After several tantalising twists and turns, Build Bright United snatched a 2-1 win over Ministry of National Defence deep into injury time to grab a place in the title-deciding Super Four contests as the 18-match double round Metfone C League phase concluded at the Olympic Stadium yesterday.
The match-winning goal by Chan Chaya in the dying seconds of the game instantly killed NagaCorp’s hopes of making it to the last four. In the first fixture of the day, the Casino-backed side had drawn 1-1 with defending Champions Boeung Ket Rubber to go two points clear of BBU, leaving the university-backed side in a desperately hard must-win situation.
Boeung Ket, who had grabbed the league honours with a couple of games to spare, had Svay Rieng and Phnom Penh Crown already lined up behind them in the Super Four frame.
A game that was clearly bereft of creativity in any shape or form most of the way, was seemingly heading to an inevitable draw when MND’s usually reliable and efficient goalkeeper Sou Yathy fumbled with a straight forward free kick collection.
Among a bunch of BBU players pouncing on the loose ball, Chan Chaya’s tap-in proved decisive. In the most cruel fashion possible, two-time champions Naga, who would have celebrated any other outcome, were dealt a mortal blow.
Though the Army men shot into an early lead when Lam Sothin found the mark with a tidy finish on the run, it didn’t take long for BBU to draw level through Roeng Bunheang.
A second half of aimless exchanges produced nothing of note even as the Naga squad members were praying for any result other than a victory for BBU, who had seemed the most unlikely semi-final candidates after stumbling over one crisis after another during the first half of the season.
In Saturday’s semi-finals, Boeung Ket will take on Build Bright United and Svay Rieng will go up against Phnom Penh Crown.
Taking the pitch earlier in the day, just one point ahead of BBU, Naga also shouldered the burden of having to beat the mighty Boeung Ket at all costs if they were to seal the Super Four deal without anxieties.
After both sets of forwards had kept the rival goalkeepers busy, a set piece success came Naga’s way when Teab Vathanak got round the Boeung Ket defensive wall with his free kick to find the net.
But the Naga cheer was to be shortlived as Boeung Ket levelled the score through substitute Sok Pheng. There were some close calls for both sides but neither could capitalise on their chances.