Phnom Penh Crown coach David Booth (R) is instructing his team. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
Phnom Penh Crown ended their ignominious season on Friday with a second successive thrashing in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, at the hands of 2012 AFC President’s Cup Group A rivals Istiqlol.
The home side were in rampant mood, to the delight of a partisan crowd reported to number nearly 10,000, booking their place in last night’s final with an emphatic 6-0 victory.
At time of print, they were set to face Palestinian club Markaz Shabab Al-Am’ari, who beat KRL of Pakistan 5-1 on Friday to progress as winners of Group B. Holders Taiwan Power Company were left in second due to an inferior goal difference.
Crown appeared a touch the wiser after last Wednesday’s 8-0 thumping by Dordoi Bishkek.
In a tight first half, Istiqlol opened the scoring on 26 minutes through Dilshod Vasiev. The Cambodians managed to thwart their opponents further until moments after the restart, when the Tajikistanis took control of proceedings.
Goals from Farkhod Tokhirov, Umedzhon Sharipov, Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev and a brace by Ibrahim Rabimov snuffed out any hope of saving face by Crown, who returned home late last night.
For a team that captured the Metfone C-League title and reached the final of the AFC President’s Cup last year, Crown have suffered arguably their worst season on record and one they would like to forget quickly after being knocked out at the quarterfinal stage of the 2012 Samdech Hun Sen Cup before finishing fifth in this year’s domestic league campaign.
The fallout of last year’s controversial AFC President’s Cup final in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, was clearly a decisive factor which weakened their 2012 squad, with nine players in total receiving bans from competitive football for their part in disgraceful scenes.
Six first team players were subsequently sacked in December, creating a void that ultimately was too great to fill this year.
Crown head coach David Booth admitted his team were simply out of their depth in Dushanbe.
“There’s been a lot of changes in the club and perhaps it would’ve been better if we’d stayed at home,” he was quoted as saying by Crown media officer Andy Brouwer on his blog.
“We made changes for today. Our goalkeeper [Samreth Seiha] couldn’t play. One or two positional changes, but we’ve got young players with absolutely no experience whatsoever ... Its all we have.
“It’s just embarrassing, I’ve never been in this situation before. To come here and be beaten like that twice-we’re not good enough to be here,” added Booth, who has yet to confirm whether he will be staying with Crown with his contract set to expire this month.
To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Riley at [email protected]