Sunday, December 29, 2013

U-15s deserve their success

PPCFC U-15s v SSAC, back row, LtoR: Chanmony, Saphy, Chanchav, Sovannaroth, S Samnang, Baraing (capt). Front Row: Kakada, Piseth, N David, Rafat, Rozak - click to enlarge
Result: PPCFC Academy U-15 3 SSCA 1 (Cambodia U-15 Youth League Play-off Final).
The Phnom Penh Crown Academy U-15s have beaten all before them this season, winning every match they've played, scoring 130 goals and conceding just two, so it came as no surprise when they beat SSCA to win the Cambodia Youth League Championship, despite an under-par performance. Perhaps nerves played a part for them and the U-17s too, with both teams lacking the fluidity we've come to expect, but its clear that no-one can match the passing game of the Academy teams and even without their top goalscorer Suon Noeut and down to ten men for the whole of the 2nd half, the U-15s were simply too strong for their plucky opponents. Minus Noeut, who sprained his wrist playing for the U-17s in the earlier game, coach Bouy Dary pushed his captain, Seut Baraing, into attack and it proved a master-stroke. Baraing too, had played for the U-17s, netted a penalty in the spot-kick shoot-out and then scampered from the pitch to join his U-15 teammates waiting to enter the arena. He proved to be the dominant force for the Crown Academy throughout the match, spurning two good opportunities before opening the scoring on 36 minutes. Early on he sent Sat Rozak racing clear only for the SSCA goalkeeper to deny him. Rozak returned the pass to Baraing minutes later but he fired wide and then burst into the box, only for the opposing keeper, who had a fine game, to save his shot. However, he was not to be denied as Mao Piseth set him up, and though his first shot was blocked, he rolled in the opener from a tight angle. The skipper was sent clear again six minutes later and was hauled to the ground by the keeper. Rozak stepped up to score with confidence. A minute before the break, the referee, Chi Samedy, took an unnecessary part in proceedings. Having already booked Sin Kakada for kicking the ball away, he decided Kakada was guilty of the same offence a 2nd time and flashed a second yellow and a red card to the distraught youngster. Video replays clearly show that Kakada was in the motion of kicking the ball as the referee blew his whistle and had no chance to stop himself. Probably one of the worst decisions I have seen in youth football from a C-League referee who should know better. Crown would play the entire second-half with ten men and Kakada sat with his family in the grandstand, with his head in his hands.

SSCA showed their intent to not lie down and take defeat easily by missing the target by inches just 37 seconds after the restart. After Baraing fired a good chance across the face of goal, SSCA scored only the 3rd goal that the Academy have conceded in the competition, with the half just six minutes old. SSCA took advantage of a hesitant defence and their speedy striker grabbed the goal his performance deserved. A few minutes later Svang Samnang, playing in the heart of defence rather than his normal role between the sticks, sent Baraing clear though his finish sailed over the cross-bar. Another Baraing effort was saved before he left the field with ten minutes remaining. With just a minute of normal time to go, Men Piphop chased the ball and harried a defender into conceding an own goal to make the game safe. The referee then added on an extra nine minutes - he obviously had his own agenda - during which time Piphop ran through but lobbed wide of the target and Nop David's free-kick was saved low down. The final whistle eventually came as the Academy U-15s celebrated their deserved success and Seut Baraing stepped up to collect the Championship trophy. Suon Noeut was awarded Top Goalscorer with his 54 goals in just 8 matches, he also received the Most Valuable Player award and rightly so, whilst Kong Rafat was awarded Best Goalkeeper, Bouy Dary got the Best Coach trophy and the team were given the Fair Play award too. A clean sweep of awards, in a season in which they were the dominant force in the country's Youth League. 
PPCFC U-15s v SSCA: Rafat, Chanmony, Sovannaroth (S David 97), S Samnang, Saphy, Chanchav, N David, Rozak, Kakada, Piseth (Piphop 61), Baraing (K Chhaya 81). Sub not used: Pisoth. Bookings: Kakada (+ red card), N David. MOTM: Baraing - a true captain's performance. Goals: Baraing (36), Rozak (42 pen), OG (89).
The PPCFC U-15s collect their Championship medals and trophy, held aloft by skipper Seut Baraing - click to enlarge

Crown collect 2 Championships

PPCFC U-17s line-up: Back Row LtoR: K Chhaya, Titchhy, Senteang, Sovann, Soksela, Chanpolin (capt). Front Row: Sodavid, Noeut, Chansopheak, Piphop, Phearath - click to enlarge

Result: PPCFC Academy U-17 0 Svay Rieng 0 - PPCFC won 4-3 on penalties (Cambodia U-17 Youth League Play-off Final).
The two Cambodia Youth League play-off Finals took place today with the Phnom Penh Crown Academy teams collecting the Championships in both the U-17 and U-15 categories for a memorable double success. The first final was in the U-17 age group and Crown coach Bouy Dary included three players who were also set to feature in the U-15 match that would follow immediately after. Orn Chanpolin took the captain's armband for the final and Ouk Sovann made it through a late fitness test after a groin strain. Just three minutes into the game and Chhuot Senteang set up Suon Noeut but Sem Mesa was out quickly to block the danger. Long Phearath tried his luck from distance but without success, as did Kim Chhaya with a free-kick that sailed over. Next to test Mesa was In Sodavid as Crown edged possession but gave the ball away too much. Svay Rieng's best chance came on the half-hour and Keo Soksela got in the way with a 1-handed save low down to smother the danger. Sovann, booked for a clumsy tackle a little earlier, sent in a free-kick late in the half which Mesa held and the keeper then produced a brilliant tip over to deny a long-range effort from Phearath in time added on. Honours even at the half-time break.

Svay Rieng threatened briefly but sent their breakaway effort wide of the mark. On 66 minutes a Sovann free-kick found its way to Senteang, twelve yards out and in space, but he rushed his finish and sent it wildly over the cross-bar. Eight minutes from normal time and with both teams finding it hard going to establish any rhythm, Svay Rieng went down to ten men when a second yellow card was shown for a high foot on Pov Ponvuthy. The recipient had only been on the pitch for seven minutes and was booked twice in that time as Svay Rieng tried to kill the game. Vat Samnang shot weakly at Mesa and in the fourth minute of injury time, the province team were fortunate to escape a second red card as Senteang was scythed down as he raced through a static defence. Referee Tuy Vichheka blew for full-time and without enough time before the next final for extra-time the game went into a penalty-kick decider. Svay Rieng's Ravann took the opening kick and Soksela, diving to his right, pulled off a great save. Chanpolin placed his kick to the left and scored to put Crown ahead. Ratanak stepped up and sent his spot-kick over Soksela's head for 1-1 and late substitute Seut Baraing netted for Crown, though Mesa got a hand to it. Dinarong levelled it at 2 apiece before a moment of heartbreak for Pov Ponvuthy, as his kick was saved by Mesa. Svay Rieng got their noses in front when Chansereyvong sent Soksela the wrong way only for Sodavid to score with confidence to make it 3-3. Once Harit sent his spot-kick ballooning over the bar, Ouk Sovann stepped up and calmly slotted his penalty into the corner and set off on a celebration run that was ended when his teammates smothered him. Crown had won 4-3 on penalty kicks to collect the Championship, which they had topped after the regulation season as well. Baraing ran from the field to take his place as the captain of the U-15s team, who were already lined-up and ready to enter the pitch, as his teammates continued their jubilant celebrations. That would continue at the presentation ceremony when the U-17s Most Valuable Player was collected by Orn Chanpolin, the Best Goalkeeper went to Keo Soksela, Bouy Dary collected Best Coach, the team received the Fair Play trophy and Chanpolin was a happy chappy as he lifted the Championship trophy aloft to the cheers of his teammates.
PPCFC U-17s v Svay Rieng: Soksela, Chansopheak, Phearath, Sovann, Titchhy (Baraing 76), Chanpolin, Sodavid, Noeut (V Samnang 78), Chhaya (Nuron 89), Piphop (Ponvuthy 62), Senteang. Subs not used: Chanvuthy, T Chhaya, Chanchav, Sakrovy, Rozak. Bookings: Sovann, Titchhy. MOTM: Sovann - cool under pressure and a title-winning penalty. Goals (pens): Chanpolin, Baraing, Sodavid, Sovann.
The PPCFC U-17s celebrate their success immediately after the final whistle

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Feels like a win

PPCFC v An Giang, back row, LtoR: Yaty, Bisan, Thierry, Hutchinson, Srin, Obadin. Front Row: Boran, Sosela, Borey (c), Sokumpheak, Pheng - click to enlarge
Result: HV An Giang 1 Phnom Penh Crown 1 (Friendly).
Continuing their brief pre-season preparation tour to Vietnam, via Kirivong, the Phnom Penh Crown squad were escorted across the border at Phnom Den, without any need for passports and visas and arrived in Long Xuyen, the provincial capital of An Giang province in time for a brief run out on the excellent pitch. Saturday afternoon, Crown lined up against a strong Vietnamese League, who've strengthened their team ahead of the new V-League season that begins in the middle of January. In a well-matched first-half, it was the scurrying Neou Sosela who offered the first threat as he raced clear only to see his center cut out for a corner. On fifteen minutes, Odion Obadin recovered lost ground to avert a dangerous breakaway and two minutes later, Crown took a deserved lead. Kouch Sokumpheak won a tackle and fed George Bisan, who cut inside his marker and unleashed a 20-yard powerdrive that evaded the keeper and put Crown ahead. Bisan's somersault was well received by the 500-strong crowd. The home team stepped up their game as a quick free-kick caused consternation but Sou Yaty was out quickly to smother the danger. Their efforts paid off on 28 minutes when Hong Pheng tapped the ankle of Felix Ajala and his dramatic dive resulted in a penalty. Dinh Hoang Max struck his spot-kick into the corner just wide of Yaty's dive. As the half progressed, Bisan and Khim Borey twice combined to send the Nigerian striker free only for Phan Van Santos to end the danger on the first occasion and for a last-gasp tackle to deny Bisan a shot on target soon after.

After the break, An Giang came out strong and within a couple of minutes, Yaty needed to be strong to tip over a shot by David and on seven minutes, a close range volley rebounded into play off the Crown cross-bar. A point-blank Yaty save, as he palmed a close range header onto the post, was the most dangerous moment as Crown weathered the early storm. Thirteen minutes into the second period and Bisan turned quickly onto a Bin Thierry pass and poked his shot a few inches wide of the target. Yaty was again in action less than a minute later as he saved low down. A series of substitutions took place as the game settled into a midfield battle, which Crown looked to be winning for large chunks of the game. As the match entered its final minutes, Obi's cross from the left flank saw Leng Makara arrive at the far post in acres of space, only to steer with shot agonisingly wide. Jeong Ho Kim had an attempt on goal blocked, Liam Hutchinson sent a rocket free-kick a few inches over the top and Yaty was again to the rescue with another good block save, before Hong Pheng's low shot was grabbed by the keeper to end the match all-square. A good work-out for Crown against a high quality team, though An Giang will feel they need to step up their game with their new season just over a week away. It was a draw that felt like a win for the visitors.
PPCFC v An Giang: Yaty, Srin, Pheng, Hutchinson (Boris 90) , Obadin, Thierry (Sothy 88), Sokumpheak (Sokheng 92), Boran (Obi 43 (Da 84 ), Sosela (Makara 67), Borey (Suhana 78), Bisan (Kim 76). Subs not used: Tola, Dara, Morslim, Pisa. Bookings: Sokumpheak. MOTM: Obadin & Yaty - both were invincible. Goal: Bisan (17). 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Crown held

PPCFC v Kirivong 1st half: Back row, LtoR: Obadin, Srin, Makara, Bisan, Hutchinson, Yaty. Front Row: Borey, Boran, Sothy, Suhana, Pheng - click to enlarge
Result: Phnom Penh Crown 2 Kirivong 2 (Friendly).
Phnom Penh Crown took their pre-season preparation on the road to Vietnam. First-up and en route was a game against Kirivong at the Teacher Training College in Takeo after a 6am start from Phnom Penh on Friday. On a pitch that wasn't helpful to a passing style of football, Crown started with a bang and scored the opener in the second minute. A quick throw allowed Sos Suhana to flick the ball onto Leng Makara and he turned on the edge of the box and let fly with a half-volley that sailed over the keeper's head and into the net. One-nil. In Vichheka got a yellow card for a deliberate trip on George Bisan as he looked set to run through unopposed, before the bobbly pitch took a hand in proceedings. A long ball out of defence from Kirivong took a wicked bounce that deceived Sou Yaty as he came out of his area to clear, leaving a simple roll in leveller for a Kirivong striker. Bisan tried his luck from 25 yards but without success before the home team took the lead on 38 minutes when a corner kick ping-ponged around the penalty box before Kirivong volleyed in from close range. The half ended when Long Boran headed well over from Makara's cross. At the break, Sam Schweingruber changed all ten outfield players, as a new-look Crown took to the field. Obi sent a shot skidding wide and Neou Sosela volleyed over the bar from a tight angle. Touch Sokheng tried an audacious lob from 25 yards that rebounded into play off the cross-bar and Chhom Pisa fired wide from Obi's headed pass. In the 2nd minute of time added on, Chea Dara and Pisa combined to put Om Tola in the box and his shot took a deflection off the keeper and wrong-footed a Kirivong defender who couldn't help himself from slicing the ball into his own net. So the final score in an otherwise disappointing match, was 2-2.
PPCFC v Kirivong: Yaty, Srin (Da 46), Pheng (Dara 46), Hutchinson (Sarak 46), Obadin (Boris 46), Sothy (Sokheng 46 (Pisa 83)), Suhana (Obi 46), Boran (Tola 46), Makara (Sosela 46), Borey (Thierry 46), Bisan (Kim 46 (Morslim 83)). MOTM: Makara. Goals: Makara (2), OG (92).

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Stiff test for Crown

HV An Giang parading their latest signing, Phan Thanh Binh
I've just heard that Phnom Penh Crown will face a stiff test when they make a lightning-quick trip to Takeo before crossing the border into An Giang Province in Vietnam later this week. On Friday morning at 9am they will meet fellow C-Leaguer side Kirivong SSC in a practice match at the teacher Training College in Takeo town before heading for Long Xuyen, the provincial capital of An Giang Province. Then on Saturday afternoon at 3pm they will come face to face with the newest club in the top tier of the Vietnam League, Hung Vuong An Giang FC. With the V-League season scheduled to start in January, HV An Giang are in the midst of their preparation and recently defeated the Vietnam U-23s in a friendly. The game with Crown will take place at their 15,200-capacity stadium in Long Xuyen, with the club having been promoted after a 3rd-place finish in Division 1 last season. They have gone out and added considerable weight to their squad in the off season including one of Vietnam's best strikers, Thanh Binh, only 27-years old and the scorer of 13 goals in 24 appearances for the national team. He arrives from Dong Tam Long. Their foreign imports include Togolese defender Vincent Bossou from Binh Duong, as well as naturalized Brazilian goalkeeper Phan Van Santos from the same club. The 6 feet 6 inch 36-year old made two appearances for the Vietnam national team. Expected to be amongst the goals next season is Felix Ajala, a highly-rated Nigerian striker signed from Kien Giang. A bunch of experienced Vietnamese players have also been signed with the obvious intention to cement their place in the top flight in their debut season. But first they take on the might of Phnom Penh Crown this Saturday.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Suzuki Cup qualifying

The AFF council meeting at the weekend came up with a surprising announcement. They informed all and sundry that there would indeed be a qualifying competition ahead of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup after initially confirming that no qualifying would be necessary and all 11 teams would play in the finals. No reason for the change of heart was given, but it now means that Cambodia and a few of the minnow nations in the Asean family will have to slog it out between themselves to earn the right to go to the final rounds, that will take place in Singapore and Vietnam in December. The qualifiers will take place in Laos between 13-19 October and are likely to include Cambodia, Laos, Brunei, Timor-Leste and maybe, Myanmar. So that automatically rings alarm bells for Cambodia, who if past form is anything to go by, will find it hard, nay impossible, to get through to the final stages. In the qualifiers for the 2012 competition, Cambodia lost all 4 matches. The other news from the council meeting was that Myanmar and Philippines would host the 2016 competition and that the qualifying tournament would be held in...Cambodia. So that's possibly 10 matches in the space of a few days. Something to look forward to.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The final awaits

PPCFC U-15s, back row, LtoR: Sovannaroth, Rafat, Chanchav, K Chhaya, S Samnang, Noeut (capt). Front: Saphy, Piphop, Piseth, N David, Rozak - click to enlarge
Result: PPCFC Academy U-15s 2 Boeung Ket 0 (Cambodia U-15 Youth League Semi-Final).
This afternoon kick-off in this Cambodia U-15 Youth League play-off semi-final at the Dept of PE & Sport pitch came immediately after SSCA beat Svay Rieng in the other semi. Boeung Ket adopted a defensive stance for the first half and never threatened the Crown goal, but despite their 40-goal thrashing of Police the week before, the Crown attack was not firing on all cylinders and squandered numerous chances, going in at half-time, 0-0. Mao Piseth headed a great opportunity wide in the third minute and Suon Noeut volleyed over the top from six yards out on ten minutes. Five minutes later and Men Piphop did exactly the same. Kim Chhaya's free kick was punched away twice by the keeper and just before half-time, Noeut took a touch and looked certain to score, but managed to force it wide of the upright. The story was the same after the break. Noeut blasted another chance over the bar after Sath Rozak's effort was kept out and he was then denied a headed goal by a good save from Svay Samnang's cross. Seut Baraing put in Chhaya who rounded the keeper but his shot was blocked on the line before Piseth headed another clear chance into the keeper's hands. Finally on 74 minutes, Crown broke the deadlock, after a rare scare at the other end. A floated Chhaya free-kick to the far post found Baraing all alone and he headed in off the upright for the opening goal, amidst a few relieved sighs from the Crown bench. He then tried a 20-yard effort which the keeper saved but two minutes from time, Crown made the game safe and booked their passage to the final, against SSCA next Sunday. A stunning 40-yard pass from Baraing fell at Noeut's feet as he raced clear and took his time to fire the ball home for his 54th goal of the season. He was today's captain. The game against SSCA at Olympic Stadium next weekend will start at 3.30pm. The U-17s kick-off against Svay Rieng earlier at 1.30pm.
PPCFC U-15s: Rafat, N David (Baraing 56), Sovannaroth (Chanmony 73), Saphy, S Samnang, K Chhaya, Piphop, Chanchav, Rozak, Piseth (Kakada 78), Noeut (capt). Sub not used: S David. MOTM: K Chhaya. Goals: Baraing (74), Noeut (88).
Suon Noeut (red) was captain for the day and scored his 54th goal of the season - click to enlarge

U-17s cruise into final

PPCFC U-17s, back row, LtoR: Sakrovy, Baraing, Chanpolin, Sodavid, Soksela, Titchhy (capt). Front: Senteang, Nuron, Chansopheak, Phearath, V Samnang - click to enlarge
Result: PPCFC Academy U-17s 5 Army 0 (Cambodia U-17 Youth League Semi-Final).
The Crown U-17s dominated from start to finish in this Youth League play-off semi-final and deservedly take their place in next Sunday's final against rivals Svay Rieng, who beat Western Uni in the earlier tie played at the BBU pitch. In Sodavid kicked off the domination when he scored the opening goal in the fifth minute. Individually, Sodavid was excellent throughout, and he was on hand to fire through the crowd after both Chhuot Senteang and Mat Sakrovy had their efforts charged down. The Army keeper came to his team's rescue on numerous occasions as Crown peppered his goal. Senteang and Sakrovy were foiled, Mat Nuron's effort was deflected wide and a vicious strike from Sodavid was pushed over the cross-bar. Seut Baraing and Sraing Titchhy sent free-kicks inches wide, Sodavid weaved his way through but poked his shot wide before the referee finally pointed to the spot as Sakrovy was felled, despite waving away two much more obvious appeals. Sodavid stepped up, with 32 minutes on the clock, but saw his spot-kick saved low down. Sakrovy fired against the upright before Sodavid was tripped and Sakrovy netted confidently from the spot on 39 minutes. Exactly a minute later, Sakrovy's shot was blocked and Vat Samnang thundered his drive into the top corner for Crown's third. Nuron and Orn Chanpolin found the keeper an obstacle too hard to beat, while Senteang crashed a shot against the bar as the first-half drew to a close.

Eight minutes after the restart and Sodavid was at it again, curling a 25-yarder into the roof of the net after the ball came out to him as Senteang's shot was saved by the keeper. Two minutes later he registered his hat-trick, finishing sweetly after Nuron and Sakrovy combined well on the left flank. Senteang looped a glorious chance over the cross-bar and substitute Pov Ponvuthy saw his breakaway dash and shot stopped on the line. Sodavid weaved his way past three players but his close-in finishing let him down as he poked his effort wide of the target and in the final seconds, Nuron had a shot saved. The final score was 5-0 in favour of Crown but they should've scored more and will need to be more clinical against Svay Rieng in next Sunday's U-17 Youth League play-off Final.
PPCFC U-17s: Soksela, Chansopheak, Phearath, Baraing, Titchhy (capt) (Ponvuthy 76), Sodavid, Chanpolin (T Chhaya 73), Sakrovy, Nuron, V Samnang, Senteang (Muslim 73). Subs not used: Chanvuthy, Piphop, Noeut, K Chhaya, Rozak, Chanchav. Booked; Titchhy. MOTM: Sodavid - he was everywhere. Goals: Sodavid (5, 53, 55), Sakrovy (39 pen), V Samnang (40).

Crown's trio of wins

PPCFC v AEU, back row, LtoR: Yaty, Boris, Kim, Pheng, Obi, Obadin. Front: Sothy, Borey, Makara, Dara, Sokumpheak - click to enlarge
Result: PPCFC 3 AEU 1 (Friendly).
Phnom Penh Crown won 3 games on Sunday. The first of those kicked off at 8am at RSN as the senior team met AEU, one of their regular practice match opponents. Coach Sam Schweingruber gave run-outs to two trialists, the returning striker Jeong Ho Kim, back from a visit to his home in South Korea, and Nigerian Ugochukwu Obi Monekeo, who actually opened the scoring twelve minutes into the 2nd half. Crown dominated most of the opening 45 minutes without scoring though Obi should've done better when he broke clear on ten minutes, only for his attempted chip to fail. His goal came when a Chea Dara cross fell to him at the far post and he swept it in. Two minutes later, AEU capitalised on a defensive mix-up to score the equaliser. On 66 minutes Crown made their pressure tell when Khim Borey's chipped free kick fell to Kouch Sokumpheak and he netted at the second attempt. It was one-way traffic after that and Borey was denied a headed goal by a great save before George Bisan scored with six minutes left to play, volleying home a Borey cross. It was Crown's second win in as many days after the previous day's win over Western Uni. To make it a hat-trick of victories on Sunday, the club's two Academy teams won their Youth League semi-finals and progressed to next Sunday's two age group finals.
PPCFC v AEU: Yaty, Dara (Da 70), Pheng, Boris (Hutchinson 65), Obadin (Srin 65), Sothy (Thierry 55), Sokumpheak (Pisa 85), Borey (Sokheng 85), Obi (Sosela 78), Makara (Suhana 65), Kim (George 55). MOTM: Borey. Goals: Obi (57), Sokumpheak (66), Bisan (84).

Saturday, December 21, 2013

George nets winner

PPCFC v Western, back row, LtoR: Boris, Makara, Yaty, Srin, Obi, Bisan. Front Row: Sokumpheak, Da, Borey, Sothy, Pheng - click to enlarge
Result: PPCFC 1 Western Uni 0 (Friendly).
Sou Yaty started his first game in Phnom Penh Crown colours this afternoon, in a practice match against Western Uni and immediately showed why he's the number 1 goalkeeper in the country. Even though he wore the injured Yok Ary's no 22 jersey! The first half of the match at RSN Stadium belonged to Crown, they dominated. In the first minute Khim Borey's grounder was held by the keeper and then Leng Makara ballooned an easy chance over the cross-bar after Borey broke into the box and presented him with a guilt-edged opportunity. On 7 minutes, Borey's 20-yard dipping free kick was pushed out by the Western keeper only for George Bisan to follow up and he tapped the ball home for the opening goal. Borey surged into the box again but Ngoy Srin's shot was charged down, and Borey's header, from Makara's cross, went two feet wide. Crown's final chance of the half came when Borey's drive was pushed into the air and caught at the second attempt. Five minutes after the break and Yaty was called into action for the first time, finger-tipping a low drive around the post. Soon after Liam Hutchinson stepped up to whistle a 25-yard free kick inches over the cross bar. Sos Suhana was on the pitch for a couple of minutes before he sidestepped a defender and saw his near post shot beaten away by the keeper. Long Boran flashed a volley close before Bin Thierry's 25-yard effort was as close as Hutchinson's minutes earlier. Ten minutes from time, Yaty kept the scoreline in his side's favour with a diving save as plucky Western revived, while Neou Sosela fired the game's final chance wide of the target at the other end. Crown gave another try-out to Nigerian trialist Ugochukwu Obi Moneke, who played for San Siro in last week's friendly.
PPCFC v Western: Yaty, Da (Dara 57), Pheng (Pisa 74), Boris (Obadin 49), Srin (Hutchinson 49), Sothy (Suhana 57), Sokumpheak (Boran 57 (Borey 84)), Makara (Sosela 57), Obi (Bisan 81), Borey (Sokheng 57), Bisan (Thierry 57). Bookings: Pheng. MOTM: Borey - dangerous in 1st half. Goal: Bisan (7).
Head coach Sam Schweingruber on the tactics board before the match

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cup fever

The Hun Sen Cup draw has been made at FFC HQ. Phnom Penh Crown drew National Police and most likely TriaAsia (representing Kandal province) and Battambang in their group, if results go with expectations. The FFC split the provincial teams into six regional groups/pools and their games will be played between 8-16 January. TriAsia are in the  eastern group, whilst Battambang are in the Western group. The best of the regional teams will then enter the final group stages, alongwith the eight best C-League teams from last season, and split into 4 groups/pools. The matches in this part of the competition will be played 22 January - 15 March. There hasn't been any indication of when and where games will be played, but it is likely to be midweek. The Hun Sen Cup competition is only for Cambodian-born players, foreigners are not eligible to play. Last season NagaCorp won the cup with Crown finishing in 3rd place. In group A of the final stages, Boeung Ket will meet the cup holders, with Svay Rieng drawn alongside Kirivong in group B and BBU with Army in group D.

Rumours have been circulating that the Olympic Stadium pitch is going to be dug up and replaced with artificial grass as part of a massive redevelopment of the country's football headquarters. No confirmation as yet on dates, but the timetable of such a dramatic turn of events could obviously impact on both the Hun Sen Cup and the Metfone C-League. Another suggestion was that the national football center at Tonle Bati would be the venue for re-arranged C-League games but of course, that would be an unmitigated disaster with the venue being some 40kms outside of the city. The Army Stadium would be a better fit, despite its appalling playing surface, though that could be easily fixed with a bit of effort and forward planning. But when did that ever happen.

Postscript: The final group stage matches will be played every Wednesday from 22 January, with two matches at Olympic and two games at the Army Stadium. Crown's matches will take place as follows:
Wed 29 Jan v Eastern Qualifier to be determined at 2pm @ Olympic Stadium
Wed 12 Feb v Western Qualifier to be determined at 4pm @ Olympic Stadium
Wed 26 Feb v National Police at 2pm @ Olympic Stadium.
The Hun Sen Cup quarter-finals will be on 5 March, the semi-finals on 9 March and the Final will be at Olympic Stadium on 15 March, KO 4pm.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Enough is enough

Clearly enough is enough. Lee Tae-Hoon's second stint as the coach of the Cambodian national football team must come to an end now. The latest disastrous SEA Games results, bar a draw with Thailand, has taken his record in competitive games to 18 defeats in 28 games, with just 4 victories to show for his more than two years in charge. In fact Cambodia has not won a single competitive match in 17 attempts. In what we could term serious friendlies, such as the recent matches against Guam and in Singapore, the record is played 11 and won just two. But it's not just the series of defeats, it's the fact that we are no further forward than when he arrived in late 2010, and in my view, we are sinking further behind our regional neighbours. There has been zero progression at any level, there is no development program in place, there is no conveyor belt of young talent coming through, players who shine in domestic games are unable to reproduce that form at national team level, and tactically we are naive and negative when we meet other countries. There is a pressing need to overhaul the way we manage our national team set-up and clearly Lee Tae-Hoon is not the man to do it.

Competition Results:
22 Oct 2010 v Laos (AFF Suzuki Cup) Away. Drew 0-0
24 Oct 2010 v Timor Leste (AFF Suzuki Cup) Away. Won 4-2 Borey 3, Sinoun
26 Oct 2010 v Philippines (AFF Suzuki Cup) Away. Drew 0-0
9 Feb 2011 v Macau (AFC Challenge Cup Qual) Home. Won 3-1 El Nasa 2, Laboravy
16 Feb 2011 v Macau (AFC Challenge Cup Qual) Away. Lost 2-3 Borey, El Nasa
21 Mar 2011 v Maldives (AFC Challenge Cup) Away. Lost 0-4
23 Mar 2011 v Tajikistan (AFC Challenge Cup) Away. Lost 0-3
25 Mar 2011 v Kyrgyzstan (AFC Challenge Cup) Away. Lost 3-4 Sokumpheak, Rithy
29 Jun 2011 v Laos (World Cup Qual) Home. Won 4-2 Laboravy, El Nasa 2, Sokumpheak
3 Jul 2011 v Laos (World Cup Qual) Away. Lost 2-6 aet Chhoeun, Sokumpheak
9 Oct 2011 v Laos (Mekong BIDC Cup) Home. Won 2-0 Soksana, Laboravy
12 Oct 2011 v Myanmar (Mekong BIDC Cup) Home. Drew 2-2 Udom pen, Saray
14 Oct 2011 v Thailand (Mekong BIDC Cup) Home. Lost 1-2 Sovan
7 Nov 2011 v Indonesia (SEA Games) Away. Lost 0-6
9 Nov 2011 v Singapore (SEA Games) Away. Lost 1-2 Chhoeun
11 Nov 2011 v Thailand (SEA Games) Away. Lost 0-4
13 Nov 2011 v Malaysia (SEA Games) Away. Lost 1-4 Chhoeun
25 Feb 2012 v Brunei (Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy) Away. Lost 2-3 Udom pen, Vathanaka
27 Feb 2012 v Vietnam (HBT) Away. Lost 1-2 Vathanak
29 Feb 2012 v Timor Leste (HBT) Away. Lost 0-1
5 Mar 2012 v Malaysia (HBT) Away. Lost 1-3 Sothearath
2 Nov 2013 v Malaysia (BIDC Cup) Home. Drew 2-2 Sokngon, Vathanaka
6 Nov 2013 v Laos (BIDC Cup) Home. Drew 2-2 Sokngon, Chhoeun
8 Nov 2013 v Thailand (BIDC Cup) Home. Lost 1-2 aet Samoeun
7 Dec 2013 v Myanmar (SEA Games) Away. Lost 0-3
 9 Dec 2013 v Indonesia (SEA Games) Away. Lost 0-1
12 Dec 2013 v Timor Leste (SEA Games) Away. Lost 2-3 Suhana, PM Udom
16 Dec 2013 v Thailand (SEA Games) Away. Drew 0-0. 

Record: Pld 28 Won 4 Drew 6 Lost 18 Goals For 36 Agst 67

Monday, December 16, 2013

Thin layer of gloss

The SEA Games football competition ended for Cambodia U-23s tonight with a 0-0 draw with Thailand. Normally that would be a cause for celebration, as traditionally we always lose to our neighbours. And the players deserve credit for holding the Thais at bay for ninety minutes. But we have to look beyond the bare bones of the scoreline. The Thais rested players for this game as they were already through. Sou Yaty, captaining Cambodia once again, was the difference between the two teams and pulled off half a dozen excellent saves to keep his team in the match, five of them in the second half. Cambodia had three chances in the game. Phourng Soksana had two of them, both snuffed out by the opposing keeper and Chhin Chhoeun fired the other one across the face of the goal. To be frank, Cambodia never looked likely to score, they simply don't possess a finisher in the whole squad. Chan Vathanaka got a rare start in this game but was more focused on kicking the opposition and conceding dangerous free-kicks, which is something the whole team was prone to do, than being the offensive threat he is in the C-League. His effectiveness was blunted. The back-four is a serious problem area. They kept the opposition out tonight, but more by luck than judgement. Ros Samoeun cannot defend and why he was converted into a full-back is beyond me. Another weird and wonderful decision from head coach Lee Tae-Hoon. The single point that Cambodia will take back from the SEA Games, after three successive defeats to Myanmar, Indonesia and Timor Leste, may be seen by some as a positive, but it's not. It's a thin layer of gloss over what has been another unsuccessful adventure overseas under Lee's tutelage. We have now endured such misery all too often over the past couple of years of Lee's control and it's time to call a halt. In fact, that time is way overdue. The Phnom Penh Post hinted at other less attractive misadventures on their sports pages today and anyone with an ounce of gray matter will take one look at Lee's record and realise it's time to call it a day. We need a stronger, driven, football expert to shake up Cambodian football from top to bottom, effectively starting again from scratch, or else we will continue to limp from one disaster to the next, showing no signs of progression whatsoever, as our national team slips further behind every other country in the region. This is the bleak outlook we face unless we take action now to stop the rot.
I was criticised by one of Lee's assistants this evening on facebook, less than an hour after the game, who claimed I didn't support the Cambodia team, but he is so far from the truth. I am the nation's biggest fan (as much as a foreigner can be) but I will not sit idly by and keep quiet, while I see that so much needs to be changed before we will improve. Whether that's the national team and its coach, the domestic C-League and its organisation, cup competitions, match officials, grassroots development and so on. Football is my passion, it always has been and always will be and if I see something that I believe is wrong or needs changing in my opinion, then that is fair game.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Visitors beaten

PPCFC v Kompong Tralach, back row, LtoR: Chanpolin, Senteang, Baraing, Sovann, Sodavid, Soksela. Front: Sakrovy, Muslim, V Samnang, Nuron, Phearath
Result: PPCFC Academy U-17s 5 Kompong Tralach 0 (Friendly).
With no league match this weekend, the Phnom Penh Crown Academy U-17s took on a visiting adult team from Kompong Tralach - from Kompong Chhnang province - at the RSN Stadium on Sunday afternoon, at the same time as the U-15s were meeting National Police but at a different location. The U-17s ran out comfortable 5-0 winners with goals coming from a penalty by In Sodavid, and goals apiece from Chhuot Senteang, Mat Sakrovy, Vat Samnang and Mat Nuron.The U-17s will play their Youth League play-off semi-final next weekend, despite topping the league table after completing the round-robin matches.

PPCFC v Kompong Tralach: Soksela, Muslim (Chasopheak), Phearath, Sovann (Titchhy), Baraing, Sodavid, Chanpolin, Sakrovy (T Chhaya), Nuron, V Samnang, Senteang. Goals: Sodavid (pen), Senteang, Sakrovy, V Samnang, Nuron.

Yes that's right, 40-0

PPCFC U-15s won 40-0. Back row, LtoR: K Chhaya, Rozak, Chanchav, Saphy, Piphop, Sovannaroth (capt). Front Row: Rafat, Noeut, Piseth, S David, Kakada - click to enlarge
Result: PPCFC Academy U-15s 40 National Police 0 (Cambodia U-15 Youth League).
Phnom Penh Crown Academy U-15s ran riot in today's final Cambodia U-15 Youth League, putting the National Police team to the sword and running up an almost unheard of scoreline, 40-0. Police began defensively and paid a heavy price as Crown took the game to them, put them under heavy pressure and never stopped passing the ball for the whole ninety minutes. With a bit more composure in front of goal, the fifty mark would've been a more deserved result. By the way, Crown had only eleven fit players for the game. Suon Noeut has become a goalscoring sensation in the U-15s ranks this year and he netted a personal tally of 18 goals in this match but also chipped in with another 9 assists. Now that's what I call a match to remember for this young man. The U-15s team finished top of the league table after 7 games, winning all of them, scoring 128 goals and conceding just 2 goals. They now go onto the play-off semi-final next Sunday.

As it's unlikely to happen again, let's go through each of the goals:
8 mins 56 secs: Kim Chhaya sent over a left-wing cross and Suon Noeut poked in from 6 yards out.
15.49: Pech Sovannaroth's lofted center was headed home by Men Piphop, who rose above everyone.
17.18: San David won the ball and rolled a pass to Noeut, who kept calm, held off a challenge and slotted home.
19.34: Sin Kakada and Chhaya combined on the left flank, with Noeut on hand at the far post to tuck in the latter's cross.
22.26: Noeut scored from the penalty spot after Piphop had been floored in the box.
27.40: Noeut won the ball and passed to Chhaya, who blasted in from 15 yards out.
28.45: Noeut charged down a defender's clearance and calmly slotted the ball home.
29.51: Mao Piseth finished with a confident strike at the far post from Chhaya's cross.
30.46: Chhaya weaved around 5 players but his shot was blocked, only for Piseth to lace the ball into the roof of the net.
33.07: Chhaya beat his marker and from an acute angle, scored with a well-placed shot.
34.10: Noeut turned provider and his short pass was finished off by San David at close range.
37.18: David and Piseth combined to put Noeut through on goal and he made no mistake.
39.14: Noeut raced through again but was blocked by a brave Police keeper, only for Piseth to chip in his hat-trick goal.
41.24: From a Piseth cross, Noeut took a touch and then neatly rolled in to make it 14-0 at half-time, with his seventh goal.

45.42: Within 42 seconds of the restart, Noeut set up Piphop and he fired home.
48.41: Piseth and Sath Rozak had shots blocked only for Noeut to find the target from six yards.
49.26: Noeut slalomed around 4 players and set up Piphop from an angle, which he found the target.
50.59: A short corner routine from which Chhaya drilled in a shot from edge of area.
53.20: David pass to Noeut, who raced around 3 players to slot home.
54.17: Chhaya's surging run and cross was met at the far post by Piphop who tucked in.
55.10: Sin Kakada's cross from the left wing was met by Noeut, one touch and neat finish, for his 10th goal.
58.55: Chhaya slid in Noeut, who calmly finished with ease.
60.05: From Police's kick-off, David won the ball, fed Piphop and he fired home for his fifth goal.
61.40: Noeut square pass to skipper for the day Sovannaroth and his shot took a deflection on its way in.
62.41: Noeut was again the provider, his cross being finished by Piphop.
64.30: Chhaya lofted corner was headed in by an unmarked Piseth at the far post.
67.25: Noeut again laid on the final pass for Piphop to slot home.
68.47: Piphop this time laid on the pass to Noeut, who skirted one defender and scored.
69.20: Possibly the best goal of the game was Piseth's 20-yard left-foot scorcher from Chhaya's cross-field pass.
72.45: Chhaya to Noeut and his cross went in off Piphop's knee. He meant it.
74.16: The flow of goals continued as another short corner saw Chhaya's cross-shot evade everyone and enter the net.
75.54: David set up Noeut and his 22-yard drive sailed into the net. A contender for Noeut's best goal of the game.
80.26: After a brief lull, Kakada set up Chhaya and he rolled his shot under the keeper.
81.59: Piseth won a tackle, passed to Noeut, all alone, to score.
82.45: Noeut won the ball, skirted past 2 players and slotted in.
83.23: From the kick-off, Chhaya won the ball, onto Noeut and another neat finish.
85.09: Piphop nipped in to score from a poor back-pass.
85.52: More pressing and Noeut won the ball from the kick-off and fired in. 
87.01: Chhaya took aim from 20-yards and found the corner of the net.
89.11: David found Noeut and he rounded the keeper to fire home his 18th and the team's 40th just before the final whistle.
PPCFC v Nat Police: Rafat, Kakada, Sovannaroth, Saphy, Chanchav, S David, Rozak, K Chhaya, Piseth, Piphop, Noeut. Bookings: None. MOTM: Noeut - who else could it be? Goals: Noeut 18, Piphop 9, K Chhaya 6, Piseth 5, S David 1, Sovannaroth 1.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Crown hit five to win

PPCFC, back row, LtoR: Boris, Tola, Boran, Soksela, Obadin, Pheng. Front Row: Borey, Da, Soseka, Sokumpheak, Sothy
Result: PPCFC 5 San Siro XI 3 (Friendly).
The second match of Saturday afternoon at RSN Stadium saw a stronger Phnom Penh Crown side take on the San Siro African XI and it turned out to be an up-tempo, hard fought game, which Crown won 5-3. With Yok Ary out injured and Sou Yaty away on international duty, Keo Soksela was between the posts for Crown and the youngster made a schoolboy mistake to give San Siro a third minute lead. He allowed Degule Momoh's hopeful punt to bounce past him and couldn't recover in time before it ended up in the net. Crown drew level on 11 minutes as Kouch Sokumpheak's bye-line run was ended with a handball and Khim Borey cheekily chipped in his penalty spot-kick for the equaliser. Four minutes later and Borey, in acres of free space, slotted in Touch Sokheng's inch-perfect pass to put Crown ahead. On 44 minutes Crown extended their lead as Sokumpheak spotted Hong Pheng on the overlap and his low cross was turned in at the far post by Leng Makara. Former Crown striker Kingsley Njoku turned and fired home a minute before the break to reduce the deficit and Soksela was called upon to make a good save, low down, to thwart the opposition. He was again in the right place to deny Njoku before Momoh unleashed one of his trademark rocket shots through a crowd of players, seven minutes into the 2nd half to make it 3-3. Crown waited just two minutes before they got their noses back in front, as Borey and Sokumpheak set up Makara, who chested the ball down and fired home. They made it five, three minutes later as Long Boran anticipated a pass-back header falling short, and sneaked in to steer the ball home. Liam Hutchinson's long raking passes kept catching out the San Siro back-line and from one of them, Ngoy Srin poked his shot across the face of goal. Ly Morslim was an inch away from connecting to Makara's center and in the final seconds, Pheng surged into the box but screwed his shot wide of the far post.
PPCFC v San Siro: Soksela, Da (Srin 59), Pheng, Boris, Obadin, Sothy (Morslim 83), Sokumpheak, Sosela (Makara 36), Boran (Sosela 79), Tola (Sokheng 11 (Hutchinson 46)), Borey. Bookings: None. MOTM: Obadin. Goals: Borey 2 (11,15), Makara 2 (44, 54), Boran (57).
San Siro XI squad photo

Young Crown beat Albirex

PPCFC line-up: Back Row LtoR: Morslim, Dara, Pisa, Sarak, Hutchinson, Srin. Front Row: Makara, Sokheng, Titchhy, Samnang, Phearun
Result: PPCFC B 2 Albirex Niigata 0 (Friendly).
The first of two practice matches at RSN gave a young Phnom Penh Crown B-team some playing time, two halves of thirty minutes each, against a team full of Khmer trialists, testing out for the newest team in the C-League, Albirex Niigata. Touch Sokheng blasted Crown's earliest opportunity over the cross bar but it wasn't long, 11 minutes to be exact, before Ly Morslim was on the spot to poke home Chea Dara's right wing run and center and open the scoring. Svang Samnang got a strong hand to deny Albirex their best chance of the half, while Chhom Pisa let rip only to see his blast clear the cross bar, and Leng Makara sent an effort skidding wide. Crown fielded no less than six Academy players for the start of the second half with Sodavid, Chanpolin, Baraing and Sovann joining Titchhy and Samnang in the line-up. Pisa headed an early effort over the bar and then unleashed a volley that had goal written all over it, until the Albirex keeper pulled off a superb fingertip save. Sraing Titchhy was prominent on the left wing and he had a good chance saved by the keeper too. Morslim ran onto a Thourng Da header and picked his spot inside the far post for Crown's second goal on 53 minutes. Orn Chanpolin's pass sent Titchhy away but his powerful drive rebounded off the upright and moments later, he cleared the bar with another good opportunity. In the final minute, Morslim saw his hat-trick hopes dissolve as he whacked Dara's through ball against the cross bar, with the game's last move of note.
PPCFC v Albirex Niigata: Samnang, Titchhy, Dara, Sarak, Srin (Baraing 31), Hutchinson (Chanpolin 31), Makara (Sodavid 31), Pisa, Sokheng (Sovann 31), Phearun (Da 41), Morslim. Bookings: None. MOTM: Morslim. Goals: Morslim 2 (11, 53).

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Third defeat for Cambodia

More distressing news for Cambodian football fans. The Cambodia U-23 team lost 3-2 to one of the world's minnows Timor Leste in their SEA Games group match this evening. It was their best chance of some success in the SEA Games but they blew it. Sos Suhana put Cambodia ahead on 23 minutes but Timor scored twice before the half-time break. Prak Mony Udom put Cambodia level again but a goal three minutes from time gave Timor the points. Frustration once again for the country's football lovers. PPCFC midfielder Bin Thierry had this to say after the game; "We played poorly in the first-half, lost too many balls, but were so much better in the 2nd half. We could've scored a few goals but lacked the killer touch and didn't have the confidence against some bigger and stronger opposition." The PPCFC trio of Thierry, Suhana and keeper Sou Yaty all played, with the latter captaining the side. At least they broke their drought with a couple of goals but it sounds like the lack of a quality finisher and some dodgy defending meant they were second best to one of the up and coming national teams, who've used naturalized players to improve their strength and quality. Cambodia's final SEA Games tie is against the strongest nation in the competition, Thailand, on 16 December.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Crown finish on top

PPCFC v Western. Back Row LtoR: Chanvuthy, Sovann, Chhaya, Titchhy, Sodavid, Chanpolin. Front: Senteang, Piphop, Muslim, Noeut, Phearath(capt)
Result: PPCFC Academy U-17s 7 Western Uni 1 (Cambodia U-17 Youth League).
Another victory for the Academy U-17s against a determined Western Uni team from Pursat at the BBU field this morning. The win leaves Crown at the top of the league table with 21 points from eight games and a superior goal difference over Svay Rieng, who are on the same points tally. However, the championship will be decided by play-offs, which will begin on 22 December, rather than first past the post. Western put up stiff resistance but faced a Crown team determined to continue their push for the title. Ouk Sovann's free-kick was held by the keeper who then smothered Kim Chhaya's attempt, whilst Men Piphop's shot was blocked on the line. In Sodavid gave his team the lead on 18 minutes when he took a touch to a clearing header and fired his shot through the crowd from 20 yards out. Six minutes later and Chhout Senteang was sent clear by Chhaya and he kept his composure to roll his shot wide of the onrushing keeper, for number two. Another Senteang effort was stopped on the goal-line before Chhaya raced onto a Ken Chansopheak pass and chipped the third from 25 yards out with ten minutes left of the 1st-half. The Western keeper was called into action again to block another Chhaya effort before three minutes from the break, Piphop finished off a Chansopheak run and cross with a routine finish. Half-time and 4-nil ahead, and coasting.

Sodavid weaved his way through the Western defence just after the restart but somehow missed the target. Senteang did better on six minutes when he moved onto Suon Noeut's pass and finished easily. Looking a bit rusty after his long lay-off, Senteang fired weakly into the keeper's hands before he made sure of his hat-trick on 68 minutes, calmly slotting home from Sath Rozak's through ball. Six minutes from time, Sentang netted his fourth after Sodavid's bye-line pull-back was served on a a plate. Two minutes later a quick breakaway caught Crown by surprise and Western grabbed a late consolation goal. There was still time for Noeut to screw an easy chance wide and then thump the ball against the cross-bar from Senteang's pass.
PPCFC v Western: Chanvuthy, Muslim, Phearath (Chansopheak 14), Sovann (Rozak 64), Titchhy (Baraing 26), Chanpolin, Sodavid, Piphop (T Chhaya 70), K Chhaya (Sakrovy 58), Noeut, Senteang. Subs not used: Soksela, Chanchav, Ponvuthy, Nuron, V Samnang. Bookings: None. MOTM: Senteang - 4 goals. Goals: Senteang (24, 51, 68, 84), Sodavid (18), Chhaya (35), Piphop (42).

Monday, December 9, 2013

U-23s crash again

Cambodia v Indonesia, back row, LtoR: Yaty, PM Udom, Soksana, Sovan, Thierry, Sothearath. Front: Khemrin, Suhana, Pancharong, Samoeun, Chhoeun. Pic by Sovanna Kem/NagaWorld - click to enlarge
The Cambodia U-23s crashed to their second SEA Games defeat in as many games in Yangon this afternoon, though the circumstances left a bitter taste in the mouth for many. A battling performance restored pride after the 3-0 defeat to Myanmar in the opening fixture and the only goal of the game, scored by Indonesia in the 53rd minute, shouldn't have been allowed, judging from multiple television replays. The goalscorer was in an offside position as he ran clear of Sok Sovan and fired a low drive under Sou Yaty, which the keeper got a hand to but couldn't keep out. Despite loud Cambodian protests the goal stood. Without any real threat or punch in attack, a comeback from Cambodia looked unlikely and that's how it proved, as a mediocre Indonesian side ran out winners by that single goal. Chhin Chhoeun had Cambodia's best chance in the first-half but blazed over and that was about it. Too many of Cambodia's players looked ill-equipped to cope with the demands of international football, and though supporters will obviously decry the match officials and curse their luck, Cambodia were simply not good enough. Phnom Penh Crown keeper Yaty was again the stand-out player, whilst Bin Thierry donned the captain's armband once again, for the final 27 minutes and Crown's third player in the line-up, Sos Suhana, had a quiet game and was replaced on 81 minutes. Cambodia's third group game will be against Timor Leste on Thursday evening. The Timorese have lost both their matches by a 3-1 scoreline to Thailand and Myanmar.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Crown coast to sixth straight win

PPCFC v Svay Rieng, back row, LtoR: S Samnang, Sovannaroth, Baraing, Chanchav, K Chhaya, N David (capt). Front Row: Saphy, Piphop, Piseth, Noeut, Kakada
Result: PPCFC Academy U-15s 2 Svay Rieng 0 (Cambodia U-15 Youth League).  
The final scoreline in Crown's favour fails to accurately record the one-sided nature of this Youth league match at the Dept of PE pitch in Tuol Kork this afternoon. Svay Rieng never threatened the Crown goal in the entire ninety minutes. At the other end, Men Piphop opened the scoring on 12 minutes when he let loose with a free-kick from 25 yards that sailed into the top of the net. It couldn't have been more perfect. Suon Noeut was put through by Sin Kakada but was thwarted by the keeper and Mao Piseth's attempted chip was also held by the Svay Rieng stopper. Twice in as many minutes as half-time approached, Crown looked certain to score as first, Kim Chhaya and then Sath Rozak weaved their way into the area around a few defenders but their finishing didn't match their build-up. Chhaya blasted Noeut's center against the cross-bar within the first minute after the restart. More good work by the opposition keeper denied Chhaya, Rozak twice and Noeut but it was only a matter of time before Crown broke Svay Rieng's resolve. With 12 minutes to go, Piseth's right wing cross found Chhaya in space at the far post and he poked the ball home. In the closing stages, Crown pressed hard for more goals but it didn't happen. Piphop sent a header inches wide, Chhaya was denied, for goal-machine Noeut it just wasn't his day as he fired another great chance against the foot of the upright and in time added on, Seut Baraing heade Chhaya's free-kick against the cross bar. This was the U-15s sixth straight victory.
PPCFC v Svay Rieng: S Samnang, N David capt (Ronaldo 71), Sovannaroth, Saphy, Baraing, Chanchav, Chhaya, Piseth (S David 87), Piphop, Kakada (Rozak 31), Noeut. Sub not used: Rafat. Bookings: None: MOTM: Rozak. Goals: Piphop (12), Chhaya (88).

Crown hit Army for six

PPCFC v Army, back row, LtoR: Chanpolin, Senteang, Sakrovy, Sodavid, Sovann, Chanvuthy. Front Row: Chansopheak, Nuron, T Chhaya, Phearath, V Samnang (capt)
Result: PPCFC Academy U-17s 6 Army Youth Hope 0 (Cambodia U-17 Youth League).
In their penultimate Youth League game, the Academy U-17s controlled this morning's game from start to finish at a hard and bouncy BBU field against the Army. Today's captain was Vat Samnang, as coach Bouy Dary is giving different team members a chance with the armband, and he responded with the first two goals to start the game with a bang. On six minutes, Chhuot Senteang fed the ball to Samnang in front of goal and his finish went in off the post. Two minutes later and he struck again, this time slotting his finish inside the upright from Mat Sakrovy's through ball. Eleven minutes on the clock and Senteang put Crown further ahead. From Mat Nuron's pass, the striker, back in the starting line-up after a long lay-off, scored with a confident lob over the keeper. Crown made it four, eight minutes before the half-time interval. Sakrovy was denied twice before his third effort deflected in off the keeper's arm. The 2nd half began much as the first-half did with In Sodavid slotting home from the penalty spot after Sakrovy was felled with ten minutes on the clock. The Army keeper was being kept busy, stopping a couple of efforts from Sakrovy before the attacking midfielder claimed Crown's sixth and his second on 67 minutes. Yue Muslim and Sakrovy exchanged passes and the latter got his toe to the ball before the onrushing keeper to score. Orn Chanpolin and Sakrovy fluffed further opportunities to extend the 6-0 scoreline, which is how the game finished. 
PPCFC U-17s v Army: Chanvuthy, Chansopheak, Phearath, Sovann, Chanpolin, T Chhaya, Sodavid, Sakrovy, Nuron (Muslim 64), V Samnang, Senteang. Subs not used: Chanchav, Piphop, Baraing, Rozak, Noeut. Bookings: None. MOTM: Sakrovy. Goals: V Samnang 2 (6, 8), Senteang (11), Sakrovy 2 (37, 67), Sodavid (55 pen).

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Points to the hosts

 Cambodia v Myanmar. Back Row LtoR: Yaty, Soksana, Samoeun, Sovan, Thierry, Sothearath. Front: Pheng, Pancharong, Khemrin, Suhana, Chhoeun - pic by Sovanna Kem/NagaWorld, click to enlarge
Two first-half headers and a third goal early in the 2nd half undid Cambodia U-23s in their opening SEA Games group match against the home nation, Myanmar on Saturday evening. The 3-0 defeat was to be expected with Cambodia going behind on 14 minutes and again just after the half hour, as Myanmar were simply too strong in the air. Sok Pheng and Chhin Chhoeun had good openings for Cambodia before the break but didn't trouble the scorers, whilst Sou Yaty had another stormer of a game for his country between the sticks. Phnom Penh Crown's Sos Suhana and Bin Thierry completed 90 minutes, with the latter taking the captain's armband for the final 18 minutes. Myanmar coach Park Seong-Hwa said before the game that he's looking to lead his team to the SEA Games gold medal, but they will have to play a lot better than they did against Cambodia to achieve that. In the first game of Group B, Thailand beat Timor Leste 3-1. Cambodia next face Indonesia on Monday afternoon.

Tola fires the winner

PPCFC v Boeung Ket, back row, LtoR: Sothy, Da, Pheng, Kim, Obadin, Srin. Front: Boran, Sokumpheak, Chanvuthy, Borey, Sosela - click to enlarge
Result: PPCFC 3 Boeung Ket 2 (Friendly). Matches against Boeung Ket are always eagerly-awaiting and Saturday's pre-season preactice match was no exception. Though both teams were shorn of some of their regulars, through SEA Games commitments and injuries, there was still a lot of talent on show at Phnom Penh Crown's RSN Stadium. Coach Sam Schweingruber gave a start to South Korean striker Jeong Ho Kim, a 22-year-old who trained with the team for a couple of days beforehand, and fifteen-year-old goalkeeper Kung Chanvuthy after injury ruled out Yok Ary and Keo Soksela. In fact, Chanvuthy was a spectator for most of the first-half though closed the angle well to snuff out Boeung Ket's only real chance on the half hour with a near post block. Neou Sosela headed over at the far post with Crown's most obvious opportunity ten minutes earlier, but made amends with the game's opening goal with six minutes of the half remaining. A high-tempo one-two with Khim Borey saw Sosela burst into the penalty area and powered a finish past Peng Bunchhay that the keeper never got near. Two minutes later Kouch Sokumpheak tried a scissor-kick that Bunchhay was equal to. Half-time came with Crown edging possession and chances. At the break 13-year-old Svang Samnang replaced Chanvuthy in the Crown goal.

Borey showed Crown's determination within 46 seconds of the restart as he sent a dipping shot a foot wide and soon after tried a half-volley that cleared the bar. Svang Samnang's first involvement didn't go well for the youngster as he came out to clear but misjudged the pace of Yob Romaton, who walked the ball into the net, twelve minutes in. Kim had his best moment but his shot was held by the visiting keeper and that was his last action, as he was replaced by George Bisan. On 64 minutes, Boeung Ket changed the face of the game as they went ahead when Odion Obadin fell in the box, allowing Khuon Laboravy the space to finish with a flourish past Samnang. Bisan levelled matters just two minutes later when a strong run into the box by Hong Pheng saw the ball squirm out and across the goal-line for the ex-Rubberman to poke it home. The Nigerian striker was a whisker away with his head from connecting to a Sokumpheak corner kick, and then used his strength to set up Long Boran, who blazed well over the bar. Another strong Bisan run to the byeline and a perfect pull back, with seven minutes left on the clock, saw Um Tola arrive on cue and fire a fierce drive into the roof of the net for the winning goal. A fine comeback and a deserved victory.
PPCFC v Boeung Ket: Chanvuthy (Samnang 46), Da (Keo 86), Pheng, Srin, Obadin (Boris 72), Sothy (Morslim 86), Sokumpheak (Hutchinson 78), Borey (Phearun 86), Sosela (Tola 68), Boran (Pisa 86), Kim (Bisan 61). Bookings: None. MOTM: Srin. Goals: Sosela (39), Bisan (66), Tola (83).

Friday, December 6, 2013

Blowing in the wind

You can literally hear the wind blowing through the corridors of power at the football federation of Cambodia. The doors are all closed and no-one is venturing out of the safety of their office for fear of being asked questions. Phones have been switched off and everyone is keeping mum. Meanwhile, the Cambodia U-23 squad is in Yangon, preparing to play their opening SEA Games match against the hosts Myanmar early tomorrow evening, minus four of their most experienced players, left behind in Phnom Penh and surrounded by a fog of uncertainty. There was the tiniest thread of confirmation from the head of the FFC, President Sao Sokha, who told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper yesterday: "[The FFC] never does anything without adequate reasons, and the reason [for the sackings] is likely to spoil our nation’s reputation.” So that tells us something but without any real meat on the bones or the reason behind the exclusion of Keo Sokngon, Sok Rithy, Say Piseth and Tum Saray, as well as team manager Chhaing Pisedth, from the SEA Games just a few days before they begin. Both Sokngon and Rithy have been regulars for the Cambodian national team since 2008. Social media has been awash with rumours but it's not expected there will be any official confirmation until after the team return from Myanmar.
The reduced squad of sixteen players - which means Cambodia are severely restricted in their playing options - who will take on Myanmar (7 Dec), Indonesia (9 Dec), Timor Leste (12 Dec) and Thailand (16 Dec) in the group stages of the SEA Games football competition, are:

Phnom Penh Crown: Sou Yaty, Sos Suhana, Bin Thierry.
National Police: Srey Oudom.
Army: Chhin Chhoeun, Phoung Soksana, Khek Khemrin, Ke Vannak.
Svay Rieng: Sar Sophea, Prak Mony Udom.
Boeung Ket: Chan Vathanaka, Sok Pheng, Touch Pancharong, Chhun Sothearath, Sok Sovan, Ros Samoeun.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Panha and his dreams

Sok Panha is looking to the future
There are many hardship stories in Cambodia. It's a country that you can find them wherever you turn. And Phnom Penh Crown football club is no different. Take the example of one of the newest members of the club's youth Academy, Sok Panha. Born in October 2000, the young midfield-cum-striker was just a month old when his mother left him with his grandfather in their Battambang home, to go and work in Thailand. He has seen her just twice since that time. Panha's father remained in Battambang but was out of a job and was a drug-user, whilst his grandfather was sick and confined to bed. Realising that Panha needed help, his grandfather asked Children's Future International, a non-government organisation in the city, to support the boy's education. For the first time, Panha was able to attend school regularly, in grade 5, and was learning Khmer literature, English and computer studies. He also discovered a love for football, when CFI put a team into the league organised by the SALT Academy in Battambang. And that was when Panha really started to shine. His team were well placed at a couple of tournaments and his own potential was quickly spotted. He was invited by Bouy Dary to try out for the Cambodia national team with U-14 tournaments in Thailand and Myanmar on the horizon and he made the team.

After the squad returned from Myanmar, Panha was invited to join the Crown Academy on a permanent basis, where he now plays football every morning and attends Sovannaphumi School, studying in grade 8, and has hopes to go onto university to study English, his favourite subject, as well as Maths, Physics and Chemistry. The youngster said; "I really wanted to play when I first saw kids playing, as it looked fun and you can make a lot of friends. So I started playing for fun but now I want to work hard to make football my future career." He also has dreams of furthering that career by following in the footsteps of his Academy coach Dary. "I want to be like him. He knows English and he can bring national teams to play in many countries. I really wish to be like him one day in the future." But Panha's story isn't one without heartache. His father died just three months ago, and just twenty days later his beloved grandfather passed away too. It was a very difficult time for the youngster, but he remains positive at the direction his life has now taken, with his teammates giving him a lot of support, his schoolwork continuing to improve and his dreams of becoming a professional footballer taking shape.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Honour restored

The PPCFC U-17s confirm their identities
Phnom Penh Crown Academy U-17s took the scalp they were gunning for with a 1-0 victory over their Cambodia U-17 Youth League rivals Svay Rieng U-17s this morning at the BBU field. A 2-1 defeat to the same opponents at the beginning of November had put them on the back foot in the title race but today's revenge win swings them back on course. And it was a deserved success too. Crown coach Bouy Dary made four changes to his usual line-up and one of the additions, Kim Chhaya put his team in the lead after ten minutes. Sraing Titchhy had already flashed a shot wide before Suon Noeut was fouled 25 yards from goal. Chhaya's left-foot free-kick sailed into the top corner for a stunning opener, leaving former Crown keeper Sem Mesa clutching at straws. Ouk Sovann sent another free-kick an inch or two wide of the upright and Titchhy, in an unfamiliar forward role, popped a header over the cross-bar from Noeut's cross. In Sodavid's threaded pass gave Titchhy another chance, but Mesa snuffed out the danger. Svay Rieng's only threat came from a couple of dodgy back-passes on a bone-hard surface. Eight minutes after the break, Titchhy was felled by Mesa as he raced onto Chhaya's pass and a penalty kick was the outcome. However, Titchhy blasted his spot-kick against the cross-bar and the danger passed. Chhuot Senteang replaced the injured Sovann and slotted into the back-four, just ten minutes into the second-half, playing with an assurance that belied his three months out with a broken collarbone. A clearance hit Men Piphop and fell kindly onto Noeut's head, only for Mesa to react to fingertip the effort over the bar. Orn Chanpolin and Piphop sent goal-bound efforts into the arms of Mesa before the keeper dived full length to push another Chanpolin long range shot around the post. It was the last action of the match, as Crown earned themselves a deserved three points and bragging rights for a few weeks.
PPCFC U-17s: Soksela, Chansopheak, Phearath, Sovann (Senteang 55), Baraing, Chanpolin, Sodavid (Muslim 93), Piphop (Ponvuthy 86), Noeut, K Chhaya (Nuron 69), Titchhy (Sakrovy 71). Subs not used: Chanvuthy, T Chhaya, Chanchav, V Samnang. Bookings: Titchhy, Baraing. MOTM: Baraing - always in the right place. Goal: Chhaya (10).
PPCFC U-17s v Svay Rieng. Back Row LtoR: Chhaya, Titchhy, Baraing, Chanpolin, Sovann, Soksela (capt). Front Row: Piphop, Noeut, Chansopheak, Phearath, Sodavid - click to enlarge

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Missing in action

A serious looking Cambodia team get ready to depart for Myanmar, minus a few squad members - click to enlarge, courtesy of
The Cambodia U-23s flew out from Phnom Penh airport this morning, rather lighter in numbers than they expected. Only a day or so beforehand, the 20-strong squad had been announced, that would represent Cambodia in the upcoming SEA Games in Myanmar, with their first match on 7 December against the host nation. A tough start. Judging by the reduced playing squad that left Phnom Penh - with four experienced players conspicuous by their absence - that task has just got even tougher. There was no sign of Keo Sokngon, Sok Rithy, Say Piseth and Tum Saray when the players and coaching staff gathered for their usual pre-departure photograph. And no word either on where they were. The team manager was also missing in action. Stuck in traffic or lost en route? Cambodia will meet Indonesia, Timor Leste and Thailand after their opening match.

Monday, December 2, 2013

As expected

There are no surprises in the Cambodia U-23 national squad announced ahead of the team leaving tomorrow for the SEA Games in Myanmar. South Korean coach Lee Tae-Hoon has effectively picked the players he selected in the recent BIDC Cup competition and various friendlies against Guam and Singapore.
The 20-man SEA Games squad is:
Phnom Penh Crown: Sou Yaty, Sos Suhana, Bin Thierry.
National Police: Say Piseth, Srey Oudom.
Army: Chhin Chhoeun, Phoung Soksana, Khek Khemrin, Ke Vannak.
Svay Rieng: Sar Sophea, Prak Mony Udom, Tum Saray.
Boeung Ket: Chan Vathanaka, Keo Sokngon, Sok Pheng, Touch Pancharong, Chhun Sothearath, Sok Sovan, Ros Samoeun.
NagaCorp: Sok Rithy.

Missing out on a trip to the SEA Games from the squad that has been training at Tonle Bati for the past two months are Samrith Seiha, Aim Sovannarath, Nen Sothearoth, Khiev Vibol and Ung Dara.
Cambodia will begin their tough series of SEA Games matches on Saturday 7 December against the host nation.
The SEA Games matches for Cambodia:
7 Dec: Myanmar v Cambodia - 6.45pm
9 Dec: Cambodia v Indonesia - 4pm
12 Dec: Cambodia v Timor Leste - 6.45pm
16 Dec: Thailand v Cambodia - 6.45pm. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Football's Cancer

Match-fixing is a cancer that is eating away at the game of football that we love and cherish. There have been numerous examples across the globe over the years but it's spreading. Last week half a dozen men were arrested in the UK, the home of football, on suspicion of fixing non-league matches in England. God forbid, is nothing sacred any longer? It was only a few weeks ago that four English players were suspended by FIFA for conceding goals in Australian football while last year three match officials from Lebanon were found guilty of accepting sexual favours before an AFC Cup game in Singapore. But these are just the tip of the iceberg. Match fixers target players and match officials to rig the result of games so that they can earn hundreds of thousands of pounds by betting or allowing others to bet on the predetermined outcome. The bet will usually be for a minimum number of goals and the fixer will often pay players to concede goals deliberately and lose a match. The gambling takes place in Asian betting markets.

So how does it work?
Covertly recorded conversations with a fixer from Singapore by The Telegraph newspaper in the UK, who claims he could rig games and that potential gamblers would make hundreds of thousands of dollars by using the inside information on Asian-based betting websites. He offered to target two football matches ... this month. He said he planned to tell players how many goals he needed to be scored in total. “So I talk to them. Double confirm. I also tell them, I tell … this [is] what I want … Because simple, I commit myself and they commit. So you tell me how many goals … Give me at least five … either 3-2, 4-0 or zero, … for me four is enough. So, the first 45 minutes, the result must be two-zero or 1-1. That’s two goals. In the second 45 minutes, so two-zero. Total, the whole game must be have four-zero or 3-1 or 2-2. As long as the total.” He also claimed that he would pay one player an extra £5,000 to take a yellow card at the beginning of the game as a signal that the match’s result was likely to be manipulated. Other ways to fix matches will include paying just one or two players in a team to deliberately concede goals to rig the result of cup or play-off matches. Alternatively, match officials are targeted to give penalties and decisions that influence the outcome of games.

I covered this topic in a blog post in August 2011, when The Telegraph carried a story that hit close to home, Cambodia's World Cup exit at the hands of Laos. It's repeated below. 

The Stench of Match-Fixing
One of the UK's biggest-selling and most influential newspapers carried a story of football match-fixing allegations in Cambodia in their edition today, though it hasn't been deemed interesting enough for the Cambodian press, aside from a one-liner in the Phnom Penh Post a few days after the 2nd leg match was played. Here's what The Telegraph had to say about the recent World Cup matches between Cambodia and Laos.
World Cup 2014: Shadow of alleged match-fixing allegations already haunting competition - by Paul Kelso, The Telegraph. The preliminary draw for Brazil's World Cup took place on Saturday but already the shadow of alleged match-fixing has touched the 2014 qualifying tournament. The threat of fixing was highlighted by Fifa president Sepp Blatter prior to the draw in Rio and Telegraph Sport can disclose that one of the early rounds of Asian qualifying has been internally investigated following allegations of manipulation. Fifa investigators have been alerted to unusual betting patterns in connection with the two-legged tie between Cambodia and Laos in the first round of the Asian Football Confederation qualifying zone. Both countries were eliminated before the preliminary draw in Rio, but the case highlights the rash of match-fixing allegations that have touched teams in more than 50 countries.
The first game in Phnom Penh on June 29 was won 4-2 by Cambodia, with the return in Vientiane on July 3 won by Laos 6-2 after extra time, enough for them to progress to the second round. The second leg was followed by accusations in Cambodia that the game was manipulated, and Telegraph Sport understands that data from betting monitoring software, including the Early Warning System used by Fifa, has highlighted unusual patterns, particularly in the first game.
The last goal in that game, scored by Cambodia in the 88th minute, attracted highly unusual betting patterns. With 86 minutes gone Cambodia were five-to-one on to score again on Asian handicap markets, an extreme price. According to footage of the game on YouTube, Cambodia had two goals disallowed in the last six minutes, after 84 and 86 minutes, and Laos had a penalty appeal turned down in the 88th minute shortly before Cambodia’s Samel Nasa scored.
The second leg finished 4-2 to Laos after 90 minutes, with two further goals in extra time sealing their progress to the second round, where they lost to China 13-3 on aggregate. Fifa would not comment on whether the case was part of its ongoing investigation into match fixing. In a statement Fifa said: “We cannot confirm or deny any specific investigation taking place on these matches”.
The Football Federation of Cambodia carried out an internal investigation after receiving allegations that the games might have been manipulated, but has found no evidence of match-fixing. In an emailed response to questions May Tola, the deputy general-secretary of the FFC, said that it had heard “unconfirmed rumours” about the tie, and that supporters had made accusations after the disappointment of the second-leg defeat. Some had accused players of result manipulation,” Tola wrote. "Immediately after the team returned home, our FFC leadership has instructed the federation to form an investigation commission to find out if there is any irregularities as rumoured accusation [sic]. After thorough examination and discussion, the Commission has found no substantial evidence or suspicion that the match had been manipulated by players or whosoevers [sic] within the team.”
The acting president of the Asian Football Confederation told Telegraph Sport that while he was not aware of any direct evidence that the Cambodia v Laos games were “not genuinely contested”, the allegations underlined “the destructive nature of match-fixing”. Zhang Jilong, of China, who became acting president when Mohamed bin Hammam was suspended by Fifa, described match-fixing as a “pandemic” in world football, and is hoping to open a dedicated Fifa security office in Asia next year.
Jilong said: “There is no doubt that match-fixing is a real danger to football’s ethical values and needs to be completely eliminated to preserve the sanctity of the sport. AFC will not rest until this plague is completely stamped out in Asia.”
Asia is considered the hub of match-fixing and Jilong is in talks with Fifa’s security department to open a dedicated security office in Asia by the start of 2012. The latest concerns come as Fifa prepares to take disciplinary action against six match officials involved in two notorious internationals staged in Antalya, Turkey, in February, in which all seven goals were penalties. The referees, from Hungary and Bosnia, have been summoned to appear at a disciplinary hearing in Zurich next week, though none is expected to attend having already been banned for life by their home federations.