Thursday, July 31, 2014

Crown waste no time

Va Sokthorn, wife and daughter in Crown colours
Phnom Penh Crown have been quick off the mark to sign up their first new face for next season. The fizz is still not flat from the champagne of Sunday's success before the club turned to France, the home of bubbly, to recruit another French-Khmer player in the shape of  Va Sokthorn, who will officially join the club on 1 October. He will join his compatriots Bin Thierry and Kok Boris. Head coach Sam Schweingruber had this to say: "Sokthorn came to us for a few weeks on try-out and has impressed us with good technique, speed with the ball and a drive towards goal. He has also frequently scored. We have to work on getting him to understand how we want to play and will have to see in which position he best fits into the team, but certainly his arrival will give our squad more depth and quality. We are very excited that Sokthorn has agreed on terms and is going to join us soon." Sokthorn recently celebrated his 27th birthday and has lots of experience in the amateur Championnat de France leagues, the fourth tier of the French football system, with teams like ES Torcy, FC Montceau Bourgogne, US Motte Servolex, SO Chambery Foot 73 and last season scored 17 goals in 14 matches for Le Creusot JO. He prefers an offensive midfield role but is happy to play anywhere. His Khmer parents are from Kratie and Prey Veng though he was born in Le Creusot in eastern France. The player himself expressed his happiness in signing on the dotted line for Crown. "I've been in Cambodia for six weeks, I really love my country and would love to stay here and play my football here. I have followed Cambodian football for many years, so I am very happy to have signed a contract with PPCFC for one season. I've been training with the team for the last three weeks and I've loved it. The players and the coaching staff have been very helpful and very good to me. They made the decision to join the club very easy for me to make. I was wanted by clubs at good levels in France but my priority was to play in Cambodia and PPCFC have given me that opportunity. I will be back in October to begin training and I know I will need to prove myself and show my best form. I was so happy that the team won the Championship and I was here to see it. And I am very happy that I will have an opportunity to play with great players like Kouch Sokumpheak, who for me is the best Khmer player I have seen." Sokthorn was here with his wife Vita and their young daughter Sothyanna, and will return to France in a few days before coming back to begin training in October. He previously worked in a supermarket and played football as an amateur but he can now realise his ambition to play full-time football in Cambodia and he's looking forward to it.

Your country needs you

The Crown players, LtoR, are: Thierry, Yaty, Boris, Sokumpheak, Sothy, Da, Suhana, Srin, Pheng
Kok Boris and eight of his Phnom Penh Crown teammates went straight into Cambodia national team training camp at Tonle Bati after the domestic season ended on Sunday. They may've won a hard-fought Championship but there is no time for these players to rest and relax. Boris has sent me this picture of the 9 Crown players involved in the U-21 and senior squads and also tells me that the senior team beat the U-21s 2-1 in a short practice match yesterday, Laboravy scoring both for the seniors, Soksana for the U-21s. The U-21s travel to play in Laos in Saturday in a friendly against Laos U-21s. They then come back for a practice match against local opposition before heading out to spend much of August in Brunei taking part in the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy. Cambodia will meet Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore in their group in the Brunei tournament. The U-21s from Crown are Thourng Da and Ngoy Srin, and two overage players out of five allowed, Kouch Sokumpheak and Sos Suhana. The rest of the Crown players will remain in camp with the senior team who will also be off to Laos from 12-20 October to play in the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers involving five countries – Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar, Timor-Leste and hosts Laos.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Club awards

Kouch Sokumpheak getting his MVP award from the club president Rithy Samnang
The end of the domestic season is usually accompanied by awards and presentations and Phnom Penh Crown are no different to any other club, holding their own awards ceremony after last Sunday’s match as they enjoyed some relaxing fun time at Da Sandro’s Panini Bar on Street 63 and Demo Bar on Monivong Boulevard. There were 11 awards, both serious and fun, and the winners were:
Most Valuable Player = Kouch Sokumpheak
Best Goal = Bisan George vs TriAsia
Best Save = Yok Ary vs Western
Best Assist = Adriano Pellegrino vs Police
Best Free-kick = Khim Borey vs Western
Best Sportsman = Tony Obadin
Most Improved Player = Ouk Sothy (Messi)
Best Celebration = Hong Pheng
Most Important Goal = Kouch Sokumpheak vs Naga
Worst Tackle = Neou Sosela vs TriAsia
Worst Miss = Leng Makara vs Naga

Phnom Penh Crown also handed out their own set of Academy awards this week before the youngsters took a break to spend time with their families. Recognition went to the following Academy players:
Top scorer for U-17s – Chhuot Senteang
Top scorer for U-15s – Mao Piseth
Best Academy Student- Orn Chanpolin and In Sodavid
Most Improved Player – Pov Ponvuthy
Best Behaved Player & Student – Orn Chanpolin
Best Leader – Ouk Sovann
Most Improved Behaviour – Suon Noeut and Kong Chanvuthy.
A big well done to all the Academy boys. We are very proud of them.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Reaction from the dressing room

PPCFC celebrating their success - courtesy of Pou Neang/CamSports
I spoke to some of the Phnom Penh Crown players for their reaction to winning the Metfone C-League Championship.
Crown’s marquee signing Adriano Pellegrino gave his view on what winning the Championship meant to him. “I think it’s been sensational, that’s the right word. Honestly, it’s been a dream come true to come here and have an impact on the team and to be talking right now about winning the championship by 7 points, it’s amazing. It’s been a dream for me, being presented with that medal today and holding that trophy was honestly one of the best moments of my career. I’ve been very pleased with my performance. There was a lot of pressure on me when I first came, to do well and to push on – we had one goal as a team, to win the championship. My personal goal was to come and contribute, score goals and assist my teammates, and today I got another assist to cap it off, which I was pleased with, so all in all I’ve been very pleased with my personal contribution. Most of all our goal was to win the title, and to win the last game where there was nothing to play for, but we trained really hard this week and even though people might say the season was already over, Sam made sure that we won today. A great finish from everyone. Sensational.”

With 52 goals in 3 seasons of football in Cambodia, George Bisan has proved himself a lethal striker. A goal-machine. And he did what his coach Sam Schweingruber wanted him to do when he signed George before the season began, to realise the dream as a team and his dream as a striker and to get success. So how did George view this season? “I feel very excited to win because of the hard work throughout the team and we wanted to achieve this goal and God helped us, so its a great honour and joy. I’m very excited to win the championship trophy. I’m very happy with my own contribution, a little bit sad I cannot get the Golden Boot but at least I won the championship, so that’s enough for me. Next season I will be more explosive, so I will look to next season to get the Golden Boot. I’m very happy with the team because we all work so hard and encourage each other. Especially Adriano who encourages me in the field of play, and Sokumpheak, who tells me to remain calm, relax and play my game as the goals will come. I thank God for the courage he’s given me and for our success this season.”

Odion ‘Tony’ Obadin has just completed his 4th season with Crown and collected his second Championship medal. It would be hard to find a better clubman, and example to his teammates. So we asked Tony how did this success compare to 2011. “It’s not much different to 2011, we worked just as hard this time around as well. My first season was really great, then two seasons where we didn’t achieve enough, we lacked a few things like self-discipline and team discipline. The difference is now that we have so much discipline, teamwork in abundance, hard work and some great quality throughout the team that has really helped us. I can say it was a good season for me personally, last year I was okay but I didn’t perform as well as I did this year. To get five goals this season and a couple of assists and I stepped up my whole game from last season. I’m very happy.”

Crown captain Kouch Sokumpheak flies out to Laos this week with the Cambodia U-21 team for a friendly match, but I caught up with him to ask for this thoughts on winning the Metfone C-League Championship this year, which made it a hat-trick of Championship successes for the former Khemara Keila player. "I'm very happy and very excited to win it again. The second and third times were more meaningful for me as for the first championship I was used not so much and was substitute a lot. Now you can see how much the Cambodian players have improved than before, the same with the different foreign players we now have from so many nations. In my opinion, Crown won the championship because we prepared so well at all levels and we had unity throughout the club, the coaches and the players. The players like each other on and off the pitch, we are like a family. The leaders and administrators are great too. Everyone worked very hard, and worked together, to get this success. That's why I believe we deserved it. For me personally, I'm very happy as I can play a lot of games this season and contribute more to the team. I was so happy that I scored against Naga so that we could win the trophy. Very happy. I'm very pleased we won because we had to work really hard all season, whether under the hot sun or the rain. And I'm glad to win as I am getting old now and I don't know what will happen in the future." 

Final MCL weekend

The final weekend of the Metfone C-League season played out pretty much as expected with Phnom Penh Crown beating Boeung Ket 2-1 in the top vs runners-up game at Olympic Stadium on Sunday before Crown received their Championship trophy, medals and cheque for $15,000, which they had already assured themselves two weeks before. Referee Tuy Vichheka tried to make the game interesting in front of a big crowd by reducing Crown to 10-men, sending off Hong Pheng but they were too strong for Boeung Ket throughout the game. George Bisan, with his 20th of the season, and Odion Obadin netted for the champions, with Chan Vathanaka scoring a late penalty for the Rubbermen. Third-place went to NagaCorp who made relegated Albirex Niigata pay dearly for having the audacity to level the scores early on. Tatsuta Kazuki was the guy responsible for upsetting Naga who went about their task with renewed zeal, winning 6-1 and scoring through Sovannrithy, Anderson, Barry, Nyza and two from Chum. Svay Rieng had to settle for fourth, with a narrow 2-1 win over Army. Sothearoth and Tola scored for the military police team, with Phearith getting Army's consolation. Dzarma Bata didn't find the net for SVR in his final game but his 23 goals this season were enough to win him the Golden Boot, three ahead of Crown's George Bisan. TriAsia put paid to National Police 2-0, with Police failing to win in their last six matches. That said, their coach still managed to walk away with the Best Coach of the Year award, to everyone's amazement, at the awards ceremony before the champions were crowned late on Sunday night. Kihara and Kouch were the TriAsia scorers. Baldwin Ngwa, on loan from Crown, netted another brace of goals as AEU saw off Kirivong 3-1, with the Takeo-based team in the relegation zone with Albirex and will have to play-off later this year to secure their MCL status for next year. Western Uni wrapped up the season in style, with a morale-boosting 4-0 victory over BBU. Ivory Coast striker Goze Dieudonne, back from injury, netted twice as Mbarga and Saroth completed the rout.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sam speaks and more awards

Sam Schweingruber with his son and friend
Phnom Penh Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber gave his view after Sunday's victory over Boeung Ket and the presentation of the medals and trophy to his team. "It was a dominant display. I don't think they really threatened us. Unfortunate that we couldn't come up with a second goal in the first half and George was unlucky not to score when he got injured. We played to our plan, we had a slightly different approach today than normal and it worked well for us. Up after seven minutes or so, they had one situation when we had to change George and our organisation was struggling a bit as my ideas didn't quite work out. We adjusted quickly and had complete control of the game again. Another early goal in the second half and then we know we can sit it out easily enough.
I found it hard to believe how the referee tried to keep the game interesting. The amount of yellow cards we got for nothing, then a red card and a penalty, it makes me laugh, almost as much as Vathanaka getting the MVP award. What has he done, what game has he decided, what influence did he have on this year's league? Certainly not anywhere close to what Sokumpheak has done, what Adriano has done, what a whole bunch of our players have done. I'm shocked, but not surprised at all. As for best coach, I had a strong feeling they would give it to a Cambodian.
We came close last season so it was an obvious progression that we wanted to win it this year. The boss [Rithy Samnang] helped in many ways by getting the people on board we needed, coaching-wise and playing-wise. There were a few games that were close, though today was not a close game, there was only one winner today. The crowd support today was amazing, I wish we'll have this more often. For the players, I'm sad for some who didn't play today and for some who didn't have the impact this season they wanted to but very pleased overall with the performances from everyone involved." 

Ung Kanyanith gets his coach award - photo by Masayori Ishikawa
In addition to the medals and presentation of the Championship trophy to Crown, as well as a cheque for $15,000, there were awards and medals to the runners-up and third-placed teams. Boeung Ket received $11,500 and NagaCorp $9,000. The usual end of season individual awards were also meted out by the football federation and this is where is got interesting, and highly controversial. Everyone expected Sam Schweingruber to collect the Best Coach accolade after guiding his team to the championship with just two defeats in only his second season. The FFC thought otherwise and handed it to Ung Kanyanith, the coach of National Police who finished well down the pecking order in 6th place. No-one can fathom how that decision was based on merit over the league campaign just completed. There was also audible gasps of shock when Chan Vathanaka was called forward to collect the season's Most Valuable Player award. Compared to the performances of outstanding performers like Kouch Sokumpheak, the captain of the league champions and everyone's nailed-on favourite to collect the prize, and others, Vathanaka has spent time on the bench or injured this season and his choice of MVP ranks up there with that of Chea Samnang in 2011. Incomprehensible. The Golden Boot went to Dzarma Bata, who has been banging in goals for fun with Svay Rieng and managed to overtake Crown's George Bisan in the last few weeks of the season. Bata topped the chart with 23 goals, Bisan finished with 20. At least Crown got a look-in when Sou Yaty collected the Best Goalkeeper award and a cheque for 1.5 million riels. Acknowledged as Cambodia's no.1 for a long time now, it was a fair decision for the stopper who picked up his first league medal after joining Crown at the start of the campaign and performed consistently well. Tuy Vichheka led the refereeing team that collected $1,000 as Best Referee group, after what can only be described as a performance in the final game that left many scratching their heads over a series of his decisions. Bottom club Albirex Niigata picked up the Fair Play award, another $1,000 reward that only the FFC control.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The sweet smell of success

Crown collect their 5th Championship - photo by Masayori Ishikawa, click to enlarge
Match Result: Phnom Penh Crown 2 Boeung Ket 1 (Metfone C-League).
Phnom Penh Crown signed off their season with a final game against  runners-up Boeung Ket and looking to settle a score after the Rubbermen won their first round encounter. Only Kok Boris was absent with an infected foot injury, Bin Thierry taking his place alongside Odion Obadin. In front of a massive Olympic Stadium crowd under the floodlights, the match came to life on eight minutes as Ly Ravy underhit a back pass which George Bisan quickly read and with Peng Bunchhay in no-man's land, the Crown striker lobbed the ball into the unguarded net for his 20th strike of the season from all of thirty yards out. Two minutes later and Thourng Da found Adriano Pellegrino with a through ball but his run into the box was halted by a lunging Ravy tackle. Chan Vathanaka weaved his way to the edge of the Crown penalty area but Ouk Sothy made a timely interception. Chukwuma Ohuruogu's long throw-ins are a known menace and Sou Yaty was under pressure from Mohammed Tijani before Obadin cleared his lines. At the other end, Khim Borey cut inside his marker only to see his shot deflected for a corner, from which Sos Suhana sent a fizzing shot a foot wide as it was cleared to him 35 yards from goal. Crown were forcing the pace and a Borey dink saw Bisan get a touch as Bunchhay came out to smother at his feet. The striker sustained an ankle injury and a few minutes later was replaced by Leng Makara. From the corner, a training ground move between Pellegrino and Thierry saw the latter's low drive blocked and cleared. Vathanaka's dipping free-kick almost caught out Yaty, who collected the ball at the second attempt with Sok Pheng closing in. Borey's deep cross was an inch or so too high for Pellegrino who sent a skimming header wide of the target. Boeung Ket's best chance fell to Khuon Laboravy, but he blasted high and wide, and looked a pale shadow of last season's top scorer and MVP. On the half hour of a pulsating encounter, a Pellegrino corner seared its way across the face of goal and Makara somehow managed to put his effort over the bar from close range. Referee Tuy Vichheka had already booked Hong Pheng for dissent and then harshly cautioned Pellegrino for kicking the ball at the Boeung Ket goal, at the same instant as he blew his whistle. Borey sent a 30-yard effort a few feet wide and twice Kouch Sokumpheak broke into the box but both times his shot was blocked by a forest of legs. The half ended with Yaty racing out of his area and then falling at the feet of Laboravy after recovering his position.

Another Ohuruogu throw into the six-yard box was caught by Yaty at the second attempt early on, but it was Crown who upped the stakes with a second goal after just four minutes of the restart. A foul on Makara near the left-hand touchline allowed Pellegrino to swing in one of his trademark pinpoint free-kicks and Obadin stabbed the ball goalwards with his right foot, with Bunchhay unable to stop it rolling over the goal-line. Boeung Ket made an early double change, though Tijani was the culprit as Yaty was hurt catching a free-kick. A late challenge on Thierry earned the Boeung Ket striker a yellow card two minutes later. Moments later Ohuruogu went into the book for a last-man trip as Sokumpheak broke clear onto Pellegrino's pass, though he was fortunate the referee was in a lenient mood. From the free-kick, Thierry curled the ball a foot wide of the far post. There was no such leniency from referee Vichheka on 59 minutes when Vathanaka spurted forward and the ball brushed the hand of Pheng. He immediately reached for his cards and flashed a yellow followed by a red. It was harsh in the extreme. Vathanaka's free-kick was easily handled by Yaty. The keeper was caught by Laboravay's boot in their next attack as Vathanaka's bye-line center caused concern, though Laboravy then went into the referee's notebook for an obvious trip on Sothy. Vathanaka was Boeung Ket's only source of danger and his 25-yard free-kick was acrobatically tipped over the bar by Yaty. From the corner, Momoh Sumaila will feel he should've done better with his blind run and far post header. Another Vathanaka free-kick fell onto the top of the bar before referee Vichheka handed the Rubbermen a lifeline they didn't really deserve. Touch Pancharong's lunge as Makara cleared his box should've been a caution but instead the referee saw it the other way and booked Makara, before pointing to the penalty spot. The Crown players simply couldn't believe their eyes and no amount of complaining would change the match officials' view. The clock had ticked into stoppage time as Vathanaka fired home the penalty which Yaty got his fingers to but couldn't stop. To add insult to injury, Vichheka allotted an additional six minutes but Crown were determined to hold onto their hard-fought success and they did so without any difficulty, finishing the game as 2014 champions and leaving Boeung Ket to lick their wounds, trailing some seven points behind in the final league standings. All that was left was for Crown to step up to the stage and collect their fifth Championship trophy.
PPCFC v Boeung Ket: Yaty, Da, Pheng, Thierry, Obadin, Sokumpheak, Sothy, Borey, Suhana, Pellegrino (Srin 90+2), Bisan (Makara 25). Subs not used: Ary, Soksela, Dara, Sokheng, Morslim, Pisa, Sosela. Bookings: Pheng (+ red card 59), Pellegrino, Yaty, Makara. MOTM: Obadin - rock solid and the winning goal. Goals: Bisan (8), Obadin (49). 
PPCFC v B/Ket, back row, LtoR: Pheng, Obadin, Thierry, Bisan, Borey, Yaty. Front: Da, Suhana, Sothy, Sokumpheak, Pellegrino - click to enlarge

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Champions await their prize

Here's a sneak preview of the champions banner that Phnom Penh Crown will be holding on Sunday around 8pm when they collect their 5th Cambodian League Championship. Their previous championships have come in 2002, 2008, 2010 and the most recent was in 2011. Captain Kouch Sokumpheak and defender Odion Obadin were regulars back in 2011, with Khim Borey, Hong Pheng and now assistant coach Tes Sophat being part of that squad too. It's a vindication of the way Phnom Penh Crown approach the game both on and off the pitch that they can claim this year's championship. Quite simply, no one deserves it more for their style of football and what they are achieving off the pitch as well. Phnom Penh Crown represent what is good about Cambodian football and long may it continue.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Baldwin grabs a hat-trick

The MCL table after Week 21
Baldwin Ngwa, the Phnom Penh Crown striker on loan to Asia Europe helped his team to a comprehensive 5-2 victory over National Police with the Cameroonian grabbing a hat-trick in the weekend's Metfone C-League matches. Ngwa netted twice in a first-half flurry of AEU goals with George Kelechi and Mohammed Hamza getting in on the act, while Police replied through Reijin Tani and Nuon Borey. Ngwa competed his three-goal haul after the break. Both defences were absent without leave when Boeung Ket and BBU met on Sunday. The Rubbermen bounced to a 10-5 victory that left observers speechless but amused, as the Kompong Cham outfit confirmed second place in the league table, their second year in succession as the bridesmaids. The goalscorers also went unnoticed by any of the media though its believed Keo Sokpheng and Momoh Sumaila each got a brace. NagaCorp held onto third place for the time being, despite Svay Rieng's fortunate win over champions Phnom Penh Crown. Naga's goals, in a 2-1 win over Western Uni, came through Choun Chum and Jang In Yong. As for Svay Rieng, they triumphed 3-2 over the new champs courtesy of a mistake by Crown keeper Yok Ary that handed the winner in a close 3-2 game to Samoeun Pidor with 12 minutes to go. Seuy Visal headed an own goal to give Crown the lead but James Adekunle levelled with a hotly disputed goal. In the second-half, Dzarma Bata, the league's top scorer, netted early on before Kouch Sokumpheak equalised. Keeper Sar Sophea made a match-winning save from Khim Borey in stoppage time. TriAsia has Suong Virak to thank for both goals in a 2-0 win over the Army, while Albirex Niigata registered only their second win of the campaign, beating fellow relegated side Kirivong 2-1. Tatsuta Kazuki scored both goals in a game Albirex dominated. In the previous midweek tie, Naga were held 2-2 by Svay Rieng, after leading 2-nil with 7 minutes to go. Barry Lelouma got both Naga goals before Dzarma Bata and Samoeun Pidor made it all-square at the final whistle.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Off season activity

The new RSN playing surface before the drains are laid
There is a lot going on at Phnom Penh Crown over the next few months. That's after we are presented with the Metfone C-League Championship trophy this coming Sunday evening at the end of the domestic season. We meet Boeung Ket in our final game at 6pm at Olympic Stadium, with the Championship having already been sealed with two matches to spare. Immediately after the final game, a selection of our players will be training with the Cambodian national team for tournaments in Brunei (U-21 tournament) and in Laos (AFF Suzuki Cup Qualifiers) over the coming months, while head coach Sam Schweingruber will be off to China for four weeks to run a grassroots FIFA training course with hundreds of Chinese youngsters. Our goalkeeping coaches, Prak Vanny and Nguon Chansothea are currently on a FIFA-run goalkeeping course at Tonle Bati, and that's where Academy head coach Bouy Dary will be spending the whole month of August taking his AFC A-Licence coaching course. The Cambodia Youth League at U-15 and U-17 levels is expected to kick-off again in September for a period of three months duration and will include Crown teams at both ages after we won both competitions last time around, an U-13 team including Crown's community youngsters will travel to Incheon in South Korea for a friendship tournament and in the meantime, work will continue on the development of the new RSN Stadium at Tuol Kork. Here's a photo taken at the weekend of the new playing area before we lay the drainage pipes. Looking further ahead it seems the Mekong Cup (for the four champion teams of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar) will be held in November in Hanoi, but more about that when its finalised. Add into the mix, a few months of wheeling and dealing as Sam Schweingruber looks to tinker with his squad, both foreign and domestic talent, and you have a busy time, considering its supposed to be the off season!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Crown go down fighting

PPCFC v Chonburi, line-up, back row, LtoR: Chanvuthy, Chanpolin, Chanchav, Senteang, Titchhy, Sovann. Front Row: Sakrovy, Baraing, Ponvuthy, Sodavid, Phearath - click to enlarge
Match Result: Phnom Penh Crown Academy 0 Chonburi Academy 1 (Asia U-16 Champions Trophy).
For their final ACT game of the season, the Crown Academy were looking to do a lot better against the competition favourites Chonburi here in Thailand, after losing 8-3 at home last week to the same opponents. The home team had already qualified for the competition's semi-finals, having won the 2013 version and are keen to repeat the feat. Crown would finish in 3rd place in Group B whatever the outcome. Kung Chanvuthy got the nod for the final match between the sticks with slight knocks for Kim Chhaya and Suon Noeut leaving them on the bench. In the opening minutes, Crown looked to Sraing Titchhy for a breakthrough but he was halted in his tracks on a couple of occasions. Chanvuthy was called into action in the 8th minute as Kritthanaphong Paidaen got a lucky break in the box but his shot was palmed away by the Crown stopper. On sixteen minutes Orn Chanpolin released Titchhy and as he raced clear he was upended by Autthagowit Jantod. A yellow card for the defender, saved from dismissal by a teammate in a covering position. Ouk Sovann's free-kick from 20 yards out looked to have found the top corner only to hit the post and bounce to safety. A let off for the home team. Moments later, Long Phearath ventured down the left flank, slalomed around three challenges but his dangerous low cross was cleared at the last moment with Chhuot Senteang looming menacingly. It was Chonburi's turn to hit the woodwork when Nititorn Sripramarn fed Paidaen on the edge of the box and he lazily struck a shot which rebounded into Chanvuthy's hands after hitting the upright. Pov Ponvuthy was looking lively on the left flank for Crown and after his run was blocked, Chanpolin sent a speculative 25-yarder wide of the target. Chonburi brought on substitute Theeraphat Niyomrit after 31 minutes and in less than a minute, he opened the scoring for the home team. Keeping the ball with successive passes, Kritsada Kaman spotted Niyomrit's blindside run into the box and picked him out perfectly, for the substitute to arch his neck muscles and send a header over Chanvuthy's outstretched hands. Chonburi kept the ball well for long periods, with Sripramarn heading over and Niyomrit firing straight at Chanvuthy before the goalkeeper was pulled up for holding the ball too long. The free-kick came to nothing as half-time came with the group winners a goal to the good. 

The second half started brightly for the visitors with Chanpolin feeding Senteang who looked to have escaped the back-line only to take a moment too long to get his shot away, and Arthit Kansangwet got a last-ditch tackle in to thwart Crown's leading scorer. A rare miskick by Seut Baraing presented Paidaen with a golden opportunity from fifteen yards out but Chanvuthy stood firm and helped the ball over the cross-bar with a strong hand, with just five minutes played. Choun Chanchav got a timely block in to deflect a shot from distance by Saharat Sontisawat, the home skipper. As Chonburi pressed, last week's 5-goal hero Sittichok Paso headed over and Sontisawat blasted well wide. With twelve minutes of the second-half gone, Senteang was played in by Ponvuthy and as he got a shot away with his left foot, home keeper Chakhon Philakhlang was at full stretch to keep his goal intact. Men Piphop came on for Crown and was immediately in the action as he raced clear onto Mat Sakrovy's pass, but found Philakhlang's reactions razor-sharp as he left his line to block the attempted cross-shot. In an end-to-end encounter that was being lapped up by the audience, the home team went in search of a second goal and skipper Sontisawat stung Chanvuthy's fingertips with a 20-yard blast, before Paso weaved his way around two defenders but screwed his shot across the face of goal. It was edge-of-the-seat stuff. At the other end, Senteang took the ball on from the halfway line and evaded the tackle of Kansangwet before unleashing a curling low drive which Philakhlang did well to get down to and hold at the second attempt. Sontisawat escaped his marker and laid the ball to Sripramarn only for Chanvuthy to be equal to his snap-shot at the near post. Chonburi were fortunate to find the referee from Malaysia in a benevolent mood when Natthanon Charoensingkeewan jumped up in his own box and the ball struck his hand, only for play to be waved on. Senteang was a constant thorn to the home team and a one-two with Ponvuthy gave the striker a half chance, though Jantod got his foot in to block for a corner. The final ten minutes was devoid of chances as Chonburi were content to sit on their lead and Crown couldn't find a way through, to end the season with a defeat but their pride restored after this narrow reverse. 

Crown Academy coach Bouy Dary had this to say at the final whistle. "The boys did really well in terms of defending, creating chances, we didn't score but we played good football, especially in the second half and we did well. Unlucky not to score and get a penalty for handball. I'm proud that the boys gave everything they had. We lost the game but I'm happy to see us improve from the last game. Its important to understand why we do so well away from home. First, the quality of the pitch. Every away team has a far better pitch than the Olympic Stadium. They allow us to play good football, we play the ball on the ground and a good surface allows us to play our game. Secondly, away from home we play in the late afternoon or evening when its cool, which makes a real difference from the morning games at home, when its so hot. We've improved a lot this year, as a coach I want more, but I'm happy that we've shown a big improvement over last year. We only drew 2 games last year and found it hard to score goals. This year we have scored a lot more goals and we've stopped the other teams scoring, except the Chonburi game when we had a lot of injuries. I'm quite happy with our results this time around. I would choose Pov Ponvuthy as our most improved player. He's only small but he causes other teams problems and works really hard at all aspects of his game, attacking and defending."
PPCFC v Chonburi: Chanvuthy, Sovann (K Chhaya 90+3), Phearath, Chanchav, Baraing, Chanpolin (Muslim 89), Sodavid (Chansopheak 86), Sakrovy (Rozak 72), Ponvuthy (Noeut 81), Titchhy (Piphop 61), Senteang. Sub not used: S Samnang. Bookings: None. MOTM: Senteang and Chanvuthy - both had very good games.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Friendly success

PPCFC XI, back row, LtoR: Srin, Gibbs, Bosma, Oliveira, Kim, Boris (capt). Front: Sosela, Pisa, Soksela, Suhana, Sokheng - click to enlarge
Result: Phnom Penh Crown XI 6 TriAsia XI 3 (Friendly).

On a sodden RSN Stadium pitch on Sunday morning, a Phnom Penh Crown XI were too strong for TriAsia B in a practice match for players who didn’t appear in the C-League matches yesterday. Crown also gave games to three players who’ve been training with the team in recent days – strikers Koen Bosma, Joey Gibbs and Danish defender Franck Bodjo. Jeongho Kim opened the scoring on 35 minutes when he finished off a Koen Bosma free-kick that the keeper couldn’t hold. Dutch striker Bosma gave Crown a two-goal lead a minute later when he drove home from a Rafael Oliveira pass. Two minutes after the break, Australian Joey Gibbs poked into an open net after Ly Morslim’s shot was saved, and five minutes in, Bosma cracked in his second from Neou Sosela’s pass. TriAsia responded with two goals, the first a penalty before Bosma recorded a hat-trick on the hour with another competent finish. A pass by Gibbs and a strong run into the TriAsia box by Kok Boris, saw the defender score with a clean strike on 77 minutes, while TriAsia netted another late penalty to end the proceedings. 
PPCFC line-up: Soksela, Pisa, Srin (Bodjo 46), Boris, Kim, Sokheng (Dara 66), Suhana (Morslim 46), Oliveira, Sosela, Bosma, Gibbs. Goals: Kim (35), Bosma 3 (36, 50, 60), Gibbs (47), Boris (77).

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Crown slip up

PPCFC v Svay Rieng line-up, back row, LtoR: Obadin, Makara, Thierry, Bisan, Borey, Ary. Front: Dara, Da, Sothy, Pellegrino, Sokumpheak - click to enlarge
Match Result: Phnom Penh Crown 2 Svay Rieng 3 (Metfone C-League).
Phnom Penh Crown slipped to their first defeat in 16 matches and their first reversal in Round 2 of the Championship, which they had already guaranteed themselves with their win over NagaCorp last week. Kok Boris was suspended so coach Sam Schweingruber sprang a surprise by slotting Bin Thierry alongside Odion Obadin as the central defensive pairing. Hong Pheng missed the game as he was at a wedding. It took a while for the game to warm up before George Bisan's shot was blocked by James Adekunle and Obadin cleared the danger from Prak Mony Udom's low cross into the six-yard area. The best opportunity fell to Dzarma Bata when a fortunate rebound off Ouk Sothy fell into his path but he slipped his shot wide of Yok Ary and the upright. Ary looked a bit uncomfortable as he fumbled a low shot from distance by Nob Tola around the post, before an unfortunate clash required Svay Rieng to change their goalkeeper after just twenty minutes. Khim Borey slotted a pass through to Sothy but keeper Aim Sovannarath came out quickly to collect, but also got caught by Sothy's boot on his head and required stitches in a wound. Sar Sophea replaced him in goal. Bisan's long range free-kick was deflected for a corner and then his run across the pitch, exchanging passes with Adriano Pellegrino and Leng Makara, ended with the striker firing well wide of the target. A few minutes later Pellegrino played a one-two with Bisan and let fly from 25 yards, though his drive whistled a foot over the cross-bar. Borey's long ball send Bisan scampering clear on the left touchline but his sprint into the box was ended with a heavy touch allowing Sophea to collect. Bata forced a one-handed save from Ary though a raised flag meant it didn't count.

On 33 minutes Crown opened the scoring when Kouch Sokumpheak's lobbed pass, aimed at Bisan, found the head of Seuy Visal and in trying to direct his header to Sophea, sent it inside the far post for an own goal. It took just two minutes for Svay Rieng to equalise. Udom's curling free-kick was forced in at close range by Adekunle's high foot though Crown complained bitterly to referee Sang Sopheak that the scorer's foot was dangerously high, with a mark on Ary's ribcage to back up their claims. He waved aside the appeals. Stung by the decision, Crown forced the pace with halftime approaching. Borey released Bisan again and this time the striker cut inside but couldn't find the power to beat Sophea. Bisan nearly turned provider when his through ball looked to have caught out the Svay Rieng defence with Pellegrino looking to get a crucial touch, only for Sophea to clear the ball to safety off the Australian's toes. Udom's curler narrowly avoided the post after Tola had set him up and to close the first-half, Makara blasted well over after Pellegrino's shot was deflected into his path. It was all-square at the interval.

Crown will be disappointed to concede just three minutes after the restart as Svay Rieng broke, Tola laid the ball into the path of Bata, and he made no mistake, forcing the ball past Ary, to take him well clear of Bisan in the race for the Golden Boot award. Responding well to the reverse, Visal was forced to head the ball away from danger from Borey's cross, though at the other end it needed a timely intervention by Thierry to clear a similar situation. Bata's touch let him down as Udom sent him clear and Ary came out quickly to collect at the striker's feet. A trademark Pellegrino free-kick from 35 yards out looked destined for the net from Sokumpheak's flicked header but Sophea dived full-length to divert it around the post. Pellegrino's corner was met by Borey's head at the near post and though Sophea's stop gave Makara a close range header, he missed the target and sent the golden opportunity over the cross-bar. On 63 minutes, Crown got the goal their pressure deserved. Pellegrino, 30 yards out on the touchline, floated over a free-kick which missed everyone except Makara at the far post and his hook back across goal was nodded in by Sokumpheak from a couple of yards out to draw the teams level again. Nofiu Lawal swept a cleared corner past the post through a crowded area, before another Pellegrino corner was headed goalwards by Sokumpheak but stopped on the line by Visal and cleared. 

Ngoy Srin tried his luck from 35 yards when a poor clearance landed at his feet, but a back-pedalling Sophea saw it all the way and fingertipped it over the bar. A foul on Sothy gave Borey an opportunity for one of his curling free-kicks but he pulled it left and past the upright from 25 yards. The winning goal came out of the blue with twelve minutes to go. A long ball down the middle saw Ary race out to kick it away, only for the ball to hit Bata and ricochet into the path of substitute Samouen Pidor, who calmly volleyed it into the empty net. It was rough luck on Ary and his Crown teammates who quickly recovered their composure to take the game to their opponents. Pellegrino found Borey and he took aim from 30 yards only for his ferocious drive to strike the wrong side of the post. Sophea, not involved at all, remained motionless on the ground for two minutes as Svay Rieng played for time. Neou Sosela sent a hit and hopeful shot wide before the final chance of the match fell to Borey. Two minutes into stoppage time, Sokumpheak forced his way at the heart of the defence and slipped the ball to his teammate, but Borey's dipping drive was tipped aside by Sophea and referee Sopheak had seen enough and blew for time, and the end of Crown's nine-match winning sequence.

Coach Sam Schweingruber had this to say about the game. "The game was quite good, I thought they had a bit more in midfield, they keep the ball well and were a bit better organised in the 1st half. We had a couple of good opportunities and were a bit unlucky a couple of times. We got a fortunate goal and then they got one that shouldn't have counted for a high foot, though it was poor defending by us. I was quite happy with our possession, rotations and general build-up play. We made a little mistake at the start of the 2nd half and were too far away from Bata, and he showed why he's the top scorer. I was unhappy with that. We equalised, had more opportunities, we were the better team at that stage. Then as we were deciding on our next change, their third goal came. We did really well playing from the back today and Ary had some really good moments helping the build-up. And then to have this fairly easy ball, which he kicked at Bata and it bounced perfectly for a one-touch finish. These things happen. We tried to equalise, there wasn't much between the two teams and I'm disappointed we couldn't get a result out of this game. We deserved another goal." 
PPCFC v SVR: Ary, Dara (Srin 54), Da (Sosela 83), Thierry, Obadin, Sokumpheak, Sothy, Borey, Makara, Pellegrino, Bisan. Subs not used: Yaty, Soksela, Pisa, Morslim, Sokheng, Suhana. Bookings: None. MOTM: Pellegrino - for his 2nd half prompting. Goals: OG (33), Sokumpheak (63).

Monday, July 14, 2014

It's Crown's Championship

Week 20 and PPCFC have clinched the Championship with 2 games to go
Phnom Penh Crown clinched the Metfone C-League Championship with two games to spare - their 5th title success - with a 1-0 win over NagaCorp on Saturday evening under the floodlights of the Olympic Stadium. On a winning streak that has seen them forge ahead in the title race, Crown were nervous knowing that they had to find a win from their final three games and found it hard to break down Naga until captain Kouch Sokumpheak stole in unnoticed to head home just after the half-time break. It proved to be the only goal of the game and Crown's players and staff reacted wildly to the final whistle when it came. And why not. Their championship is well deserved. On Sunday, Boeung Ket, who had been Crown's closest chasers scored a predictable win against relegation certainties Kirivong, thanks in the main to a brace from Khuon Laboravy. But they are unable to catch the runaway leaders and will have to settle for the runners-up spot. Svay Rieng have upped their game in the last few weeks with striker Dzarma Bata sprinting ahead in the race for the Golden Boot, and helped himself to a tap-in for goal number 21 in the 3-0 defeat of BBU on Saturday. Nofiu Lawal, who was later red-carded for punching an opponent, and Samoeun Pidor netted the others. The Army showed no mercy towards bottom club Albirex Niigata, scoring with the last kick of the game to win 2-1. Sen Sarak had earlier put Albirex ahead with a superb strike. TriAsia were too strong for AEU winning 1-0 with a goal from Sok Chanrasmey. On Sunday Western Uni managed a creditable goalless draw with National Police, who have fallen off the pace in recent weeks.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Crowned as Champions

PPCFC v Naga, back row, LtoR: Srin, Boris, Bisan, Obadin, Borey, Ary. Front: Suhana, Sothy, Da, Sokumpheak, Pellegrino (and mascots) - click to enlarge

Match Result: Phnom Penh Crown 1 NagaCorp 0 (Metfone C-League).
Phnom Penh Crown's challenge for the Metfone C-League, winning all 8 matches in the second round of competition, gave them the comfortable position of having to win just one of their final three league matches to claim the title. With a full complement of players to choose from, only a late concern for Hong Pheng left him on the bench as coach Sam Schweingruber went with his tried and tested line-up, led out by captain Kouch Solumpheak. Opponents NagaCorp included no less than six ex-Crown players in their squad. Naga kicked off but it was Crown's Sos Suhana who had the first shot at goal in the second minute, but it was an easy pick-up for Samrith Seiha. Khim Borey cut in and let fly, but it sailed wide and Chhim Sambo gave an easy catch for Yok Ary at the other end. On fifteen minutes, George Bisan took a pass from Sokumpheak, turned his marker and sent in a dipping, bouncing shot that Seiha just managed to tip around the post. Five minutes later, Kok Boris rose high to head Borey's center firmly against the cross-bar and as the ball bounced down on the goal-line, the danger was cleared. It was the highlight of an otherwise nervy and inconclusive first-half for both teams. Odion Obadin stood strong to head away a dangerous Sun Sopanha corner and moments later Sun Sovannrithy found room in the box but headed over the top with Naga's best opportunity of the half. Borey sent a cross-shot across Seiha's goal, a rebound off Ngoy Srin sailed over the bar and Adriano Pellegrino's center was inches away from Bisan's boot in front of goal as referee Chy Samedy blew for half-time. 

Pheng replaced Srin at the break as Crown showed their determination to get the all-important win they required. Pellegrino tried a long range effort that was well wide, and Bisan set himself up for a drive from the edge of the box that took a deflection off Zogbe Anderson and cleared the bar by a matter of inches. With their next attack, Crown at last broke the deadlock and sent their fans into raptures in the grandstand. Pellegrino, as he has done so many times, sent over another of his pinpoint crosses from the right flank and Sokumpheak timed his run to perfection, sending his header past Seiha and into the corner of the net from twelve yards. A fitting reward for the captain who covered every blade of grass on the pitch. Bisan was next to threaten as he drove goalwards from 20 yards out with Seiha parrying and collecting at the second attempt. Sovannrithy headed wide and Ary dealt comfortably with a long range effort from Jang In Yong as the clock ticked down. In stoppage time, Anderson got a touch to a cross but steered it wide and with the final action of the game, Seiha rushed out of his area and clattered into Bisan, as the striker got to the ball first but sent it looping wide of the target. The whistle blew and Crown's players and staff began wild celebrations on the pitch as the three points confirmed their fifth Championship victory, with two matches still left to play.

Head coach Sam Schweingruber gave his verdict in the midst of the celebrations. "It's a great relief finishing the job in the first Final and not having to go through another two Finals. Lots of emotions, pressure, it's been building up over the week, trying to prepare, do everything right and hoping things will work out. The game was more difficult than I expected. They had almost nothing but we still couldn't create the chances and opportunities that we are used to. At the end of the day, just very happy, thankful to the fans who came today to support us, they were really amazing - and really thankful to the players who put in 90 minutes of excellent fight, showing the right spirit, showing the discipline and showing the commitment of champions. I was very happy with what we displayed, but we can clearly see we have a long way to go if we want to play at the next level. We have to get a lot more comfortable to play our style when we're under pressure, when things are a bit shaky because of the emotions, we have to develop that. Hopefully we can move forward as a club and the team can establish even more victories for the future of Crown."
PPCFC v NagaCorp: Ary, Srin (Pheng 46), Da, Boris, Obadin, Sokumpheak, Sothy, Borey, Suhana (Thierry 88), Pellegrino (Makara 90+2), Bisan. Subs not used: Yaty, Soksela, Dara, Pisa, Sokheng, Sosela, Morslim. Bookings: Boris. MOTM: Sokumpheak - the game's winning goal. Goal: Sokumpheak (53). 
Celebrations after the final whistle - courtesy of Masayori Ishikawa

Early hopes dashed

PPCFC Academy v Chonburi, back row, LtoR: K Chhaya, Senteang, Chanpolin, Sakrovy, S Samnang, Sovann (capt). Front: Phearath, Rozak, Noeut, Ponvuthy, Baraing - click to enlarge
Match Result: Phnom Penh Crown Academy 3 Chonburi Thailand 8 (Asia U16 Champions Trophy).
For their final home game in the Asia U-16 Champions Trophy, Crown coach Bouy Dary was without midfield regulars In Sodavid and Men Piphop and wideman Sraing Titchhy all because of injury. Chonburi were the 2013 champions and are topping Group B once again, and are odds-on favourites to take the 2014 championship as well. Crown kicked off on another hot morning at the Olympic Stadium and surprised their opponents by taking a very early lead, with less than two minutes played on the clock. Chhuot Senteang spotted the run of Mat Sakrovy and picked him out beautifully with his pass, Sakrovy's first touch seemed to be too much but he got his toe to the ball before the Chonburi goalkeeper and rolled it under his body. In the 13th minute Chonburi showed their prowess as Sittichok Paso let fly with a low shot into the corner past a hapless Svang Samnang in the Crown goal. Autthagowit Jantod headed a corner in Samnang's hands before Paso netted his second with a sweet first touch from Samart Authairatsamee's cross that eluded the Crown defence on 23 minutes. Visiting keeper Chakhon Philakhlang was off his line quickly to snuff out danger as Senteang raced onto Kim Chhaya's through ball, but Chonburi remained a constant threat each time they attacked. Chhaya got in the way of Saharat Sontisawat's fierce strike and Samnang was also quick to deny Kritthanaphong Paidaen's burst into the box. On 38 minutes, the league leaders pierced the home defence for a third time as
Authairatsamee got behind Long Phearath and though Samnang saved his shot, the ball squirmed under his body for Paso to make it a hat-trick with the easiest of tap-ins. Chhaya, playing in a wide right position for the first-time, sent a 30-yard shot harmlessly wide and then forced a near post save from Philakhlang in stoppage time, as the keeper reacted quickly to touch the shot around the upright.

Suon Noeut failed to re-appear for the second-half with Ken Chansopheak taking his place, to the delight of the crowd. Crown started the second period more brightly, with Chhaya's short corner to Seut Baraing catching the visitors unaware, but Baraing's shot was easily collected by the Thai stopper. In the fifth minute after the restart, Chonburi reasserted themselves due to some sloppy defensive play. Chansopheak's backpass was too weak, Paso challenged Samnang as the keeper went for it with his feet and the Thai striker rolled in the loose ball for his, and his team's fourth. Choun Chanchav replaced the limping Ouk Sovann, and Crown awoke from their slumber when Senteang got to Sakrovy's through pass but couldn't steer his shot on target. The partnership worked a treat a minute later as Sakrovy swerved past two defenders and rolled a pass into the path of Senteang, who made no mistake with his shot from ten yards to make it 4-2 on 57 minutes. The goal sparked the crowd into life, Orn Chanpolin sent a long distance effort into the keeper's hands and Chonburi quickly picked up three bookings for late challenges as Crown raised the tempo. In between, Sakrovy's free-kick to the far post was an inch or two from Chhaya's desperate dive but the extra effort was negated as Chonburi broke to extend their lead on 61 minutes. Authairatsamee's pass sent Paidaen sprinting clear from the half-way line, with a hint of offside, and the striker calmly slid his shot under Samnang's dive for their fifth. Paso sent a free-kick a foot wide before Crown again raised hopes when Chhaya won the ball, fed Senteang and he lashed the ball in from fifteen yards on 64 minutes. The goals were coming thick and fast, and as soon as the home team were looking to get back into the game, Chonburi showed their clinical side to put it further out of reach. Just a minute after Senteang's second, Paso netted his fifth and the best goal of the game, as a superb one-touch move carved open the home defence, leaving the hotshot to smash the ball home to make it 6-3. Pov Ponvuthy slipped in Senteang and the striker was denied an attempt on goal by Jantod's timely intervention.

Chonburi were not finished and Paidaen made Chanchav's weak clearance look even worse by quickly poking the ball past Samnang and in off the post on 69 minutes. Baraing came to the rescue to deny Nititorn Sripramarn with a last-ditch tackle, and Samnang held Paidaen's low drive as Chonburi created havoc each time they attacked. A flurry of substitutions allowed both teams some breathing space, but a rare mistake by Baraing saw Peerapat Kaminthong strike a shot which Samnang blocked well. The visitors final goal of the game came with three minutes of the match to go. Panawat Ketmala sped onto a through ball, evaded Chanchav and slipped the ball under Samnang to give Chonburi eight goals in a game for the second week running. Before the final whistle, home substitutes Theang Chhaya and Yeu Muslim both sent shots over the cross-bar, but the home side were well beaten by a team looking serious contenders for their second successive trophy. The Crown Academy must travel to Thailand for the return game in a week's time. Coach Dary gave this assessment. "Both teams didn't play their best but Chonburi finished their chances well and they have strikers who can do that. First half we scored early on but then we took it too easy, not serious or strong enough and let them score three easy goals. In the second-half I was more pleased with how we played, though whenever we scored, we made a mistake and they scored again. We played some good football, everyone wanted to fight back, which is what I want to see. Overall, we should do better than this." Crown donated $270 from the gate receipts and 60 One World Futbols to the Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children's Rights, from where thirty children joined us for the match.
PPCFC Academy v Chonburi: S Samnang, Noeut (Chansopheak 46), Phearath, Baraing, Sovann (Chanchav 50), Chanpolin, Sakrovy (V Samnang 87), Rozak (T Chhaya 68), Ponvuthy, K Chhaya, Senteang (Muslim 75). Subs not used: Chanvuthy, Piphop. Bookings: None. MOTM: Baraing - fought for everything. Goals: Sakrovy (2), Senteang 2 (52, 64).   
The Chonburi starting line-up v PPCFC

Our guests were from the Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children's Rights

Friday, July 11, 2014

Previewing the game

Sam Schweingruber

Bottom-line, if Phnom Penh Crown beat NagaCorp in tomorrow's late Metfone C-League clash under floodlights at Olympic Stadium, then they will be champions with two games to spare. If they don't win they have games against Svay Rieng and Boeung Ket to get the three points they need to make sure of the title, their first since 2011. Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber gave his thoughts to the Phnom Penh Post this week on tomorrow's mouth-watering clash between the first and third-placed teams.
“We are close to receiving the rewards for our hard work over the last 20 months. Yes, we know that we are facing the strongest opponents of this year for all of our final three matches and will take preparation as seriously as we can and not be affected by the comfortable view of the table. If we approach our game the way we have recently, I am confident we can lift the title as expected by many of our fans. But it will certainly not be easy as each of our opponents will do everything possible to see us stumble. While Naga’s and Boeung Ket's form has recently not been their best, Svay Rieng have shown similar qualities to last year when they were Champions - so we have been warned!”
"For the first time in many months every player is available for selection and I will have to make the right choices for this match, which we will treat as a Final. We have won all our 8 games of the second round and established some good ways to control games and get the results we want. We won't make many changes to the way we have recently played. For our first game with Naga, we were disappointed with the result and at the same time were fortunate as they missed a late penalty. Hopefully we can learn from that and find a way to overcome the best defence of the league (only conceded 13 goals so far) and show that we have the best attack (we've scored 52 goals) and score the goals we need."
"Obviously our foreign players have been important for us, just looking at George's 19 goals, the many assists by Adriano and the defence organised around Tony. Our Cambodian players have also developed very well which is recognized by the national team coach in selecting so many to his squad. In each position we have options and players have to fight for a starting spot, which creates healthy competition. The work rate and discipline of our team is very good and the unity is an additional strong factor. The coaching staff have as a team managed with hard work to get the team on a nice level in all aspects of the game and we are looking forward to further strengthen the ability of Phnom Penh Crown. Difficulties come along during a season, key players are injured or not fit and players suspended, but each time less recognized players have stepped up and did a good job for us."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The race is on

Dzarma Bata, knocking in the goals for Svay Rieng
The race for the Golden Boot award - the top scorer - in the Cambodian League just got much more intense as Svay Rieng's hotshot striker Dzarma Bata landed a five-goal haul against a sorry Kirivong team yesterday in a 9-0 thrashing to take him one goal ahead of Phnom Penh Crown netbuster George Bisan. Both strikers are Nigerian and Bisan has been knocking the goals in for the last three seasons in Cambodia with three different clubs, while Bata is a relative newcomer, only arriving in February. As Crown have forged ahead in the race to land the Championship title, Bisan has been instrumental in their success with his 19 goals. Svay Rieng, last year's champions, had a poor start to the season and were quickly knocked out of the AFC President's Cup and Singapore Cup but Bata hasn't let that stop him from regularly finding the back of the net and that five-goal blast against Kirivong has put him on 20 goals* for the season with a few hat-tricks thrown in for good measure. The tall 21-year-old was playing with Fico Tay Ninh in the Vietnam League 2 before crossing the border. Born in Kaduna, Nigeria, he went through the well-known Pepsi Academy system and tried out for the Nigerian U-17 and U-20 teams, including a stint in France, before joining Tay Ninh. Crown and Svay Rieng meet a week on Saturday, so the two hotshots will come face to face with each other. In the last meeting between the two sides, Bata netted a hat-trick inside the first-half  and Bisan didn't register on the scoresheet. It promises to be an exciting end to the season as far as the race for the Golden Boot is concerned.
* There is no official confirmation of the goals tally from the Football Federation.

Strengthening their grip

Week 19 of the MCL campaign, courtesy of
It sure looks like Phnom Penh Crown are in no mood to let their grip on the Metfone C-League Championship slip, condemning National Police to a 3-1 defeat in Saturday's clash at Olympic Stadium under lights. George Bisan, with goal number 19, Odion Obadin and on the hour, captain Kouch Sokumpheak getting on the Crown scoresheet, with Tith Dina scoring the Police's consolation. It was their 7th straight win. In contrast, Boeung Ket were frustrated by the Army on Sunday and have conceded that their challenge has faltered beyond repair, after a surprise 1-1 draw in a game they expected to win. The gap between the Rubbermen and Crown is now seven points and one more win in their next three games will give Crown the crown, so to speak. Mohammed Tijani scored for Boeung Ket but didn't know much about it, as an attempted clearance struck his body and rebounded back into the net. The leveller from Ung Dara came courtesy of a penalty conceded by Pheak Rady. Boeung Ket groaned as Army rode out a late surge to share the spoils. Elsewhere, BBU managed a 2-1 win over strugglers Kirivong with Thai Phalla and Takahito Ota scoring. A late late strike from Yusuke Ueda helped bottom dwellers Albirex Niigata to a 2-2 draw with AEU, but it won't help their plight as they are doomed to relegation. Western Uni did their survival hopes a power of good when Reo Nakamura's late goal proved decisive in beating TriAsia 1-0.
In Wednesday's midweek game, former champions Svay Rieng gave Kirivong a lesson they won't forget quickly, thrashing them 9-0 with Nigerian striker Dzarma Bata netting a personal tally of 5 goals to take him above Crown's George Bisan in the race for the Golden Boot. Prak Mony Odom grabbed a brace, with Nob Tola and Samoeun Pidor adding the others. In the later game, NagaCorp and National Police rode out a boring 0-0 draw.