Devenco were simply too good for finals opponents Smart in the inaugural Phnom Penh Post Mini Soccer Championship Friday, winning 9-5 while Total beat Indochina 8-5 in the third place playoffs
Devenco and Smart 4-a-side teams play in the Mini Soccer Championship final match at Kidzcool astroturf pitch Friday night.
Photos by: Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)
Devenco produced a heady mix of speed, skill and quick rotations to outplay Smart 9-5 in the thrill-a-minute final of the Phnom Penh Post Mini Soccer Championship at Kidzcool Children and Family Fun Village on Chroy Changvar peninsular Friday evening.
Drawing strength from the vocal support of a sizeable sporting crowd around the astroturf pitch, Devenco stayed true to their professed strengths and never slackened their grip on a game they dominated start to finish. That, despite their star goalkeeper being sent off just a few minutes into the game for an apparent professional foul on a Smart attacker which saw an outstretched arm connect with the ball outside of the area.
The resultant yellow card meant the stopper had to sit out the remainder of the first half, but was allowed back in the second period to stamp his class through numerous expertly judged saves and timely interceptions.
Both Devenco and Smart encountered stiff resistance earlier Friday on the way to the final. While Devenco downed a big-hearted Total 12-9 in the first semifinal, Smart had to stretch every nerve and sinew to beat back a determined challenge from Indochina and clinch a close 4-3 victory.
In the third place play-off, Total got the better of a visibly fatigued Indochina 8-5.
The final standings left fourth placed Indochina with a bitter taste in the mouth after their superior showings in the regular season had seen them end top of the table by seven points. It had shades of last year’s Cambodian Premier League when Phnom Penh Crown led the league handsomely going into the Super Four playoffs phase, only to lose both matches to come away with fourth while Naga Corp climbed up to take the honours.
A touch of good humour was introduced in the build up to the grand final Friday, with eight female staff members of Kidzcool playinga fun-filled 10-minute friendly in front of the receptive crowd. Tournament organiser Eric Delacollette took charge of the whistle, as the black shirted side scored thrice without reply. Each player was presented with a red rose for their efforts.
In the final itself, it took less than two minutes for Devenco to unlock the Smart defence and an early goal acted as a catalyst to spur them on to net three more in quick succession. Smart did well to fightback with three well worked goals of their own, but at the break were left still two goals adrift at 4-6.
Smart brought it back to within one in the first five of the 15-minute long second period, but that was as close as they came. Devenco, regrouping well and losing no chance to exert their top notch team work, came up with another rapid fire three that put paid to Smart’s pretensions.
”They were too strong for us today,” admitted Smart player Sok Yukisithikyuth after the game. “The close semifinals took a lot out of our players and we had less rest time than the Devenco players. They had very good bench strength. Every time they would find a good replacement, and it was hard for us to cope with that.”
The Smart man revealed that his team were relative novices to 4-a-side games, having only practiced for the past six to seven months. “Most of our players are regular [11-a-side] footballers,” he noted. “We are beginning to adapt ourselves to this form and I am confident we will get stronger.”
Smart chief marketing manager Kirill Mankovsky was expressed his side’s intent on going one better in the next tournament. “We would have been happy if we had won,” he said. “We finished second, and that is an outcome which should inspire our team to do better in the future.”
Devenco captain Khith Sipin was understandably over the moon about their success. “We grabbed the initiative early and held on to that momentum throughout. It was very good team work. Our players rotate the ball well and they play at a very good pace. Smart did put up a grand fight but we were always in control,” he maintained.
KPMG finished dead last among the 10 teams vying for honours this year, with just 3 points from their 18 games and a negative 112 goal difference. However, their spirit of competition didn’t go unnoticed as a near unanimous vote amongst the participating team captains declared them winners of the Fairplay award.
Phnom Penh Post CEO Michel Dauguet presented trophies to the winning team, with a shower of confetti raining down during the Devenco presentation to help spark wild celebrations.
As the crowd thinned out and a large projected screen displayed live images of South Africa’s opening World Cup game against Mexico, leftover spectators and players set up an impromptu shootout competition. Kidzcool’s giant inflatable goal frame allowed some acrobatic saves by volunteer keepers against some well struck and not so hot shots from participants, including Jimmy Campbell, Head Coach of a Cambodian team which is currently preparing for the 2010 Homeless World Cup to be staged in Brazil this September.