Thursday, August 30, 2012

Three in as many days

Phnom Penh Crown triumphed in their third midweek practice match in as many days, fielding a mixed line-up of regular and squad players against Prek Pra Keila, who themselves are hoping to gain promotion back to the C-League's top flight after a season away. The game was played at Crown's RSN Stadium this afternoon and ended in a 5-0 success for the home side. Kingsley Njoku gave them a 1-goal lead by half-time, the added a second after the break and the win was rounded off with goals from Emmanuel Frimpong, Ouk Sothy and Hong Pheng. Crown line-up: Ary (Chamroeun 46), Seyha, Rady (Dara 46), Lika, Sovan, Vanthan (Rathanak 46), Henry (Frimpong 46), Sothy, Sovanna, Njoku, Makara (H Pheng 46). Crown were without their four national team players - Suhana, Tiny, Borey and Sok Pheng - who were playing a practice match against NagaCorp (Suhana scored two and Borey the other in a 3-2 national team win) and three of the squad appeared for Prek Pra.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Crown clock up 12

In their second practice game in as many days, Phnom Penh Crown gave visiting Rithysen from Kompong Chhnang the courtesy of fielding an almost full-strength line-up at the RSN Stadium this afternoon. With Crown in the middle of preparation for their AFC President's Cup excursion to Tajikistan later next month, Rithysen felt the full force of players determined to impress head coach David Booth and ended up on the wrong end of a 12-0 thrashing. Sok Pheng, in a break from training with the Cambodia national team, netted four goals in a first-half during which Crown piled on the pressure, scoring seven without reply. Khim Borey, Emmanuel Frimpong and Sos Suhana also netted before the interval. After the break, two goals in two minutes from Suhana registered his hat-trick before Hong Pheng, Chhun Sovanna and Leng Makara joined the party with more goals to take the final tally to twelve. Crown line-up: Seiha (Ary 46), Rady, Seyha (Vanthan 46), Tiny (Lika 56), Sovan, Frimpong (Sovanna 67), Suhana, Borey (Sothy 70), Chaya (Makara 60), H Pheng, S Pheng (Dara 45). Prek Pra are next to face Crown, with a third warm-up friendly in as many days, at RSN tomorrow (Thursday) at 2pm. Playing for Prek Pra will be three Crown players, Koem Sophanal, Thourng Da and Ngoy Srin, who've been loaned out to the club to help with their attempt to win back their C-League place in the upcoming Division 1A championship, to take place between 4-19 September, with ten clubs vying for the two promotion places.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Friendly neighbours

Just heard that Phnom Penh Crown have been selected by the football federation, alongside Preah Khan Reach, to take part in an invitational international football tournament in one of the southern Vietnamese provinces in late November. It's called the Binh Phuoc TV Cup 2012 - it used to be known as the Number One Cup and played between armed forces from Vietnam, Cambodia  and Laos - and will be held in the capital city of Binh Phuoc province, Dong Xoai, between 20-29 November. Last season eight teams took part, 4 from Vietnam, two amateur teams from Cambodia (Kratie and Senate FC) and a team apiece from Laos and Thailand. It appears the standard has been raised for this year's competition with two of Cambodia's best club sides nominated by the federation to participate. The Binh Phuoc province borders Kompong Cham, Kratie and Mondulkiri provinces on the Cambodian side. The timing of the tournament falls during around the period players will be reporting back for pre-season training ahead of the Hun Sen Cup, that will likely begin in January. It also coincides with the finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup, so if Cambodia manage to qualify, then Crown's national team players will not be available for selection in the friendship tournament.

A second-string Phnom Penh Crown team drew 1-1 with the Senate FC team in a practice match at RSN Stadium in the rain this afternoon. The Senate team are bidding to gain entry to the Metfone C-League by competing in the Division 1A play-offs very soon, so this was good preparation for them, and a game for some of the Crown squad players who may, or may not be making the trip to Tajikistan. The Senate opened the scoring on the half hour and Leng Makara grabbed the equaliser on 68 minutes. Crown line-up: Chamroeun, Da, Lika, Srin, Vanthan, Sophanal, Sothy, Sovanna, Chaya, Rathanak (H Pheng 60), Makara. Crown will meet Rithysen from Kompong Chhnang in another warm-up match tomorrow at RSN, kick-off at 2pm.

The National Police Commissary team, carrying the flag of Cambodia into the regional police tournament being held in Vietnam, have returned triumphant, topping the tourney with wins over the teams representing Thailand, Laos and Australia and drawing with Vietnam. Whilst the police team have been rubbing batons with lots of other policemen, the play-offs for the Metfone C-League have been held up. The semi-finals will now take place on Sunday 9 September when Boeung Ket face Preah Khan Reach at 2.30pm and NagaCorp meet the buoyant National Police at 5pm. The winners of both matches will meet in the championship final on Saturday 15 September at 3.30pm. My tip for the champions - NagaCorp.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Unconvincing winners

PPCFC line-up. Back LtoR: Frimpong, Dara, Seiha, Rady, Obadin, H Pheng. Front: Chaya, Njoku, Makara, Seyha, Sovan. Click to enlarge
Result: Phnom Penh Crown 0 Cambodia National Team 1
With the venue for this afternoon's practice match changing by the hour, a thunderstorm before the start left the Olympic Stadium pitch slippery and wet, with four Phnom Penh Crown players in the Cambodia national team squad facing their own teammates, though Tieng Tiny was sidelined with an ankle injury, leaving Khim Borey and Sos Suhana as starters and Sok Pheng on the bench. For Crown, Men Seyha came in at full-back, Leng Makara wide right and Emmanuel Frimpong in central midfield. Referee Thong Chankethya, who would become a central figure in the game's proceedings, didn't like Kingsley Njoku's complaints and flashed his yellow card just seven minutes after the start. A few minutes later and Frimpong made his intentions clear with a 30-yard free-kick that skidded inches wide of the upright. On 13 minutes Chhin Chhoeun unleashed a thunderbolt from outside the area which Samrith Seiha in the Crown goal got a hand to and turned it onto the crossbar. Pheak Rady then popped up in an offensive position and sent a long range shot fizzing wide of Um Vichet's far post. Moments later Tum Saray found space in the opposing box and brought out another super save from Seiha.
A poor first touch by Sok Sovan forced Odion Obadin to rescue his teammate's blushes by holding back Saray, which earned him a yellow card. Khim Borey also picked up a caution, when he took a dive under Seiha's lunge. On the half-hour Njoku created space but was off target with his drive. The Nigerian hit-man should've done better on 37 minutes when Frimpong's shot was deflected to his feet with the only the keeper to beat, but Vichet was big enough to keep out his hurried effort. Crown stepped up the pace and Frimpong's ferocious free-kick stung the fingertips of the young Army keeper, who did exceptionally well to turn it around the post. From Chan Chaya's corner, Obadin sent his deft header inches past the far post. With his next touch, Obadin was collared by the referee for a high foot that sent Saray sprawling and Chankethya decided it merited a yellow card, quickly followed by a red card for the Nigerian defender. With four minutes of the first half remaining, Crown were down to ten men and replaced Njoku with another defender, Vi Lika just before the half-time whistle.
With their ranks reduced, Crown went for containment after the break but fell to a sucker punch just five minutes into the second period. A free-kick from Khieu Vibol on the right flank, bounced low, evading Samrith Seiha's dive and skidded into the net. With two players standing offside in front of the keeper, the linesman correctly flagged but Chankethya ignored his assistant and Crown's claims, awarding the goal. That decision incensed Seiha who stormed off the pitch, quickly followed by his teammates. Chankethya shrugged his shoulders and left the field and it took another five minutes before Crown's players reappeared and the game resumed. Both teams made numerous substitutions as goal chances were few, with a Borey toe-poke held by Seiha and Vichet palming aside a Hong Pheng acute-angled drive, with Chim Rathanak heading a corner wide at the far post. Yok Ary replaced Seiha and was smartly down to a Sok Pheng effort and then touched wide a long range shot from Pov Phearith. Late on, Frimpong's 25-yard free-kick saw the ball stick to Vichet's gloves in a muddy goalmouth and that was the last chance of the game, with the Cambodian national team running out unconvincing winners.
PPCFC line-up v Cambodia: Seiha (Ary 75), Rady (Srin 83), Seyha (Vanthan 75), Sovan, Obadin, Dara, Frimpong, Makara (Rathanak 66), Chaya (Sovanna 66), H Pheng, Njoku (Lika 45). Subs not used: Chamroeun, Da, Sophanal, Asonibe, Sothy. Bookings: Njoku, Obadin (+ red card).
Cambodia line-up: Vichet, Pancharong, Vibol (Raksmey 72), Khemarin, Thavrak, Sothearath (Phearith 72), Sophana (Veasna 72), Chhoeun (S Pheng 64), Saray (Vathanak 64 (Chum 85)), Suhana, Borey. Booked: Borey, Phearith.
Cambodia line-up. Back LtoR: Vibol, Borey, Vichet, Sopanha, Thavrak. Front: Khemarin, Suhana, Pancharong, Chhoeun, Sothearath, Saray


Thong Chankethya - can't help himself
Seriously, what was the point of referee Thong Chankethya's red card for Odion Obadin this afternoon, four minutes before the half-time interval. Completely brainless. For reasons known only to himself he loves to act as the judge and jury and couldn't wait to wield his authority and enjoy a red card moment against a foreign player in Phnom Penh Crown colours. He disregarded that this was a practice match, scheduled to give both Crown and the Cambodian national team some warm-up game-time before both teams head off for important Asian cup competitions. Instead of asking the Crown coach David Booth to replace the player to allow the two teams to maintain 11-a-side, he threw commonsense out of the window and flourished his yellow and red cards in quick succession, reducing the game as a spectacle for the good-sized crowd. Despite the fact that the Cambodia team scored a goal five minutes into the second half, they then failed miserably to put Crown to the sword despite the extra advantage and will not have impressed any of the audience in the grandstand. The referee had earlier cautioned two of Crown's foreign contingent, Kingsley Njoku for complaining, after just seven minutes and Obadin for pulling an opponent after 18 minutes. He has a history of  flashing his cards, which I've commented on many times before, and his interpretation of Obadin's second challenge, a high foot on Tum Saray, was extremely harsh. As if to compound his handling of the game, he over-ruled his assistant referee when Khieu Vibol's free-kick skidded under the dive of Crown keeper Samrith Seiha, just after the break. The assistant had spotted two Cambodian shirts, Om Thavrak and Khim Borey, in the line of sight and in offside positions and flagged to inform the referee. Instead Chankethya decided to allow the goal as neither player had touched the ball, ignoring the fact that the goalkeeper's sight was obscured. This went down like a lead balloon with Seiha, who stormed off the pitch after remonstrating with the referee, quickly followed by his teammates. It took another five minutes for order to be restored with the referee announcing his assistant had made a mistake and Crown coach David Booth ordered his payers to resume the game. Two controversial incidents with Thong Chankethya firmly smack bang in the middle, as usual.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

PKR down national team

Cambodia national team v PKR. Back: Vibol, Sopanha, Thavrak, Yaty, Tiny, Borey. Front: Pheng, Suhana, Sothearath, Chhoeun, Pancharong. Photo by
This is the starting line-up for the Cambodia national team's latest practice match, a 2-1 defeat by Preah Khan Reach yesterday afternoon. Sos Suhana gave Hok Sochetra's team a very early lead before Prak Mony Udom, back in full swing after an injury absence, levelled and Joseph Olatubosun scored the winner. PKR played three of their foreign contingent as well as Udom and Sok Rithy, both returning to their line-up after debilitating injuries and who should be knocking on the door of the national squad if they can prove their fitness to Sochetra. It was the national team's second defeat after three victories against local club sides. Four players from Phnom Penh Crown started the game. They play Phnom Penh Crown on Saturday (at Olympic Stadium) and NagaCorp next Tuesday (Olympic Stadium) in practice matches, both games starting 2pm.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

League campaign ends

Sunday's opening Metfone C-League game pitted a very young and inexperienced Preah Khan Reach team, already safely in the play-offs, against a full strength Army line-up, who coasted to a 3-1 victory. Nob Tola gave the PKR boys a first-half lead but second-half strikes from Ung Dara, Chhim Chhoeurn and Pov Phearith saw the military men claim the spoils. The Metfone C-League now moves into its Super 4 play-off stage to decide the champions. Preah Khan will face Boeung Ket whilst Naga meet National Police on Sunday 9 September.

The Cambodian national team coach Hok Sochetra has made the first cut of five players from his initial 30-strong squad that has been training three times a week in preparation for the AFF Suzuki Cup in early October. They've been playing a series of friendly matches against the C-League club sides and are scheduled to meet Phnom Penh Crown at the Olympic Stadium this coming Saturday (25 Aug) at 2pm. The five to be culled from the training squad, who will go into training camp for the first two weeks of next month, followed by an overseas camp in Malaysia, are Sar Sophea (PKR), Tith Dina (Police), Sok Sovan (PPCFC), Ke Vannak (Army) and Prum Putsethy (BBU). Another five players will be released before the training camps begin.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

One way traffic

The starting XI for the PPCFC Academy v Army

The Phnom Penh Crown Academy youngsters met the Army U-16s for the first time this morning and handed them a footballing lesson they won't forget in a hurry, with an 11-0 drubbing. With four players missing because of the Muslim Ramadan holiday - Baraing, Muslim, Sakrovy and new boy Nuron - and another three on the injured list, Sopheak, Rozak and Piphop, the Academy squad was  a little thin on the ground against their older opponents. Orn Chanpolin and Vat Samnang put the Crown Academy ahead in the first of three 30-minute halves. Five goals in the second half emphasized their superiority. For starters, Ouk Sovann curled in a free-kick and Sraing Titchhy rolled in a penalty after In Sodavid was tripped. Theang Chhaya fired in from 20-yards and Chhuot Senteang and Choun Chanchav also netted. For the final half, Sodavid scored twice, his second a penalty awarded for handball and Long Phearath also grabbed a brace, his second a gorgeous curling shot from distance. 11-0 and a very comprehensive destruction of the Army youngsters. Crown are looking to host an U-14 tournament in the middle of next month at their RSN Stadium with details to be confirmed. Pech Sovannaroth has left the Academy for family reasons to be replaced by U-14 national team winder Mat 'Messi' Nuron from the Army.

The line-up for the 3rd half v Army

Sraing Titchhy takes aim from the penalty spot

Coach Bouy Dary highlights his requirements

Half-time instructions from coach Dary

Sva snatches it

PPCFC line-up: Back Row LtoR: S Pheng, Sovan, Dara, Obadin, H Pheng, Tiny. Front: Rady, Suhana, Chaya, Ary, Borey
Result: Phnom Penh Crown 1 NagaCorp 1
Chim 'Sva' Rathanak, one of the forgotten men of Cambodian football, came off the bench to claim a share of the spoils in today's final Metfone C-League game of the regular season, as Phnom Penh Crown snatched fifth place from the clutches of BBU with the final kick of the season. This 1-1 draw with the unofficial champions, NagaCorp, sealed fifth spot for Crown, with a better goal difference over the students, with both teams on 27 points from their 18 league games. But it wasn't good enough to get them into the Super 4 play-offs which will begin in a couple of weeks time. For a club like PPCFC that is used to winning championships, that's a massive disappointment to both the team and their admirers. With Samrith Seiha left on the bench, the goalkeeping spot went to Yok Ary and Chan Dara was recalled in place of Henry Asonibe in central midfield. Tieng Tiny and Sok Sovan returned after injury absences.
Crown announced their intentions against Naga - who finished top of the table after the 18-game domestic season but were denied the title by the reintroduction of the play-offs - when Khim Borey's 25-yard drive was palmed around the post by keeper Pich Rovinyothin on two minutes. A minute later, the same two players were at it again, with Borey's left-footer sticking in the keeper's gloves. Naga would've put their money on Chuon Chum opening his account after six minutes when put through by Teab Vathanak, but the usually-reliable goal-poacher scuffed his shot wide. Both Chan Chaya and Borey continued to pepper the Naga goal with long-range efforts, but it was teammate Hong Pheng who should've done better with a free header on 26 minutes, which he sent inches wide of the upright. After Sos Suhana tried his luck, unsuccessfully, from distance and Chum headed a near post corner kick wide, the first half remained in stalemate mode.
The second period began as eagerly as the first with Crown again looking bright and busy early on, as Hong Pheng's low drive foiled by the feet of Rovinyothin and Sok Pheng's foray in the box, undone by his own wayward blast from fifteen yards out. Thul Sothearith looked ill at ease as he scooped the ball over his own bar with Suhana soon heading straight at the keeper and other efforts by Sovan, Pheak Rady and Sok Pheng all going awry in the opening fifteen minutes. Substitutions disrupted the flow of the game until Naga's top scorer Chum profited for a wayward Chaya pass only to see his close range finish thwarted by a point blank save by Ary. On 74 minutes, Borey was floored by Om Thavrak and he picked himself up to curl the resulting free-kick inches wide of the upright. A minute later and Naga took the lead against the run of play. A short corner was fed to Ou Lyhorng and his straight as a dye drive from the edge of the box somehow avoided Ary's flailing punch and Naga celebrated. Within a minute Suhana fed Hong Pheng and his hooked shot looked to be heading for the net until it was deflected wide. Without creating anymore obvious scoring chances, Crown's hopes of a top 5 finish were receding until the fourth minute of time added on by referee Khuon Virak - who frustrated Crown throughout with his one-eyed decisions. Chhun Sovanna worked the ball out to Chim Rathanak, a rarely-used substitute this campaign, on the right side of the penalty box and his audacious lofted chip sailed inside the far post for a classy finish to an otherwise unremarkable season. It was only what Crown had deserved from the game and they can now salvage their pride with a strong showing in the upcoming AFC President's Cup final round in Tajikistan.
Crown head coach David Booth was upbeat at the final whistle."I felt we dictated a lot of the play today, we played better all round, we looked more solid and to be fair, they've scored a lot of goals and won a lot of games and are the champion team quite rightly. I thought there were some decent performances today, but 1 or 2 looked poor but most of the time we looked quite strong and up for the game. It was a decent game to finish on, we didn't deserve to lose even though I felt we were going to, until we scored out of the blue in the final minute. It was a nice moment when Sva scored, good for him. We now have a friendly against the national team next week, which is the only game before the President's Cup trip."
PPCFC line-up v Naga: Ary, Rady (Da 62), Sovan, Tiny, Obadin, Dara, Suhana, Chaya (Sovanna 77), Borey, H Pheng, S Pheng (Rathanak 69). Subs not used: Seiha, Vanthan, Lika, Seyha, Srin, Sophanal, Asonibe, Makara. Bookings: Tiny, Rady.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Naga denied

The final weekend of domestic football kicked-off today, well it would've been, if the federation hadn't decided on tagging on the ridiculous Super 4 play-offs to the end of the season to determine the Cambodian football champions. At the end of the 18-game season, NagaCorp came out on top, with still a game to play against Phnom Penh Crown tomorrow, but instead of getting their just rewards, they have to go into the Super 4 lottery to win another two matches in order to claim their prize. It's a crap way to decide a league championship. There's an argument to say that a play-off can decide the minor placings in a promotion and relegation situation, but to tack it onto the end of a domestic league season is not what football is about. It becomes an end of season lottery with in-form teams having the upper hand instead of rewarding the most consistent team throughout the whole campaign. I have never liked it, and never will. I also don't like the crap coverage given by the Phnom Penh Post to the final weekend of the league season. They gave a column inch to print the fixtures on Friday yet failed miserably to preview the games, instead preferring to cover the BPL, La Liga and the local basketball matches. They take a reactive approach to football reporting rather than seeking out newsworthy stories, concentrating far too much on chasing tennis titbits that less than a dozen people are interested in.

In today's Metfone C-League games the two relegated clubs both took a whipping which merely emphasized that they are not good enough to compete in the top division. BBU were first up, thrashing a weakened Western Uni team 7-1. Rim Bunhieng scored two identical headers and Pich Sina netted the first of his brace before the interval. Just after the hour Proum Yaneth scored a consolation penalty for the debut-season students before BBU's Japanese captain Dan Ito rounded off his cameo C-League career with a hat-trick, including two penalties. Ito is off to Bhutan soon to add another country to his CV as he attempts to make the Guinness Book of Records for playing professionally in as many Asian countries as possible. In the 2nd game, Boeung Ket walloped the other relegated club Chhlam Samuth 7-0. It was all one-way traffic as you might expect, with Friday Nwakuna's four goals taking him to the top of the Golden Boot scorer's chart with 20 goals. He can also lay claim to the miss of the season when he fired wide with an open goal at his mercy before the avalanche of goals began. Sin Dalin netted twice, the second a gorgeous curling free-kick with Chukwuma Ohuruogu also scoring. BK are already through to the Super 4 in their first season in the division.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Play-off dates

The dates and times of the Metfone C-League Super 4 play-offs have finally been announced. With NagaCorp already grabbing first place at the conclusion of the 18-game domestic season, they will meet National Police, the 4th-placed team at 5pm on Sunday 9 September at 5pm. The earlier game that same afternoon, at 2.30pm, will see Boeung Ket face Preah Khan Reach. The final 2nd and 3rd places in the C-League table won't actually be determined until after this coming weekend's matches, but neither team can overtake NagaCorp. The two losers will meet in the 3rd place play-off which will be on Wednesday 12 September at 3.30pm. And the grand final to determine the 2012 Metfone C-League champions will be on Saturday 15 September at 3.30pm. All games will be at the Olympic Stadium.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

As expected

A double-header in the Metfone C-League this afternoon at the Olympic Stadium saw the results go with the formbook as NagaCorp retain their spot at the head of the league table with a 2-1 win over Build Bright, whilst Boeung Ket stepped up to 3rd place by beating Kirivong 3-2. In the later game, Keo Sokngorn scored the winner for BK after Kirivong had gone two-nil behind on the half hour to Chukwuma Ohuruogu and Yob Romaton, then pulled the game level via In Vichheka and Ek Vannak. In the opening match, Kop Isa and Chuon Chum from the penalty spot put Naga two goals ahead at the interval, with BBU's Japanese import, Dan Ito, getting their consolation goal in time added on. In the weekly Tuesday friendly for the Cambodian national team preparing for the Suzuki Cup, the National Police team, heading for a police tournament in Vietnam, were too strong winning 3-0 at Olympic.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fully deserved

Final instructions to his team by coach David Booth (in hat)
Phnom Penh Crown coach David Booth was fairly upbeat after watching his side dominate for long periods during their 3-1 Metfone C-League success against the Army yesterday at Olympic Stadium. "We had a lot of problems this week with injuries and suspensions, so all credit to the boys. I thought we worked hard, we had quite a young team especially when we finished the game, and you tend to hope that the youngsters will put that little bit of bite and spirit into the game. We had maybe seven players who've not played regularly, so we did okay. It was hard work today as we gave away a really sloppy goal, and if we didn't give that away, we would've gone onto win the game quite comfortably. At 2-1 it kept the game tight and a little bit anxious. I thought we played some decent football around their box at times, we were on top and I think we fully deserved the win today. I was pleased for Hong Pheng. He's played a couple of games and didn't score, so it was nice for him to get a couple of goals today."
In the second C-League game played yesterday afternoon, BBU showed their fighting spirit to hold Super 4 qualifiers Preah Khan Reach to a goalless draw, though it could've been different if Pech Sina for the students had remembered his shooting boots, whilst PKR's expensive import from Vietnam, Bologun Olawale is having a torrid time in front of goal and was unable to find the net with half a dozen attempts. There are two matches this coming Wednesday, with NagaCorp facing BBU, who were without their talisman skipper Dan Ito for yesterday's encounter, and Boeung Ket meet Kirivong.
Khim Borey (7) and his team in the tunnel before the game

Khim Borey with the captain's armband

Getting ready for the handshakes

The pre-match huddle on the sidelines

The Army line-up before the start

Sunday, August 12, 2012

No-frills victory

PPCFC v Army. Back Row LtoR: Asonibe, H Pheng, Obadin, Seyha, Rady, Lika. Front: S Pheng, Chaya, Suhana, Ary, Borey. Click to enlarge.
Result: Phnom Penh Crown 3 Army 1
With suspensions and injuries wreaking havoc with his starting line-up, head coach David Booth was looking for hard graft and character from his Phnom Penh Crown team against the Army in this afternoon's Metfone C-League encounter and that's exactly what he got. In a no-frills performance, Crown started brightly enough and always held the upper hand without running away with the match, taking all three points in a 3-1 victory to remain firmly in fifth place. Suspensions ruled out Emmanuel Frimpong, Kingsley Njoku and Chan Dara whilst a dental problem sidelined keeper Samrith Seiha and leg injuries kept Tieng Tiny and Sok Sovan on the bench. Khim Borey took the captain's armband. A poor Pheak Rady backpass nearly let in Army's Meak Chhordaravuth but Vi Lika's saving tackle cleared the danger early on, whilst Sok Pheng and Khim Borey both tried their luck from distance at the other end of the pitch but to no avail. Neat, crisp one-touch passing between Henry Asonibe and Sos Suhana opened up the Army defence and as Sok Pheng moved onto the threaded pass, he was clattered by Army keeper Um Vichet with the ball running loose to Hong Pheng who rolled it into the net for Crown's opening goal on 17 minutes. Just over a minute later, Suhana cleverly hooked the ball over his own head and his pass, at the second attempt, found Pheng in space again inside the box and he finished coolly as Vichet came off his line. Two goals in as many minutes for the young Crown striker. The downside of Crown's season has been their susceptibility to concede soft goals and on 22 minutes, they did it again. Rady sliced a corner into the air, Odion Obadin missed his clearing header and Thong Udom, playing as a central striker, poked the loose ball over the goal-line. A minute later, Borey's reverse pass found Pheng in space again at the far post and this time, Vichet was equal to his powerful drive with a two-fisted save. Sok Pheng spooned a good chance over the crossbar just after the half-hour, after he latched onto a Rady long ball. And that was it for the first half action.

In the first ten minutes of the second period, Sok Pheng twice bore down on goal and twice failed to find the finish he was seeking, shooting straight at Vichet and putting the other in the open stands. A smart dink by Suhana looked to have unlocked the Army back four but he fired his drive the wrong side of the upright. Midway through the half, Borey sent a 25-yard shot skidding a foot wide and substitue Leng Makara headed a Rady cross wide when he had more time than he realised. Thong Udom had the Army's best chance of the half but fluffed his opportunity and gave Yok Ary an easy catch. Crown made their domination count eleven minutes from the end when Khim Borey rounded off a smart move with an easy six-yard finish after Asonibe and Rady had opened up the Army on the right flank. 3-1 behind and there was no way back for the military men. Makara should've made it four for Crown but his header from close range, from a pinpoint Borey cross, somehow missed the target in the closing stages.
PPCFC line-up: Ary, Rady (Srin 84), Seyha, Lika, Odion, Asonibe, Suhana, Chaya, Borey, S Pheng (Makara 62), H Pheng (Rathanak 71). Subs not used: Chamrouen, Da, Vanthan, Tiny, Sovan, Sophanal, Sothy, Sovanna. Bookings: n/a.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Big guns unimpressive

Boeung Ket cemented their spot in the Super 4 Metfone C-League play-offs with an expected win over relegated Western Uni this afternoon but they made heavy weather of it, with the students holding them to nil-nil at the interval. Friday Nwakuna was booked for simulation early on and his strike partner Chukwuma Uhuruogu had fluffed three great chances before the fifteenth minute. It looked like one of those days for the Rubbermen, though Western posed no threat at all. Four minutes after the break, Nwakuna managed to squeeze a looping cross-shot in from an impossible angle to get the goals flowing. A poor kick-out by BK's stand-in keeper Oeun Samath gave Western a guilt-edged opportunity to equalize and Pong Sambo took it with a neat flourish. Substitute Yob Romaton added some zest to a sparkless display by Boeung Ket and headed them back in front just after the hour mark. A minute later Keo Sokngorn, who was on the radio earlier in the day to deny a rumour he was quitting, which he himself had started on Facebook, floated in a third from 25 yards out. Samath was lucky to stay on the pitch after a rash challenge outside the penalty area before Romaton and Nwakuna, with a fine individual goal, settled the game and their top 4 spot in a 5-1 success.
In the second match of the day, NagaCorp looked anything but championship certainties with a stop-start first half display against revitalized Kirivong. Sun Sovannrithy should've scored after just 49 seconds and after that Naga posed little threat. Their championship hopes may've come undone when leading scorer Chuon Chum limped off the pitch after 26 minutes with a knee injury and everyone in the Naga camp will have their fingers crossed that the knock isn't a serious one. Yellow cards for Sun Sopanha, San Narith and Sovannrithy will see them miss their next game but it was Narith who popped up in acres of space to give Naga a 56th minute lead. Kirivong heads refused to drop and they got a deserved leveller with a minute left to play, when Giwa Bolaji headed powerfully in from a corner.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Frimpong slapped again

I am finding it very hard to hold my tongue with the news I've received this afternoon. Just two days before Phnom Penh Crown meet the Army (at 2.30pm on Sunday at Olympic Stadium), Crown have just received notice from the football federation that they have slapped a further 2-match ban on midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong, following his red card against Boeung Ket on 11 July. So effectively, the work coach David Booth has been doing with his team this week, with Frimpong expected to line-up on Sunday, has just gone down the pan. How the heck can the FFC conjure up another two-game suspension so long after the event? Frimpong was sent off by referee Neang Sorithya after the final whistle for words he allegedly directed at the match referee. He received a two-match ban and missed the games against Chhlam Samuth and BBU. The Ghanaian returned to action last weekend against Kirivong. Then out of the blue came the letter from the president of the match committee informing the club that Frimpong has been banished for another two matches. There is no official reason quoted for the suspension. The FFC state they have made the decision because of the "player attitude," quoting match regulations and FIFA principle. I can only assume, because they are not at all clear in their reasoning, that Frimpong must've been shown the red card for using offensive, racist, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures. But that's a guess. The FFC have failed in their most basic duty to stipulate why. And how did they allow him to re-appear last weekend before enacting a second suspension. It simply beggars belief.
Crown captain Kouch Sokumpheak visited a specialist surgeon in Ho Chi Minh City today and will go under the knife tomorrow for surgery to his knee ligament injury sustained in a challenge with Boeung Ket goalkeeper Peng Bunchhay on 11 July. It is believed the injury is to the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, and that the surgery will fix the damage. The likelihood for recovery from such a procedure/injury is six months of rehabilitation before being ready to make a return to the team. We will have to wait for the surgeon's opinion before we know for sure. Of course, we wish Sokumpheak the best of luck and a full recovery.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mickey Mouse

The Metfone C-League turned Mickey Mouse yesterday with the midweek match at Olympic Stadium. The National Police team had already qualified for the Super 4 play-offs and were playing their final match of the regular domestic season before the skip over to Vietnam to play in an Asian police tournament. Their opponents were already-relegated Chhlam Samuth. In another bizarre showing from the Police team, they fielded an under-strength team apart from their main striker, Nelson Oladiji, and effectively handed the Sea Sharks a chance of success, which they took, winning 7-6. Despite Oladiji netting four times, to take him to the top of the goalscorers chart with 18 goals, his team failed to overcome the league's perennial strugglers. In most leagues around the globe, there are rules against fielding second-string line-ups, so I would expect the Police team to be fined if it's proved they did exactly that. Unless of course, the federation don't have such a restriction.
With the league campaign winding-down and the Super 4 places and relegation issues all over bar the shouting, this weekend's fixtures should see Boeung Ket strengthen their claim on a top four finish with a win over relegated Western Uni in Saturday's opening game. Table-toppers Naga should do the same against Kirivong in the second match. Sunday's games will see Phnom Penh Crown attempt to cement fifth spot with victory over the Army, whilst BBU will need a victory against Preah Khan Reach to leapfrog over Crown and keep alive their faint hopes of a play-off placing.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Local fixture list

The 30-strong Cambodia national team squad under head coach Hok Sochetra have been meeting up three times a week, every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hour early morning sessions. Though that initial plan quickly changed when they started organizing practice matches, which have been taking place at 2pm every Tuesday at the Olympic Stadium. They've already played, and beaten Preah Khan Reach and BBU. This Tuesday they face Boeung Ket and in the following three weeks they will meet up with National Police, Preah Khan again and NagaCorp on each consecutive Tuesday. In terms of preparation, this is a continuation of the style adopted by the previous head coach, South Korean Lee Tae-Hoon, who chose to play local opponents rather than face international opposition. So far, we've been informed that the following month, when a reduced squad will be brought together for a two-week training camp at the national football center in Tonle Bati, there will be matches against the visiting Philippines national team and a touring Khmer-Europe team. The squad are then touted to be heading for an overseas training camp, Malaysia has been mooted, in the two weeks leading up to their departure for the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying group matches in Myanmar on 3 October. Presumably their schedule will be affected by the Metfone C-League play-offs, which have yet to be scheduled by the football federation, as well as the matches that Police will play in Vietnam in the Eximbank Cup, and the journey to Tajikistan that Phnom Penh Crown will make towards the end of September. I certainly would not expect Crown's build-up and preparation for the AFC President's Cup impacted in any way by players being unavailable for club training sessions in the two weeks leading up to the competition proper. So much so that I don't really see how any Crown players can be actively involved in either of the training camps being organized for the national team, as their first priority will be to Crown's cup preparations. The national squad will already be without the services of two of the country's best players, with Khuon Laboravy and Kouch Sokumpheak both suffering serious knee injuries in recent weeks and will not be available for the Suzuki Cup, even though Sochetra surprised everyone by not picking Laboravy in his initial squad.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dan the man, again

A winning hat-trick for Dan Ito, BBU's Japanese import was the highlight of their 3-1 Metfone C-League success over the Army but spare a thought for their striker Badmus Bolaji, who was stretched into an ambulance after 25 minutes of the game, with a suspected broken leg. Ito netted two penalties, after nine minutes and then five minutes from the end, with Pom Tola swinging in an equalizing corner five minutes before the second penalty. Ito topped another captain's performance with his third in injury time. Referee Sang Sopheak managed to book six players in a game that simply didn't merit it. In the later game, Western gave one of the gutsiest performances of the season against third-placed National Police and will kick themselves they didn't hold out for a goalless draw. With two minutes to go and one of their players lying injured on the edge of their own box, Western keeper Ngoy Boranoch failed to find touch with his drop-kick, allowing Police to press forward and Nelson Oladiji was pushed over in the box for a soft penalty. Nuth Sinoun made no mistake with the spot-kick for the late winner. Boranoch was inconsolable.


Tieng Tiny (4) leads out the PPCFC team v Kirivong yesterday
A day that I'd rather forget was yesterday's Phnom Penh Crown defeat against third from bottom Kirivong, who completed a 3-1 double over us, having won by the same scoreline in the first round of matches. We had a few players missing but on paper we should be better than Kirivong, but on the day we simply didn't produce an acceptable level of performance. We now have two more C-League games to go, against Army and Naga, to get us back on track ahead of the AFC President's Cup final stages in late September. We can forget our league campaign as such, and now look to get our minds focused on the massive task ahead in Tajikistan. We can only take two foreign players with us, so coach David Booth has that decision to make, as well as which squad players will be making the trip. I think we took 21 players to last year's finals in Taiwan. Another consideration are the costs involved in heading for the final stages. The AFC provide each team with a $15,000 travel subsidy to cover the cost of getting there and back, with accommodation and meals provided whilst the club are there. However, the cost of return air tickets to Tajikistan, via China or India or wherever, are exorbitant and the subsidy will not cover the total amount for the Crown squad of players and officials. The shortfall must be paid by the club themselves, and the club will only get the subsidy once the competition has been completed. I think we might need a whip-round. 
The second game played at the Olympic Stadium yesterday was a walk in the park for NagaCorp, who returned to the top of the C-League table, with a game in hand on their two nearest rivals. Their opponents Chhlam Samuth were lambs to the slaughter though it took Naga twenty-odd minutes before they troubled the scoreboard. After that it was all one-way traffic. 7-0 was the final score with Sun Sopanha's free-kick beginning the goal-rush, followed by two apiece for Teab Vathanak and Chuon Chum, and one for Kop Isa and substitute Sun Sovannrithy. The fallout from the result, Chhlam Samuth were relegated.
Pheak Rady (13) followed by the remainder of the Crown team

Time for pre-match handshakes

The smallest referee in world football, Chi Samedy with his pre-match toss

Coach David Booth reminding his players of their duties

David Booth pointing the way forwards

The Kirivong team with 2-goal In Vichheka (11)

Get a grip

Another card happy Cambodian match official
Match referee Chi Samedy felt he had no choice but to flash his yellow card twice, quickly followed by his red card, at Kingsley Njoku, the Phnom Penh Crown striker on Saturday afternoon. But of course he did have a choice. Both cards were the result of slightly mistimed challenges by the striker, which is up for debate as to whether they were deserving of a yellow card for each. Strikers often get the rough end of the deal, especially the foreign ones, from referees. Defenders can clatter into the back of the forward, clip their heels, lead with their elbow, etc for the whole duration of the match and fail to be cautioned, but if a striker is a millisecond late with his tackle, out comes the card. The outrageous cheating displayed by many opponents in feigning injury obviously doesn't help, with this now becoming a disease throughout the C-League and is totally ignored by referees. Not having played the game themselves to any suitable standard, they are easy to con and the number of times a player has gone down, howling and rolling around clutching his leg and then immediately jumped up after the referee has flashed the card, is reaching record levels without a murmur from match officials.
Whilst I'm on about the officials, Cambodian referees are the only ones on the planet as far as I know that do not allow an incoming substitute to take his place on the field before restarting the game. We regularly see players defending set pieces, leave the field to be replaced, but before the incoming player can sprint the fifty yards to get into position, the referee blows for the restart and the team making the change is penalized. It's a ridiculous situation and one the federation's refereeing officials should put right.
On the subject of the disciplinary system in C-League football, I find the rules surrounding cautions and subsequent suspensions to be particularly harsh. For example, the clubs play just 18 league matches, however, if a player receives four yellow cards, he will miss three matches. It works like this. Once a player receives two separate yellow cards, he is suspended for the next match. If that same player picks up another two yellow cards in future matches, then the next suspension is increased to two matches. So that's three games lost in a season to four yellow cards. The way the C-League referees flash the yellow cards, quite rightly referred to recently as "confetti" by Crown head coach David Booth, then clubs are severely affected by the absence of key players. I believe the number of yellow cards before a 1-match suspension is handed down should be increased to three. At this time, with two matches left to play, there are no less than nine Phnom Penh Crown players, who if they are booked in the next game, will miss the following match through suspension.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Miserable afternoon

PPCFC line-up. Back Row LtoR: Lika, Rady, Dara, Frimpong, Njoku, Tiny. Front: Suhana, Seiha, Chaya, Vanthan, Borey. Click to enlarge.
Result: Phnom Penh Crown 1 Kirivong 3
On occasions, why is watching your favourite team like poking yourself in the eye with a sharp stick? Because football is a game in which your team can look like world-beaters one week and then look like Sunday morning amateurs the next. That's the nature of the beast. And it's especially hard to swallow if your team is used to success, as it's a longer drop when things are simply not working out as you hope, and expect. Phnom Penh Crown had arguably their best ever season last year. This season, we started badly and have been playing catch-up ever since. But we haven't been quite good enough. Today for example, we had to win to keep the pressure on the clubs above us in the race for a top 4 play-off place at the season's end. We failed miserably to be honest. Crown started this afternoon's Metfone C-League game on the front foot and after Sos Nasiet got his foot in to deflect Chan Chaya's early shot, Crown took the lead on five minutes. Tieng Tiny's punt forwards saw two defenders clatter into the back of Kingsley Njoku, with the ball going over their heads and into the path of Sos Suhana, who wasted no time in dinking his chip over the head of Kirivong keeper Kun Thnou and into the empty net. So far so good for David Booth's team and Suhana had another chance two minutes later, but fired straight at the keeper. At the other end, Samrith Seiha had the start of an off-day with crosses, palming the ball to Ashola Abiding who volleyed over the bar from close-in. Soon after, Heng Kimhong's 25-yard free-kick bounced to safety after it thundered against the cross-bar before Kirivong levelled the scoreline on 25 minutes. In Vichheka used his body to turn Tieng Tiny thirty yards from goal and left the defender in his wake before finishing coolly. Four minutes later, he was johnny-on-the-spot when Seiha made a hash of catching a cross from Rada Meganed and Vichheka was left with a simple tap-in. Crown were shell-shocked and Abiding headed another deep cross wide of the upright soon after as Kirivong hit their strikers early and long. Frustration crept in and Njoku picked up a booking for a late tackle, though his impatience with referee Chi Samedy was plain for all to see. With Crown's midfield unable to function, Booth substituted Emmanuel Frimpong, back after suspension, and finished the half with five recognised strikers on the pitch.

Already behind, Crown's day went from bad to worse just seven minutes after the break. Njoku caught Touch Sokheang a little late and Samedy was lightning quick to flash a yellow and a red card to the Nigerian hitman, who trooped off the pitch and straight down the tunnel. Crown's mountain to climb had just become a lot more difficult to ascend. On the hour Hong Pheng took too long to unleash his shot and the opportunity was gone, and then Suhana scuffed his drive after a surging run by Pheak Rady. With twenty minutes to go, Seiha had to fist away a stinging shot from Ouk Thon and then made a spectacular tip over when Giwa Bolaji had time to powerfully head goalwards from Abiding's pull-back. Despite their ten men, Crown looked dangerous from Khim Borey's pinpoint corners with Chaya flashing a near post header across the face of goal. With just three minutes remaining, Souch Makara's deep cross avoided Tiny's head at the far post but Ek Sopheap was on hand to volley the ball past Seiha for the killer third goal. In time added on, Sopheap sent a dink wide of the target and Crown's Tiny couldn't force the ball in from another Borey corner as referee Samedy brought proceedings to a close.

Crown's hopes for a top 4 spot all but disappeared with this 3-1 reversal and left head coach David Booth scratching his head. "I can't understand it - it was just very poor. We started well, scored a good goal and then we went to pieces. We keep playing like this - it's not what we do in training, what we do at work, not how we plan things and it's not how we can play. Quite frankly, it's like I am wasting my time - they are not learning anything at all.
Emmanuel cannot play like that in our team. He's not marking, not supporting, not doing anything, not moving around, letting players go past him - he cannot play like that in my team. Kingsley's sending off was stupid, no need for it, just a stupid tackle. No reason to make a tackle like that. It just put us under more pressure.
It would be easy for me to turn around and say there were players missing today, we had injury and illness all week, but the players who come in and the others have got to show some work, some effort, some enthusiasm, some determination and discipline, but today everything was missing. We've worked and talked about it for two days at training. There's no excuse whatsoever." 
Crown line-up: Seiha, Rady, Vanthan (S Pheng 80), Lika, Tiny, Dara, Frimpong (H Pheng 37), Borey, Chaya, Suhana, Njoku. Subs not used: Ary, Da, Seyha, Sophanal, Asonibe, Rathanak. Bookings: Dara, Njoku (+ red card).
Crown huddle together before today's kick-off

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The dream is on

Orn Chanpolin will get to follow his dream in Saigon
Two members of the Phnom Penh Crown Academy, Orn Chanpolin and Chhuot Senteang, will line up with 48 same-age Vietnamese youngsters next week, all hoping to get selected as the best three players who will get the chance to try-out for a scholarship at the Aspire Sports Academy for Excellence in Qatar. The Aspire Football Dreams programme is exactly what it says, an opportunity for these boys to live their dream and to be part of a world-class football academy. No less than 60,000 boys aged 13-15 from Vietnam have been taking part in regional trials, alongwith around 600 youngsters in four centers in Cambodia. Chanpolin and Senteang were the best of the Khmer trialists after sessions were held in Phnom Penh, Pursat, Kompong Chhnang and Battambang. The top fifty boys will now undergo the final selection phase; an intensive three day assessment period at Thanh Long Sports Complex in Ho Chi Minh City from 6-8 August. The best three youngsters will then head for a critical month in Doha, Qatar for careful evaluation, training and development from Aspire's dedicated team of experts before their futures are decided. Amongst the coaches who will assess the boys in Saigon will be Lionel Messi's former coach, Arseni, as well as Xavier and Oscar (who also came to assess the boys in Cambodia), all from FC Barcelona. Make no mistake, Aspire are taking this very seriously. They started their unique scouting project to identify talented young footballers across the world in 2007. The boys are selected based on their physical, tactical and team integration abilities. Both Chanpolin and Senteang are fourteen years old and have been part of the Crown Elite Academy since its inception. Chanpolin hails from Phnom Penh and usually plays in midfield whilst Senteang, from Banteay Meanchey, is a striker who doubles up as a very good goalkeeper. Accompanying them to the Saigon trials will be the Crown Academy head coach Bouy Dary, who also leads the Cambodian U-14 national team.
Update: The two boys have returned home after their Aspire experience in Ho Chi Minh. They both enjoyed the opportunity to pit themselves against the 48 Vietnam youngsters but ultimately didn't qualify for the top two places that were selected to go to Qatar. Chanpolin made the final best twenty and both acquitted themselves extremely well according to Bouy Dary. Aspire are keen to expand their talent search throughout Cambodia next year and more trials will be held, which will increase the representation from Cambodia.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The final three weeks

I'm pictured with the Metfone trophy at the end of last season - Crown appear destined to miss out this term
Boeung Ket's 5-3 whipping of the current Metfone C-League leaders, Preah Khan Reach this afternoon, cemented the Kompong Cham team's position in the top 4 play-off places with the domestic league season coming to a close in just over three weeks time. At the season's close, the leading four clubs will face off in the Super 4 play-offs, on dates yet to be announced, and both of today's protagonists look likely to make it, leaving last season's champions, Phnom Penh Crown looking on and out of contention in fifth place. It's not a done deal just yet, but with remaining matches dwindling fast, time is running out for the AFC President's Cup finalists. Preah Khan Reach are in pole position with 32 points and two matches left to play, against BBU and Army. Naga are lying second with four games remaining, currently on thirty points, and are scheduled to meet Chhlam Samuth, Kirivong, BBU and Crown. Also on 30 points are National Police, who must play Western Uni and Chhlam Samuth to finish their league campaign before heading off to play in the Eximbank Cup in Vietnam in two weeks time. Boeung Ket are in 4th on 27 points and have three easy games to finish, against Westerm, Kirivong and Chhlam Samuth. Meanwhile, Phnom Penh Crown are in fifth spot on 23 points and must still play Kirivong, Army and Naga. Only three victories will give the defending champions a chance of clawing back lost ground, but for them to make the play-offs then one of the current top four teams would have to suffer a dramatic meltdown and lose their remaining games. On current form and looking at their remaining opponents, that doesn't look likely to happen. With the Police team involved in Vietnam, the federation have not yet decided exactly when the play-off matches will be held, having re-introduced the Super 4 decider this season. In this afternoon's match, Preah Khan took a 2-1 half-time lead through David Njoku's penalty and Phany Ratha, with Friday Nwakuna netting for Boeung Ket. Ly Ravy levelled it before Soun Veasna put PKR ahead again from the penalty spot. That simply spurred Boeung Ket on as PKR rolled over and three goals in six minutes late in the game sealed the 5-3 win, with Nwakuna, Oum Kumpheak and Keo Sokngorn scoring. It was a pitiful showing by the league leaders. In two other matches, the Cambodia national team have started their warm-up games for their AFF Suzuki Cup campaign with two wins over C-League teams, Preah Khan 5-3 and BBU 4-3 in recent days.