, every single one of them. It leaves us looking for next year as far as I'm concerned. Because if these players cannot play in a game like that today, then do they deserve to play? Maybe it's time to look at one or two of the younger boys and see if they will come good for next year. I thoroughly expected them to perform and play today and I did not see anything of the sort. We've done everything right in the lead-up to the game, but we've got nothing back from them today. Nothing at all." Clearly the coach was not in the mood to let his players off lightly after a performance that left them in fifth spot in the Metfone C-League, four points adrift of Boeung Ket.
PPCFC line-up v Boeung Ket: Seiha, Dara, Rady (H Pheng 65), Tiny, Obadin, Asonibe, Frimpong, Chaya, Borey, S Pheng (Suhana 59), Sokumpheak (Makara 79). Subs not used: Ary, Vanthan, Lika, Seyha, Srin, Sovan, Sothy, Sovanna. Bookings: Frimpong (+ red card), Asonibe, Seiha.
Kouch Sokumpheak leads out the PPCFC team, followed by Samrith Seiha

Coach David Booth explaining defensive duties to Obadin and Tiny

The Boeung Ket starting line-up

A look at the electronic scoreboard at the final whistle, which displays an advert for the main PPCFC sponsor

Monday, July 9, 2012

My shot at the 30

Hok Sochetra (right) with assistant coach Meas Channa
I wondered if the new Cambodian national coach, Hok Sochetra, might need the heads-up about who to include in his first squad of players for the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers that are coming up in early October. He's already indicated that he will put out a list of possibles by the end of this week, with a view to getting them together as often as he can during the next three months. Having just spent the last few months working with the U-22 national squad, I'm sure he will already have a batch of those players in mind to form a youthful backbone to his new senior squad, adding a number of experienced older and wiser heads to steady the ship. Here's my suggested squad of thirty players that the new coach might just consider calling up for his first training session sometime soon. Let me know if you agree or want to put other names in the frame.
Goalkeepers: Sou Yaty, Um Vichet (both Army), Sar Sophea (PKR), Peng Bunchhay (Boeung Ket).
Defenders: Lay Raksmey, Moul Daravorn, Nen Sothearoth (PKR), Pheak Rady, Sok Sovan, Tieng Tiny (PPCFC), Touch Pancharong, Khiev Vibol (Boeung Ket), Say Piseth (Nat Police).
Midfielders: Chhun Sothearoth (BBU), Suon Veasna, Chan Vathanaka (PKR), Sos Suhana (PPCFC), Sun Sopanha, Sun Sovannrithy (Naga), Tith Dina (Nat Police), Um Kumpheak (Boeung Ket), Pov Phearith (Army).
Forwards: Chuon Chum, Kop Isa (Naga), Kouch Sokumpheak, Khim Borey (PPCFC), Khuon Laboravy (PKR), Keo Sokngorn (Boeung Ket), Phourng Soksana, Chhin Chhoeun (Army).

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ito causes a stir

The National Police team who remain in 2nd place in the C-League

Naga failed to leap-frog over the Police and stay in 3rd spot

With Preah Khan Reach sitting at the top of the Metfone C-League table, the first match this afternoon saw 2nd placed National Police face the team a spot behind them, NagaCorp. A win for Police would've put them top but as it turned out, the two teams cancelled each other out and had to settle for a 2-2 draw. Naga drew first blood through top scorer Chuon Chum on 20 minutes. The former national team player is in the middle of a purple patch in front of goal, though he'll curse that he missed a great chance later in the half. Police levelled when Srey Udom smashed a shot against the cross-bar and Man Ritavann was first to the rebound. With Police still celebrating, Naga's Sun Sopanha sent in an inswinging corner that Thong Chanraksmey made a hash of and punched the ball into his own net. On the stroke of half-time Police's Tith Dina equalized for a second time and that's how the first half ended, and the match. I don't even recall a serious chance for either team after the break. Police have certainly been the surprise package this season, a team without stars but hard-working and able to grind out results and they hold onto second spot, a point behind PKR.

Dan Ito was the star of the show in this afternoon's second match. Japanese-born, he's journeyed around Asia for the past decade and his latest port of call is Build Bright United. No less than fourteen countries have welcomed the 36-year-old midfield playmaker and he showed that he has picked up a thing or two along the way. I won't mention all of his clubs but they include Woodlands Wellington, Saigon Port, Kitchee, Penang, DPMM and more recently Manang Marshyangdi in Nepal. He wasn't BBU's only foreigner either, as they have added Nigerian Badmus Bolaji to their team as well. As it turned out, Ito led from the front on his debut and despite winning and then failing to convert a penalty, he powered in a header and then set up the final goal in BBU's 4-2 success over Chhlam Samuth. Bolaji opened the scoring for the students before Bisan George thundered in an exocet-like free-kick to level, only for Ito's powerful far post header to put BBU back in front a minute later. Two goals after the break from Prum Putsethy, the second laid on by Ito, were spaced either side of another Bisan George effort, which he headed onto the bar and as it dropped it hit the back of keeper Hem Simay and crossed the goal-line. A notable debut for the second Japanese player in the C-League, after Takahito Ota who is playing with National Police.
Japanese import Dan Ito (36) gets a welcome to Cambodian football

BBU ran out comfortable 4-2 winners against Chhlam Samuth

The Preah Khan Reach team that lined-up yesterday against PPCFC