Phnom Penh Crown’s Sok Sovan (R) vies with Dordoi Bishkek’s Mirlan Murzaev during their AFC President’s Cup group stage match at Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
Phnom Penh Crown faces a daunting task today at 9pm Cambodian time as they take on Kyrgyzstan powerhouse Dordoi Bishkek in their opening tie of the 2012 AFC President’s Cup finals at the Central Republican Stadium in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
Crown media officer Andy Brouwer, who travelled with the team, reported on Monday night that they would be without Odion Obadin, who was refused entry to China and sent home on Saturday.
The logistics of bypassing China on the way to Tajikistan proved insurmountable, leaving Crown with a tough decision on who to fill the void left by the Nigerian centre back.
“That will be a massive blow, of course, as he’s one of our strongest and most consistent players,” Brouwer told the Post by email.
“It will be particularly hurtful to our cause because of the style of play adopted by Dordoi, our first opponents.
“They play the long ball game, hoisting it up front as quickly as they can, playing a percentage game on the grounds that if you knock the ball into the box enough times, something will happen.”
According to Brouwer, coach David Booth is considering either Sok Sovan joining captain Tieng Tiny in the middle of defence or Vi Lika “being drafted in for the biggest game of his life, a prospect being faced by the rest of the youthful PPCFC squad, with the oldest player being Chan Dara at 26”.
Two-time Cup winners Dordoi suffered a surprising 2-0 loss to home side Istiqlol in their clash on Monday night, and were clearly missing the attacking acumen of tournament’s top-scorer Mirlan Murzaev, who Brouwer claims had left the club to pursue a career in Israel.
“Istiqlol, with the crowd behind them, must now be the favourites, alongside Taiwan Power Company, to win the competition,” Brouwer added.
Taiwan Power Company, the reigning champions, were spared significant blushes on Monday by defender Chen Yi-wei, who snatched an 87th-minute equaliser in their opening fixture against Palestinian side Markaz Shabab Al-Am’ari to salvage a 1-1 draw.
The Kaohsiung club will face KRL of Pakistan in today’s earlier 6pm kickoff.
To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Riley at [email protected]