Friday, January 31, 2014

Painful reunion

Elroy in Flying Dutchman mode against for PPCFC v BBU last season. Photo courtesy Sovanna Kem.
The return of the flowing flocks of Elroy van der Hooft creates an interesting conundrum for football fans in the kingdom. The Dutch-born striker, with more than a hint of Indonesian blood in his veins, which is the main reason he came to this part of the world in the first place, made tsunami-like waves with thirteen goals in a handful of games for Phnom Penh Crown in the second half of last season. A hat-trick on his debut against Kirivong and then 4 more against Senate, certainly helped cement a place in the hearts of Crown supporters, and Khmer football fans in general. His friendly style off the pitch was a big winner as well. At the end of the season, he returned to Holland for some rest and recuperation and to mull over his future. In the meantime, Crown searched elsewhere for their overseas signings ahead of the new season, as Elroy returned to try his fortune in Indonesia, though beset by injury, his timing was awry and after a fruitless search for a team there and in Thailand, he's returned to Cambodia this week for a second stint. This time, Boeung Ket have forked out what's thought to be the biggest pay-check in C-League history to secure his services. Whether he can recapture his goalscoring knack remains to be seen. For loyal Crown fans his switch to the Rubbermen, one of Crown's bitterest rivals, will be painful in the extreme. A few will see it as a betrayal. For others, whose support fluctuates between one, two or three of the top clubs, depending on which way the wind is blowing, they will simply be happy to see the Flying Dutchman back on the country's football pitches. The die-hard football fan is still very much in its infancy in Cambodia, so Elroy should have a fairly easy time of it, unlike the reception he might've expected playing in many other leagues in the world. The bottom line is that it all adds to the excitement and rivalry as we get the Metfone C-League season underway in the kingdom. Photo courtesy of Sovanna Kem.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cup activity

Kompong Chhnang found the going tough against Police, losing 9-0
The first games in Pool C of the Hun Sen Cup were completed yesterday. Phnom Penh Crown drew 1-1 with TriAsia (Kandal), in a game where they will be kicking themselves that they didn't score a 2nd goal to win the match comfortably. They dominated possession but lacked the cutting edge in front of goal. Both teams fielded depleted sides, as did National Police for their match against qualifiers Kompong Chhnang. The lights were so bad at Olympic Stadium that I couldn't identify all the goalscorers as Police ran out 9-0 winners, though I'm pretty sure Noun Borey netted a hat-trick at least. The next Pool C matches are on Wednesday 12 February, when Crown meet Kompong Chhnang and TriAsia (Kandal) face National Police, both matches to be played at the Army Stadium.
National Police made short work of their province visitors, winning 9-0

TriAsia pose, with coaches, before the game against PPCFC

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Crown dominate but held

PPCFC v TriAsia line-up: Boris, Pheng, Thierry, Da, Ary, Borey. Front: Suhana, Boran, Sothy, Sokumpheak. Sosela - click to enlarge
Result: Phnom Penh Crown 1 TriAsia PP (Kandal) 1 (Hun Sen Cup).
The eagerly-awaited Hun Sen Cup last 16 Pool C clash between Phnom Penh Crown and TriAsia PP - representing Kandal province - duly arrived this afternoon at Olympic Stadium, and despite a lot of huffing and puffing, the teams finished all square at 1-1. Both teams made changes from the weekend, with only Khmer players allowed to take part, with Yok Ary replacing Sou Yaty in goal for Crown and Neou Sosela getting the thumbs up from the Federation to play at last. Former Crown players Leng Narin and Bun Keo were in the TriAsia line-up. The first action of note came on twelve minutes as TriAsia's Seng Kosen sent a 22-yard effort towards goal which Ary parried down and away. On 22 minutes it was TriAsia that drew first blood as two errors by Crown defenders were punished, with Kouch Sokumpheak slipping to allow Sok Chanrasmey time to lash his shot past Ary from just inside the penalty area. Five minutes later, Sos Suhana turned neatly and unleashed a low drive that flashed inches past the upright. A rash-looking challenge by Neou Sosela on Leng Narin with ten minutes of the first-half to go, left Crown with an uphill task as referee Khuon Virak produced a straight red card, though on video replay its not clear if Sosela even connected with the TriAsia defender. Coach Sam Schweingruber immediately switched Sokumpheak from defense into attack and after Hem Simay punched away a Khim Borey free-kick, the TriAsia goalkeeper was caught napping, when he dived on the ball as Sokumpheak challenged. As he picked it up, referee Virak gave an indirect free-kick to Crown, seventeen yards out, which Sokumpheak touched to Borey and he curled the ball around the wall and into the bottom corner for the equaliser. That was four minutes before half-time. Two minutes later an inswinging Bin Thierry corner found the head of Sokumpheak, but he was stretching and his header went wide of the far post.

Schweingruber threw on Leng Makara at half-time, pushing Sokumpheak back into midfield. Suhana broke into the box early on but his shot was blocked, and a Borey free-kick from wide left was headed away by Kao Viso. At the other end, Yok Ary punched a Nuth Sinoun free-kick from under the cross-bar. Crown's best chance to go ahead fell to Suhana on 56 minutes, as Thourng Da's overlap and cross found its way through a host of legs but his shot was blocked at point-blank range by Simay, who then reacted smartly to thwart Makara after Crown broke quickly through Sokumpheak. On 70 minutes, Sokumpheak's pass found Long Boran steaming into the box and his flashing drive was finger-tipped over the bar by Simay, as the keeper once again came to his side's rescue. Both Suhana and Makara headed harmlessly wide of the target while Ary was quick off his line to deny Chanrasmey's spurt into the area. Sokumpheak took a tumble as he weaved his way into the box but referee Virak looked the other way, and two minutes after his arrival on the pitch, Um Tola connected with a Da cross but his diving header flashed wide of the near post by a matter of inches. TriAsia were restricted to the odd counter-attack and Chanrasmey nearly made one of them count as he slipped past Hong Pheng and Ary only for Pheng to recover and head his shot out for a corner. Five minutes of injury time failed to produce a winner and both teams had to settle for a point apiece in this Pool C encounter.
PPCFC v TriAsia (Kandal): Ary, Sokumpheak, Da, Pheng Boris (Sarak 92), Sothy (Makara 46), Thierry, Sosela, Boran, Suhana (Tola 81), Borey. Subs not used: Yaty, Soksela, Phearun, Dara, Sokheng, Muslim, Srin, Pisa. Booking: Sokumpheak, Sarak; Sosela (red card). MOTM: Borey - smartly-taken goal. Goal: Borey (41).

Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber gave his thoughts after the match with TriAsia (Kandal): "Our game was not what we wanted to play, we had a lot of players not 100% switched on and it may've had to do with a few changes I made to the team...trying a few new things, which clearly didn't work, so I have to take part of the blame for that. Two or three of our players should've done better for their goal but he finished with good composure. Then comes the red card - and it throws out our whole plan. Definitely the turning point in the game, still we managed to be very strong. I thought we were miles better than them in the 2nd half. Easily the strongest team. They were slow, we reacted quicker, we were well organised and we have players, who when they switch it on, are really good players. I think we should've had a penalty on at least one occasion, and we were a bit unlucky on a couple more occasions. Suhana should've done better with his effort and if we'd scored, we would've won comfortably. We didn't, and I'm disappointed with a few things, but that's football."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

MCL Team of the Week - Week 1

I watched all but one of the Metfone C-League matches at the weekend and to bring some spice into proceedings, have selected my MCL Team of the Week - Week 1, based on the performances I witnessed and the results they produced. You will have your own opinions on who deserves to be in the best of the MCL for last weekend, but here's mine, in a 4-4-2 formation.
GK: Mak Theara - AEU
DF: Yusuke Yamagata - BBU
DF: Hong Pheng - PPCFC
DF: Sok Rithy - NagaCorp
DF: Odion Obadin - PPCFC
MF: Bin Thierry - PPCFC
MF: Jang In Jong - NagaCorp
MF: Kouch Dani - TriAsia PP
MF: Noun Borey - National Police
FW: Chan Vathanaka - Boeung Ket
FW: George Bisan - PPCFC.

Top save

The most outstanding goalkeeping save of the weekend's football must go to Mak Theara (pictured above), the AEU keeper, playing against Phnom Penh Crown. At the start of the 2nd half a cross was met by Leng Makara six yards out and his header look destined for the net, until Theara produced a 'Gordon Banks' moment to miraculously scoop the ball over the bar. Banks was voted the second best goalkeeper of the 20th century and his save from Pele in the 1970 World Cup was described as the greatest save in the history of the game. Theara's save from Makara wasn't far behind.
It was in 2010 when Theara was playing for NagaCorp that he perfected his scorpion-kick, where he would bring his feet behind his head and plant them in the chest of the attacker, a remarkably agile move by the keeper, but also incredibly dangerous for the forward on the receiving end. Back then the referees allowed him to get away with it. We'll have to wait and see if he tries to replicate that move this season.

Looking at tomorrow

Phnom Penh Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber gave his thoughts ahead of his team's Hun Sen Cup clash tomorrow with new boys TriAsia PP, who entered the competition by taking the place of the team representing Kandal province. The game is at Olympic Stadium at 3.30pm. “The Hun Sen Cup is very important to the club. Last year we missed out on the final with a penalty kick exit against Army and hope to do better this year. With the club’s philosophy to develop local talents and by having the strongest youth set up in the country, the all-Khmer Hun Sen Cup is always going to be a big target for coaches and players. Winning a cup is our target for this year. The Metfone C-League will require consistency and long breath; the Hun Sen Cup is a maximum of 6 games, so we really hope to have the right form from the beginning and create a quick momentum that carries us to the finals.”
“I’ve heard some people describe our group as the group of death – which I think is a bit funny. Most pools have 3 teams that play in the MCL and only Pool A is the exception, with Kratie getting to the final stage without even playing a qualification game, and so giving Naga and Boeung Ket a free pass to the next round. Tomorrow’s opponents, TriAsia will be looking to progress to the next round as they have a new team with players brought in from all over. They are experienced and physically strong and will give a very good account of themselves. However, whether they are already at the level of consistency and quality to progress at the expense of either us or Police, we will have to see. The strong second half display against BBU on Saturday certainly shows that they are not an easy opponent and we have to be careful to start with a good performance and a win. We don’t know much about Kompong Chhnang and will have to see how they perform against Police, but for an all-province team, the final stages of the Hun Sen Cup has always been too much of a challenge, so I don’t expect them to be creating any upsets." 

Expectation is high that Elroy van der Hooft, who netted 13 times for Phnom Penh Crown in the second half of last season, will join Boeung Ket later today. The Dutch-born striker, who spent six years at the Ajax Academy, was a revelation last term though he didn't quite manage to help Crown through to the play-off final. He went looking for a team in Indonesia and Thailand in recent weeks but seems to be heading back to the capital, according to the football grapevine. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Army gift 3 goals

Army's all-Khmer team went down meekly 3-0 to NagaCorp
Besides Phnom Penh Crown's 4-0 win over AEU under the Olympic Stadium floodlights yesterday, the only other Metfone C-League game was NagaCorp's meeting with the Army. Naga must've felt that Christmas had come around again very early as the Army defence gave away three very large presents within the first thirty minutes, and that was effectively that, as there were no more goals in the rest of the game. Naga keeper Samrith Seiha tipped one onto the cross-bar early on before his team took the lead on 9 minutes. Army dallied and failed to clear, leaving new recruit Jang In Yong to open up his Naga account. Three minutes later a howler from Um Vichet between the Army sticks allowed a Tieng Tiny header to go between his legs as Tiny made sure by forcing the loose ball in. The Army's misery was compounded on 26 minutes as Vichet came and got nowhere near a cross, which one of his own defenders headed into the empty net. It was a shocking half hour for the military men, who gave a better account of themselves after the break, but by then the damage was well and truly done. They will hope to do better against Phnom Penh Crown next weekend. Army, alongwith AEU and Kirivong are the only teams to have begun their season without overseas foreigners in their line-up. All three teams lost. Naga had a South Korean (In Yong), Japanese (Masahiro) and a wideman from Guinea (Barry) in their line up.
NagaCorp scored 3 in the first half-hour and that was it against Army

AEU had keeper Mak Theara to thank for keeping the scoreline down to 4-0 v PPCFC. They have no foreign players in their squad.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Academy come unstuck

PPCFC line-up, back row, LtoR: Titchhy, K Chhaya, Senteang, Chanpolin, Baraing, Sovann. Front: Sodavid, Piphop, Nuron, Chansopheak, Chanvuthy - click to enlarge
The Phnom Penh Crown Academy youngsters took on the challenge of meeting the recently-crowned Cambodia Soccer League adult champions, Prey Veng, at the RSN Stadium on Sunday morning. The RSN pitch was covered in sand with the intention of making the pitch softer and to encourage more grass growth. Kim Chhaya went close with a free-0kick but it was Prey Veng who made their experience count, hitting the foot of the post and then scoring a couple of goals in quick succession, in the 18th and 24th minutes. Undaunted, the Academy, not playing as fluently as usual after a month without a game, reduced the deficit on 35 minutes when Orn Chanpolin was strong in the tackle, fed the ball through for Sath Rozak to race through and finish coolly. With changes at half-time, Crown were caught napping just two minutes into the restart as Prey Veng extended their lead. Sraing Titchhy was put through but foiled by the keeper, both Titchhy and Chhaya blasted over the bar before the Academy got a second goal, five minutes from the end. Chhaya won the ball and set up Men Piphop, whose shot took a deflection, but it was their last hurrah as Prey Veng held out for a victory.
Academy line-up: Chanvuthy (S Samnang 46 (Soksela 77), Chansopheak (Phearath 46), K Chhaya (Muslim 46), Baraing (Sovann 73), Sovann (Chanchav 25), Chanpolin (Sodavid 63), Sodavid (Sakrovy 46 (Chanpolin 86)), Titchhy (Piphop 63), Piphop (Rozak 25 (K Chhaya 77)), Nuron (Ponvuthy 35 (Nuron 65)), Senteang (Titchhy 80). Goals: Rozak (35), Piphop (85).

Opening day win

PPCFC v AEU. Back row, LtoR: Oliveira, Yaty, Obadin, Boris, Thierry, Bisan. Front: Makara, Dara, Pheng, Sokumpheak, Borey - click to enlarge
Result: Phnom Penh Crown 4 AEU 0 (Metfone C-League).
Crown got off to the best possible start in their opening C-League game, beating AEU 4-0, with all the goals coming in the 2nd half. Coach Sam Schweingruber began his league campaign by giving debuts to new arrivals George Bisan and Rafael Oliveira but was without Neou Sosela, who is waiting for clearance from the federation. For the first-half of today's game at the Olympic Stadium, kicking off at 6pm under floodlights, it was one-way traffic though Crown will be working on shooting practice after coming up goal-less in the opening 45 minutes. After just fifty seconds, Bisan sent a hopeful forty-yard effort into the hands of a busy AEU keeper, Mak Theara. Bin Thierry's free-kick was headed wide by Khim Borey, and then Thierry lashed a drive wide from a corner. Oliveira sent Bisan scampering free but he screwed his shot across the face of goal and Hong Pheng did the same as Crown took the game to the student team. On 20 minutes, Theara was out sharply to block Leng Makara's attempt with his legs, Borey and Kouch Sokumpheak fired wildly over the cross-bar, while Bisan cut into the box, only to see his low drive rebound off the foot of the upright. With 34 minutes on the clock, Theara pulled off a one-handed diving save to keep out a curling Thierry free-kick. Odion Obadin came up from defence to get his head to a Thierry free-kick, only for the ball to strike a defender on the post. Theara was out sharply to deny Bisan as he looked to create another chance and with the last effort of the 1st half, Borey sent a vicious drive into Theara's midriff.

Without anything to show for their efforts, Crown were determined to put matters right after the break. Just a minute in, Sokumpheak's cross was met by Makara six yards out and his header look destined for the net, until Theara produced a 'Gordon Banks' moment to miraculously scoop the ball over the bar. Less than a minute later, the keeper was down well to collect a header from Obadin and a scuffed shot from Borey. The breakthrough finally arrived 11 minutes into the second half, as Crown made their pressure pay. Borey whipped in a corner, Bisan headed powerfully against the bar and as the ball rebounded, Makara was alive to nod the ball past an overworked Theara. Oliveira tried his luck from the edge of the box but sent his drive harmlessly wide. In a rare AEU break, Sou Yaty, on his Crown debut, was out sharpish to tackle Ty Bunvichet on the edge of his area, with Obadin clearing the danger. It was a reminder to Crown that despite their dominance of possession and chances, they needed another goal to make the game safe. That strike duly arrived on 72 minutes. Another Borey corner proved to be AEU's undoing, as Obadin guided his back post header into the path of Thierry and his drive took a deflection off Makara's hip to confound Theara in the AEU goal, Makara claiming his second of the game. Just two minutes later and Crown had added a third. Pheng's well-timed through ball allowed Bisan a touch to take him beyond the onrushing Theara and the Nigerian hit-man marked his debut by whacking the ball into the net from two yards out. Cue his trademark somersault celebration. A minute later he looked certain to score again only for the brave Theara to grab the ball off his toe. It was Bisan's last bit of action as he left the pitch nursing a hamstring strain. In a rare AEU forward push Bunvichet looked miles offside though his shot was wayward, and with their next move Crown extended their lead even further. Thierry's 40-yard pass was collected in his stride by Borey and as he entered the box, Theara looked to have bravely halted his run by grabbing the ball, as Borey went to ground. Referee Chuop Visal didn't agree and pointed to the spot, which brought howls of protest from the whole AEU team. Borey calmly stepped up to beat Theara from the penalty spot, only for the referee to order a retake for encroachment. It made no difference to Borey, who sent Theara the wrong way with his second kick. Crown were now 4-nil ahead and deservedly so, on the balance of play, with ten minutes to go. Yaty reacted well to keep out a header from Bunvichet with a few minutes remaining and Thierry blew his chance of a goal, as he fired wide after Sos Suhana's run and pull-back set him up.

This was coach Sam Schweingruber's post-match assessment of his team's 4-0 success: "Four-zero looks great - 2 set pieces, 1 possible offside and 1 totally gifted penalty - but if we are looking at what we wanted to do, then I didn't see enough of it. And in the end, gifting them opportunities to get a goal back, it's not funny. It's good to get the first game out of the way, good to be on top of the table after the first round and we will try our best to stay up there for the rest of the season. We've done reasonably well in a lot of areas but certainly nothing we can be proud of, leaning back, taking a break... and a lot of things we have to do better if we want to do well against the big teams." Crown have a midweek Hun Sen Cup match with TriAsia on Wednesday before they return to C-League action next Sunday against Army at Olympic Stadium.
PPCFC v AEU: Yaty, Dara, Pheng, Boris, Obadin, Thierry, Sokumpheak, Borey, Makara (Boran 78), Oliveira (Suhana 67), Bisan (Tola 81). Subs not used: Ary, Soksela, Da, Sothy, Sokheng, Morslim, Srin, Phearun. Booking: Sokumpheak. MOTM: Bisan - looked the dangerman that we already know. Goals: Makara 2 (56, 72), Bisan (74), Borey (80 pen).

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The big kick-off

National Police began with a 2-0 win over Kirivong
The Metfone C-League kicked-off this afternoon with 2 games at Olympic Stadium and one at the Army Stadium. Over at the Army HQ, Boeung Ket took advantage of Albirex Niigata losing their keeper at the break and not having a replacement, winning 4-1. Chan Vathanaka netted a hat-trick and Keo Sokpheng scored for BK, with Kanuk Tatsuta scoring for the Japanese-backed team. The Rubbermen scored two of their goals in the dying seconds of the game. Albirex need to get their act together quickly or else they could start to fall behind the pace. Over at the Olympic Stadium, the National Police beat Kirivong 2-0 but it was a drab, dire affair for the tv cameras to capture - bet they wish they hadn't. The game kicked-off at the new time of 3.45pm and Noun Borey scored both for Police, a free-kick on 8 minutes and then a back post volley 14 minutes after the restart. Aside from those two efforts, there was nothing for the spectators to cheer. At all. The later game, 6pm under floodlights, was better. Both BBU and TriAsia, making their CPL debut, gave a better account of themselves, even if chances were few and far between. BBU opened the scoring six minutes before the interval after keeper Hem Simay was punished for a terrible punch out against his former club. Omokafe Adeyanju, on the floor, made him pay dearly. Ten minutes after the break, the advantage swung in TriAsia's favour when Kouch Dani rode a poor tackle from Phin Pheara who went for an early bath, courtesy of the ever-willing Thong Chankethya's red card. On 68 minutes Sok Chanrasmey, introduced as a sub, poked the equaliser home after poor defending and should've scored the winner, three minutes into injury time, but fluffed the opportunity. So all square, 1-1. And the Metfone C-League is well and truly underway.
Kirivong looked less than interested, losing 2-0 to Police. They had no foreign players.

TriAsia refused to take off their tracksuits for the photo, and their coaching staff also joined in - the FFC match administrator did nothing to prevent it

BBU looked good for a point against TriAsia after going down to 10-men

Sam on Sunday's opener

Sam Schweingruber, courtesy of Masayori Ishikawa
Phnom Penh Crown kick-off their Metfone C-League campaign tomorrow evening against Asia Euro University at 6pm at Olympic Stadium. The teams have met 5 times in pre-season friendlies. Here's what head coach Sam Schweingruber had to say:
"AEU is never an easy game... the last 4 games we won each of them but we have never managed to keep a cleen sheet, so they always manage to score... 2 times from a set piece, so we must be careful with the free-kicks that we might give away, or hopefully not. We expect them to defend very compact and fight hard. Despite the team ending up in 9th place last season, they only conceded 4 times more than 2 goals in a game, so we have to be on our best to score and win our opening match."

On the overall strength of his squad for the 2014 season, the head coach said this:
"We have more strength in depth and start from the beginning of the season well prepared. We had enough time to work on the core group of players and added a few more foreigners. So we know we are stronger than last year- but we also understand that our opposition is stronger than last year and we are looking forward to a good challenge this year."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sam on his foreign contingent

Phnom Penh Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber (pictured above with new signing Rafael Oliveira) gave his views on his contingent of 5 foreign players earlier this week. “I’m relieved to have finally signed five players, it was a long process, looking at various options, trying out different players, exploring the market of what’s available, considering hundreds of emails and CVs. I’m happy with what we’ve ended up signing, good for us to wait until a week before the games start to finalise these contracts. I’m confident having five strong players like this will create the right competitive environment in training and pushing everybody to the highest level and make our team competitive for the championship.”

Sam then spoke about each of his 5 foreign players: “Tony (Odion Obadin) – we know all about him, he played with us last season and was outstanding. I hope he will continue, in fact I believe he can get better, we are working on improving his leadership so he can become even more important to us.
George (George Bisan) has obviously proved he can find the net in Cambodia, he knows the environment, he knows how things work and if he’s 100% switched on, he can be a real handful for any defence. In the past he’s been a bit inconsistent, losing focus at times, but the competition we have in the team will push him and if he wants to play, he will have to be at his best all the time.”

For the 3 new players, who signed on earlier this week: “First is Ben (Newton Katanha), who is our most experienced and mature target striker. We’re looking at him scoring a lot of goals, being the experienced threat up front that we want. I think he will work hard, he has pace, is good with the ball, and has international experience. He will be a mentor to younger players in our team, bringing top-level experience, sharing and helping others on and off the pitch. Our oldest player, so not sure he will play every single game, it depends on fitness and form, but it’s good to have strong back-up in every department of the team.
Rafael (Rafael Oliveira) - I think we have a very creative player, at 25 he’s also very experienced, playing in Vietnam and Brazil. Very good with the ball, both feet, an eye for his teammates, good delivery and with instincts as we saw last weekend, scoring 2 goals with something special, a bit of magic and being in the right place at the right time. Our job will be to ensure both of these players fit into our system, when we have the ball and when we don’t. I’m very excited to see both of these players and to see how much better they will get when they get used to our team and building relationships with our existing players.
Jeongho (Jeong Ho Kim) has been with us for a few weeks and he has shown good signs, very strong, good technique and has improved his fitness. He has not played enough competitive football for the past year. So we’ll have to see how quickly he gets up to speed. With his background and skill and two good feet, he could develop into an important squad player – as he can play different positions, including centre-back and holding midfielder.
It’s a new situation for me having more than just one or two good foreign players. We now have five, all five are of a good level, the selection headache will be a good one, we can try some rotation here and there and there will be good healthy competition for places. We now have a strong squad and the firepower up front from our foreign players will help us to challenge for the championship.”

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Three new faces unveiled

PPCFC's 3 new faces, LtoR: Newton Katanha, Rafael Oliveira, Jeong Ho Kim - click to enlarge
Phnom Penh Crown have unveiled another 3 new faces today, all foreigners, to take their overseas contingent to five ahead of this weekend's opening Metfone C-League games. The new players who signed on today are:
1. Zimbabwe-born Newton Ben Katanha, aged 30, joins Crown with an excellent reputation, having represented his country as a Zimabawe international on 12 occasions, scoring six goals, and spent 13 years as a professional in Europe. After starting in Zimbabwe's premier league, he spent time in Austria (with SV Austria Salzburg and BSV Bad Bleiberg), Germany (Arminia Bielefeld), two years in Malaysia with MPPJ Selangor, before returning to Europe, in Russia (PFC Spartak Nalchik) and then the past seven years with three clubs in Switzerland, FC Schaffhausen, Wettswil-Bonstetton and FC Winterthur.
2. The 2nd new arrival is Rafael Souza de Oliveira, aged 25. Rafael is Brazilian and played in his country's premier league with Fluminense RJ and Atletico MG and a season on loan with Democrata GV, before heading over to play in the Vietnam Premier League in 2009, first with The Cong and then Navibank Saigon. After recovering from injury he spent 1.5 years with Than Quang Ninh, before half a season back in Brazil with America FC and now joining Crown. 
3. The third of today's trio is Jeong Ho Kim, a 22-year old South Korean who has successfully completed a month-long trial period with Crown. As a schoolboy he was a star striker for his school in Busan, earning a scholarship at the prestigious Kwangoon University and training spells overseas. His University playing career was cut short with a serious ankle injury and he's now looking to return to playing regular football.
The 3 new faces join Odion Obadin and George Bisan as the club's foreign contingent for the new season. Welshman Liam Hutchinson, who joined the club two months ago after spells in Welsh and Australian football, has left the club for personal reasons. Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber said of his new signings: "I am very excited. This is a new situation for me to have 5 good foreign players and it gives me a good selection headache. I'm relieved to have gone through a long process of exploring the market for foreign faces, but happy that we waited for the right players and I think we have 5 very strong players that will provide a competitive environment in training and help to make us a real contender for the championship this season."

Monday, January 20, 2014

Fixtures announced

The FFC have finally issued the fixtures for the  first round of matches in this season's Metfone C-League campaign. They have switched the kick-off times at the Olympic Stadium to 4pm and 6pm, under floodlights. Lets hope the standard of the floodlights is better than it has been previously. Fans have been calling for more evening football, rather than the heat of the day 2pm kick-offs and the FFC have heard the call. However, it needs good floodlights for it to be a success and the lux value of the lights when measured by the AFC wasn't anywhere near high enough for serious competitive matches. Games to be played at the Old/Army Stadium will kick off earlier, at 1.45pm and 3.45pm I believe. Anyway, here are the fixtures.
1st Round:
Sun 26 Jan v AEU – 6pm at Olympic Stadium
Sun 2 Feb v Army – 6pm at Olympic Stadium
Sun 9 Feb v Kirivong – 6pm at Olympic Stadium
Sun 16 Feb v BBU – 4pm at Olympic Stadium
Sat 22 Feb v Boeung Ket – 4pm at Olympic Stadium
Sat 1 Mar v Albirex Niigata – 6pm at Olympic Stadium
Sat 29 Mar v TriAsia PP – 6pm at Olympic Stadium
Sat 5 Apr v National Police – 6pm at Olympic Stadium
Sat 26 Apr v NagaCorp – 6pm at Olympic Stadium
Sat 17 May v Svay Rieng – 6pm at Olympic Stadium
Sat 24 May v Western Uni – 3.45pm at Army Stadium.

The 2nd Round fixtures will be published at a later date. Don't hold your breath.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Brazilian flair

Brazilian Rafael Oliveira netted twice in his first match - click to enlarge
Phnom Penh Crown have been taking a good look at Brazilian-born attacking midfielder Rafael Souza de Oliveira over the last few days and he made his presence felt with two goals in his first match against TriAsia yesterday afternoon. His first goal had a touch of Rio magic with a delightful overhead lob after spotting the goalkeeper off his goal-line. His second was a virtual tap-in. His test for Crown came after he spent a few days in Thailand, being well accustomed to Southeast Asian football following a three year stint in Vietnam with Navibank Saigon, The Cong and Than Quang Ninh. The 25-year old previously played in his own country, starting with Rio-based club Fluminense RJ as well as spells with Atletico MG and Democrata GV before heading over to Vietnam's top league. We shall soon know whether he has done enough to convince head coach Sam Schweingruber to add him to his foreign contingent. Crown are allowed 5 foreign players on their roster as they look to begin their C-League campaign next Saturday. Word on the grapevine is that Crown will announce more signings in the next few days.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

TriAsia made to pay

PPCFC v TriAsia. Back Row, LtoR: Bisan, Boris, Oliveira, Obadin, Srin, Yaty. Front: Sokumpheak, Sothy, Sosela, Pheng, Borey - click to enlarge
Result: PPCFC 5 TriAsia PP 0 (Friendly).
For their second match this afternoon, Phnom Penh Crown met new boys TriAsia PP for the first time but most of their first-choice players as well as their Japanese coach stayed away, leaving Crown to teach their B-team a footballing lesson. Crown coach Sam Schweingruber gave a debut to trialist Rafael Souza de Oliveira, a Brazilian midfielder with experience in his home country and three years playing in Vietnam with Navibank and The Cong. Oliveira and George Bisan caused the TriAsia defence problems from the start, as did Ngoy Srin with his overlapping runs on the right-flank. It came as no surprise when Crown took the lead on 14 minutes. Khim Borey's cross was missed by Bisan but Srin appeared from nowhere to head the ball over the keeper and into the unguarded net. Soon after another Srin run and cross gave Oliveira his first chance, but he sent his header skidding wide and seconds later, sent a shot fizzing past the post. Dominating possession, Crown edged further ahead with a piece of Brazilian flair on 19 minutes. Borey's corner kick was headed back across the box by Odion Obadin and Oliveira, with his back to goal, hooked the ball over his head and the stranded keeper from fifteen yards out. A touch of magic. Bin Thierry fed Bisan and his quick feet opened up the goal but his finish let him down as his shot sailed wide. Even Srin got in on the act but he too, sent his drive wide from fifteen yards. With the first-half coming to an end, Oliveira bustled his way to the bye-line and sent over a hard cross which Kouch Sokumpheak just failed to get a decisive touch to. Crown went in 2-nil ahead and in charge in every department.

In the 2nd minute of the second period, the TriAsia keeper got a fingertip to a vicious Thierry corner that looked to be creeping in at the far post. It took just six minutes for Crown to pile on the heartache for TriAsia. Borey's cross was chased down by Bisan, who fed Neou Sosela and his drive was pushed aside by the keeper only for Oliveira to be the first to react and slam the ball home from eight yards out. Soon after Borey volleyed a Sosela cross past the far post. Sos Suhana entered the fray and his break down the right flank set up Crown's fourth on 63 minutes. Suhana's low cross was met by Thierry who fed Bisan and his return pass was dispatched into the net by the Khmer-French midfielder who has shone in Crown's last two matches. As Crown pummelled TriAsia, Bisan robbed the last defender and though he rounded the keeper, a defender got back to clear, while Borey's goal-bound cross was pushed onto the post by the keeper. The one-way traffic continued as Suhana broke into the box but fired his attempt just wide, he then had a shot saved, and the same outcome befell Jeong Ho Kim. Eleven minutes left on the clock and the South Korean striker netted Crown's fifth when he finished off a smart move involving Borey, Hong Pheng and Suhana. In the final move of the match, Thourng Da broke clear and sent over a perfect cross which a diving Borey headed inches wide. With the match won, Crown now have a week of intensive work on the training pitch ahead of their C-League opener next Saturday.
PPCFC v TriAsia: Yaty, Srin (Da 80), Pheng, Boris, Obadin (Makara 82), Sothy (Thierry 18), Sokumpheak, Oliveira (Kim 72), Borey, Sosela (Suhana 55), Bisan (Tola 72). Booked: Thierry. MOTM: Thierry. Goals: Srin (14), Oliveira (19, 51), Thierry (63), Kim(79).
The TriAsia line-up, well beaten 5-0 by PPCFC

Double-header success

PPCFC v Albirex: Back Row LtoR: Da, Sarak, Dara, Ary, Hutchinson, Makara. Front: Sothy, Boran, Sokheng, Tola, Suhana - click to enlarge
Result: PPCFC 7 Albirex Niigata 3 (Friendly).
The first of another weekend double-header of practice matches for Phnom Penh Crown at their RSN Stadium was against the newest club on the scene, the Japanese-backed Albirex Niigata. Crown coach Sam Schweingruber gave his younger squad members the opportunity to shine, just one week away from the start of the C-League season, whilst Albirex and their new coach, 21-year old Tatsuya Sase, were in need of serious match practice, having only just put together their squad. It took just 35 seconds for Crown to go ahead and set the scene for the rest of the match. Um Tola chipped a pass to Sos Suhana and looking up, he spotted the keeper off his goal-line and executed a perfect lob to open the scoring. Five minutes later Tola was in space but fired high, though on 11 minutes Crown scored a second courtesy of Albirex. Tola and Suhana combined well and it looked certain for Long Boran to score from close range until a defender's foot got there first and directed it into his own net. Chea Dara's right-flank runs were a constant menace and his cross to the far post saw Suhana shoot weakly at the keeper. It was all one-way traffic and on 21 minutes, Crown made it 3-0. A Liam Hutchinson trademark 50-yard pass sent Dara scampering to the bye-line and his pull-back was met by the diving head of Tola with perfect timing. Leng Makara was sent clear by Suhana but his shot was saved by the keeper and from Boran's corner, Hutchinson headed onto the top of the cross-bar. On the half-hour, Suhana held his head as he missed a simple tap-in, provided on a plate by Jeong Ho Kim, but Crown went further ahead four minutes later. Once again Dara overlapped with pace and his perfect delivery across the face of goal was met by a diving Touch Sokheng for an almost identical goal to Tola's earlier strike. Soon after Kim was guilty of a missed opportunity as he sent his header wide, from another Dara run and cross. Albirex registered their first shot on target with two minutes of the half left and then stunned Crown on the half-time whistle with a breakaway tap-in goal.

It looked like Crown hadn't learned their lesson when Albirex scored again, just two minutes after the restart. A one-on-one left Yok Ary exposed and the opposition pulled it back to 4-2, but not for long. Two minutes later, a deep Makara corner met the leap of Hutchinson and though his downward header was pushed aside by the keeper, he reacted quickest to force the ball home. Makara and then Chhom Pisa both went close with efforts, while substitute Sraing Titchhy sent one chance over the bar and was then thwarted by a good reaction save by the keeper. Mak Phearun broke from inside his own half and his square pass saw Tola's shot pushed aside. From the Makara corner, Hutchinson headed inches over the top. On 78 minutes, Albirex scored their third after Hutchinson was adjudged to have handled a shot and their new Japanese signing scored from the penalty spot. With five Academy players introduced for Crown, they scored two more goals in the last four minutes. Seut Baraing slipped a pass to Ly Morslim and his deft touch took the ball over the keeper and into the net. With a minute to go, Orn Chanpolin supplied Kim and his square ball found Tola arriving at speed to fire home Crown's seventh. A game which Crown dominated from the start but one which the team will be disappointed that they conceded three goals. For Albirex, it looks like a long season ahead.
PPCFC v Albirex: Ary (Soksela 65), Dara, Da (Pisa 40 (Baraing 78)), Sarak, Hutchinson, Sothy (Sodavid 78), Suhana (Phearun 65), Sokheng (Morslim 65), Tola (Kim 30), Boran (Titchhy 46 (Chanpolin 78)), Makara (Tola 65). MOTM: Dara. Goals: Suhana (1), OG (11), Tola 2 (21, 89), Sokheng (34), Hutchinson (49), Morslim (86).
The Albirex Niigata starting XI plus new player/coach on far left

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Phnom Penh Crown have a Japanese double-header of friendly matches this Saturday (18 Jan). Both games will be played back-to-back at RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork. At 1.45pm Crown will meet Albirex Niigata, the new Japan-funded team in the MCL, who already have teams competing in their homeland and in Singapore. They have been putting together a team of young Khmer players and have this week added a couple of Japanese players, one as player-coach, 21-year old defender Tatsuya Sase, who was previously with Albirex in Singapore. They expect to sign 4 Japanese players in total. Then at 3.45pm Crown take on  newboys TriAsia PP for the first time, also with Japanese cash behind them and a host of former Crown players in their ranks, namely Dani Kouch, Thul Sothearith, Vi Lika, Leng Narin, Friday Nwakuna and Suong Virak. We are also scheduled meet TriAsia PP in the Hun Sen Cup kick-off on Wed 29 Jan. Also in town this weekend are Tampines Rovers from the Singapore League and they will play two matches, against Svay Rieng on Friday and then NagaWorld, sorry, Corp, on Sunday in the imaginatively-titled NagaWorld Cup. Naga have just signed a couple of South Koreans and a Japanese player ahead of hostilities.

Crown have announced their jersey numbers for the new C-League season that will begin on Sat 25 Jan. The players/numbers are as follows:
Sou Yaty - 1
Sen Sarak - 2
Thourng Da - 3
Liam Hutchinson - 4
Khim Borey - 7
Ouk Sothy - 8
Bin Thierry - 9
Kouch Sokumpheak - 10
Neou Sosela - 11
Chea Dara - 12
Um Tola - 13
Touch Sokheng - 14
Long Boran - 15
Sos Suhana - 17
Kok Boris - 18
Ly Morslim - 21
Yok Ary - 22
Leng Makara - 23
Hong Pheng - 25
Ngoy Srin - 26
Odion Obadin - 30
Keo Soksela - 32
Mak Phearun - 33
Chhom Pisa - 39
George Bisan - 40
In Sodavid - 41
Sraing Titchhy - 42
Seut Baraing - 43
Orn Chanpolin - 44.

For the Hun Sen Cup, the following players will wear different numbers:
Mak Phearun - 6
Orn Chanpolin - 16
In Sodavid - 19
Sraing Titchhy - 20
Chhom Pisa - 27
Seut Baraing - 28
Keo Soksela - 29.

Now back on an old hobby-horse of mine, the lack of a fixture list for the Metfone C-League that is due to begin in 9 days time. Yes, a mere 9 days away and still no fixture list released to the press or published. Goodness knows how teams are supposed to prepare properly without even knowing who they are going to face. Maybe the FFC think teams get out of bed on the Saturday morning and decide then how they will counter their opponents that day. Maybe in their day, that's what they did. But these days, teams in the C-League are much more professional, working on set-pieces, formations and tactics in the week leading up to the match and watching video of their opposition. Not something the FFC seem to be remotely on-board with. I know who we are going to play on the opening day as it was leaked but the clubs, players and fans deserve better from the people in charge - instead of being treated with contempt.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Crown's Cup Games

The 2014 Hun Sen Cup is fast approaching the final group stages where the top eight Metfone C-League teams from last season, enter the fray. For Phnom Penh Crown, they will meet new boys TriAsia, who are representing Kandal, and who have just won the qualifying Eastern regional group, in their first match on Wednesday 29 January. They then meet the Western qualifying group winners, Kompong Chhnag in their second game a couple of weeks later, and then a juicy encounter against National Police, who are also drawn into the same grouping, Pool C.

PPCFC matches will take place as follows:
Wed 29 Jan v Kandal (TriAsia) @ Olympic Stadium - KO 4pm.
Wed 12 Feb v Kompong Chhnang @ Olympic Stadium – KO 6pm.
Wed 26 Feb v National Police @ Olympic Stadium – KO 6pm.
The games on 12 and 26 Feb will be televised live.

In the qualifying games, Eastern Group winners Kandal (TriAsia) beat Prey Veng 13-0 and Svay Rieng Military Police 5-0. Included in their team are former Crown players Thul Sothearith, Vi Lika, Leng Narin, Suong Virak and Kouch Dani. Kompong Chhang won the Western group beating Battambang 4-2, Pursat 7-3 and Pailin 1-0.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Back door diplomacy

Western Uni have been telling everyone that they've been given the green light to join the Metfone C-League, that is due to kick-off on the 25th of this month, just under two weeks away - and we still haven't seen the fixtures list. Western didn't make it through the qualifying competition but have managed to convince the FFC of their credentials. With the federation already welcoming Albirex Niigata into the league without the Japanese-based club having to go through qualifying, then the precedent they'd set, allowed Western in by the back door route. That will make it three new clubs, with TriAsia winning the qualifying competition and earning promotion, alongside AEU, who were relegated at the end of last season. That means 12 clubs in the C-League this season, an increase of two and a step in the right direction, though the ethics of allowing these teams in could certainly be called into question. Without a whiff of the fixture list, its not clear when games will be played and where. The FFC had mooted home and away for some clubs a few months ago, but whilst that sounds all well and good, putting it into practice is an entirely different matter. For Phnom Penh Crown, they have begun work on the new RSN Stadium but its a long way from completion. Other clubs like Boeung Ket, Svay Rieng and Kirivong have been talking of new home grounds, but to-date, its been talk only. Presumably, the FFC will publish the league fixtures any minute now.

Friendly Results

Phnom Penh Crown have played 24 friendly games as part of their pre-season preparation for the forthcoming Metfone C-League and Hun Sen Cup competitions, which begin later this month. That's effectively two practice matches every week for 3 months. Here are the results:

8 Oct v AEU Away - Drew 1-1 : Sokumpheak
12 Oct v Cambodia U-23s Away - Won 2-1 : Borey, Makara
17 Oct v Cambodia U-23s Away - Won 2-1 : Borey, Bisan
18 Oct v BBU Away - Lost 0-1
25 Oct v Army Away - Won 1-0 : Makara
2 Nov v Svay Rieng Home - Lost 1-2 : Tola
3 Nov v Nat Police Home - Drew 1-1 : Ndougou
9 Nov v Radio 104.7 Kompong Chhnang Away - Won 5-0 : Borey 2, Boran, Tola, Bisan
10 Nov v AEU Home - Won 5-1 : Sokheng, Sothy, Borey, Sokumpheak pen, Bisan
15 Nov v Guangxi Nanning (China) Away - Lost 0-3
16 Nov v Laos Youth (Laos) Away - Won 8-0 : King 4, Borey 2, Pheng 2
19 Nov v Changwon (S Korea) Away - Won 1-0 : King
22 Nov v AEU Home - Won 2-1 : Chupe 2
29 Nov v BBU Away - Drew 2-2 : Guerrero, Own Goal
7 Dec v Boeung Ket Home - Won 3-2 : Sosela, Bisan, Tola
14 Dec v Albirex Niigata Home - Won 2-0 : Morslim 2
14 Dec v San Siro African XI Home - Won 5-3 : Borey 2, Makara 2, Bisan
21 Dec v Western Uni Home - Won 1-0 : Bisan
22 Dec v AEU Home - Won 3-1 : Obi, Sokumpheak, Bisan
27 Dec v Kirivong Away - Drew 2-2 : Makara, OG
28 Dec v An Giang (Vietnam) Away - Drew 1-1 : Bisan
4 Jan v BBU Home - Drew 1-1 : Sokumpheak
4 Jan v AEU Home - Won 2-1 : Kim, Obeng
11 Jan v Svay Rieng Home - Won 3-0 : Borey 2, Morslim.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Svay Rieng defeated

PPCFC in 3rd period: Back Row, LtoR: Soksela, Morslim, Boran, Srin, Sokheng, Suhana. Front Row: Sarak, Hutchinson, Pisa, Thierry, Makara - click to enlarge
Result: PPCFC 3 Svay Rieng 0 (Friendly).
Phnom Penh Crown played their 24th practice match of their pre-season preparation this morning at RSN against rivals Svay Rieng, and ran out 3-0 winners. Without goalkeeper Sou Yaty, nursing an ankle sprain and South Korean Jeong Ho Kim (toe injury) and Om Tola (neck), coach Sam Schweingruber gave a run out to Guam's Marcus Lopez, back for a second stint with Crown. However, it didn't go well for the striker, who twisted his ankle in the warm-up and struggled throughout the first of the three 40-minute periods of play. The home team got off to a solid start and took the lead on nine minutes as Lopez's step-over saw the ball run onto Hong Pheng and his pass into the path of Khim Borey was perfect for the striker to by-pass the visiting goalkeeper and slot into an empty net. Soon after George Bisan robbed a defender and bore down on goal, only to see his shot rebound back into play off the foot of the upright. Odion Obadin ventured forward but sent a half-volley high and wide, while Lopez looked certain to score as Neou Sosela's cross found him at the far post only for Am Sovannarath to close the angle as he shot. Bisan set up Borey with a volleyed pass but he lobbed his shot over the top, though he was on target again, 32 minutes into the game. Pheng found Bisan and his inch-perfect through ball saw Borey body-swerve around Sovannarath and easily net his second of the game. Crown led 2-0 as the game became a little tetchy at the end of the first period. Svay Rieng were more purposeful after the break and Yok Ary was on his toes to twice deny goal-bound efforts. Borey went close to his hat-trick as he set up Sosela, who fired across the face of goal, with Borey following up and doing likewise when well placed. Prak Mony Udom tested Ary who responded with a tip-over save as the game entered the third period with no change to the scoreline. Ly Morslim leaned backwards and fired over from ten yards out early on as Long Boran tested Svay Rieng on the left flank. Teenager Keo Soksela was called into action a couple of times for Crown, smothering a couple of breakaways but then gifted the opposition with a poor clearance, but they fired against the post and the danger was cleared. Bin Thierry found Boran who burst into the box, only to send his shot past the far post. The same player took a Sos Suhana pass in his stride, swerved around two defenders only to see his shot well saved at the foot of the post. Thierry got in a great recovery tackle as Svay Rieng broke, but the last word went to Crown in the 36th minute of the third period, as Suhana broke to the bye-line and his low cross was swept home by Ly Morslim to give Crown a 3-0 victory against last season's C-League champions.
PPCFC v Svay Rieng: Ary (Soksela 81), Da (Srin 81), Pheng (Pisa 81), Boris (Hutchinson 81), Obadin (Sarak 81), Sothy (Suhana 71), Sokumpheak (Thierry 54), Sosela (Makara 81), Borey (Sokheng 71), Bisan (Morslim 81), Lopez (Boran 41). MOTM: Obadin - a rock, as usual. Goals: Borey 2 (9, 32), Morslim (116).
PPCFC starting XI, back row, LtoR: Ary, Obadin, Borey, Lopez, Pheng, Bisan. Front Row: Sothy, Sosela, Boris, Sokumpheak, Da - click to enlarge

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Lopez Returns

 Guam's Marcus Lopez - he enjoyed it so much, he's back for a  2nd try-out
The search for a striker continues at Phnom Penh Crown. Coach Sam Schweingruber has made no secret of his desire for another striker to add to his team's firepower, in addition to another new face, George Bisan, who has shown in the last two C-League campiagns that he certainly knows where the goal is. Recent trialists include South Korean Jeong Ho Kim and Raphael Obeng from Ghana, and another new face will join the squad's pre-season preparation this week, in the shape of Guam national striker Marcus Lopez. He's already spent a week with Crown in late November but struggled with a knee injury and only managed half a game against BBU. Now he's back to full fitness, he's arrived for a second try-out. Just 21 years old, Lopez has appeared 11 times for his country, scoring 3 goals, after playing for the national team at U-12, U-14 and U-16 levels. Born in Guam, he played youth and college football whilst studying Stateside in California before appearing for Guam Shipyard back home and then joining the professional ranks at Pachanga Diliman in the Philippines last season. Welcome back Marcus. At the same time, coach Schweingruber has other irons in the fire as he continues his search for added firepower. On the injured list currently are Bisan, with a niggling shoulder complaint, Bin Thierry with an instep strain and goalkeeper Yok Ary, getting back to fitness after a fractured collarbone.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Mixed bag

PPCFC v BBU, back row, LtoR: Obadin, Obeng, Sokumpheak, Hutchinson, Srin, Yaty. Front: Boran, Sothy, Pheng, Makara, Borey - click to enlarge

Result: Phnom Penh Crown 1 BBU 1 (Friendly).
Without the injured George Bisan (shoulder), Bin Thierry (foot) and Yok Ary (shoulder), Phnom Penh Crown took on Build Bright United in a pre-season practice match this afternoon at RSN. Included in the line-up for Crown was a new face, striker Raphael Obeng from Ghana, who has been on trial in Vietnam. Crown's Leng Makara had the best of the opening exchanges, but fired into the hands of BBU stopper Mak Theara. Obeng had his first effort on goal after ten minutes, sending his shot across the face of goal and wide. On 19 minutes BBU took the lead after a free-kick conceded by Liam Hutchinson on the edge of the penalty area. Takahito Ota, a former Crown player, managed to get his shot through the defensive wall, giving Sou Yaty no chance to save it. BBU pushed on and Yaty twice saved to keep the score at 1-nil at the half-time break. The second-half was all Crown, who dominated from the restart, after making seven changes A breakaway by Kouch Sokumpheak left Neou Sosela with a shot on goal but his rising drive just cleared the cross bar. Twenty-two minutes into the half and Khim Borey found Sokumpheak scampering through the middle and he slotted the ball wide of Theara for the equaliser. Moments later Thourng Da fired a shot through a melee of players which the keeper fumbled but
Jeong Ho Kim's rebound effort was ruled out for offside. Sos Suhana went close a couple of times, denied by the keeper on both occasions, Kim was also unlucky twice after getting to the ball but steering it wide and then powerfully heading inches off target. The South Korean trialist saw one last effort miss the foot of the upright by a whisker as Crown dominated but couldn't find the finish they deserved.
PPCFC v BBU: Yaty, Srin (Sosela 46), Pheng (Da 26), Hutchinson (Boris 46), Obadin (Dara 46 (Makara 61), Sothy (Suhana 46), Sokumpheak, Borey, Boran (Sokheng 46), Makara (Pheng 46), Obeng (Kim 46). Booking: Srin. MOTM: Sokumpheak - active and alive. Goal: Sokumpheak (67).

Result: PPCFC 2 AEU 1 (Friendly).
Following the 1-1 draw with BBU, Crown's next game followed immediately afterwards at RSN, allowing all the squad members to get good game-time spread across the two matches. AEU had the best chance in the opening half but hit the foot of the post. For Crown, Raphael Obeng started his second match in quick succession and sent a disappointing shot weakly at the keeper, while Long Boran had a clear sight of goal but his header hit the back of a defender from Neou Sosela's deep cross. Another seven substitutions at the interval and Crown began much brighter from the restart.
Jeong Ho Kim made his intentions clear early on, heading inches wide after getting his head to a long ball before the keeper arrived. Touch Sokheng had a 20-yard drive well held and then fired wide before Chhom Pisa was denied by a good 1-handed save. Om Tola also went close before Crown deservedly took the lead on 78 minutes. Sokheng fed Kim and his 22-yard strike found the corner of the net for the opener. Four minutes later and Odion Obadin held his head in his hands as he presented AEU with a simple equaliser with an ill-timed back-pass that gave Sou Yaty no chance. Crown quickly spared Obadin's blushed and in less than a minute had re-taken the lead. Thourng Da broke down the left flank, passed inside to Obeng and though his initial shot was saved, he followed up to steer the ball home. It was no more than Crown deserved for all their constant 2nd half pressure.
PPCFC v AEU: Yaty, Sarak, Srin (Dara 46), Boris (Da 46), Obadin (Pheng 46 (Obeng 77)), Suhana (Sothy 46), Pisa, Tola, Boran (Sokheng 46), Sosela (Makara 46 (Obadin 77)), Obeng (Kim 46). Booking: Kim. MOTM: Kim - all-round performance. Goals: Kim (78), Obeng (83).
PPCFC v AEU, back row, LtoR: Obeng, Obadin, Pisa, Boris, Srin, Yaty. Front: Sarak, Sosela, Boran, Tola, Suhana - click to enlarge

Friday, January 3, 2014

For the love of money

The face of Suon Noeut is hidden by the monetary reward for collecting the Top Goalscorer trophy
Youth football around the world is about playing for the love of the game, striving to be the best you can be and if you are good enough, you may just be lucky to make a career in the game later on. It's not about money. However, that appears to be the carrot dangled in front of football players, young and old, in this region. Take the football federation's Cambodia Youth League as an example. Last week's two finals, at U-15 and U-17 age-group levels and both won by the Phnom Penh Crown Academy teams, included the presentation of the trophy and medals, as well as awards for most valuable player, etc. In many countries, those awards/trophies are sufficient. Last Sunday however, they were accompanied by monetary rewards too. An outcome that I really don't agree with. Rewarding success with money is something that will follow when the youngsters are adults, it shouldn't be a carrot when they are young and impressionable. It sends out the wrong message about winning = money at a young age. Passion for the game and a desire to succeed should be uppermost in the minds of the best youngsters, not the cash rewards they can get. Okay, we are not talking big bucks from last weekend's finals, but it's really the principle. In both age groups, the individual awards for Top Goalscorer, Most Valuable Player and Best Goalkeeper all were given 200,000 riel ($50), the Best Coach received 400,000 ($100) and the Fair Play Award collected 1,000,000 riel ($250). For winning the Championship, Crown received 5,000,000 riel ($1,250) for each of the U-15 and U-17 teams. The individual rewards were not given to the Academy U-15s top scorer Suon Noeut, or MVP's Orn Chanpolin or Noeut or best keepers, Keo Soksela and Kong Rafat. Instead, the cash was put into the kitty and used on the Academy's weekend away on the south coast in Sihanoukville and Kep. Shared and enjoyed by all as a reward for a fantastic team effort.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bittersweet for three young men

Sin Kakada (27) joins his teammates before the presentations begin
Whilst celebrations and back-slapping were the order of the afternoon for the Phnom Penh Crown Academy teams on Sunday, there were three young men who went through bittersweet emotions on the day. Take 13-year old Sin Kakada, playing for the Academy U-15s, for starters. Reaching his first major final, Kakada was a distraught figure in the grandstand, surrounded by his family, after receiving a red card a minute before the interval in the U-15s Final. Referee Chi Samedy had initially booked Kakada for kicking the ball away, then as Kakada shaped to shoot, Samedy blew for offside. Video replays clearly show Kakada's foot in motion to kick the ball as the whistle blew and that he had no opportunity to stop himself. That didn't wash with Samedy who took perverse delight in marching up to the teenager, producing a second yellow card and then brandished a red, as Kakada walked disconsolately from the pitch. Considering the circumstances, it's a contender for one of the worst decisions I've seen. You might simply think it was a harsh decision, I would call it spiteful in the extreme. Next up with mixed emotions was striker Chhuot Senteang. Back in the U-17s line-up after months out with a broken collarbone, Senteang missed a good chance in the second half as his team were level-pegging with rivals Svay Rieng. In time added on, as the game headed towards penalties, he was deliberately scythed down by an opposing defender and left the field on a stretcher, clutching his right knee. The whistle blew and with Senteang lying on the bench in tears and agony, he couldn't even watch as his teammates won the nerve-jangling penalty shoot-out. The third tough luck story from finals day was Suon Noeut. Called into the U-17s team to provide some width on the right, Noeut has been a revelation for the U-15s team this season, scoring goals for fun and clocking up no less than 54 goals in 8 matches. He was scheduled to play two matches on Sunday. However, half an hour into the second half of the U-17s game, he fell awkwardly on his wrist and left the field in acute pain, the wrist sprained. Clearly unable to take part in the U-15s match immediately after, he had to watch through his tears as his teammates won the final 3-1. For all three players, winners medals provided relief from their personal agony, as they joined in the jubilant celebrations, with Noeut also collecting the U-15s Top Goalscorer and Most Valuable Player awards. All's well that ends well.
Referee Chi Samedy tossing up before the U-15s final - needs to take a long hard look at his decision-making
Goal-machine Suon Noeut collects his awards, despite having to sit out the U-15s Final