Photo by: Nestle Poell
Phnom Penh Post’s Stephen Finch (blue shirt, centre) controls the ball during their mini-soccer match against Total at the Kidzcool astroturf pitch Tuesday.
THE Phnom Penh Post Mini Soccer tournament bounced back from the Khmer New Year break to set up another full evening of top notch action Tuesday on the Astroturf pitch at Kidzcool Children & Family Fun Village. With the unrefined determination of the teams starting to instigate some ugly confrontations, new rules had been administered to outlaw all hard tackles, which result in automatic yellow cards and expulsion for the remainder of the game. The team are allowed to bring on a replacement, unless the guilty party is red carded, in which case the side will be reduced to just three men.
The first game saw hosts Kidzcool take on the impressive Ezecom, with the referee laying down the law before the start of play. His words seemed to intimidate the sides into a very cagey opening minutes, with Kidzcool owner Eric Delacollette taking command of the game early on from his sweeping role as the pink-shirted hosts looked to walk it into the net.
A truly bizarre decision to disallow a perfectly good deflected goal by Kidzcool had all but the Ezecom players shaking their heads in disbelief. To their credit, Kidzcool kept up the pressure and were rewarded with some well worked goals.
Ezecom seemed content to attack on the counter, and eventually forced chinks in the Kidzcool armour to score goals and pull themselves back into contention. The match was starting to open up as players’ fear of a booking started to dissipate.
The second half saw the tempo drop and the tension heighten as Ezecom began to edge ahead by taking full advantage of some defensive delusions by Kidzcool. Unlike Bonnie Tyler, Kidzcool simply didn’t have time to hold out for a hero, so cue stand-in goalkeeper Conor Wall to swoop in and save the day.
With a freshly donned bright yellow shirt which appeared to inspire a superhero performance, Wall flashed down the wing with the speed of a flying bullet to net a sublime hat trick. It was enough to ensure an outstanding 9-9 draw and set the tone for a fantastic night of football.
Next up were the turbo charged Total team against the persistent Phnom Penh Post. Chasing only their second win of the campaign, the Post side started brightly by taking a two goal lead through the powerful Philip Ajuzie, which included a rare headed score.
Total looked slightly intimidated by the journalists’ intent, but as the half dragged on the momentum began to shift and some weak defending from the Post granted Total right back in it to enter the interval all square.
The blue shirted hacks were expectant of great things in the second period, but the petroleum product vendors had different ideas. Fittingly, their total football approach which saw the goalkeeper make countless ventures into the opposing half proved simply too devastating for the rapidly tiring Post team. Total ran out comfortable 11-5 winners, while the media maestros were left kicking themselves that their first half form had escaped them.
Smart versus Infinity was an entertaining affair with both teams slotting home numerous chances from some neat moves in the first half to keep things close. Smart made good with their superior passing and movement in the second half and, despite some valiant efforts from the insurance brokers, the mobile phone men recorded a dominant 18-6 victory.
Infinity had barely time to catch their breath as they were immediately pitted against Total. Infinity had clearly come on leaps and bounds over the weeks of the competition, and their tighter passing and teamwork granted them space to score. Total, meanwhile, were displaying a clinical touch and clever knocks to each other although it was Infinity who took a 5-3 lead into the break. Undeterred, Total took the macth by its horns in the second period, scoring three quick fire strikes to seize the advantage. A well worked free kick by Infinity brought things back level before a few comical misses from close range ensured things remained exciting.
Infinity’s Man Mala managed to hammer it off the crossbar when presented with a relatively empty net, but teammate Hor Vanda nutmegged the keeper from an acute angle to lift his side back in front. The crowd sensed an upset on the cards, and the action flipped from end to end to set up a rousing finale.
However, a lapse in concentration by Infinity at the death let Total calmly covert some choice opportunites to emerge from the dust cloud 11-9 victors.
The penultimate tie saw Devenco start fresh off the blocks against Ezecom to fire in a brace of stunning strikes in the blink of an eye. Ezecom pushed back and utilised their honed short game to string together some pinpoint passes and peg back the deficit. Missed penalties by both sides maintained the suspense and the frenetic pace was unrelenting up until the break.
The second half featured all the passion of the first, but Ezecom’s earlier exertion was starting to tell as Devenco began to carve through the defence. Ezecom were powerless to withstand the onslaught, and Devenco clinched it 9-5 to go top of the league table.
Finally, and with midnight fast approaching, Smart and Phnom Penh Post took to the field once more. The Post again dominated early and bagged a nifty triple to surge ahead. Smart soon recovered, however, and set about eating away at the lead until the scores were equal at the interval. An even niftier triple from Smart swung the tie firmly in their favour, and with the Post struggling to discover any unused energy left from their long evening out, Smart completed a comprehensive 10-4 victory to lift them up to second in the standings.