Phnom Penh Crown staged a heroic comeback to draw Wednesday’s second leg 3-3 with Bangkok Glass, but went out of the Singapore Cup on aggregate
PP Crown bow out fighting
Phnom Penh Crown's bid to become the first Cambodian team to reach an international competition semifinal came to an end Wednesday, as the Cambodian champions drew their second-leg Singapore Cup match 3-3 with Bangkok Glass, to go out 5-4 on aggregate.
Crown gave a gallant effort at Singapore's Jalan Beshar stadium, coming back from two goals down after Glass netted twice in the first quarter of an hour.
The Thai Premier League (TPL) side once again fielded a second 11, keeping their first team in Thailand ahead of this weekend's top table clash with leaders Muang Thong United.
Glass assistant manager Supasit Leelarit took charge in Surachai Jaturapattarapong's absence and was happy to see his side take the early lead, with Chilean midfielder Nelson Arriagada opening the scoring inside 13 minutes.
Before Crown could realise what had hit them, Arriagada turned provider three minutes later as his inch-perfect pass found Nantawat Thaensopa, who wasted no time to power home from 30 yards out.
A three-goal aggregate deficit was an extremely tall order for the Phnom Penh club, and heads could have easily dropped. Crown's Thai-born head coach Apisit Im Amphai, who had deployed a 4-3-3 tactic to counter Glass's 3-5-2 approach, brought on Cameroonian Oscar Mpoko for Sun Sophanha, and the substitution quickly paid off as Crown won a penalty. Chan Rithy calmly dispatched, sending Glass keeper Naratip Panprom the wrong way.
Crown continued an admirable fightback and grabbed a well-deserved equaliser in the 32nd minute, after Tunji Ayoyinka caught Bangkok Glass right-back Wachira Sangsri dilly-dallying to steal possession on the left. The Nigerian forward raced down the wing to set up U19 Cambodian international Keo Sokngorn, who to capped off a fine run to bring the teams within one goal.
However, with eight minutes left in the half, Crown's efforts to put themselves back in contention were undone once again, as Arriagada set up Surachet Ngamtip's looping header that caught Peng Bunchay napping in goal.
Crown turned up the heat on the Thai team after the interval, with Glass content on holding onto to ball to see out the rest of the game.
With shared determination and persistence, the Cambodians drew level once again eleven minutes into the half. Marcel Modibo raced from the far post to slot home from close range off a Chan Rithy free kick from the right.
With the minutes ticking away towards elimination, Crown pushed their tiring legs to the limit with a patient passing game, in the hope of taking the game to extra time.
Ayoyinka came closest of all with six minutes to go, but saw his volley slice into the side netting. It was to be Crown's final chance as the Thai outfit held on to their slender aggregate lead to advance to a semifinal meeting with compatriots Samut Sakhon.
Makara blames pitch, lights
Phnom Penh team manager Makara Be claimed his team's failure to win their Singapore Cup quarterfinal second leg against Bangkok Glass Wednesday rested heavily on their inexperience of playing under floodlights on an artificial pitch, but said that his team had gained valuable experience for future international matches.
"We were sorry that we lost the chance to go further," Makara Be said moments after the team arrived from their trip to Singapore. "We played the game with the desire to go all out for the win for ourselves and the Cambodian people back home, who have very high expectations on us in this tournament."
"It took time to adjust [to the conditions], and also our fitness level is lower than our opponent," he confessed, adding that a lack of communication cost them early in the game.
However, the quarterfinal appearance was the furthest they had gone in the competition in four years of participation, with the draw in the second match sealing elimination after they lost 2-1 in the first leg.
"I think my team has improved tremendously, and that is the good thing," noted the Crown manager. "Next year, we will try to prepare harder, and I believe we can do much better."
"With the Singapore Cup out of our reach now, we hope to go on to win the Cambodian Premier League," he added.
Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)