Thursday, January 31, 2013

Marching on

A satisfied PPCFC skipper Khim Borey at the end of today's epic cup tie

The PPCFC starting XI. Back Row, LtoR: Boris, Pheng, Seiha, Thierry, Srin, Lika. Front: Dani, Da, Suhana, Makara, Borey

Two cup wins in 48 hours and two major scalps for the victorious Phnom Penh Crown team. Progress in this season's Hun Sen Cup competition has pitted them against the cup holders Preah Khan Reach and the league champions Boeung Ket. And on both occasions, Crown have come out on top. Quite an achievement for young coach Sam Schweingruber and his even younger set of players. But they haven't won anything yet and now face the Army in the semi-final at the Olympic Stadium on Friday 8 Feb, KO 2pm. Now back to this afternoon's match. Boeung Ket were talking up their chances and played the bullshit card over an injury to their skipper Keo Sokngon. One minute he was out for a month, the next he was wearing the captain's armband. You can't believe a word they say. Crown didn't fall for it and with an unchanged starting line-up from their 4-3 success over PKR 48 hours earlier, Schweingruber's men were determined to do well. The first foray into Boeung Ket territory saw Khim Borey race away on the left and his near post cross was inches away from Leng Makara as the Rubbermen's keeper Peng Bunchhay came out bravely. The 13th minute was unlucky for Sos Suhana as he skated free, racing onto Borey's intelligent pass, rounding Bunchhay as he left his area but found the angle too wide and the recovering Thul Sothearith blocked his shot. Boeung Ket's Sokngon saw his 20-yard effort pounced on by Samrith Seiha in the Crown goal and soon after, the Rubbermen's skipper failed to get a decisive touch to Chan Vathanaka's low cross. With Crown down to ten-men with Kok Boris receiving attention for a gashed knee, Vathanaka escaped his marker but sent his first-time touch well over the bar. Then five minutes before the half-time interval, Crown took the lead. A wayward clearance was headed on by Boris to Sos Suhana, who left three defenders on the floor in the penalty box and powered his dipping shot over Bunchhay's head and into the far corner with a piece of individual magic. Vathanaka went close with two minutes of the half remaining, when Seiha missed his punch but Thourng Da was on hand to turn the effort from Boeung Ket's leading scorer away for a corner.

Borey opened the second half with a powerful but wayward 35-yard effort on goal. Five minutes in and Keo Sokpheng's looping header was finger-tipped over the cross-bar by a back-pedalling Seiha. Borey continued to harass the Boeung Ket back-line and his half-volley sailed wide before Khiev Vibol's last-ditch tackle saved the day as the Crown skipper weaved his way into the area. Next it was Suhana who powered his way past two defenders before a reckless tackle by Sothearith was fortunate to only get a yellow card from match referee Thong Chankethya. Seiha was alive to Vibol's long-range grass-cutter though Yob Romaton will feel he should've done better when Keo Sokpheng's cross eluded everyone. In the dying minutes, Touch Pancharong escaped a second yellow for a clatter into the back of Borey but with thirty seconds of normal time to go, he kicked Makara and even Chankethya had no option but to flash a yellow, quickly followed by a red card. The referee, of course, added on an extra five minutes and in the fourth of them Savy Setsoudy poked the ball past Seiha only to turn and see the linesman's flag raised for offside. It was the last action of a hard-fought quarter-final, bereft of many real clear-cut chances but a fascinating battle amongst two of the capital's heavyweights and won by the resurgent Crown.
PPCFC line-up: Seiha, Da, Dani, Lika, Srin, Boris, Thierry (Seyha 94), Suhana (Sothy 86), Pheng (Hasan 73), Makara, Borey. Subs not used: Ary, Chamrouen, Kano, Dara, Morslim, Pisa. Bookings: Pheng, Boris. MOTM: Srin.
The Rubbermen. Back Row: Bunchhay. Vathanaka, Romaton, Ravy, Sothearith, Sokngon. Front: Rithy, Sokpheng, Kumpheak, Pancharong, Vibol

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A view from pitchside

Khim Borey (7) leads out PPCFC
Pictures from Phnom Penh Crown's 4-3 Hun Sen Cup success against old foes Preah Khan Reach, played at Olympic Stadium yesterday afternoon.
Captains Khim Borey and Tum Saray (red) shake hands

Physio Lidwina Niewold tends to Samrith Seiha's injured neck and shoulder

Coach Sam Schweingruber getting across his half-time instructions

Time to face the press for Sam Schweingruber, the PPCFC coach

The Preah Khan Reach starting line-up was at full strength

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Crown surge on

PPCFC v PKR. Back Row LtoR: Pheng, Da, Boris, Srin, Thierry, Lika. Front: Dani, Suhana, Seiha, Makara, Borey - click to enlarge
The Phnom Penh Crown senior team repeated what the Academy team had managed two days before and put Preah Khan Reach to the sword in this afternoon's Hun Sen Cup Group D decider, winning 4-3, though they'd led 4-0 with twenty minutes left on the clock and had to calm their own nerves before being able to celebrate progress to the quarter-finals. Crown began the game slowly and allowed PKR too much room to operate. On 19 minutes a Prak Mony Udom free-kick found the head of Khuon Laboravy but Samrith Seiha in the Crown goal pulled out a superb one-handed stop on the line to keep his goal intact. A few minutes later the Crown stopper came off second best in a collision with Laboravy and received six minutes of treatment on a neck and shoulder injury from physio Lidwina Niewold, whose entry onto the field of play drew applause from the sizeable Olympic crowd. With Crown starting to exploit PKR's flanks, a defence-splitting Kok Boris pass sent Sos Suhana scampering away and though Sar Sophea saved his low drive, skipper Khim Borey was on hand to slot the rebound home to give Crown a 35th minute lead. Six minutes later and Crown caught PKR cold again. Another Boris pass released Hong Pheng who skated past his marker, won a tackle with the onrushing Sophea and kept his cool to lob in an expertly-taken second goal for Crown from the left-hand edge of the penalty area. Laboravy sent another header skidding past the foot of the far post before Crown saw out the six minutes of additional time with ten-men after Boris left the field with a gashed knee.

PKR made two changes at half-time, whilst Crown replaced keeper Seiha with Yok Ary in the second minute after the restart as a precaution. Crown quickly picked up where they'd left off, catching the PKR defence in disarray time and again. Leng Makara sent a drive against the cross-bar before Borey was again on target for a second time, six minutes into the half. Bin Thierry fed Suhana, whose shot hit Thierry's legs and fell kindly into the path of Borey who made no mistake from eight yards. It was the skipper's 7th goal of the season. On 58 minutes, Thierry released Borey wide on the left and his inch-perfect square pass allowed Suhana to slot in Crown's fourth with ease. A textbook counter-attack goal. Chances continued to pile up for a rampant Crown though their finishing quality failed to match their build-up play. Suhana was played in by Makara but dragged his shot across the face of goal. Borey raced onto an arrowed Ary drop-kick but whacked his drive over the top. Less than a minute later, Borey set up Suhana and with time on his side, he lobbed the keeper but also cleared the cross-bar, when it seemed a goal was a certainty.

Referee Tuy Vichheka offered PKR a lifeline with twenty minutes remaining. He deemed Ary spent too long holding onto the ball and Udom's indirect free-kick sailed into the corner from sixteen yards out. Suhana again fluffed his lines when set up by Borey, firing against the post and then thumping the rebound high and wide. The same player did it again moments later, with Borey again the provider. He made it a hat-trick of failures in the space of ten minutes when Ouk Sothy put him in but he aimed straight at Sophea. With five minutes to go, Sothy's acrobatic attempt to clear saw the ball strike his hand and Vichheka gleefully pointed to the spot. Udom slotted in the penalty kick to spark PKR's interest. A minute from time, Sok Chanraksmey's right-wing cross eluded Ary's flailing punch and Laboravy tucked the ball home at the far post to add even more jitters to the Crown back-line. With the final kick of the game, Sothy stole into the PKR box but finished weakly as Crown celebrated a win over the reigning cup holders that had looked a done deal until the closing stages.

Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber's comments reflected that; "I'm disappointed with how we were not able to keep possession, we had hardly any spells of keeping the ball, so we had to work hard without the ball. A lot of positives to take out of the game but then obviously disappointed with the final result, the 3 goals we conceded and missing the chance to be first in the pool." Crown meet in-form Boeung Ket in Thursday's Quarter-Finals at the Army Stadium (KO 2pm) with the coach declaring; "Our real challenge is waiting for us on Thursday, with only a day to prepare, which is to our disadvantage with our squad short on experience and as Boeung Ket played their 2nd string today. They will be fresher. Boeung Ket go into the game as clear favourites. But nothing is impossible, so we will try to make it happen." AEU finished top of Group D with a 7-1 win over Porsenchey, leaving PKR forlorn in third place and unable to defend their position as cup winners for the past two seasons.
PPCFC v PKR: Seiha (Ary 47), Da, Dani, Lika, Srin, Boris (Sothy 56), Thierry (Pisa 69), Suhana, Makara, Pheng, Borey. Subs not used: Seyha, Kano, Dara, Hasan, Morslim, Kano. Bookings: None. MOTM: Borey

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Crown put PKR to the sword

Academy line-up. Back Row LtoR: Baraing, Senteang, S Samnang, Titchhy, Sovann, Chanpolin. Front: Muslim, Chansopheak, T Chhaya, Piphop, Sodavid - click to enlarge
In front of a few hundred spectators at the Olympic Stadium this afternoon, the Phnom Penh Crown Academy put their old foe, Preah Khan Reach, to the sword with a deserved 1-0 victory. Not only did Crown score the only goal of the game against their opponents who were two years older, but Academy keeper Svang Samnang had his easiest match for a long while. He didn't have a shot to save. The sides are always evenly matched when they meet with PKR holding the advantage in previous meetings. But that table was turned in late December when Crown beat them 1-0 on their own RSN turf and with the same result again this afternoon, the advantage has switched to Crown. The game's only goal arrived on 7 minutes and what a goal it was. In Sodavid headed a pass to Seut Baraing in space 35-yards from goal and he let fly with a scorcher of a drive that sailed into the far top corner. Good enough to win any game, and so it proved. Crown held the upper hand throughout the opening 35 minutes. An Ouk Sovann free-kick from distance was fumbled aside by the PKR keeper and Yeu Muslim somehow lobbed an angled shot onto the cross-bar. The final action of the half came as Chhuot Senteang sent a dipping 20-yard half-volley over the top. 1-0 to Crown and in the driving seat. The second half was a closer affair with PKR finding the Crown defence in stubborn mood, and determined not to relinquish their lead. As Crown coach Bouy Dary was forced into half a dozen changes, PKR applied more pressure but still didn't get a clear sight of goal and their attacks petered out against a solid back-line. Even six minutes of injury time didn't help their cause. The Academy hands went aloft at the final whistle, another win over their old foe and though chances were at a premium throughout, the large crowd murmured their approval of Crown's success. A job well done.
PPCFC Academy line-up: S Samnang, Piphop, Baraing (Ponvuthy), Sovann, Titchhy (Neout), Chanpolin (Rozak), T Chhaya (V Samnang), Sodavid, Muslim (Nuron), Chansopheak (Phearath), Senteang.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Boring Sunday

BBU line-up on Sunday for their 0-0 draw

PKR drew with BBU before they head off to Malaysia for their FACup exploits
Let's take a look at the weekend of domestic Cambodian football, Round 2 of the Metfone C-League. As I've already reported, Phnom Penh Crown drew 1-1 with the National Police Commissary at the Army Stadium on Saturday. Honours even. Also on Saturday, the Army's Phoung Soksana gave them an early lead against Naga Corp at the Olympic Stadium, only for Prak Chanratana to level the game before the hour, and that's how its stayed. In the later kick-off, Boeung Ket walloped the whipping boys of the league, Senate, hitting ten without reply until Senate's Ry Phearun grabbed a single consolation in time added on. Chukwuma Ohuruogu opened up the game with a quick-fire brace and Yob Romaton gave the Rubbermen a three-goal interval lead. After that Senate operated an open-door policy allowing last season's champs to run riot through Keo Sokpheng, Chan Vathanaka and for Bisan George to go to town, netting five in the final half-hour. Senate's defending would've embarrassed their own mothers. On Sunday, the defending wasn't so bad, but the matches themselves were as dull as dishwater. Probably the poorest set of games I've had the misfortune to witness, one after the other. Preah Khan Reach and BBU bored themselves to death with a goal-less draw in the opener at Olympic. Neither team was ever going to score. PKR's two new foreigners were Japanese midfielder Shota Nakagawa, who was forgettable and replaced by portly Vietnamese Huynh Thanh who looked match rusty but had some touches. For BBU, they've loaned defender Daniel Omachoko from Boeung Ket and signed Olugbami Adewale from Chhlam Samuth. Not one player stood out. In match number two, Kirivong managed to squeeze a 1-0 win over AEU, who didn't play as well as they have in the Hun Sen Cup. The goal came five minutes after half-time when Nhem Sovannara half-volleyed a drive into the roof of the net. Not bad for a defender. AEU have been busy with two foreign arrivals in Busayo Adekunjo and Sankara Esua, whilst monied Kirivong added defender Giwa Bolaji to Friday Nwakuna and David Njoku in their starting line-up. A disappointing Sunday afternoon.
Kirivong managed to scrape a 1-0 win over AEU

AEU added two new foreigners but were less competitive than before

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Match-day views

Khim Borey leads out the PPCFC team before the game
Here are some more photos from yesterday's Phnom Penh Crown 1-1 draw with National Police at the Army Stadium. A frustrating afternoon as Crown couldn't turn their dominance into a second win of the season.
The National Police starting line-up

The two captains, Say Piseth and Borey shake before the match begins

A close look at Sam Schweingruber's half-time team talk

Kouch Sokumpheak (yellow) joins in the pre-match warm-up

Samrith Seiha stretches for a save in a pre-match warm-up routine

PPCFC's Borey (7) shakes hands with Police's Noun Borey (10) who was later sent off

Lidwina Niewold treats Kok Boris after the game. Lidwina became the 1st female physio in C-League history yesterday.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Frustration rules

PPCFC v Nat Police. Back LtoR: Pheng, Boris, Thierry, Srin, Hasan, Borey. Front. Suhana, Sothy, Dani, Seiha, Da - click to enlarge
Phnom Penh Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber was a frustrated man at the end of his team's 1-1 draw wit National Police at the Army Stadium this afternoon. He couldn't hide it. "For 40 minutes of the 1st half we were in charge and dominating. We should have won this game quite comfortably. But it didn't go our way. Then 2 or 3 players were asleep and after 36 seconds (of the 2nd half) we were 1-zero down. But when we equalised I thought we would still go onto win with our quality and energy. They were tired and were wasting time, but it just didn't happen. It's frustrating." Unable to field his two latest foreign acquisitions and with another 4 players on the sick-list, Schweingruber will have been pleased with much of his team's approach to the first-half against an opposition that finished 4th last term. On twelve minutes a diving Khim Borey header from a Sos Suhana cross fizzed just wide of the upright and signalled Crown's attacking intent for the rest of the half. A few minutes later and Borey opened up the Police defence on the left wing but Hong Pheng failed to get a decisive touch inside the six yard box to the inch-perfect center. Bin Thierry curled a free-kick into the side netting and a minute before the half-hour Borey was again in the thick of the action. Ouk Sothy released his skipper on the left and his arrowed cross was somehow turned over his own cross-bar by Sob Ravy when an own-goal looked more likely. Forty seconds later and a training ground move nearly paid dividends. Thierry's corner-kick found Suhana on the edge of the box but his first-time drive through a forest of legs found Police's Japanese keeper Yasuyuki Yoshida in the right place and he saved on his line. A couple of minutes later and whirlwind Borey robbed Ravy of the ball twenty yards out but his ferocious drive was a few feet too high. On 37 minutes, Borey's one-two with Pheng put the young striker in on goal but Yoshida got a hand to his angled shot and deflected the danger for a corner. Soon after, tricky work from Kouch Dani allowed Pheng to feed Suhana but his drive from the edge of the box went straight into the keeper's arms. A booking for Dani ended a frustrating half for Crown who couldn't turn their superiority into reward.

With Crown still rubbing the sleep from their eyes, a quick break on the left allowed Takahito Ota in behind the defence and his pull-back from the bye-line was finished off by an all-alone Noun Borey. It was a kick in the teeth for Crown, just 36 seconds into the 2nd half. Crown stopper Samrith Seiha needed to be at his alert best on the hour to deny Police a second when Srey Udom escaped his marker only to find the keeper in the right place to save his point-blank strike. A minute later and Suhana set up Borey at the other end but he screwed his shot across the face of goal and wide. Dani then fired a 25-yard drive straight at Yoshida before Crown grabbed the equaliser their efforts deserved. On 63 minutes, Pheng won the ball and fed substitute Leng Makara who cut inside and passed to Borey, and he neatly set up Suhana for an accurate low drive from the edge of the box that nestled in the corner of the net. All-square at 1-1. However, the expected pressure for the winner from Crown never really materialized as Police used their spoiling tactics to kill time. A Sothy effort went straight to Yoshida and then with five minutes remaining, Borey raced onto a loose ball and a goal looked a certainty. The last touch from Say Piseth's header as he collided with his keeper presented Borey with the ball but he was too wide for a first-time finish and as he shaped to shoot his effort was blocked and the chance gone. It was definitely not Khim Borey's day. In the third minute of time added on, Police's Noun Borey led with his elbow as he challenged Thierry for a bouncing ball and was shown a straight red card. It was a nailed-on dismissal yet Borey still took two minutes to leave the pitch before referee Lim Bunthoeurn blew for full-time, increasing Crown's frustrating afternoon. Lidwina Niewold's arrival on the pitch to treat Thierry's injury at the end of the game was a small footnote in history, as the first-ever female physio to participate in a C-League match.
PPCFC v Nat Police: Seiha, Da, Dani, Boris, Srin, Sothy, Thierry, Hasan (Makara 55), Pheng (Morslim 79), Suhana, Borey. Subs not used: Ary, Chamrouen, Dara, Lika, Dary, Pisa, Kano. Booking: Dani. MOTM: Borey.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Welcome imports

Odion Obadin (left) and Nelson Oladiji
Phnom Penh Crown's two foreign players for the coming Metfone C-League season are Odion Obadin, who spent the last two seasons with the club, and Nelson Oladiji, who was National Police's top scorer last term. Both will be available to play when the C-League resumes after the cremation of the King Father.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Obadin is back

Coach Sam Schweingruber welcomes Odion Obadin to the Crown ranks
A familiar face is back in the Phnom Penh Crown squad, with central defender Odion Obadin re-joining the club earlier today. Obadin spent the last two seasons with Crown before coming to the end of his contract and spending some time in Myanmar looking for a club, before returning to Phnom Penh and being welcomed back into the Crown fold by new head coach Sam Schweingruber. The 24-year old was a popular member of Crown's C-League title winning team in 2011, which also lost out narrowly in the AFC President's Cup final. Touted as the best defender in the league, Obadin and the rest of the Crown team endured a less-than-successful campaign last time around and he'll be looking to put that behind him under the new coach. Born in Lagos, the Nigerian stopper played his football with Pero, Heart of Lions, and Shooting Stars in his home country before joining Gombak United in the Singapore League. He made the move to Cambodia originally joining Crown in November 2010, and will be the club's second foreign player, with Nelson Oladiji, for the coming season. Also joining him in the PPCFC squad will be another defender, Leng Narin. A Phnom Penh native, Narin (27)  joined the Ministry of National Defense team as a teenager and spent his whole time with the Army before leaving them in 2011. During his spell, Army won the Hun Sen Cup in 2010 and were CPL runners-up in 2007 and 2008. Narin also played for Santhormuk High School, winning the schools provincial cup competition. More recently he has been working on Koh Rong island before joining Crown after a successful trial.
Defender Leng Narin, formerly with the Army team

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Goals and surprises

Plucky AEU had no answer to Boeung Ket, losing 5-1
The Metfone Cambodian League got underway yesterday with Phnom Penh Crown defeating BBU 2-1, Naga Corp smashing Senate 6-1 and the National Police walking over the Army, after the game was abandoned with ten or so minutes to go. This afternoon, saw no less than 14 goals in just two matches, with Preah Khan Reach puncturing the Kirivong money-fuelled bubble with a 5-3 win, and Boeung Ket starting their C-League title defense by snuffing out the upstarts from Asia Euro University 5-1. Back to Saturday's games. At the Olympic Stadium in the opening game of the new campaign, the Army got all upset when National Police were allowed to score what they saw as a blatantly offside goal and refused to carry on, being behind 2-0 on 72 minutes. Referee Thong Chankethya, yes, the referee I talk about each season as courting controversy like most people eat rice, called time on the game, which is likely to go to Police as a 5-0 win and a fine in the offing for the Army. It happens every season and until the FFC takes strong action against the clubs responsible, it will happen again. Police can't complain as they were the last team to do it a year ago. Sob Ravy and Srey Udom netted for Police. In the second game at Olympic, Naga dispensed easily with Senate 6-1, with the goals shared between Choun Chum, Kop Isa, Teab Vathanak, Prak Chanratana, Pen Stephane and an own goal by Sun Menghoth, while Ron Chibola scored for Senate, who had their keeper, Mak Theara dismissed on 70 minutes. The 2-1 win for Phnom Penh Crown over BBU at the Army Stadium has been dissected elsewhere.

And now to today's games. Kirivong took to the field with their pockets bulging with cash but failed to take into account Preah Khan Reach's youthful enthusiasm and their ability to unlock a static defence. Phany Rotha's opening blast from 30-yards on 7 minutes was the signal for a feast of goals and near misses. A few minutes later Sok Rithy's clearance rebounded into his own net off Rotha though David Njoku claimed a final touch. That was the cue for Sok Chanraksmey to let rip with two goals in two minutes, the first a header, and then Tum Saray curled in a corker moments later. Friday Nwakuna, who will be Kirivong's main man this season after his Golden Boot capture last year with Boeung Ket, stooped low to head in on the half hour and claimed a second with a penalty two minutes from the end of the game. By that time it was all over bar the shouting after Nen Sothearoth had curled a beauty past Hem Simay five minutes into the second half for PKR's fifth. The final score, 5-3 to the Military Police-backed team. Kirivong included two new faces from PPCFC, namely Sok Pheng and Chan Chaya in their starting eleven. In the second match, Asia Euro University came off the back of a couple of good results in the Hun Sen Cup but found their luck was out against last season's champions, Boeung Ket. Chan Vathanaka's free-kick found its way through a mass of players to nestle in the corner on eight minutes and Keo Sokngon's mis-hit shot was tapped in by Bisan George on 37 minutes to give the Rubbermen a two-goal half-time lead. Sary Matnorothin's 25-yard screamer whacked against the Boeung Ket cross-bar early in the 2nd half but it was all over when George rounded the keeper for his second strike. AEU sparked briefly when Ear Piroth bent down to head in after Thon Darapich had struck the bar, but Sokngon wrapped up the 5-1 win with two goals later on. 
Youthful enthusiasm won the day for PKR v Kirivong, winning 5-3

No joy for Kirivong on the opening day of the new season, losing 5-3

Boeung Ket were too much for AEU's students, winning 5-1

A brace for Muslim

The Academy starting XI. Back LtoR: Chanpolin, Sodavid, Piphop, S Samnang, Baraing, Sovan. Front: Noeut, Chansopheak, Muslim, Rozak, Senteang
The U-15s of Prek Kdam, a mainly Muslim community 35kms north of Phnom Penh, acted as the Phnom Penh Crown Academy's hosts this morning for a friendly encounter on what can only be described as a bumpy and uneven surface. The match attracted a handful of spectators as Crown's neat passing football was a challenge on this standard of pitch. On 23 minutes Orn Chanpolin was felled in the box, but Ouk Sovann's penalty kick was well saved by the Prek Kdam keeper, who had a storming game throughout. Chhuot Senteang turned on a sixpence and smashed a half volley onto the crossbar and was then denied by another brave save by the stopper. It was all level at the break. Ten minutes into the second half and Crown took the lead as Senteang mis-kicked a Ken Chansopheak center but Yeu Muslim was on hand at the far post to force the ball over the line. Seven minutes later Prek Kdam equalised on the breakaway. Undeterred, Crown stormed back and Muslim floated a gorgeous shot over the keeper's head to restore their lead on 70 minutes. With five minutes to go, Vat Samnang took aim from 30 yards out with a free-kick and it sailed into the top corner. A real humdinger of a shot. Three minutes later and Samnang turned provider for Pov Ponvuthy to sidefoot home Crown's fourth and final goal. A deserved success and another pleasurable visit to the provinces by the Academy team.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Crown underway in CPL

PPCFC v BBU. Back LtoR: Seyha, Srin, Thierry, Boris, Pheng, Lika. Front: Makara, Suhana, Seiha, Dani, Borey - click to enlarge
Head coach Sam Schweingruber opened up his Metfone C-League campaign with a first game against Build Bright and a first win. Phnom Penh Crown began their 2013 CPL season with a 2-1 victory over BBU at the Army Stadium this afternoon. Crown skipper Khim Borey led from the front, scoring both Crown goals in the 1st half, with Phlong Chanthou grabbing the BBU response. Schweingruber had praise for his captain. "In particular, Borey had an outstanding game, not just because he scored two goals, his contribution in holding up the ball, slowing the game down, bringing in other players was a very big importance for us today." Crown kicked-off their league campaign and settled in quickly with Bin Thierry taking aim from 25-yards out with a free-kick that struck the wall, after Kok Boris was felled as he ran through. The opening goal arrived on 14 minutes when Crown keeper Samrith Seiha sent a drop-kick deep into BBU territory and as it bounced, Rim Bunhieng attempted to nod it back to his keeper but failed to see the lurking Khim Borey, who touched the ball over the BBU stopper, Sos Proshim, and into the gaping net. BBU responded quickly and were level within two minutes. Crown conceded a needless free-kick 20-yards from goal and Chhun Sothearath's well-aimed delivery was headed in by new signing Phlong Chanthou, who outjumped Vi Lika eight yards out. Men Seyha ventured forward on the left flank and delivered a telling cross into the six yard box which Bunhieng cleared after his keeper missed the center and moments later, Crown grabbed their second goal of the match. With 25 minutes on the clock, Kouch Dani beat his man with a touch of his trademark trickery and fed Borey, who sped away from his marker, rounded the rushing Proshim and rolled in his second goal. Play ebbed and flowed after that with neither team creating chances until a minute of the first-half to go, when Seiha dropped a high cross and was relieved to collect Chanthou's snap shot from the edge of the box.

BBU's Bunhieng headed a free-kick straight at Seiha as the 2nd half got underway, with BBU pressing and Crown drawing back into a more defensive mode. Schweingruber brought on fresh legs in the shape of Mart Hasan and Ouk Sothy with Crown finding the going tough just 48 hours after their Hun Sen Cup tie, as BBU's Rum Rany leaned back and fired well over from the edge of the area. Hasan's aim was off with a fifteen yard drive after Sos Suhana had set up his teammate with a smart lay-off. A minute late, Rany was again off target after he cut inside and let loose with his drive. Crown brought on assistant coach Bouy Dary for his first CPL game in six years, using his experience and nous to help close the game out. In the closing stages, Borey looked lively as he cut inside and screwed a shot past the near post and with two minutes to go, failed by a whisker to get on the end of Suhana's low cross as Proshim came out bravely to deny him. For Schweingruber, the result was all-important. "The two halves were completely different but for good reasons. We played 2 days ago, whilst BBU last played 10 days ago - that's a completely different story. I could see my players expressions change after 40 minutes. They were all tired at the break. If we had tried to play our usual game in the 2nd half, we would've run into counter-attacks and been outclassed by their energy. In the end we made the right decision to stay back and rely on our own counter-attacks. And they never really got close except from free-kicks, where we looked a little vulnerable - we clearly have some work to do. In the 1st half we looked good at times, we looked sharp and we had improved from the previous game, especially our ball retention. We stuck to our game plan and the players did well to translate that onto the field today."
PPCFC v BBU: Seiha, Dani, Seyha, Srin, Lika, Boris (Sothy 67), Thierry, Suhana, Pheng (Hasan 55), Makara (Dary 81), Borey. Subs not used: Ary, Chamrouen, Da, Dara, Phearun, Kano, Pisa, Morslim. Bookings: Makara, Thierry. MOTM: Borey.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Nelson takes center stage

PPCFC's new arrival - Nelson Oladiji, in BBU colours

Nelson with Crown coach Sam Schweingruber earlier today

The day before Phnom Penh Crown begin their 2013 Metfone C-League campaign against Build Bright United, the club have added prolific striker Nelson Oladiji to their ranks, though the 21-year-old Nigerian hitman won't be available until next week. Last season Oladiji was neck and neck with Nwakuna Friday for the Golden Boot award in the C-League, only losing out to the Boeung Ket top scorer at the death. He finished the season with 19 goals for his team National Police Commissary who finished the season in 4th spot. Born in Lagos, the Nigerian capital, his early football in his home country with Bosco FC and Bliss FC preceded his arrival in Phnom Penh for the 2009 season when he joined Khemara Keila, playing up front with PPCFC's Kouch Sokumpheak. The following season he spent with BBU, then a year with Kirivong netting 13 goals before last season's antics with National Police. He had a great year with Police last term and will be hoping to repeat his goalscoring prowess in a Crown jersey this season.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Crown held by AEU

Crown v AEU. Back LtoR: Srin, Thierry, Seiha, Pheng, Rady, Boris. Front: Sothy, Dani, Suhana, Da, Borey - click to enlarge
With a full strength team, Phnom Penh Crown began their second Hun Sen Cup Group D game, with Asia Euro University at Olympic Stadium, slowly and AEU's Moun Nara missed his kick in front of goal that would've given the students a 9th minute lead. A knee injury to Pheak Rady left Crown depleted in defence and Nara made no mistake a second time, weaving his way past Thourng Da and into the box, before rolling his measured shot wide of Samrith Seiha in the 17th minute. Crown responded with Sos Suhana shooting low into the hands of AEU keeper Um Sereyrath. With Crown pressing for the leveller, a Khim Borey shot was fumbled by Sereyrath, who gathered at the 2nd attempt as Suhana closed in. Bin Thierry was next to test the keeper with a 25-yard effort and then Suhana rolled an inviting ball across the face of the AEU goal but no-one was on hand to capitalise. Just after the half hour, Kouch Dani's left-wing cross was bundled in by Borey, only for the referee to wipe out the goal for a foul on the AEU keeper. With two minutes of the first-half remaining, Thierry curled a 25-yard free-kick over the wall which Sereyrath failed to collect cleanly and Borey tucked in the rebound for the equaliser.

Crown went gunning for a second goal immediately after the restart. Thierry volleyed a half chance over the top and Hong Pheng fired a a low drive into the keeper's hands from the edge of the box. AEU offered a brief spell of resistance with Suey Visal heading wide from a free-kick and Serey Matnorothin sending his drive wide after Vi Lika lost possession. Pheng broke menacingly into the box but blasted his drive high and wide, while Borey's shot on the turn was pushed around the post by a diving Sereyrath. With Dani providing width on the left with his constant overlaps, Borey touched one of his crosses into the path of Ouk Sothy, but his effort lacked power to trouble Sereyrath. As time ebbed away, Suhana volleyed well wide of the target with two minutes left on the clock. In the third minute of time added on, Thorn Darapich broke through two tackles and let fly from 20 yards, which brought out a flying save from Crown keeper Seiha, as well as the referee's final whistle.

Honours even but Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber was far from happy. "We started off extremely nervous and we were too slow to organise from the injury to Rady and that mistake cost us the goal. We made too many mistakes, too many of our players lost the ball or slowed the game down, and we struggled to keep simple possession. We had a few exciting situations where we played the football I want to see but most of the game was frustrating, especially with giving possession away too easily. A draw was a fair result, we were more often in their face but we didn't create enough, we were indecisive in front of goal, we gave away too much ball and if we defend like this, we will be made to pay for it." The draw leaves the Group D finely balanced with Preah Khan beating Porsenchey 4-0. Crown need a draw from their final group match with PKR on 24 Jan to progress to the next round.
PPCFC v AEU: Seiha, Da, Dani, Srin, Rady (Lika 18), Sothy, Boris (Hasan 60), Thierry, Suhana, Pheng (Makara 77), Borey. Subs not used: Ary, Chamrouen, Dara, Seyha, Morslim, Kano, Phearun, Pisa. Bookings: Thierry, Lika. MOTM: Dani.

Khim Borey leads out the Crown team followed by Samrith Seiha and Sos Suhana

Khim Borey shaking hands with AEU skipper Sun Sovanratha
Feeling the cold - ice baths after the game for Thourng Da and Bin Thierry (right)

The AEU line-up that beat PKR 3-1 and Drew -1 with PPCFC

Monday, January 7, 2013

Work in progress

Bin Thierry before his Cambodia debut against Ulsan University
There has long been clamouring by Cambodian football fans that they wanted to see overseas Cambodians given the opportunity to play for the national team. There was a general consensus that they must be better than home-based players, simply because they played abroad, which isn't necessarily the case of course. Under new head coach Prak Sovannara that dream has become a reality for three players in the two recent friendly matches against Ulsan University. So how did they fare? Not too well, if Sovannara's substitutions are anything to measure them by. I've yet to ask the coach what his thoughts are but let's look at the two matches and see for ourselves. PPCFC's Bin Thierry was selected as the lone striker in the first friendly match on Friday. Firstly, it's not a position that suits his style of play, in addition, he was just back to full-time training after injury, so he looked short of match practice, and was starved of the ball, and found himself being replaced at the half-time interval. Not exactly an auspicious start for the French-Khmer player, who was as proud as punch to be selected to represent his country. In the second meeting on Sunday, both Kouch Dani and Kem Alex got the call-up. Dani, from PPCFC as well, was positioned wide on the right and with most of the early play taking place on the left flank or down the middle, he saw very little action. So he was as surprised as anyone when his number was held up after just 24 minutes and his national team debut came to an abrupt end. It was a strange decision by the head coach and left the French-Khmer player looking equally perplexed. As for Alex, his first game lasted just 32 minutes before he too, was removed from the field of play. The American-Khmer player found the going tough in the middle of midfield, was often off the pace, his touch was wayward and the substitution, to be frank, wasn't unexpected. Cambodia lost both matches to Ulsan University 1-nil and we'll have to wait and see if Sovannara includes any of the three players in his final squad for the AFC Challenge Cup. The experiment wasn't the rip-roaring success from the outset that many had hoped for, judging by Sovannara's tactical reactions, but it's still early days and the squad have more training sessions ahead of them before the coach has to announce his final selection. The bubble hasn't quite burst but it's a little deflated right now.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Same same

Samrith Seiha - man of the match by a country mile
How disappointing that nothing really changed for the Cambodian national team in this afternoon's second friendly match in three days. The result against the students from the South Korean university, Ulsan, a 1-0 reversal, was the same, the performance was similar in that the focus was on defense rather than offense and Cambodia simply couldn't conjure up a cutting edge that came anywhere close to causing the Koreans any headaches. Toothless is an apt phrase on the evidence of today's game. In six matches Cambodia had never beaten Ulsan and the formation and tactics adopted by the head coach Prak Sovannara today was not really going to change that abysmal record. In truth, I feel for the Khmer fans who were eagerly looking forward to seeing their team in action, bolstered by a few new faces including the overseas contingent, but who came away asking why were their team so defensive from the outset. The only real bright spark from the game was the performance of goalkeeper Samrith Seiha, who once again showed that despite a near two-year lay-off from the game, he is back to his shot-stopping best. A one-handed flying leap to palm away a fierce shot as it headed for the top corner in the 1st half was real quality. He must be a nailed-on certainty to go to Philippines on this showing alone. For many other players the choice is not so cut and dried. Individual performances from the two friendlies against Ulsan have left a lot to be desired with some players carrying knocks and looking well short of match practice. Others who should've stepped up to the plate, failed to do so. Coach Sovannara will be scratching his head to select his squad for the AFC games in March, but the team performance wasn't helped by the tactician's blatant desire to avoid defeat, that left his team bereft of attacking intent.

The first-half well and truly belonged to the students from Ulsan, even though they didn't manage to break down Seiha's stubborn resistance. He was down quickly to stop a low drive in the second minute and was also equal to a 25-yard effort after seven minutes, but had his captain Say Piseth to thank for blocking a shot after his punch fell short in the 11th minute. Kwon Tae Cheol, Ulsan's matchwinner in the first friendly, was determined to match that feat and was about to celebrate a goal on 18 minutes until Seiha got a hand to his thunderbolt to keep his goal intact. It was a save that wins matches. Or doesn't in this case. On the half-hour Seiha was at it again, diving full stretch to fingertip  a Go Yun Cheol fizzer around the post and was perfectly placed to catch Kwon's well-struck free-kick. With nothing seen of Cambodia as an attacking force, the Koreans were nearly caught unawares when Sok Chanraksmey won a tackle and fed Lay Raksmey, but he shot straight at the Ulsan keeper and the danger was cleared, with a minute left of the half. There was still time for Ulsan to go close again, a Go free-kick rattled the cross-bar as referee Khuon Virak blew the half-time whistle.

The second half was devoid of anything interesting until twenty minutes in and Cha Tae Young's inswinging shot from 25 yards smacked against the cross-bar, with Seiha in the right spot a couple of minutes later to keep out a low drive from the same player. Seiha left the field on 74 minutes, his return to the national team set-up a resounding success. Cambodia's best moment of the half came three minutes later. Keo Sokngon looked lively after his introduction and his burst into the box and shot was spilled by Ulsan keeper Young Bo Sang but Phuong Soksana was flagged for offside in the ensuing scramble. In the closing minutes Ulsan stepped up a gear with Yoon Sung Hee heading against the upright, before the students claimed the win they deserved on the balance of play, with just two minutes of regulation time left. Cambodia switched off at a short corner and Jeong Jong Hee let fly from 20 yards out on the angle and his drive caught everyone by surprise including sub keeper Om Vichet as the ball arrowed inside the near post. 1-0 to Ulsan and five minutes of time added on was not enough for Cambodia to avoid a second defeat in three days, by the same scoreline. One 1st half decision by coach Sovannara was a surprise. Kouch Dani was given just 24 minutes out wide on the right before he was replaced, which seemed harsh in the extreme as most of the play in the early exchanges was on the left side. A more obvious switch was for Alex Kem, who looked woefully short of the necessary midfield nous and on came San Narith after 32 minutes. Sovannara made another eight changes after half-time, though mass changes like that rarely produce the required result, and so it proved.
Cambodia v Ulsan: Seiha (Vichet 74), Raksmey, Vibol (Pancharong 46), Piseth, Thavrak (Rithy 46), Sopanha (Soksana 66), Kem (Narith 32), Vathanak (Vathanaka 56), Dani (Chanraksmey 24 (Sokngon 59), Chum (Sothearath 77), Vutha (Suhana 46). Bookings: Narith.
Cambodia line-up. Back LtoR: Vathanak, Kem, Vibol, Sopanha, Thavrak, Piseth. Front: Chum, Vutha, Seiha, Dani, Raksmey - click to enlarge

The 3 PPCFC players who played today. LtoR; Kouch Dani, Samrith Seiha, Sos Suhana

Kouch Dani (14) walks behind Samrith Seiha as he makes his national team debut

Saturday, January 5, 2013

No match for Crown

PPCFC v YMA. Back LtoR: Chamrouen, Boris, Dary, Lika, Hasan, Seyha. Front: Narin, Makara, Morslim, Dara, Sothy. Click to enlarge
Coach Sam Schweingruber gave a run-out to his Phnom Penh Crown squad players and a few others in a practice match at RSN Stadium this afternoon, beating new faces YMA (Youth Master Advanced School) FC 6-3 in the process. It should've been a lot more but Crown didn't kill off the game until late on. YMA had the prolific Nelson Oladiji in their ranks and he netted twice, one from the penalty spot, and was always a danger. Schweingruber was without his five national team players and Ngoy Srin, sitting out the match with a trapped nerve in his neck. He started with former Army center-half Leng Narin and Crown took the lead after just four minutes when Kok Boris sidefooted a pull-back from Men Seyha past the busy YMA goalkeeper from fifteen yards. Ouk Sothy had a low drive saved before YMA grabbed a leveller on 18 minutes when Nelson Oladiji broke from the half-way line and finished with ease. Nelson was one of the top scorers in the C-League last season with National Police. Ly Morslim screwed his header wide at the far post and Boris had another shot saved before Leng Makara headed Crown back into the lead on 27 minutes. Sothy's corner was met by the jump of Makara and his header crashed against the cross-bar on its way into the net. Boris and Mart Hasan both fluffed further chances before Sam Chamrouen dived full length to keep out a powerful Oladiji header late in the first half.

The 2nd half saw a glut of goals, beginning just two minutes from the restart, as Makara won a tackle to collect Seyha's cross and poked the ball over the line. On 56 minutes YMA netted a penalty through Oladiji after the referee ruled a shot struck Chea Dara's hand, when it actually struck his face. The YMA keeper was being kept busy with Hasan and Hong Pheng bringing out the best in the custodian, and when he saved again from Pheng, Hasan blasted the rebound wildly over from six yards out. In the 69th minute, a 20-yard Boris drive was saved but Sothy was on hand to roll the loose ball over the line. YMA netted their third four minutes later. Pheng rounded the keeper but found a defender scuttling back to save his shot and then turned on a sixpence but saw his fierce drive strike the cross-bar. With eight minutes remaining, Pheng's perseverance paid off when he rose to head in Sothy's well-flighted corner kick and then claimed a second with three minutes left on the clock. Boris took off on a trademark run into the box, passed to Pheng and the striker's shot was straight and true from fifteen yards out to end the scoring at 6-3 to Crown.
PPCFC v YMA: Chamrouen, Dara (Kano 56), Seyha (Phearun 68), Lika, Narin (Rady 72), Dary (Pheng 56), Sothy, Boris, Makara (Seu Chaneng 83), Morslim (Antonio Domingo 68), Hasan (Da 83). Subs not used; Ary. Bookings: None.
Kok Boris (18) on one of his trademark thrusts into the penalty area

Friday, January 4, 2013

On the field

Cambodia line up for the pre-match handshakes
A few more pictures from the Cambodia v Ulsan University friendly match at the Olympic Stadium. Coach Prak Sovannara made ten changes during the game and will likely use the remainder of his 31-man squad in the second of the friendlies on Sunday including Phnom Penh Crown's Kouch Dani and Samrith Seiha, in addition to Alex Kem, an American-Khmer who is being given a try-out with the national squad having played with DC United in the States.
Bin Thierry (30) steps out for the first time in a Cambodia jersey

Captain San Narith exchanges souvenirs

The starting XI for Ulsan University