Phnom Penh Crown’s Kingsley Njoku (right) hopes to put his three years of experience playing in Singapore to good use in tonight’s 2011 RHB Singapore Cup preliminary against Singapore Armed Forces. Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun
Reigning Metfone C-League champions Phnom Penh Crown flew to Singapore yesterday ahead of tonight’s 2011 RHB Singapore Cup clash with the Singapore Armed Forces Football Club (SAFFC).
The match, which kicks off at 6:30pm Cambodian time at the 10,000-capacity Choa Chu Kang Stadium, is a single knockout preliminary tie.
The winner will progress to a two-leg quarterfinal match-up in August against Japanese side Albirex Niigata, who eliminated South Melbourne 3-0 on Sunday.
Crown have been in omin-ous form of late, despite the departure of Croatian coach Bojan Hodak. They sit at the top of the domestic league table, a point ahead of bitter rivals Naga Corp and with a game in hand.
Crown have also progressed to the finals of the 2011 AFC President’s Cup after the successful hosting of the group stage at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium last month.
The Cambodian heavyweights have made the quarterfinals of the city-state’s annual club tournament just once in five attempts, after beating Young Lions 2-0 in 2009 before being ousted by Bangkok Glass 5-4 in aggregate over two legs.
In last year’s edition, they were edged out 2-1 by Singapore’s Etoile FC in the preliminary round.
Their opponents SAFFC, nicknamed the Warriors, are one of the most decorated teams from the S.League, having clinched a record eight league titles as well as lifting the Singapore Cup no fewer than four times. Their most recent Cup triumph was in 2008 but they have fallen at the first hurdle in the past two seasons.
The teams have met once before in the competition in 2006, when Crown went by the name Phnom Penh FC. SAFFC completed an 8-1 annihilation of the Kingdom’s men.
Of the 16 teams involved in the first round of the RHB Singapore Cup, sponsored by RHB Bank since 2005, six are foreign outfits while the remaining 10 are based in the host nation.
Crown caretaker-coach Bouy Dary revealed his tactics for tonight’s game in a press release from the club. “We know that the SAFFC are a good team, with a good record and with good players,” he said.
“We’ve watched their recent games on video. They play a slower game than other countries in the region, so we’ll be looking to defend well and use our quick players on the counter-attack. But we know it’s going to be a really tough game.”
The experience gained from their past five Singapore Cup campaigns should give Crown some confidence.
They also boast Nigerian duo Odion Obadin and Kingsley Njoku, who have played in Singapore for the past three years with Gombak United.
The Warriors, meanwhile, will bank on the talents of naturalised Singaporeans such as British-born Daniel Bennett and Bah Mamadou from Mali and their own foreign contingent, which includes two Croatians, a Japanese and a Serbian player.
“It’s our second time playing Phnom Penh, but they have improved greatly since we played them in 2006, and we must not take them lightly,” SAFFC head coach Richard Bok said on the official website (www.safwarriors.com.sg).
“Anything can happen in a cup game, and that’s the beauty of it.”
SINGAPORE CUP RESULTS
Friday June 10
Hougang United 1
Young Tigers (MAS) 0 - A.E.T.
Saturday June 11
Gombak United 2
Balestier Khalsa 1
Sunday June 12
South Melbourne (AUS) 0
Albirex Niigata (JAP) 3
Monday June 13
Geylang United 1
Tampines Rovers 2
Tuesday June 14
Home United 5
Woodlands Wellington 1
SINGAPORE CUP FIXTURES
All matches played at 6:30pm Cambodian time
Wednesday June 15
Etoile FC v Tanjong Pagar United
Thursday June 16
Singapore Armed Forces FC v Phnom Penh Crown (CAM)
Friday June 17
Pattaya United (THA) v Okkthar United (MYA)