Monday, October 28, 2013

Praying for a miracle

The country's football fans, starved of national team action for much of the year, can get their teeth into the MRYUIFTBIDCCup2013 from this coming weekend. That mouthful is the Mekong Region Youth U23 International Football Tournament BIDC Cup 2013 to you and me. Six countries have made it, despite it being billed a few months ago as an eight-country competition including two teams from China. That didn't happen. Instead, six teams are expected though its already been made clear that only one or two of them will be bringing their SEA Games squads to Phnom Penh. Cambodia will. We'll have to wait and see who else turns up. The games start on Saturday (2 November), 2pm at the Olympic Stadium with Cambodia's U-23s meeting Malaysia at 4pm in Group B. On 6 November, again at 4pm, Laos will be Cambodia's opponents. The top two countries of each group will progress to the semi-finals on 8 November and the final will be at 4pm on Sunday 10 November. The countries in Group A are Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. With the football public on a life-support machine as far as the national team are concerned - Cambodia lie in 198th position in the FIFA rankings, despite not having played for ever it seems - the matches are sure to get the supporters juices flowing, though with the U-23s build-up under the leadership of Lee Tae-Hoon on his return to steer the ship, not exactly uprooting any trees, they lost twice to Phnom Penh Crown in friendlies for example, the fans will be relying on hope (and the odd miracle) rather than expectation. Everyone will be keeping their fingers and toes crossed that players like Chan Vathanaka, Chhin Chhoeun and Bin Thierry play out of their skins and deliver the goods. Home advantage could count for something, especially if the supporters turn out in force, and with the team containing a number of players who've appeared in previous SEA Games competitions, so at least have the experience that few of their opponents can match, maybe a miracle might just happen. But don't bet your house on it. I hear the team have another game lined up, against visiting Guam, on 19 November, as the countdown moves into its final stages before the squad heads off to Myanmar for the SEA Games, and an even sterner test of their credentials.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Another cricket score for Crown

PPCFC U-15s Line-up, back row LtoR: Chhaya, Baraing, Sovannaroth, Chanchav, Samnang. Front Row: Piphop, Piseth, Noeut, Rafat, David, Ronaldo - click to enlarge
It took Kim Chhaya just five minutes to curl a free-kick inside the near post to trigger another avalanche of goals for Phnom Penh Crown's U-15s in their Cambodian U-15 Youth League encounter against Chhlam Samuth, aka the Navy, on Sunday morning. The game was played at the Tonle Bati national training center, some 35kms from Phnom Penh, far from ideal for two city-based teams. Two minutes after the opener and a Navy defender blasted the ball past his own keeper from Men Piphop's low cross. Both Chhaya and skipper Suon Noeut were guilty of missing guilt-edged chances with Chhaya chipping his onto the cross-bar. Piphop stepped up to net the opening goal of a 1st-half hat-trick on 27 minutes from Noeut's pass, and three minutes later rounded the keeper to score again. Chhaya continued the rout with a 1st-time finish from Piphop's pass and Noeut finally found the net after 35 minutes from Chhaya's set-up. Chhaya also laid on Piphop for his hat-trick five minutes before the break and two minutes later claimed his own treble, after Piphop's shot was blocked. Sixty seconds later and Nop David was denied by the Navy keeper but Mao Piseth tucked in the loose ball to give Crown a 9-goal interval lead. The Navy had not even managed a shot in 45 minutes.

Chhaya missed two easy chances before Noeut took advantage of a poor goal-kick to net a tenth goal and the first of eight second-half goals for the captain. Noeut and Seut Baraing struck the woodwork before a Chhaya chip set up Noeut for another. On 64 minutes, Lim Pisoth's pass gave Chhaya his fourth and a minute later, Piseth unlocked the defence again for Noeut to score. With Chhaya's last touch before he was rested, he slotted in Noeut and two minutes later, Noeut was on hand to fire home David's byeline pull back. Piphop grabbed his fourth with a weaving run past three defenders on 72 minutes and Noeut's seventh came as Pisoth's pass saw him skate around the keeper to score. Piphop's unselfish pass gave Noeut an easy finish before Baraing's precise curling free-kick registered on 82 minutes from the edge of the box. Noeut won a tackle and rolled into the corner of the net for Crown's 20th and David claimed the final strike with three minutes to go, after a poke forward by Piphop. There was still time for Phlong Sokraksa to chip onto the cross-bar. An emphatic win for Crown's U-015s, who didn't let up despite the ease with which they penetrated their opponents defensive line. Noeut's 9 goal haul takes his tally to 24 in just three games, though MOTM goes to Kim Chhaya with 4 goals and 5 assists in his 68 minutes on the pitch.
U-15s v Navy; Rafat, Ronaldo (Chanmony 64), Sovannaroth, Samnang, Baraing, Chanchav (Pisoth 55), Piphop, N David, Piseth (Kakada 86), Chhaya (Sokraksa 68), Noeut. Subs not used: Saphy. MOTM: Chhaya - a glut of goals and assists. Goals: Noeut 9 (35, 51, 61, 65, 67, 69, 74, 76, 85), Chhaya 4 (5, 33, 42, 64), Piphop 4 (27, 30, 40, 72), Piseth (43), Baraing (83), N David (87), Own Goal (7). 
Kim Chhaya scores the opening goal with a curling free-kick

MOTM Kim Chhaya (13) pulls the ball back from the byeline

Goalkeeper Kong Rafat and skipper Suon Noeut (2) before the kick-off

Two of the goalscorers, Mao Piseth (41) and Nop David (34)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Makara heads winner

PPCFC v Army. Back Row LtoR: Boris, King, Obadin, Hutchinson, Pheng, Sokumpheak. Front Row: Borey, Makara, Ary, Sosela, Da - click to enlarge
Phnom Penh Crown defeated the Army at the Army Stadium this afternoon in their latest pre-season practice match, with a neatly-taken Leng Makara headed goal ten minutes before half-time. The result isn't really important at this stage of the team's preparation for the upcoming season, but of course everyone likes to win. What is more important is that the team form an understanding with each other and they become comfortable in the formation and playing style of the coach, who in this case was assistant John McGlynn, as head coach Sam Schweingruber is in Singapore on an AFC Instructor's coaching course. Everyone in the team is expected to play football, with every move starting from the back and working openings either through the middle or down the flanks. In the first-half of today's game, Crown were guilty of a poor final pass, though Kyle King was unfortunate on fifteen minutes, when Leng Makara's cross was an inch too high and the striker sent his header wide. A poor back-pass gave Kouch Sokumpheak a sniff of a chance but Um Vichet was out quickly to clear. At the other end, Odion Obadin gave the ball away and was rescued by Yok Ary's diving save to deny Army a goal. On the half-hour, Obadin was flattened in the penalty box by Vichet as he got a toe to a Liam Hutchinson chipped free-kick, but the referee was the only person not to see the infringement as a penalty. It couldn't have been more obvious. Within thirty seconds Khim Borey lost the ball and Ary again came to his team's rescue with a good stop with his feet. Trying to make amends, Borey cut inside and unleashed a 30-yard drive high and wide. The opening goal arrived on 35 minutes as Neou Sosela, out wide on the left, sent over a perfect cross which Makara attacked, outjumped his marker and sent his header over the Army keeper's despairing dive.

Crown made four changes at the break including new signing Long Boran and Cameroon-born striker Arsene Ndougou, who arrived for a trial the day before from Thailand. Sosela sent a fizzing drive on target which was pushed aside by the Army keeper, but chances were few at both ends. Another substitute, Marcelo Turdera conjured his way into the box but was denied by a last-gasp tackle before he could get his shot away. Thirty minutes in and Ndougou chased and crossed but Turdera's ground shot was snapped up by the keeper. The last action was a free-kick by the Army's Pov Phearith that fizzed just wide. It was a second-half, played in scorching sunshine, that was pretty nondescript.
PPCFC v Army: Ary (Soksela 46), Da (Sarak 79), Pheng, Boris (Srin 72), Obadin, Hutchinson (Sokheng 46), Sokumpheak (Sothy 79), Borey (Turdera 60), Makara (Boran 46), Sosela (Tola 67), King (Ndougou 46). Subs: All used. Bookings: None. MOTM: Obadin - dominant at all times. Goal: Makara (35).
New arrival Arsene Ndougou played the 2nd half on his first appearance on trial - click to enlarge

Battambang duo arrive

New signing Um Tola - click to enlarge
Phnom Penh Crown's head coach Sam Schweingruber has snapped up two players who he has been tracking for a while, Um Tola and Long Boran, both from Battambang. The coach, currently on an AFC Instructor's Coaching course in Singapore, had this to say. "When I became coach last year I was really hoping to bring in Tola and Boran, unfortunately they were not free agents and it didn’t work out. As I have known both players for many years I have a good understanding of what they are capable of. I see potential but also the need to further develop them. Their performance for the Battambang team in the play-offs was very impressive and there is no doubt there is more to come. Hopefully they will settle in quickly and develop the way I believe is possible, and then we are in for a real treat of skill, power and commitment." 
Um Tola, who recently turned 24, is a hard-working speedy striker who was born in Banang village in Sdao commune in Battambang, played for the Samdech Ov High School and his provincial team as a youngster. He also played for the Crossroads club, the SALT organization, Western University for three years and recently a brief spell with the Thaneakea Srov team. He played for Western University in the C-League during 2012. Tola expressed his pleasure at joining Crown; "This is all new to me, such a professional club with high standards. I want to train so much with such a good foreign coach like Sam and especially as the team has so many national team players, who will help me improve. I will train hard to help the club win competitions. That is my goal." His fellow Battambang native, Long Boran, also celebrated his birthday recently. He's now 22 years old and previously played for Western University for two years, including their season in the Metfone C-League, alongside Tola. Born in Tuol Ta Ek in Battambang, he played for Samdech Ov High School and his provincial team, as well as the SALT Organisation before moving to live in Phnom Penh in 2011. "I am happy and excited about coming to PPCFC, as I never expected I could play for such a big club as this. Now I am here I want to be a success. I would love to help the team win competitions at home and abroad," said Crown's latest arrival.
Another new face is Long Boran - click to enlarge

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Teams post 8-1 scorelines

PPCFC U-15s line-up, back row LtoR: Chhaya, Sovannaroth, Noeut, Chanchav, Samnang, Baraing. Front Row: Rozak, Saphy, Piseth, Piphop, Kakada
The Phnom Penh Crown Academy teams that represent the club in the new Cambodia Youth Leagues at U-15 and U-17 have been in action in the last few days. This morning, the Crown U-15s played their second match in the U-15 Youth League, beating Boeung Ket 8-1 at the NIPES pitch in Tuol Kork. After their 27-0 win over Komar Ang Snuol in their opening league match, this game wasn't so one-sided but was still a comfortable victory with Suon Noeut scoring 5 goals (he scored 10 goals in the last game) and one each for Kim Chhaya, Sath Rozak and late substitute Tong Chanmony.  On Sunday, the U-17s won their second U-17 Youth League match, beating new boys Western University 8-1 at the same ground. In Sodavid netted a first-half hat-trick which included a 25-yard top corner screamer that was easily goal of the game. Skipper Orn Chanpolin, Yeu Muslim and Mat Nuron scored more goals in the first-half but with most of the pitch waterlogged after the break, Mat Sakrovy and Nuron rounded off the scoring as both sides struggled to keep their feet.
PPCFC U-15s v Boeung Ket: Samnang, K Chhaya, Sovannaroth (Ronaldo 51), Baraing, Saphy, Chanchav (Pisoth 73), Rozak (N David 42), Piphop, Piseth (S David 64), Kakada (Chanmony 83), Noeut. Subs not used: Rafat, Sokraksa. Goals: Noeut 5 (1, 10, 17, 29, 53), Rozak (35), K Chhaya (56), Chanmony (89).  
PPCFC U-17s v Western: Soksela, Chansopheak, Phearath, Sovann, Baraing (Titchhy 45), Chanpolin, Sodavid (Rozak 83), Sakrovy (T Chhaya 75), Ponvuthy (Noeut 74), Nuron, Muslim (Piphop 75). Subs: Chanvuthy, Chanchav. Goals: Sodavid (21, 38, 45), Nuron (46, 92), Chanpolin (18), Muslim (36), Sakrovy (51).
PPCFC U-17s line-up, Back Row LtoR: Sodavid, Sakrovy, Soksela, Baraing, Chanpolin, Sovann. Front Row: Muslim, Chansopheak, Nuron, Phearath, Ponvuthy - click to enlarge

Saturday, October 19, 2013

My way or the highway

The Cambodia U-23s receiving pre-match instructions
Anyone who has read Kingdom of Football before will likely be aware of my dissent with the current occupant of the hottest seat in Khmer football, the Cambodian national football team. I don't think he's the right man for the job. Plain and simple. But I seem to be a lone voice in the football wilderness on that one. He's currently responsible for the U-23 squad who are preparing for the BIDC Cup competition, in Phnom Penh early next month, and more importantly, the SEA Games in December over in Myanmar. The squad have been together, training twice each day, for a month and a half and will be in training camp lock-down at the Tonle Bati center from Monday. That has meant that each of those 25 players has not been available to their domestic clubs for that period of time and will not be released back to their clubs until after the SEA Games is over. So for the whole of the pre-season preparation, build-up and practice matches, clubs have had to manage without their best players. If they are lucky, they may get them back for a few days before the Hun Sen Cup competition begins on 17 December. Those are the facts. To me that stinks. How the heck can clubs prepare their teams properly, both tactically, mentally and physically, if their best players are absent for what will be more than three months? It's simply not possible. For purely selfish reasons the federation and the national coach decided they had complete control over the players, ignoring the fact that they are on contracts with their domestic teams. I don't believe there was any attempt to find a reasonable compromise, for example say two days a week with their own clubs, the rest of the time with the national set-up. It was their way or the highway, so to speak. Of course, everyone wants the national team to succeed but not at the expense of teams in the domestic competitions. It should be a partnership, not a them or us situation. Another area of the game where massive improvements need to be made.
The 25-man U-23 squad currently squirreled away is:
Phnom Penh Crown: Sou Yaty, Sos Suhana, Bin Thierry.
National Police: Say Piseth, Srey Oudom.
Army: Sou Yaty, Chhin Chhoeun, Phoung Soksana, Khek Khemarin, Ke Vannak, Ung Dara.
Svay Rieng: Aim Sovannarath, Sar Sophea, Prak Mony Udom, Tum Saray, Nen Sothearoth.
Boeung Ket: Chan Vathanaka, Keo Sokngon, Sok Pheng, Touch Pancharong, Khiev Vibol, Chhun Sothearath, Sok Sovan, Ros Samoeun.
Naga: Samrith Seiha, Sok Rithy.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Crown go down to 1st defeat

PPCFC v BBU. Back Row LtoR: Pisa, Keo, Turdera, Hutchinson, Boris, Phearun. Front Row: Sarak, Makara, Soksela, Sokheng, Tola - click to enlarge
Phnom Penh Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber gave his younger squad players the opportunity to shine in this afternoon's practice match against Build Bright United at the Army Stadium. Losing 1-0 meant it didn't quite go to plan but confirmed that a lot more work, both physical and mental, is needed to improve the squad ahead of the upcoming season that begins in the middle of December. Most of the players who started the game against the Cambodian U-23s yesterday were on the sidelines today, giving a first start to youth goalkeeper Keo Soksela and a number of players, who normally only see game-time as a substitute. Two of Crown's trialists started but Kyle King was absent with an eye infection. BBU made their intentions clear with only sixteen seconds on the clock as they fired a warning shot past the upright. Eight minutes in and a Kok Boris mistake nearly let in Pich Sina, only for Soksela to save at his feet. The youth stopper held onto three more long range efforts easily enough but watched helpless as Prum Putsethy's 20-yard strike crashed against the cross-bar. Little was seen of Crown as an attacking force until on 36 minutes Marcelo Turdera was denied twice with efforts after Leng Makara's lay-off. Seng Kosen struck the foot of the post at the other end, but Makara should've done better when Liam Hutchinson's pass picked him out in space at the far post, only for him to shoot into the midriff of  Sos Proshim.

A minute after the restart Makara broke clear and his cross was just inches away from connecting to Touch Sokheng's head. Turdera's free-kick was rolled into the path of Bun Keo but his drive cleared the cross-bar by a foot. BBU's Putsethy headed into Soksela's hands when it seemed easier to score and Sokheng aimed a fierce drive over the bar from outside the box. With Oum Tola miskicking in front of goal at one end of the pitch, BBU broke quickly on the counter-attack and Pich Sina had the simple task of poking the ball in from close range for the only goal of the game on 65 minutes. A flurry of substitutions by Crown failed to have the desire effect though Khim Borey broke clear only to be denied by Proshim's quick dash from his goal-line. That was the last of the goal-mouth activity and Crown went down to their first pre-season defeat. Three Academy youngsters saw action as substitutes with Orn Chanpolin, Sraing Titchhy and Seut Baraing getting valuable match-time and coping well in senior company.
PPCFC v BBU: Soksela (Ary 77), Sarak (Dara 72), Keo (Titchhy 62), Boris (Pheng 77), Hutchinson (Chanpolin 45), Sokheng (Morslim 68), Pisa (Srin 32 (Baraing 77)), Phearun (Sothy 26 (Obadin 77)), Makara (Sosela 77), Tola (Sokumpheak 77), Turdera (Borey 77). Subs not used: Da. Booking: None. MOTM: Boris - looked assured and many interceptions.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Another defeat for U-23s

PPCFC Line-up, back row LtoR: Pheng, Keo, Borey, Obadin, Turdera, Boris. Front Row: Sothy, Sosela, Ary, Da, Sokumpheak - click to enlarge
Phnom Penh Crown crashed the Cambodia U-23 party again this morning, posting another 2-1 scoreline to defeat the country's U-23s who are building up for the BIDC Cup and Sea Games in the next two months. The U-23s were beaten by the same score the week before. Crown were without two of their foreign contingent for this morning's encounter at the Olympic Stadium, with Kyle King and Liam Hutchisnson both nursing serious colds and eye infections. In the U-23 team, three Crown players were in the starting line-up to face their parent club; Sou Yaty, Sos Suhana and Bin Thierry. Khim Borey continued his goalscoring form with the opener after just ten minutes. A Neou Sosela corner was headed back across goal by Odion Obadin where Borey was waiting at the far post to fire in, with the ball taking a slight deflection past Yaty. Crown were comfortably in control for much of the first half but it needed Yok Ary to charge out of his area to tackle Chhin Chhoeun as he bore down on goal and when Ary headed clear, Phoung Soksana's return effort was easily swept clear by Kok Boris. 

Though both teams made no changes at the interval, the second half saw numerous comings and goings which interrupted the flow of the game. Fifteen minutes after the break a raking long ball from Obadin landed on Leng Makara's head but he could only direct his header into the arms of Yaty. With George Bisan, Boeung Ket's top scorer last term, on the pitch for Crown, his glancing header from Makara's corner, was the closest anyone came in the opening half-hour. A miss-kick by Ngoy Srin gave Ung Dara a sight of goal but Ary was equal to his drive. The same player also sent a header across the face of goal as the U-23s enjoyed a spell in control. As the match entered its final ten minutes, Bisan went on a powerful run past three defenders and his lay-off to Makara saw the young striker's powerful drive tipped over the bar by a stretching Yaty. With five minutes to go, Chan Vathanaka took a tumble in the box as he was challenged by San Sarak and the young defender received a yellow card for his troubles. Vathanaka made no mistake from the penalty spot. Despite the set-back, Crown went up the other end and with two minutes remaining, a Chhom Pisa corner was headed into the box by Obadin and Bisan, with his back to goal, looped the ball over his head and into the corner of Yaty's net for the match-winner. There was still time for Vathanaka to break clear but his finish was high and wide.

Crown coach Sam Schweingruber commented after his team's second successive victory over the U-23 national team; "We are clearly preparing for the season ahead and not these individual games, when you look at our fitness and our speed. For example we had two hard sessions yesterday so people were tired this morning. But its good to see someone like Boris looking so comfortable after his return from France. I also liked Tola's speed and energy. A few other players did well whilst some others disappointed me. So we still have much work to do. For tomorrow's match against BBU we'll rotate players to make sure everyone gets 90 minutes under their belt." Crown meet BBU at the Army Stadium tomorrow at 2pm.
PPCFC v U-23s: Ary, Da (Sarak 72), Keo (Srin 34), Boris (Makara 58), Obadin, Sothy (Sokheng 64), Sokumpheak (Pisa 80), Pheng, Sosela (Bisan 64), Marcelo (Tola 58), Borey (Titchhy 80). Subs not used: Soksela, Morslim, Phearun. Booked: Sarak. MOTM: Obadin - commanding in defence and two assists in attack. Goals: Borey (10), Bisan (88). 
U-23s Line-up. Back Row LtoR: PM Udom, Pheng, THIERRY, YATY, Rithy, Samoeun. Front Row: Sovan, Chhoeun, Soksana, SUHANA, Khemarin

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Dominant opener

PPCFC U-17s. Back Row LtoR: Sovann, Titchhy, Sodavid, Soksela, Sakrovy, Chanpolin (capt). Front Row: Ponvuthy, Nuron, Muslim, Chansopheak, Phearath - click to enlarge
The Phnom Penh Crown U-17s got their first taste of the new Cambodian U-17 Youth League this afternoon at Olympic Stadium. They looked a little rusty to begin with but went onto thrash the SSCA U-17s 5-0 but in reality the scoreline should've been much higher, the game was very one-sided. With the match switched to the Olympic Stadium as the RSN pitch was too wet, Crown dominated from the start, using their passing game to outwit the Civil Aviation team though they had to wait 27 minutes for their first goal. Before that a few chances were spurned including one by Mat Sakrovy, who broke free but lobbed the ball over the bar when well-placed. Pov Ponvuthy broke the deadlock when he finished off a sweet short corner move from In Sodavid and Ken Chansopheak that completely outfoxed the SSCA defence. Crown continued to create and miss chances until Sakrovy sped past the last defender, latched onto an Orn Chanpolin pass, kept his head and rolled his shot inside the far post with 33 minutes on the clock. Two minutes later, SSCA were well and truly beaten as Mat Nuron's bye-line cross was swept in by Yeu Muslim at the near post for Crown's third. Nuron himself missed a gilt-edged chance just before the half-time interval.

SSCA did better at the beginning of the second-half to restrict Crown but Ponvuthy should've done better when sent clear by Muslim, only to steer his shot wide of the target. With half an hour of the second half gone, Crown extended their lead as Suon Noeut used his pace to race into the box and Nuron poked in the loose ball as the goalkeeper failed to cut out the cross. Soon after Noeut blasted over when scoring seemed an easier option. With nine minutes to go, skipper Chanpolin was upended in the penalty box and Sraing Titchhy guided the spot-kick into the corner of the net for his team's fifth. Crown's superior fitness was another factor in their dominance but they were left speechless by the referee's last minute decision to dismiss substitute Vat Samnang. An innocuous challenge in midfield by Samnang and an opponent left them both on the floor but the referee deemed Samnang had done something seriously wrong in his opinion and was shown a straight red card. No-one could quite believe their eyes as the youngster left the field. It was a shockingly inept decision by a match official who had been fifteen minutes late in starting the game, for reasons known only to him. A sour note in an otherwise good display by Crown's U-17s. Their next game is next Sunday against Western University at RSN Stadium.
PPCFC U-17s: Soksela, Chansopheak, Phearath (K Chhaya 65), Sovann, Titchhy, Chanpolin, Sodavid, Sakrovy (Piphop 65), Ponvuthy (Noeut 74), Nuron (V Samnang 84), Muslim (Rozak 86). Subs not used: Chanvuthy, Baraing, Chanchav. Bookings: Phearath, V Samnang (red card). MOTM: Chanpolin. Goals: Ponvuthy (27), Sakrovy (33), Muslim (35), Nuron (76), Titchhy pen (81).
Captain Orn Chanpolin (8) leads out the PPCFC U-17s at Olympic Stadium - click to enlarge

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Play-off action

The play-offs to decide the two places in next season's Metfone C-League kicked-off on Saturday afternoon at Olympic Stadium. The league's bottom two clubs from last term, AEU and Senate will play a round-robin competition against the two teams who progressed through the Division1A tournament. TriAsia and Takeo (aka Angkor United). The match-up between AEU and Senate opened the series of games and as expected AEU were a bit too strong for Senate, winning 2-0. Senate even had their keeper dismissed for a lunging tackle fifteen minutes into the 2nd half so the defeat came as no surprise. In the second game, the favourites TriAsia meade heavy weather of it against Angkor United despite an early lead through Sok Chanraksmey, their recent arrival from Svay Rieng. A disallowed goal for Angkor was tough on the team with Kingsley Njoku and In Vichheka in their ranks. Then an unexplained incident blighted Angkor's chances in the match when one of their players limped off and they played with ten men for nearly twenty minutes. There was no obvious reason for it. In that time TriAsia scored a second goal just before the break. The 2nd half began with Angkor still down to ten men, before La Sokri (73) was allowed on, only to be removed again by the match officials, with the suggestion being the number on his jersey wasn't clear. What was clear is that the actions of the officials took its toll on Angkor and as he reappeared, TriAsia netted a third and the game was all over. Angkor effectively rolled over and allowed TriAsia to total seven goals without reply. Chanraksmey netted a hat-trick including a well-executed bicycle kick. The coffee-shop backed club included former PPCFC players Vi Lika and Kouch Dani, two recent Japanese arrivals and Friday Nwakuna. The play-offs continue on Monday and Wednesday of next week.

Crown on top

PPCFC. Back Row LtoR: Hutchinson, King, Srin, Turdera, Pheng, Obadin. Front Row: Da, Sosela, Ary, Sokumpheak, Borey - click to enlarge
Phnom Penh Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber was upbeat at the final whistle of this morning's 2-1 victory for his Crown side over the Cambodia U-23s at Olympic Stadium. "It was a good work-out and I was surprised at how well players like Sokumpheak lasted for the whole 90 minutes. Some players did very well, others looked off the pace a bit, but we started our sessions less than a week ago. It also gave our foreigners a challenge and asked them the question, are you better than the best Khmer players? It was a good session." Previously unbeaten in half a dozen matches, the U-23s included three Crown players in their starting eleven - Thierry, Suhana and Yaty - as well as their most recent recruit, Chhunly Pagenburg. Crown included four foreigners in their line-up, three of them on trial. Disappointingly the groundstaff at the stadium had failed to paint the white lines or cut the grass, so small plastic cones identified the touchlines. A sorry state of affairs. Marcelo Turdera blasted a 25-yard shot high and wide in the first effort on goal after 18 minutes. Sok Sovan did the same at the other end, while Ros Samoeun's long range effort was grasped by the diving Yok Ary. Just before the half hour, Pagenburg was in the action but sent his header, as he stretched, wide of the mark. On 39 minutes, the German-born striker's next touch was decisive. His deep cross from the left touchline eluded Hong Pheng at the far post but Tum Saray was on hand to volley past Ary from a couple of yards out. 1-nil to the U-23s. Moments later it looked likely that Pagenburg would double their lead as he played a one-two with Phoung Soksana and left the defenders in his wake, only to push the ball too wide of Ary and lose possession at the crucial moment. With a minute left on the clock, Crown skipper Khim Borey received a pass from Turdera, cut onto his left foot and unleashed a wicked 25-yard dipping drive that arced over Yaty for a brilliant equaliser.

Cambodia coach Lee Tae-Hoon changed his whole line-up for the second-half while his opposite number kept faith with his team for another fifteen minutes after the restart. Nine minutes in and Prak Mony Udom hit a thunderbolt from 25-yards that crashed against the cross-bar and was cleared as it bounced down. Moments later, Kyle King jigged his way into the six-yard box past two defenders only for the U-23 keeper, Aim Sovannarath to get a hand to palm the ball for a corner. Crown looked the more composed of the two teams and made four changes on the hour mark. Three minutes later and Leng Makara set up Turdera, whose low shot was pushed aside by Sovannarath, only for David Talevski to retrieve it and plonk it onto Turdera's head and into the net. However, his celebration was cut short as the linesman had decided the ball had gone out of play, despite there being no line markings for him to judge correctly. Chhin Chhoeun tried to chip Ary but the keeper was alert  and from a corner, Pagenburg headed over at the far post, while Sok Pheng blasted wide on the run. Makara's pace on the right was causing problems and his cut back was missed by Jeremy Molina but Talevski followed up to send his right-footed shot inches wide of the mark. Odion Obadin was a tower of strength in defence and got in a great block to deny Pagenburg as the game entered its last few minutes. With four minutes to go, Bun Keo fed Borey and his delightful left-foot cross to the far post was finished off by Makara at close range, to earn Crown their deserved victory. In time added on, Chhoeun went down in the box under a Keo challenge, only for the referee to brandish a yellow card for simulation. The match ended and the U-23s unbeaten record came to an end. In truth, their performance didn't warrant any other result. A lot of work ahead for the U-23s to challenge at the SEA Games, while Schweingruber will look to step up his team's pre-season conditioning over the coming weeks ahead.
PPCFC: Ary, Da (Sarak), Pheng (Keo), Srin (Sokheng (Sothy)), Obadin, Hutchinson (Boris), Sokumpheak, Sosela (Makara (Pisa)), Borey (Talevski), Turdera (Molina), King (Borey). Subs not used: Soksela, Tola, Morslim, Phearun, Dara. Booked: Makara. MOTM: Borey - two sublime touches, two goals. Goals: Borey (44), Makara (86).
Cam U23s. Back Row LtoR: Yaty, Pagenburg, Thierry, Sovan, Soksana, Piseth. Front Row: Pancharong, Suhana, Sothearath, Saray, Samoeun - click to enlarge

PPCFC's 3 U23 players, LtoR: Thierry, Yaty, Suhana - click to enlarge

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chhunly in town

Chhunly Pagenburg in his FSV Frankfurt colours
The football hotline is buzzing with the news that Chhunly Pagenburg, with dual nationality of Cambodian and German, is in town and played for the Cambodia U-23s in a practice match with Svay Rieng this morning. He's been touted as the answer to Cambodia's woes for a year or two now, but until today has never been seen. All that changed this morning when he donned the national team shirt for a run-out with the U-23s. At 26 he's too old to play in the upcoming SEA Games, but at least he's made an appearance that will please the multitude of Khmer football fans, searching desperately for a feel-good factor with their national football team. Pagenburg, born in Nuremberg, joined German Bundesliga 2 side FSV Frankfurt in July after a whirlwind two years with Eintracht Trier where he netted 29 goals in 53 games in Germany's 4th tier of football, after earlier spells with FC Nuremberg, TSV 1860 Munich, Rot-Weiss Erfurt and the German U-19 and U-20 national teams. With an international break, it looks like he will be around for a few days and will play again, against Phnom Penh Crown in another practice match on Saturday morning.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Into the action so soon

PPCFC 1st half. Back Row LtoR: Obadin, King, Sokheng, Ary, Hutchinson, Da. Front Row: Srin, Sosela, Sokumpheak, Borey, Pheng - click to enlarge
The day after Phnom Penh Crown reported back for serious pre-season conditioning training, the team took on Asia Euro University in a practice match this afternoon. With the RSN field suffering from the recent deluge of rain, the match was played at the Army Stadium with AEU looking to sharpen up ahead of their do-or-die C-League play-off matches starting at the weekend. For Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber it was an early marker for him to assess his existing squad as well as a bunch of trialists looking to secure a contract. They included no less than seven players from overseas and quite a few from much closer to home as well. As it turned out, the game offered up more questions for the tactician than answers. His after-match comments reflected that. "We're not prepared physically, we trained for the 1st time yesterday for two hours and we were in the gym this morning. We knew we were going to be tired. There were a few things I liked and lots of things I didn't like. But we needed this run out as a starting point." It's very much early days, the field and gym work over the next two months will mould the squad into much better shape and ready for the Hun Sen Cup ties that begin in mid-December. No less than 33 players took part in today's game in Crown colours. And they didn't include the three players currently training with the U-23 national team - Bin Thierry, Sos Suhana and new keeper Sou Yaty. Amongst the new foreign faces on show were two British-born players, Liam Hutchinson and Kyle King, Argentine Marcelo Turdera, Australian David Talevski, Jeremy Molina from Spain and Nigerian Ugochukwu Obi Moneke. Bun Keo is a Khmer-French import, while In Vichheka from Kirivong, San Sarak from TriAsia and two new faces from Battambang, Long Boran and Oum Tola, were amongst the locally-based players trying out.

Early on a corner fell to Touch Sokheng and his shot was deflected for another corner, while a Khim Borey drive was held by the AEU keeper. On the thirty minute mark, Kouch Sokumpheak fed Neou Sosela and his neat back-heel saw Thourng Da rampaging down the right flank to the byeline, with Sokumpheak on hand to steer home his inch-perfect cross. 1-nil to Crown. As Schweingruber made two changes, AEU broke down the left flank and Yok Ary's finger-tip touch to the cross was powered in by a diving AEU head to level the scores just two minutes later. A minute later and Ary flew across his goal to touch a shot wide, while Talevski's long-range effort was easily held by the AEU stopper.  All change at half-time perked up Crown and within four minutes Leng Makara got to a Turdera chip only to steer the ball wide of the target. Ouk Sothy's low drive was easily held before Talevski was denied a goal with a keeper's block after Turdera's intelligent through ball on the hour. A few minutes later and Turdera sent his header the wrong side of the upright from Keo's center. With Crown in control, Turdera's first-time chip from all of thirty yards sailed agonizingly wide of the post, after Kok Boris had spotted the striker in space. Turdera was determined to get on the scoresheet but another hopeful chip from 35 yards out cleared the cross-bar by a foot. With changes galore, the rhythm faltered and apart from a wayward drive by Mak Phearun and a grass-cutting shot from Obi, neither side seriously threatened the scoreboard.
PPCFC 1st half: Ary, Da, Pheng, Srin, Obadin, Hutchinson (Molina 22), Sokheng (Sothy 39), Sosela (Talevski 31), Sokumpheak, Borey, King (Turdera 31).
2nd half: Chamroeun (Soksela 67), Sarak (Lika 81), Keo (Panha 85), Boris (Seyha 75), Vichheka, Sothy (Obi 69), Pisa (Dara 85), Molina (King 60 (Tola 81 (Ratana 88))), Makara (Phearun 81), Talevski (Boran 75), Turdera (Morslim 81).
Booking: Pheng. MOTM: Vichheka - assured defensive performance. Goals: Sokumpheak (30).
PPCFC 2nd half. Back Row LtoR: Boris, Chamrouen, Molina, Talevski, Keo, Turdera. Front Row: Sarak, Sothy, Makara, Pisa, Vichheka - click to enlarge

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Snippets of news

  • A Cambodian U-12 football squad under PPCFC's Academy head coach Bouy Dary is heading for South Korea tomorrow for a youth festival. 18 players from PPCFC, Svay Rieng, Prek Kdam and Battambang. Matches will be thirty minutes and 9-a-side. Its taking place in Incheon, Korea's third largest city. Great experience for the youngsters especially as they are camping in tents with over 1,000 other boys.
  • Word on the grapevine is that Phnom Penh Crown have been invited to a pre-season tournament in an Asian country that the club have never visited before. More when the tournament is confirmed.
  • The Cambodia U-23s continue their build-up to the BIDC Cup in November and the SEA Games in December by playing friendlies against local opposition. And I mean very local. They beat Kirivong 5-0 last week and then drew 2-2 with their U-19 national team counterparts. They will continue on the same theme when they meet National Police tomorrow at 7.30am at the Olympic Stadium. Three PPCFC players are in the U-23 training squad: new signing Sou Yaty, Bin Thierry and Sos Suhana. Postscript: The U-23s won 4-1 against National Police. Goals by Sokngon, Chhoeun, Vathanaka, Udom.
  • Balkan FC from Turkmenistan, who beat Boeung Ket 2-0 in Phnom Penh back in May during the qualifiers, have been crowned this year's AFC President's Cup champions with a 1-0 win in the final over KRL from Pakistan. The final stages were held in neutral Malaysia. Balkan topped their group in the final stage with wins over Three Star (Nepal) 6-0 and Erchim (Mongolia) 4-0 but needed a winning goal three minutes from time to beat the Pakistan champions.