Saturday, June 29, 2013

Chonburi too strong

Back Row LtoR: Chanpolin, Senteang, Baraing, Titchhy, S Samnang, Sovann. Front Row: Ponvuthy, Nuron, Piphop, Chansopheak, Sodavid. Picture courtesy of Chonburi FC.

The Phnom Penh Crown Academy went down 3-0 to Chonburi FC in Thailand, the same team who beat them 4-1 in Phnom Penh last weekend, in the FAM-Frenz U-15 Asean Champions Trophy, this evening. Its been a tough week for the Academy having lost to Chonburi last Saturday, they flew to East Timor via Bali on Sunday, lost 4-1 in Timor on Tuesday and then flew to Thailand on Thursday, in the lead up to this match. A tough schedule for anyone, let alone an U-15 team. Undaunted, coach Bouy Dary and his team were looking forward to getting revenge on Chonburi, one of the competition's outstanding favourites. He kept faith with the team that lost against Timor-Leste except bringing in keeper Svang Samnang in place of Sem Mesa. Chonburi took the lead on 26 minutes when Kritthanaphong held off two challenges and blasted the ball past Samnang. Crown held out and repelled the home team until the 76th minute when Sittichok got his head to a long ball forward and it sailed over Samnang's head into the corner. Two minutes later another long ball undid the defence, Kritthanaphong raced clear and rounded Samnang before rolling the ball into the net. A Seut Baraing free-kick was finger-tipped around the post by Chakhon in the home goal but the match was already won and PPCFC Academy will return to Phnom Penh with no points from their visits to Timor-Leste and Thailand. They play host to Timor next Saturday, KO 4pm at Army Stadium.
PPCFC line-up: S Samnang, Chansopheak, Baraing, Sovann, Titchhy (K Chhaya 75), Sodavid (Rozak 55), Chanpolin, Piphop (Sakrovy 45), Ponvuthy (Dara 88), Nuron (V Samnang 88), Senteang. Subs not used: Mesa, Phearath, T Chhaya, Noeut, Chanchav. Bookings: None.
Mat Nuron is not giving up the ball that easily. Picture courtesy of Chonburi FC

Elroy magic helps Crown qualify

PPCFC. Back Row LtoR: Obadin, Ha-Neul, Pheng, Boris, van der Hooft, Sokumpheak. Front Row: Sothy, Da, Suhana, Seiha, Borey
Elroy van der Hooft has a knack of grabbing the headlines. He did it again today, when he burst through the Asia Euro University defence like a hot knife through butter and then used the deftest of touches to finish off a fine piece of individual magic in only the third minute. It's not the first-time either - his acrobatic overhead-bicycle kick from last week is a YouTube hit - and we hope won't be the last, as he inspired Phnom Penh Crown to a 3-0 victory over AEU, which confirmed their spot in the end of season Super 4 play-offs. However, the Dutchman will miss next Saturday's final match of the regular domestic season after he picked up a booking and will have to sit it out with a one-match suspension. Crown were looking for nothing more than a win against Asia Euro University at the Olympic Stadium this afternoon, but had to do it without Bin Thierry, handed a suspension after collecting five yellow cards this campaign. His place in midfield went to Ouk Sothy. An early goal will settle any nerves and van der Hooft duly provided it. Receiving a pass forward by Kok Boris, he headed it on and burst between three defenders to the bye-line, taking on two more opponents he then poked the ball past the AEU keeper for a remarkable solo goal, his 11th since joining the club mid-way through this season. In the tenth minute, Lee Ha-Neul showed a defender a clean pair of heels but found keeper Um Sereyrath blocking his path at the near post. Moments later he robbed the keeper of the ball but was closed down as he shaped to shoot. With little goalmouth activity, a wild swinger from Khim Borey after a neat Crown move summed up the rest of the half, with only an Ouk Sothy rising shot that cleared the bar, worthy of mention before the half-time break.

An early booking for van der Hooft after an off-the-ball altercation and a knee injury nullified his impact in the second period. Crown were gunning for a second goal and Kouch Sokumpheak's pass found its way to Borey, but the skipper's low shot was blocked by Sereyrath's feet. At the other end, Samrith Seiha was called into action to save a Sary Mathnorothin free-kick that bounced awkwardly at the foot of the upright. On 70 minutes, Crown finally made the game safe with their second goal. Men Seyha and Hong Pheng combined to send Ha-Neul to the bye-line and his low center looked food and drink for Sereyrath, but the young keeper let the ball slip through his grasp and Sos Suhana gleefully tapped in the loose ball from close range. Seconds later Borey's neat chip put in Ha-Neul but his bobbling shot lacked power to beat the keeper. Five minutes after their second goal, Crown claimed their third. Borey had too much time to steer his pass into Hong Pheng's run into the box, and he chested it down and touched it past Sereyrath in one clinical movement to seal the result and confirm Crown's participation in the play-offs. Samrith Seiha had to deal with long range efforts from Oriola Adeseye and Sun Sovanrotha, but it was too little too late from AEU. Borey and then Chhom Pisa had late opportunities but both were snuffed out as Crown recorded the win they required.

Crown coach Sam Schweingruber was reservedly pleased. "It was our game plan to score early, but it didn't give us what I was hoping for. We were a bit over-confident maybe, were were a bit lazy in some situations too. We had a good shape but were too fragile after losing the ball and not coming back quick enough. I would've expected us to be more in control after scoring an early goal. The 2nd half was about being patient, in our build-up and stick to the game plan so I was happy that we scored 2 more goals to give us a comfortable win and progress to the semi-finals. Elroy's first goal was a touch of individual class, we know he can do that, but AEU were asleep and it was embarrassing for them how easy he was able to score." Crown have one game left, against Kirivong next Saturday, before they find out their play-off semi-final opponents, with the game set for the Army Stadium (unfortunately) on Saturday 13 July.
PPCFC line-up: Seiha, Da, Pheng, Boris, Obadin, Sothy (Pisa 81), Sokumpheak, Suhana (Morslim 82), Ha-Neul, Borey, van der Hooft (Seyha 63). Subs not used: Ary, Narin, Lika, Hasan, Dara, Makara, Srin, Phearun. Bookings: van der Hooft. MOTM: Ha-Neul.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Goal-less between casino teams

PPCFC v Naga. Back Row LtoR: Srin, Boris, Pheng, Thierry, Ha-Neul, Obadin. Front: Makara, Suhana, Seiha, Borey, Sokumpheak. Pic from CAM photoagency.
For their midweek Metfone C-League meeting with fellow top 4 casino side NagaCorp, Phnom Penh Crown coach Sam Schweingruber had to rest hot-shot Elroy van der Hooft with a knee injury. Aside from that, the team picked itself, with Leng Makara coming in as a replacement for the Dutchman. It was all Crown for the first half with Khim Borey's pass to Lee Ha-Neul giving the Korean a run on goal though his drive was inches too high. A poor clearance by Naga went straight to Ha-Neul but his guided shot lacked power to trouble the goalkeeper. Ishola Abiodun had Naga's sole attempt but his diving header found the side netting as Crown continued to dominate. Borey's through ball found Sos Suhana free in the box but his rolled shot rebounded to safety off the post. A Bin Thierry free-kick was spooned by keeper Phorn Ratana but the danger was cleared. Combination play between Kouch Sokumpheak and Ha-Neul released Borey but his low shot only found the near post side netting. The final chance of the first-half saw Borey drag his shot wide of the target from 20 yards out. After the break, both Suhana and Borey were halted by the Naga defence without any consideration for the ball. Later on, a Thierry corner fell to Suhana at the edge of the box but his powerful drive was turned away for a corner by a Naga arm, again no positive action by referee Chi Samedy. Finally, another corner found Odion Obadin steaming in at the far post but his header sailed wide. In time added on, Naga's Ou Lyhorng fired low against the foot of the upright with Naga's only goal-bound shot of the match and as play switched to the other end, Hong Pheng raced clear on goal, only to be stopped in his tracks by Samedy's whistle. He'd spotted a pull by Zogbe Anderson and the Nigerian was shown a second yellow and red cards, as the Crown players explained the advantage rule to the match referee. A truly shocking decision from the man in the middle that foiled Crown's attempt to claim all three points. PPCFC head coach Sam Schweingruber gave brief thoughts after the goal-less draw with Naga, which made no noticeable impression on the league table standings. "We failed to turn possession into solid chances, we came close on a few occasions in the first half, Suhana hit a post early on and there was a clear handball which the referee didn't spot from Suhana's volley late in the game. We restricted Naga to only one chance on 90 mins when they hit the post. All in all, a result we can live with, our effort was good but we didn't show enough quality and we know we can do better."
PPCFC line-up: Seiha, Srin, Pheng, Boris, Obadin, Thierry, Sokumpheak, Ha-Neul, Suhana, Makara (Seyha 83), Borey. Subs not used: Ary, Da, Narin, Dara, Lika, Sothy, Morslim, Kano, Phearun, Pisa. Bookings: Thierry, Sokumpheak. MOTM: Borey.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Academy blues

PPCFC Academy. Back Rown LtoR: Sovann (capt), Titchhy, Baraing, Senteang, Chanpolin, Mesa. Front Row: Ponvuthy, Nuron, Piphop, Chansopheak, Sodavid.

The Phnom Penh Crown Academy made the two-day trek to Timor-Leste just a few hours after suffering a 4-1 home defeat to Chonburi and took on the mantle as the first Cambodian sports team to visit the country, also known as East Timor. It was Crown's fourth FAM-Frenz U-15 Asean Champions Trophy tie with one draw and two defeats to their name so far. They flew in via Singapore, a night in Bali and arrived in Dili, the Timorese capital, lunchtime Monday, with the match scheduled for mid-afternoon Tuesday. Late Monday afternoon, the Academy shook off their travel weariness with a warm-up at the national training center, sharing a synthetic surface with the Timor-Leste U-15 and U-23 teams. A crowd of 3,200, admitted free but smaller than expected, welcomed the two teams, with a highly-visible security presence around the stadium.

It took just nine seconds for Timor to liven up the the spectators as Sraing Titchhy's backheader was touched on by Ricardo Mendonca, only for Sem Mesa to grab the ball and avert the danger. Timor's Juliao Ximenes gave Mesa some catching practice a few minutes later, while Pov Ponvuthy fired over the cross-bar from distance. Timor made their first of five substitutions after just twelve minutes and seconds later a Seut Baraing free-kick caught the home defence all at sea, but Mat Nuron, in acres of space, headed wide of the target. With a section of the crowd chanting for the visiting team, it was the home side who threatened with Feliciano Goncalves mistiming his header before Ximenes latched onto a long ball, outpaced the Crown back-line and rounded Mesa, only to lob his shot over the gaping goal. It was a let-off for the visitors, who looked set to take advantage on 31 minutes. Pov Ponvuthy's footwork on the right wing had been a feature of the opening exchanges and it was a poorly timed tackle and caution for Amilcar Belo, caught out by Ponvuthy's quick feet, that gave a Crown a penalty. Skipper Ouk Sovann took the spot-kick but keeper Ricardo Da Cruz, diving to his right, saved at the foot of the post and also blocked Sovann's follow-up attempt.

However the disappointment was quickly forgotten and on 37 minutes, Crown took the lead with a passing move that oozed quality. Ken Chansopheak started it, Ponvuthy's drag-back and pass to Chhuot Senteang reached the box and his inside pass was met by Men Piphop, who swept the ball over the keeper and into the net. It quite literally had the crowd on their feet. As half-time approached, In Sodavid tested Da Cruz in the Timor goal with a 35-yarder that the keeper grabbed at the second attempt. The home side, forced back by Crown's positive approach, had a five minute spell before the whistle where Sem Mesa blocked a delayed shot by Gelvanco Marcal and then got a whack on the head after a good run and cross by Domingos Araujo. In the fourth minute of time added on, Crown were caught cold by a darting run on the right by Goncalves and his cross to the far post was met by the head of Mendonca for the equaliser. A cruel blow to PPCFC's hopes and a kick in the teeth for their first-half efforts.

Timor, buoyed by their late leveller, started the 2nd half like a train.Chansopheak blocked a Marcal header with less than a minute in but two minutes later and the home fans were in seventh heaven. Sem Mesa misjudged a long ball over his back-four and stayed on his line, as Gaudencio Monteiro raced clear of everyone and slotted inside the keeper's near post. In quick succession, Sodavid (hamstring) and Mesa (groin) were replaced by Crown coach Bouy Dary but not before Titchhy made a timely saving tackle on Mendonca. With Svang Samnang replacing Mesa, he was only on the pitch for 42 seconds before he conceded a third goal. Mendonca, out wide on the left, swung over a high cross and as Samnang back-pedaled, he could only manage to tip the ball onto the upright and it rolled over the goal-line. From a position of strength, Crown's hopes were in tatters. Chansopheak was on hand to clear an Araujo header off the line moments before Timor extended their lead even further on 66 minutes. Another long ball over the top stretched the Crown backline to breaking point, with Marcal running clear to power a shot past Samnang. Timor went down to nine players for a few minutes as cramp took hold and Amindo Gusmao's corner curled in and struck the cross-bar. With Timor in the driving seat, Crown found their second wind and began to make inroads into the home team's defenses. Piphop tried his luck from the edge of the box without success, as did Sovann, whose indirect free-kick was lashed into the wall after Da Cruz was pulled up for holding the ball too long. It was all Crown for the final fifteen minutes, as Mat Nuron put in Senteang but Da Cruz came out to smother his attempted flick and Ponvuthy fired a 20-yard drive into the keeper's arms. Ponvuthy and Sovann combined to set up Theang Chhaya, but the tiny midfielder shot straight at Da Cruz when it seemed easier to score. Senteang sent a free-kick wide of the mark, Kim Chhaya's powerful drive was punched clear by Da Cruz and in time added on, Piphop's long range effort was collected by Da Cruz, as he and his teammates celebrated the final whistle, and their first victory.

Academy coach Bouy Dary offered up this assessment of his team's performance in defeat. "For the first-half we played great but for the last five minutes before the break they had a lot of the ball and we couldn't clear it, we were nervous. We have to learn where and when not to play when defending. Two players stood out in the 1st half, Ponvuthy and Senteang, and our goal was wonderful, excellent combination play, a great goal. But a lack of experience at the start of the 2nd half cost us. We came back again later on but we couldn't score. Honestly, we were the better side but our recovery from playing a few days ago wasn't good as we were travelling non-stop. Timor were fresh, they didn't play and of course they were at home and motivated to do their best." The Academy now head for Thailand, with a stopover in Bali and Bangkok, as they meet Chonburi FC on Saturday in their third Asean U-15 match in a week.
PPCFC line-up: Mesa (S Samnang 55), Chansopheak (K Chhaya 69), Baraing, Sovann, Titchhy, Chanpolin (Sakrovy 76), Sodavid (Rozak 50), Piphop, Ponvuthy, Nuron (T Chhaya 86), Senteang. Subs not used: Chanchav, V Samnang, Dara. Bookings: None. MOTM: Ponvuthy.
The Timor-Leste U-15 starting line-up

A big crowd came to watch the PPCFC Academy in Dili

Captain Ouk Sovann (4) introduces his teammates to the Secretary of State

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Nervy Crown go under

PPCFC Academy. Back Row LtoR: Chanpolin, Titchhy, Sodavid, Baraing, Mesa, Sovann. Front Row: Muslim, Nuron, Samnang, Piphop, Chansopheak.
Phnom Penh Crown Academy coach Bouy Dary had this to say after watching his team lose 4-1 at home to visiting Chonburi FC from Thailand in the FAM-Frenz U-15 Asean Champions Trophy earlier today. "We were nervous today and made too many mistakes, especially in midfield. When we did get a chance we were too slow to react. In the 2nd half we put up a really good fight, we played good football but got punished for trying to play too much. And we didn't take our chances when they came along." For the Crown Academy it was their second defeat in three matches against one of the favourites to lift the trophy. They started slowly and never really got into their usual gear in the first-half of today's encounter at the Olympic Stadium, in front of a large expectant home crowd. Chonburi were on the front foot early on and Sem Mesa, in the Crown goal, had to push a high cross from Samart over his own bar and then lost a challenge with Krittanaphong, but the striker lobbed the ball over the top of an open goal. Losing possession and getting caught on the break, Crown struggled to hold the visitors as the first-half was pretty much one-way traffic, with Sittichok mis-kicking at the far post and Krittanaphone finding Mesa in the right place to tip his shot over the bar. Kittitach volleyed wide and Mesa was again in the way to deny Krittanaphong at the near post.  Crown's resistance finally gave way three minutes before the interval when Somchai took on and beat Ken Chansopheak and his cross was touched over the line by Samart. It was no more than Chonburi deserved.

In Sodavid's last-ditch tackle halted Somchai's run early in the 2nd half but it wasn't long before Chonburi added to their advantage. Eleven minutes after the break, Chansopheak tried to play his way out of trouble in his own penalty area, got dispossessed by Sittichok and the Thai midfielder made no mistake from eight yards out. A minute later and Crown threatened with their best chance of the game so far. Men Piphop sent Vat Samnang racing clear but Chakhon in the Chonburi goal stood firm, denying Samnang's two efforts and then collected Mat Nuron's weakly struck shot. Renewed by their chance, Crown were right back in the game and on 64 minutes Sath Rozak slotted in Sodavid who bore down on goal, but as Chakhon came out, the Crown midfielder pushed his shot the wrong side of the upright. A great opportunity to reduce the arrears wasted. Soon after the same player tried his luck from 25 yards but his shot sailed straight into the arms of Chakhon. Crown were caught out by another long ball but Sittichok went for power and the ball was blasted over the bar. Mesa came out bravely to deny Saharat as he burst through, and Somchai also blazed wildly high and wide. With ten minutes of the game remaining, Chonburi registered a third goal in fortunate circumstances. Somchai's floated cross caught Mesa in two minds and before he could react, it had cleared his head and nestled in the net. Refusing to lie-down, Crown's Chhuot Senteang, on the bench due to a family bereavement, moved onto a Seut Baraing pass but saw his shot saved by Chakhon, only for Keo Dara to smash the loose ball against the foot of the post. On 84 minutes, Chonburi put the result in no doubt when Sittichok powered in an unopposed header from Kanthawat's cross-field pass. Just a minute from the end, Senteang grabbed a very late consolation goal for Crown as Mat Sakrovy skipped past two defenders, pushed the ball to the striker and he powered his shot past Chakhon. Too little too late as far as the result goes but good to see the Crown team fight to the end of the game. They now travel for the next two days for the match in East Timor on Tuesday, followed by the return away to Chonburi next Saturday. 
PPCFC line-up: Mesa, Chansopheak, Baraing, Sovann, Titchhy (Noeut 79), Sodavid, Chanpolin (Rozak 62), Piphop (Sakrovy 83), Muslim (Dara 70), Nuron, V Samnang (Senteang 60). Subs not used: S Samnang, Ponvuthy, K Chhaya, T Chhaya. Bookings: Titchhy. MOTM: Mesa.

Elroy magic

PPCFC. Back Row LtoR: Boris, Ha-Neul, Seiha, Thierry, van der Hooft, Obadin. Front Row: Srin, Suhana, Pheng, Borey, Sokumpheak.
Phnom Penh Crown began their Metfone C-League clash with rivals Svay Rieng like a train and were in control and two goals up by 21 minutes into the match. With both sides looking to cement their top 4 credentials, it was Crown who showed the greater appetite as first Bin Thierry tried his luck and then skipper Khim Borey attempted a curling chip into the far corner but missed by inches. On 16 minutes they took the lead through their Dutch import Elroy van der Hooft, who is in a rich vein of goalscoring. Thierry's free-kick from wide on the left was missed by the defence, allowing van der Hooft to chip the ball over You Mesa and smash it home all in one quick-as-lightning move. Three minutes later, Lee Ha-Neul broke and fed van der Hooft but his first touch was too much and even though he managed to wrestle the ball from keeper Sar Sophea, he was quickly snuffed out by the retreating backline. However, the Flying Dutchman was not to be denied, and his second goal on 21 minutes, brought the crowd to their feet. Hong Pheng fed Odion Obadin wide on the left flank and his first-time cross was met by van der Hooft with an acrobatic bicycle-cum-overhead kick that caught everyone unawares. It was a stunning strike and his tenth goal since he joined the club at the mid-way stage of the season. Soon after he had the chance to make it three but his stubbed shot lacked power. Eight minutes before the break and Borey rolled a shot wide of the post, when it looked easier to score. Svay Rieng's first serious effort arrived as referee Khuon Virak was putting his whistle to his lips for the half-time interval. Prak Mony Udom found himself free at the far post but Samrith Seiha was well-placed to fist his shot over the cross-bar.

Just 33 seconds after the restrat, Khuon Laboravy blasted a shot a few inches wide but it was Crown who looked dangerous on the counter-attack. Lee Ha-Neul whacked a shot wide before van der Hooft cut to the bye-line and must've thought Hong Pheng would have done better with his free header at the far post. Instead, he headed harmlessly into Sophea's hands. Van der Hooft went down in agony after an innocuous clash and then lacked power when the ball rolled to him 15 yards out as he re-entered the fray. Svay Rieng finally began to ask Crown questions and a free Laboravy header from just six yards was pushed aside by Seiha, who was struggling with a leg injury. Also struggling, van der Hooft was cheered off the pitch when replaced by Leng Makara and it proved to be an inspired substitution, on 74 minutes. Two minutes later, Makara ghosted in at the far post to slot home an inch-perfect center by Borey to give Crown a commanding 3-goal lead. After dealing with two long-range efforts, Seiha finally gave into his injury as Yok Ary replaced him. Ha-Neul shrugged off a defender to fire in two low drives at Sophea, who repelled both and at the other end, Laboravy skated past Ngoy Srin and Ary but couldn't find the angle to trouble the scoreboard. Four minutes into time added on, Svay Rieng did manage a consolation as Udom fed Phanny Rotha, who benefitted from Obadin losing his feet, and the substitute found the net with ease. Referee Virak blew for full-time and managed to keep his cards in his pocket, giving Crown a 3-1 win, though they remain in third place in the league table.
PPCFC line-up: Seiha (Ary 80), Srin, Pheng, Boris, Obadin, Thierry, Sokumpheak, Suhana (Sothy 87), Ha-Neul, Borey, van der Hooft (Makara 74). Subs not used: Da, Narin, Dara, Lika, Seyha, Morslim, Phearun, Pisa,  Bookings: None. MOTM: Elroy van der Hooft.

Crown surge on

Too busy to post! Phnom Penh Crown senior team beat Svay Rieng 3-1 on Saturday afternoon, with Elroy netting 2 fab goals and Makara the other. That continues their fine form against teams at the top of the league table. Also at Olympic Stadium the same day, the Crown Academy went down to Chonburi FC 4-1 in the U-15 Asean Champions Trophy but put in a gutsy performance that entertained the big crowd. Chhuot Senteang scored the Academy's late consolation. The Academy are very soon en route to East Timor, where they play on Tuesday afternoon, the first Cambodian team ever to set foot in the country.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mismatch with HAGL

Back Row LtoR: Mesa, Chanpolin, Baraing, Senteang, Sovann, Titchhy. Front Row: Sodavid, Nuron, Chansopheak, Muslim, Ravan
The U-16 Cambodia national team took to the field on Tuesday morning at the opening of the new football training center at Tonle Bati, against opponents from HAGL Arsenal JMG Academy, who it turns out will be representing Vietnam in the AFF U-19 Youth Championships in Indonesia in September. Nothing short of a complete mismatch as the U-16s are mostly 14 or 15 years old, playing against 18 year olds. The more experienced and stronger players from Vietnam ran out easy 3-0 winners in what was the first game on the new playing pitches at the center, which has cost more than $2.2 million to build. HAGL are due to play another friendly, most likely against Svay Rieng U-19s, on Friday.
The two teams getting ready to begin the match at Tonle Bati

New Dawn

The New Dawn has finally arrived for Cambodian football. Hallelujah. The great and the good gathered at the brand new national football center in Tonle Bati this morning to congratulate each other on this latest venture, costing over $2.2million and intended to be the start of Cambodia's entry into developing their football players of the future. It's been a long time coming but its finally arrived, aided in no small part by a $1.3million cheque from the FIFA Goal Project, a shed-load of cash from the Football Federation's own coffers, as well as individual contributions from wealthy supporters and an unknown amount from the Hoang Anh Gia Lai property development company from Vietnam. The new training center consists of the following, taken from the speech of the Prime Minister, Hun Sen who officially unveiled the center earlier today: "... 15-hectare-land consists of 3 dormitory buildings for senior team players, 63 dormitory buildings for academy players, 1 administration building, 1 cafeteria, 2 uniform-changing halls, 1 generator-storage building, clean-water-purifying system, electrical network, 4 standard-size pitches, concrete routes and 2,885m of rain drainage, 1600m of boundary fences...". Also in attendance were the top men in Asian football including the Presidents of AFC and AFF. The center itself will house the Federation's intended new Academy, though there's no date for when that will start. The formalities were followed by a friendly match between the Cambodian U-16 national team and opponents from the HAGL Arsenal JMG Academy in Vietnam, which the visitors won 3-0. They were older and much bigger, it was a mismatch, I'm informed.

Yesterday, the FFC held a press conference to announce the latest version of the BIDC Cup. It will take place in November with teams from six regional countries, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and China as well as two teams from Japan. Exact details were sketchy aside from the $120,000 that's being invested in the competition by the BIDC sponsors. In 2011 the tournament was known as the Mekong Region Youth U21 International Football Tournament BIDC Cup 2011, which was MRYUIFTBIDCC for short.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Reviewing the match

Touch Pancharong (6) keeps Chan Vathanaka at bay from referee Khuon Virak. Pic: Masayori Ishikawa.
There were a few things that jump out at you from the match yesterday. One of the most glaring was the persistent complaining/moaning/arguing of the Boeung Ket players with the match referee. Amongst their worst offenders was their wunderkind Chan Vathanaka, who perhaps was frustrated by starting the game on the bench. After he arrived on the pitch just after the half-hour, he then spent the rest of the match spitting venom at referee Khuon Virak, especially when Chukwuma Ohuruogu was dismissed and Touch Pancharong had to physically manhandle him away from the referee on three separate occasions in the space of under a minute, kicking out at Obadin and Borey, and pushing Thierry and Ha-Neul, before he finally lost it altogether and whilst berating the official, he pushed Virak in the chest, immediately after Boeung Ket's goal. On any pitch anywhere in the world that would've generated a straight red card. For whatever reason, Virak merely brandished a yellow card and the petulant youngster got away with it. I am still scratching my head how he didn't get an early bath. I also think back to how his play-acting/screaming in the earlier game between the two teams, eventually ended up with Ngoy Srin getting a 5-match ban. Where oh where is the justice in football. Talking of referees, can anyone explain to me when the Federation has a minimum of ten referees on its panel, how in the past six matches, games involving Phnom Penh Crown have only been refereed by two of them, namely Khuon Virak and Saing Sopheak, being in the middle for three games each. It simply doesn't make sense. Finally, there was an incident in the VIP area of the grandstand where items were thrown and yet the party responsible was not spoken to by the head of security, yet the target of the missiles was warned by said security official about their behaviour. The world is completely arse about face. The most satisfying aspect of the whole day though, was the 3-1 victory and the three points.

Sakrovy nets winner

Cambodia U-16s. Back Row LtoR: Sovann, Ravan, Baraing, Senteang, Chanpolin, Mesa. Front Row: Noeut, Sodavid, Chansopheak, Nuron, Muslim.
The Cambodian U-16 national team is under the leadership of Phnom Penh Crown's head coach Sam Schweingruber and he's being assisted by Bouy Dary and Ieng Saknida amongst others. Between 20-31 August the U-16s will travel to Napyidaw in Myanmar to take part in the AFF U-16 Championship qualifiers against Brunei, Vietnam, Myanmar and Australia. A tough ask by any standards. A squad of 30 players have been training for a few weeks now and on Saturday morning took on a Svay Rieng U19 & U16 combined team at RSN Stadium. It was a close game but the national team squad came out on top with a single goal victory, scored by Mat Sakrovy on 70 minutes. The majority of the squad come from the PPCFC Academy with Svay Rieng and Prek Kdam also supplying some of the boys and Sim Mesa is a keeper from Boeung Ket. The U-16s next take on a visiting Academy team from HAGL Arsenal JMG from Vietnam at the opening of the new football training center in Tonle Bati on Tuesday morning.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sweet revenge

PPCFC. Back Row LtoR: Srin, Obadin, Boris, Thierry, van der Hooft, Ha-Neul. Front Row: Makara, Seiha, Pheng, Sokumpheak, Borey
Phnom Penh Crown were looking to avenge a 3-1 defeat earlier in the Metfone C-League campaign, as well as inflict another bodyblow to the beleaguered leaders, Boeung Ket, who have suffered a disastrous run of form since the mid-season break. Crown boss Sam Schweingruber chose from a fully-fit squad with keeper Samrith Seiha returning from suspension to the starting line-up. His team amde their intentions clear from the outset with Leng Makara breaking into the box and firing his shot straight at opposing keeper Penh Bunchhay. A booking for Befolo Mbarag for a foul on Elroy van der Hooft was to be a sub-plot to the game, with Boeung Ket's African trio hell-bent on stopping Crown's Flying Dutchman at all costs. A tactic that would backfire on them disastrously. With his 8th goal in five games, it was van der Hooft who opened the scoring after 18 minutes. A neat turn and swivel and the former Ajax prodigy showed his class with a powerful drive from twelve yards out to break the early deadlock. The move leading up to his strike involved Makara's pass out wide to Odion Obadin, whose cross to the far post was headed into van der Hooft's path by Kouch Sokumpheak. Former Crown starlet Keo Sokngorn whipped a free-kick across the face of Seiha's goal but the keeper's punch cleared the danger as play switched from end to end without enough incision from either team.

Just after the half hour, Boeung Ket brought on  Chan Vathanaka but it was Crown who made the next decisive move, scoring their second goal on 39 minutes. And it came straight off the training ground. An inswinging corner on the right by Bin Thierry was met by the perfectly-timed run and leap of captain Khim Borey and his header arrowed into the net at the near post. Two goals to the good and Crown were in control. Moments later, Chukwuma Ohuruogu was cautioned fro catching van der Hooft on the heel as they struggled to keep Crown at bay and Borey fired in a wicked drive which Bunchhay was equal to. In time added on by referee Khuon Virak, officiating Crown for the secodn week running, Keo Sokpheng hit the target only to find Seiha in the way to turn the shot away for a corner.

The wounded league leaders came out of the half-time interval looking to revive their flagging season, let along this match. Vathanak outpaced the Crown defenders but found Seiha blocking his route to goal and Sokngorn struck the cross-bar from just six yards out, when it looked easier to score. Van der Hooft robbed Ly Ravy but was wayward with his shot, though it was Boeung Ket who looked the more threatening at that stage. Sok Pheng's pull-back found Vathanaka lurking on the edge of the six-yard area but his drive cannoned off the bar and into Seiha's hands. Even Ohuruogu tried his luck from two yards inside his own half, with the ball clearing Seiha's goal by a matter of inches. It proved to be Ohuruogu's last positive moment as he resorted to a desperate pull to halt van der Hooft and received his second yellow, a red and an early bath on 64 minutes. A wayward Touch Pancharong cross bounced on the top of the bar as Boeung Ket continued their search for a comeback. Referee Virak controversially awarded them a free-kick when he adjudged Seiha had held onto the ball too long but Sumaila Momoh's effort from just inside the penalty area once again found the cross-bar an obstacle. Eleven minutes from the end, Crown allowed Vathanaka to squeeze in a bye-line cross and Sok Pheng outjumped his marker to grab the goal the Rubbermen had been longing for. Before the game could restart, Vathanaka lost his temper, not for the first time, and pushed referee Virak in the chest, but remarkably the match official only saw fit to flash a yellow card, when a straight red was warranted.

Crown coach Schweingruber made a couple of changes of his own, including a return of Sos Suhana after a few weeks of inactivity, and with six minutes on the clock, was jumping for joy as his team sealed the points with a third decisive goal. Thierry avoided three tackles and fed a hot knife through butter pass to van der Hooft, who let fly with a shot that was saved by Bunchhay's feet, only for Borey to pick-up the loose ball after another van der Hooft effort was blocked, side-step a defender and unleash an unstoppable drive into the top corner. Two goals for the Crown skipper and 3 points for his team. Though his shirt over the head celebration earned him a caution. There was still time for two more bookings for Boeung Ket, to take them to half a dozen, an extra six minutes added on that turned into nine by referee Virak and a Suhana break into the box that was only foiled by Bunchhay's outstretched leg. For coach Schweingruber it was sweet revenge for that early season reverse. "Brilliant result for us. A hard fight, we were hanging on a bit at times but we deserved it with a well-disciplined performance. Everyone worked extremely hard and put in a good team effort, including Borey who capped it with two goals. He's one of the players that has been moved all over the pitch this season, and each time he's responded positively, committed and disciplined. I was very pleased with his corner-kick goal, that was something we'd worked on in training."
PPCFC line-up: Seiha, Srin (Da 78), Pheng, Boris, Obadin, Thierry, Sokumpheak, Makara (Sothy 89), Ha-Neul (Suhana 84), Borey, van der Hooft. Subs not used: Ary, Dara, Lika, Seyha, Hasan, Morslim, Pisa, Phearun. Bookings: Pheng, Borey. MOTM: Borey.
Referee Khuon Virak closes his eyes and hopes for the best with the two captains

Crown keeper Samrith Seiha proudly displaying the club badge before the match

Khim Borey leads out the PPCFC team against Boeung Ket
The Boeung Ket starting line-up

Friday, June 14, 2013

Gunning for revenge

Tomorrow sees the eagerly-awaited return league match between Phnom Penh Crown, currently in 3rd place, against the league leaders Boeung Ket at Olympic Stadium, KO 2pm. In April, Boeung Ket with the help of referee Yean Kivatana beat 10-man Crown 3-1 during their run of ten consecutive league wins. Those heady days are a fading memory as in recent weeks the Rubbermen have crashed out of the AFC President's Cup and the Singapore Cup and come unstuck in league games against BBU and earlier this week, a peculiar 7-5 defeat by Kirivong. As the top six clubs battle it out for the Super 4 play-off places, I'm sure no quarter will be given in tomorrow's game as Crown seek their revenge, which will be shown live on TVK channel. Crown will be at full strength if Sos Suhana's ankle knock clears up and coach Sam Schweingruber will want a victory before he travels to Vietnam for the AFC U-14 Girls Championships, as coach of the national Girls team. Meanwhile, the Crown Academy boys were scheduled to be in East Timor this weekend for the latest in the Asean U-15 Champions Trophy series of matches, but flight schedules and the need to be back for Tuesday morning's friendly against the HAGL Arsenal Academy from Vietnam, at the opening of the national football center in Tonle Bati, meant the game was a non-starter. Hopes to re-arrange the game are currently floundering, as getting to and from East Timor is not straightforward. The next Academy game in the Asean competition is against Thailand's Chonburi FC Academy next Saturday at the Olympic Stadium, KO 4.30pm. Chonburi are one of the strongest teams so it'll prove to be a tough test for the boys.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Boring boring Army

PPCFC v Army. Back Row LtoR: Lika, Thierry, Obadin, Elroy, Ha-Neul, Pheng. Front Row: Seyha, Da, Ary, Sokumpheak, Borey (capt).

Phnom Penh Crown were looking to consolidate their top 4 place while Army were desperate to claw their way out of relegation danger in Sunday's Metfone C-League encounter at the Olympic Stadium. Crown were without regulars Samrith Seiha, Kok Boris and Sos Suhana and Army were missing a few as well. Army kicked off and within five minutes were celebrating taking a surprise lead. Vi Lika mistimed his clearance and the ball rolled under his foot to Meak Chhordaravuth who got his shot on target and wheeled away in delight as keeper Yok Ary failed to get a strong hand to it and the ball crept over the goal-line. After that, Army closed ranks and defended in numbers as Crown took total control and dominated possession, but found themselves frequently frustrated. Hong Pheng's shot on the run was blocked and a bouncing 30-yard drive from Khim Borey sailed a foot wide. Pheng and Elroy van der Hooft combined to create a shooting chance for Borey but he skied it from 20 yards out. Pheng was pulled down for a Bin Thierry free-kick on the bye-line but Phoung Soksana managed to knee it over his own cross-bar from six yards out. On the half-hour, Borey put Kouch Sokumpheak in but Sou Yaty was out quickly to smother and the same players reversed the move but Borey, in space on the left, sent his drive into Yaty's midriff. Last ditch defending snuffed out a smart Lee Ha-Neul foray and van der Hooft and Pheng worked the ball into the box only for the latter's shot to find Yaty in the way once again. In time added on, van der Hooft took a pass on his chest, flicked the ball over his marker but his effort was turned out for a corner, one of twelve Crown amassed, to Army's zero.

There was only one team trying to play football and Crown got the break they were pressing for, and deserved, five minutes after the re-start. Thierry played a short pass to Borey, and he unleashed a 30-yard drive that eluded Yaty's despairing dive and nestled in the corner of the net. Crown were poised to go on and win the match. But it didn't turn out as planned. Ha-Neul broke into the box but his cross was missed by Pheng. At the other end, Lika again missed his clearance and Ung Dara's cheeky lob from 35 yards had Ary back-pedalling but it just evaded the target. Apart from a free-kick straight into Ary's hands, that was Army's only foray forward.They continued to sit back and absorb the increasingly-frustrated Crown attack. Borey found Pheng at the far post but his control let him down. As it did again when Sokumpheak's slide-rule pass gave Pheng the perfect through-ball but Yaty was out smartish to snuff out the danger. Ha-Neil had a shot deflected wide and Pheng's low cross failed to find the waiting attackers. With time running out, Borey's superb 40-yard cross-field pass saw Leng Makara rise above a defender but Yaty was waiting to collect his downward header. An attempted clearance struck Makara and rebounded a foot wide of the upright from twenty yards out. Borey and Sokumpheak combined neatly but the latter's touch was too strong and Yaty again came to the rescue, and in time added on, he dived full length to divert a Borey free-kick for a corner. And that was it. The final score of 1-1 left Crown kicking the collective cat, having failed to turn their dominance into goals and a deserved victory. For Army, it was a means to an end, a point, but their  negative tactics will win them no fans.

Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber offered his thoughts on his team's performance and the Army tactics. "Any game can be difficult if you concede after five minutes and it was the ideal start for an opponent who didn't have the quality to challenge us, they just held in there, defending for the whole time, and if a team encourages each other after just ten minutes to waste time, then you know that team isn't there to play football, they are there just to frustrate you. Which they did. We were a complete mess for their goal, such a weak goal to give away. I'm glad we got a point as we could've got even more frustrated. We had spells where we looked okay and should've scored more goals but we made too many mistakes in our build-up, couldn't keep possession, not good enough in the box, no clinical finish. Our offensive play didn't glue together today." All in all a bad day at the office.
PPCFC line-up: Ary, Da (Srin 57), Seyha (Makara 65), Lika (Boris 85), Obadin, Thierry, Sokumpheak, Pheng, Borey, Ha-Neul, van der Hooft. Subs not used: Soksela, Phearun, Narin, Sothy, Dara, Hasan, Morslim, Pisa. Bookings: van der Hooft, Obadin. MOTM: Borey.
The Army starting XI v PPCFC made their intentions clear from the outset

The two men of the match were the captains, Khim Borey (red) and Sou Yaty (yellow)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Academy into semis

Back Row LtoR: Sakrovy, Chanchav, V Samnang, Baraing, K Chhaya, S Samnang. Front Row: Rozak, Noeut, David, Piphop, Ponvuthy.
The Phnom Penh Crown Academy team have a free weekend from the FAM-Frenz U-15 Asean Champions Trophy as Singapore, their opponents have a cup competition at home involving international teams such as Arsenal. Their next Asean match is a first-ever visit by a Cambodian team to Dili in East Timor next weekend. This morning the Academy 1 team met the Army in the Cambodia Football Development League U-16 play-off quarter-final, after the regular season came to an end and play-offs in all age categories, U-12, U-14 and U-16 were decided upon. It was one-way traffic for most of the game and a comprehensive victory for the Academy team with Vat Samnang firing in a 25-yard drive for the opening goal ten minutes before half-time. After the break, Men Piphop tapped one in after Pov Ponvuthy's shot was saved, Sath Rozak slid home the third and Suon Noeut rounded it off with a great individual goal and cool finish. The Academy 1 now meet their teammates Academy 2 in the U-16 CFDL semi-final on 18 June. 

Meanwhile, Crown have released South Korean striker Choi Jae-Cheol (aka Season), and he has returned home to Korea. Season scored on his final appearance, as a substitute against National Police, but had been finding it tough to attain a suitable level of fitness since he joined the club in April. He went through the Korean university system though two serious knee operations meant that he dropped out to join the Army. He was a regular member of the South Korean national squads as a junior between the ages of 12 and 17 and was looking to get back to that level, but didn't manage it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

U-14s pride intact

Cambodia U-14s meet Thailand. LtoR: Komapitu, Saphy, Kakada, David, Sopharith, Samnang (capt). Front Row: Mustafa, Kimhong, Davith, Panha, Piseth.
The Cambodian U-14 national team completed their AFC U-14 Championship qualifiers earlier this morning and can feel well pleased with their debut in the competition. Though they didn't qualify for the finals, which was never a realistic expectation, they did put up some sterling performances and picked up two draws, and two points, out of the five group matches they played. They finished 5th out of the six teams and rounded off their matches with successive solo-goal defeats against the group runaway winners Thailand, and early this morning, Singapore. Goal-less draws against Bangladesh and Laos, either side of a 5-0 defeat to Indonesia, coupled with 1-nil defeats to Thailand and Singapore tell the story of the Bouy Dary-coached team, who got together six weeks before the tournament and surprised their opponents with resilient defending, a tight-knit team formation and a willingness to battle for every ball. Where they did come unstuck was in front of goal, not registering a goal in their five matches. They played all their matches in the near empty 30,000 all-seater Zeyar Thiri Stadium in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, playing five games in seven days. For the record, the majority of the Cambodian team were aged just twelve years old whereas most of their opponents were two years older, so there's a lot of promise and hope for the future if these youngsters continue to develop. This was afterall their first major international competition. Quite a daunting task for anyone, let alone boys so young. They return to Phnom Penh tomorrow evening. The eight teams that qualified for the inaugural U-14 continental competition are Thailand, Timor Leste, IR Iran, Korea Republic, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, DPR Korea and Iraq.
The Cambodia boys take a breather at the stadium after their final match, with their coaching staff

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Senate thrashed

PPCFC v Senate. Back Row LtoR: Obadin, Boris, Ha-Neul, Thierry, van der Hooft, Pheng. Front Row: Lika, Seyha, Seiha, Sokumpheak, Borey (capt)
Phnom Penh Crown thrashed Senate 8-1 this afternoon, pretty much as expected and though goals flowed, there should have been a flood. It was a Metfone C-League mis-match between the bottom club Senate, having a torrid time in their debut season, against a Crown team that's in-form. Or so they thought. Crown boss Sam Schweingruber welcomed back Bin Thierry after suspension and Elroy van der Hooft from the treatment table, but Sos Suhana and Ouk Sothy were both still on the injury list. On a slippery surface, Khim Borey forced a save from Kha Theara five minutes from the start but everyone in the Olympic Stadium heaved a collective murmur of surprise on 9 minutes when Senate took an unexpected lead. Puch Savuth took advantage of a slip by Kouch Sokumpheak and that extra yard gave him all the room he needed to curl a delightful shot inside the far post from the edge of the box. Senate couldn't quite believe their good fortune. It took Crown ten minutes to gather their wits and composure and Sokumpheak took a pass from Borey but his shot was deflected for one of 11 corners the home team collected in the game. From another Hong Pheng corner, van der Hooft got free but sent his diving header well wide. That was seconds before, in the 21st minute, Crown equalised and never looked back. Dutch marksman van der Hooft was on the spot to turn in Borey's unselfish low cross from a yard out, ending up tangled in the goal-netting. Borey's burst into the box was the product of a fifty-yard pass by Thierry that sailed over the defender's head. A few minutes later, van der Hooft and Kok Boris combined neatly only for the Flying Dutchman to send his powerful drive against the top of the upright. Crown's second goal was coming and on 28 minutes, South Korean Lee Ha-Neul, looking a danger whenever he got possession, duly obliged with his second goal in as many games. Pheng played a short corner to the edge of the box, Ha-Neul cut inside one defender and unleashed a ferocious shot which Theara couldn't keep out. Continuing to press as they went in search of a sackful of goals, Odion Obadin headed a Pheng corner weakly wide and Sokumpheak blasted high and wide, before van der Hooft, just two yards out, found Theara's arms instead of the net from another Borey low driven cross.

On 36 minutes Crown breached the shaky Senate defence once more. Ha-Neul bided his time before a prefect release sent Hong Pheng scooting free of his marker on the left side of the penalty area and as Theara came off his line, Pheng steered the ball inside the near post for number three. Chances continued to come and go, with Pheng crossing to Boris at the far post and his pull-back found van der Hooft off balance and Ha-Neul's reactive shot was deflected clear. With two minutes of the 1st-half remaining, Senate were dumbstruck by referee Sang Sopheak's decision to award a free-kick on the edge of the box instead of a penalty. As Ry Phearoeun broke through, Crown keeper Samrith Seiha appeared to win the ball and touch the player at least two yards inside the area, but Sopheak saw it as a foul, cautioning Seiha, but outside the box. Samuth Dalin's free-kick kissed the top of the cross-bar. With time up, Crown's final first-half miss fell again to their Dutchman, who lunged for a low cross by the advancing Pheng, but he couldn't direct the ball and it looped over the bar from six yards out. It didn't look like van der Hooft's day in front of goal.

Crown began the 2nd-half in total control with Ha-Neul dominating proceedings. Seven minutes in and he glided past three players with ease only for his shot to be blocked, and moments later tried twice more with goal-bound efforts only for Theara to stand firm in the Senate goal. Borey and Ha-Neul combined well but the Crown skipper was just a whisker away from connecting with the latter's inviting center. With Leng Makara joining the fray to add to Crown's attacking options, Ha-Neul avoided two tackles, setting up van der Hooft but he didn't get his shot away quickly enough and Theara got in a tackle. Next up, Bin Thierry slid in Borey but the striker was hesitant and Theara managed to clear when he looked second-best. Twenty-three minutes into the half and Ha-Neul's throughball gave Borey the room to send a slide-rule pass across the face of goal where van der Hooft was waiting to sweep the ball home for his second goal. More chances went begging as Pheng shot direct at Theara and then struck a first-time shot across the face of goal when it seemed easier to score. Squeezed between Pheng's misses, Ty Bunvicheth, at the other end, escaped Obadin's marking and it needed Seiha's boot to keep his shot out. Crown were immediately on the attack and their Dutch striker followed up to tap-in after Pheng had put Ha-Neul in space on the edge of the box, though Theara couldn't hold his stinging drive, and van der Hooft slotted in his hat-trick goal, on 76 minutes. Borey then stung Theara's hands with a drilled shot, before van der Hooft was on target again, with his third second-half goal in twelve minutes. Taking his own tally to four in the match, Borey was again the provider with a weighted first-time touch from Pheng's pass, which the former Ajax youth dispatched with venom into the corner for Crown's sixth, with ten minutes remaining.

There was no let-up for Senate as Crown went on the hunt for more goals, dominating possession and giving the C-League debutants a hard time. Sokumpheak touched in van der Hooft but he shot weakly at Theara, and then repeated the same act from a Ha-Neul pass. Thierry threaded a pass to substitute Makara and he broke clear of the pack, finding the target with some ease with only Theara to beat, with three minutes to go. A minute later, Ha-Neul robbed a defender but his drive was pushed wide by Theara's dive and then Ly Morslim's nifty feetwork gave Obadin a chance, but he too was off target with his shot. In the first minute of time added on, Makara was guilty of blasting the ball high and wide from a van der Hooft pass when it seemed easier to hit the target, and then three minutes into injury time, Crown scored their eighth and final goal. Ha-Neul and van der Hooft combined again with the 4-goal striker getting to the bye-line before lofting a cross to Borey, who controlled in an instant and appeared to toe-poke the ball into the far corner. It was a pleasing end to the game for the captain who'd set up three of his Dutch teammate's goals. 8-1 was the final score, the match had been as one-sided as the scoreline suggests and Crown moved into third spot in the league standings.
Line-up: Seiha, Boris, Seyha (Makara 62), Lika (Phearun 87), Obadin, Thierry, Sokumpheak, Ha-Neul, Pheng (Morslim 87), Borey, van der Hooft. Subs not used: Ary, Da, Ratana, Narin, Dara, Pisa. Bookings: Seiha. MOTM: Ha-Neul.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Oh, so close to success

PPCFC Academy Back Row: Chanpolin, Titchhy, Baraing, Mesa, Senteang, Sovann (capt). Front Row: Sodavid, Nuron, Piphop, Muslim, Chansopheak.

Ouch... it's very painful to concede a goal in the dying moments of such an important match but its another step on the learning curve for the Phnom Penh Crown Academy as they take on the best youth players around the Asean region. Today it was the Frenz United A team representing Malaysia who came to the party for the Crown Academy's first home game in the FAM-Frenz U-15 Asean Champions Trophy. A large crowd gathered to witness this historic first encounter, with Crown seeking to recover from last week's 4-0 reverse in Ho Chi Minh against Vietnam's PVF. Frenz had defeated Singapore in their opening game and were looking to add weight to their competition favourites tag. Sam Schweingruber took charge in Bouy Dary's absence - he's in Myanmar with the U-14 national team - and made two changes to last week's starters, bringing in Boeung Ket's young goalkeeper Sim Mesa and strengthening midfield with Men Piphop. The match began tentatively though Crown's subtle passing and organisation was much in evidence. In Sodavid had the first attempt on goal after five minutes though his 20-yard effort was easily collected by the goalkeeper. A minute later Sim Mesa showed strong hands to deny Naaim Razak from close range after a scramble in the Crown box, and then was down quickly to gather a drilled effort by Hafizuddin Zuki on the twenty minute mark. Seut Baraing placed a 30-yard free-kick into the hands of Frenz keeper Adam Zaini, but it was his surging run and finely timed pass that gave Crown the game's opening goal on 34 minutes. Baraing broke from his left-back position, surged through midfield and found Chhuot Senteang's run behind the defense, and Senteang's finish was clinical as Zaini came off his goal-line. The players obvious delight was matched by the roar of the crowd. Five minutes later Mesa was again down smartly to fall onto a goal-bound header from Razak. In the final minute of the first half, Mesa came our bravely to block Akhmar Haiqal's run with his foot and then easily collected Syafiq Helmi's weak shot. The first-half ended with Crown ahead, which prompted Frenz coach Matdinos Talib to comment; "Cambodia were very fast with good individual skill and simply better than us in the 1st-half."

After the restart, Frenz upped the tempo noticeably, but Crown responded by battling bravely and working hard to close down spaces and limit their opponents. Mesa's punch didn't go far though Aidel Nekmat's shot was also weak in return, while Haiqal's blast from fifteen yards went sailing over the cross-bar. Crown were forced to make changes as cramps and injuries took their toll but they looked comfortable enough without creating too many problems for Frenz at the other end. The nearest miss came as Orn Chanpolin was unlucky not to connect with a dropping ball after a scramble in the Frenz area before he was replaced, one of five changes Crown made. As the game entered five minutes of injury time, it looked as though Crown were heading towards a memorable victory until two minutes into time added on, Frenz struck to grab a point and break a few hearts. Mesa collected the ball and tried a quick drop-kick, but the ball came straight back and Ouk Sovann attempted to head it back to his keeper, only for Akhmar Haiqal to spot the opportunity and direct his header into the net before Mesa could collect. It was a deflating moment for Crown's otherwise immaculate captain Sovann and Mesa, who had an outstanding match.

Coach Sam Schweingruber was upbeat despite the late leveller. "I'm very proud of the boys. They showed a great game, a lot of discipline and worked very hard. Our objective was to keep a clean sheet for as long as possible - we didn't have enough possession to create lots of chances, but we were on track after the first-half - and were well-organised and well-disciplined. The longer the game went on we had players who had injuries and cramps, so I had to make changes, but we kept our shape so we were disappointed with the final result as it was our own mistake that led to the equaliser. It was physically and mentally tough for our boys, playing 90 minutes against such strong opposition, and our players don't play this length of match regularly. I'm very proud of our performance. We are learning, we are developing and we need to get our energy levels up so we can play a full game at a high level."
Academy line-up: Mesa, Chansopheak, Baraing, Titchhy, Sovann, Piphop (T Chhaya 80), Sodavid, Chanpolin (V Samnang 91), Muslim (Rozak 57), Nuron (Ponvuthy 95), Senteang (Noeut 66). Subs not used: Chanvuthy, Phearath, K Chhaya, Chanchav. Booking: Piphop. MOTM: Mesa.
The Frenz Malaysia A starting line-up