Crown cap their successful season
A happy skipper Sun Sopanha collects the C-League trophy from Minister Im Sothy [Photo courtesy of Masayori Ishikawa]
PPCFC lineup before the match. Back Row LtoR: Vanthan, Ota, Dara, Sopanha, Obadin, Bunchhay. Middle Row: Narith, Sokumpheak, Sovan, Ratana, Njoku. Front Row: PPCFC Academy boys
8 Sept 2011
PPCFC 3 Naga Corp 3 (Metfone C-League)
In a fitting climax to a marvellous C-League season for Phnom Penh Crown, the team showed their never-say-die attitude with a thrilling 3-3 draw with their arch-rivals Naga Corp that was a wonderful advertisement for Cambodian football. The Naga strikeforce was the expected threat against a makeshift Crown backline, decimated by suspensions to three key defenders, and so it proved. Hong Ratana had the first chance of the game, a back post header that he sent wide, on five minutes. On 11 minutes, with Naga's first real threatening move, Julius Oiboh crossed to the far post where Omogba Esoh was lying in wait behind Soeng Vanthan and his diving header went inside the near post beyond Peng Bunchhay's fingertips. Sun Sopanha sent a 25-yard free kick a few feet wide and Kingsley Njoku weaved past two defenders but fired into the side netting from an acute angle. Kouch Sokumpheak had his first chance when he raced onto San Narith's pass but his low drive was stopped at the foot of the post by keeper Phorn Ratana. Naga's next attack on 19 minutes brought a second goal as Oiboh found Esoh in the box, he cut inside Vanthan and gave Bunchhay no chance from 15 yards out. Two minutes later, Odion Obadin's far post header hit the arm of Soeung Monyroath and Crown were awarded a penalty. Kingsley Njoku grabbed the ball and rolled in the spot-kick, which was immediately cancelled out by referee Khuon Virak for encroaching. Njoku wasn't put off and rolled his second kick into the opposite corner to make it 2-1 with 22 minutes on the clock. Bunchhay in the Crown goal was on hand to deny Oiboh on the half hour and then watched as Esoh's inswinging corner kick rebounded off the cross-bar and was scrambled away to safety. In the final minute of the first half, Naga took advantage of a misplaced clearance by Chan Dara as Oiboh muscled his way past Vanthan, pushed Sok Sovan in the chest but got away with it, and then curled a superb finish over Bunchhay's head to make it 3-1 at the interval.
Crown's half-time substitute Sok Pheng made an early impression but his goal-bound drive in a melee was pushed out by Ratana and the striker then headed a Sun Sopanha corner kick over the top. On 55 minutes referee Virak turned a blind eye to an obvious penalty as Sokumpheak was sent sprawling in the Naga area after a mazy run as Crown forced the pace. Njoku fired over on the run before Chan Chaya replaced Hong Ratana on the hour. Naga's Teab Vathanak screwed a great chance wide before Crown got themselves back into the match with a second goal on 67 minutes. A foul on Sok Pheng 25 yards out saw Sopanha touch the free-kick to Kouch Sokumpheak, he shunted the ball on a yard before unleashing a powerful low drive through a forest of legs and into the bottom corner for 3-2. Pheng was in the thick of it again when he got on the end of a Sokumpheak headed flick but Ratana in the Naga goal was on hand to push his shot aside. Crown's best chance to equalize fell to Chaya, on 79 minutes, as Pheng and Sokumpheak combined to set him up with a clear sight of goal, but keeper Ratana got a strong hand to his powerful drive to send it over the bar. At the other end Chhim Sambo found himself in space ten yards out but Bunchhay cleared the danger with his legs. Crown coach David Booth threw on another striker and with the clock ticking down to five minutes left to play, Crown striker Kingsley Njoku came to the fore. A loose ball arrived at the striker's feet, he turned and sent a low drive from the edge of the penalty box inside the near post before setting off for a triple somersault in celebration. That made it 3-3 and Crown's championship credentials were there for all to see. In five minutes of added-on time, Naga's Chin Chom was denied by Bunchhay from close range and Crown's young striker Hong Pheng sent a skidding shot inches wide, before Chom watched in dismay as the final kick of the game was deflected wide. It ended all-square and a fabulous advertisement for the Metfone C-League.
PPCFC line-up: Bunchhay, Dara, Vanthan (S Pheng 46), Sovan (H Pheng 82), Obadin, Narith, Sopanha, Ota, Ratana (Chaya 62), Njoku, Sokumpheak. Subs not used: Visokra, Bunna, Sophanal, Sophat, Rathanak, Virak, Sochivorn. Booking: Njoku, Sopanha, S Pheng.
PPCFC Head Coach David Booth commented; "I'm pleased for the team. They've done everything I've asked of them since I arrived, and they deserve their success. It's not about today, it's what you do over the whole season and this team have shown they are the best football team in Cambodia."
PPCFC skipper Sun Sopanha said after today's game. "We deserved to win the championship. We have a good coach, a good field, good structure from top to bottom. We follow what the coach says, the team support each other and we are the best team."
Two-goal striker Kingsley Njoku commented; "Today was my day. I felt really confident and I wanted it today. I grabbed the ball for the penalty and picked my spot for my second goal. My celebration flip was because I was so happy. My team has good players throughout the squad, they are all good enough. I enjoy winning so I'm really happy to win the championship."
Kouch Sokumpheak and Sun Sopanha lift the C-League trophy at the presentation.
The Crown players enjoy the moment with the cup and their medals
Match action from Crown v Naga Corp - courtesy of Masayori Ishikawa:
Head Coach David Booth offers his players a hard stare
Naga's airborne Om Thavrak tries to catch Kingsley Njoku in full flight
A team photo with the cup, cheque and medals
Sun Sopanha lifts the championship trophy in celebration