In creating history as the first team in domestic league competition to win the first nine of an 18-game season, defending champions Boeung Ket Rubber Field demonstrated yet again the steely resolve that no other team has matched so far this season.
Twice down by a goal against former champions and Hun Sen Cup winners Naga Corp in their Metfone C-League tie, table-topping Boeung Ket braved pouring rain, spells of thunder and a frightening bolt of lightning to score a sensational 4-2 victory at Olympic Stadium yesterday.
At the end of the first round matches, Boeung Ket’s tally shot up to an impressive 27 points. Chasing them hard in second with 19 points are Svay Rieng FC, who scored a slender 1-0 win over Asia Europe University on Saturday.
Despite the loss, Naga retain third spot in the table with 15 points on better goal difference than Phnom Penh Crown, who chalked up a 3-1 win over Kirivong Sok Sen Chey.
As the dark clouds thickened over them and the skies opened up forcing the spectators to run for cover, Boeung Ket were in Naga’s shadows, 2-1 down with about 35 minutes to go. Then the game took a dramatic turn as Boeng Ket adapted to the worsening pitch conditions far better than their rivals.
When hard-working midfielder Degule Momoh produced a squirming grounder that skidded past the Naga goalkeeper Phorn Ratana in the 74th minute to level the scores at 2-2, it was clear the title holders were in no mood to play second fiddle any more.
In the next 10 minutes, Boeung Ket were all over Naga, with striker Chan Vathanaka finding the net twice in a period of eight minutes, his second strike deep into injury time.
The script was not so bad for Naga in the first half only because their eighth minute lead came from an unlikely source. Defender Tieng Tiny found the ball at his feet close to the side netting as Teab Vathanak’s corner created chaos in the Boeung Ket box and a host of legs missed desperate clearances. His tap-in was a rude reminder to the champions that their unbeaten streak was in danger of being broken.
The 2009 league winners could not hold onto that early lead longer than the 28th minute, when Yob Romaton made the most of a confused defence and an unsure keeper.
The equaliser sparked a spate of Boeung Ket attacks, and it was Phorn Ratana’s heorics that averted the Naga goal cracking at least four times. Seconds into the first minute of added time before the breather, Naga charged ahead through their blonde-haired striker Herve Ernest Dipita, who slotted the ball in after reaching a nice assist from Teab Vathanak.
As sweet as it was at half-time for Naga, things turned sour midway through the second session, confirming the popular belief that Boeung Ket are unstoppable at the rate they are going and adversity seems to always bring out the best of them.
A few teams, including Naga, have so far managed only to bend Boeung Ket – but none have been able to break them.
There had never been a first half to a league season as troublesome as this for Ministry of National Defence. Rambling at the rear with Senate, the Army men at last found their bearings with a 3-2 win over Build Bright United yesterday after leading 3-0 most of the way.
Soggy underfoot conditions and a steady drizzle made this contest physically demanding for both sides. But Pov Phearith, Ung Dara and Meak Chhordaravuth gave MND a three-goal cushion.
The BBU fightback was led by David Ogudogun, who first cut the margin down, with Kouch Dani adding another.
For the University-backed side, the recovery came far too late and MND were more than happy to scramble home to register their first win after three draws and five defeats. But the Army team are still second bottom in the standings after the first half of the season was completed yesterday.
Saturday’s action at Olympic Stadium was dominated by a new Dutch recruit who unleashed a hat-trick against Kirivong in Crown’s 3-1 victory.
Elroy van der Hooft booted home his first of three in the 11th minute and struck two more in quick succession midway through the second half. Ek Vannak came up with a 25th minute consolation for the visitors from Takeo.
While the Dutchman began his Crown stint on a spectacular note, for another new signing, South Korean Lee Ha Neull, the initiation was not so happy. He picked up two yellow cards by the end of the first half and had to sit out the remainder of the game.
Despite having only 10 men for the second session, Crown still managed to control the game as they desired before Kirivong lost the services of Phan Bunlong in the 90th minute with a second booking.
Sok Chanraksmey scored the goal that earned Svay Rieng FC a 1-0 win over Asia Europe Univeristy.
The AEU lads battled hard throughout, missing out on several gilt-edged chances to draw level.
At the Old Stadium on Saturday, National Police Commissary were too strong for bottom side Senate Secretariat. Nov Sosela hammered in two for the Police, with Noun Borey and Srey Odoum scoring one each.
Ty Bunnarith’s injury time goal for Senate was their only bright spot.