After a somewhat shaky start and a couple of missteps in the first four games of the Metfone C-League season, last year’s runners-up Boeung Ket Rubber Field touched their fiery best at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday when they downed 10-man Phnom Penh Crown 3-1, with the last two goals coming late in a game full of thrust and parry.
The first 30 minutes was so full of exciting possibilities for both sides that no one could dare predict the final outcome until a devastating second yellow card on Crown’s most tenacious defender, Odion Obadin, with little more than an hour left to play.
That dramatically changed the complexion of the game and the one man advantage clearly stacked the odds in favour of the 2011 and 2012 champions, though Crown put up a stiffer fight than the scoreline tends to suggest.
What looked like a trip-wire tackle on a fast advancing Chan Vathanaka cost Obadin his first yellow card and a free kick to Boeung Ket inches away from the left corner of the box.
That set piece did no harm but his second booking had a touch of irony about it since he was in the midst of a frenzy inside the Boeung Ket box following a fierce free kick by Bin Chantha Thierry that was fisted away by keeper Peng Bunchhay.
Khim Borey’s header off that deflection kept the action alive, but apparently Obadin ran into the rival goal-keeper, as referee Thong Chanketya saw it, and was flashed a second yellow leading to the Crown defender’s marching orders.
It didn’t take long for Boeung Ket to exploit this huge gap in the defence and Chan Vathanaka’s perfectly weighted cornerkick was nodded home in spectacular fashion by Khoun Laboravy to give the Kampong Cham side a distinct halftime advantage. Although they would have been much happier if Keo Sokngorn’s screamer hadn’t come crashing off the crossbar.
Yet Crown battled their way back into the game after the break and in under two minutes found the equaliser when Newton Katanha produced a stunning overhead kick with his back to the net, clearly jolting the Boeung Ket camp.
Crown coach Sam Schweingruber brought in Sos Souhana for the Zimbabwean goal scorer with nearly 30 minutes of play left. Almost off his first touch, the substitute had a near empty goal to fire at. He got the power right but the direction wrong.
The unluckiest player on the pitch was possibly Bin Thierry, with two of his power-packed freekicks well anticipated by Peng Bunchhay. Having missed out on these chances, Crown were dealt two quick blows towards the end.
Boeung Ket defender Chukwuma Ohuruogu, who has already acquired a reputation as the best free thrower this season, was in the mix when Vathanaka nicely centred his cornerkick. In the ensuing scramble for the ball, Ohuruogu beat the rest to give his side a 2-1 lead. An unmarked Laboravy doubled his own contribution by scoring the side’s third goal, a free pass to a vantage point just outside the box and a tidy finish.
This was Crown’s first loss in five games and Boeung Ket’s second win in two weeks.
Naga deal with Albirex
Naga Corp made heavy weather of their league clash with Albirex Niigata yesterday before winning 2-0 at the Olympic Stadium.
Naga head coach Prak Sovanara was away in Kuala Lumpur for a coaches course but the feedback from his staff may prompt him to seek some clarity as to what went wrong with the team’s professed firepower, which simply did not work to the measure he would have expected.
Naga’s African import Barry Alpha Oumar accounted for both the goals, the first in the 15th minute through a well-guided deflection and the next a minute before regulation time through a curling free kick.
In between these two strikes came a plethora of failed attempts with poor marksmanship negating the domination Naga enjoyed in space and possession. In fact, Albirex came threateningly close to a strike themselves more than once in an inspired second half showing, during which former Prek Pra Keila striker Mat Hassan and two Japanese midfielders Kazuki Tatsuta and Michimori Kataoka each had a hard look at the Naga net.
“I don’t know what happened to some of my team-mates. Sometimes we play like this when the mindset is that the opposition is easy,” Oumar told the Post after the game, implying that against stronger teams it has always been a different story.
As the first foreign franchise to figure in Cambodia’s top tier, Albirex had history by their side but the performances in the last four matches had been abject to say the least – 23 goals conceded and four scored.
But with yesterday’s gutsy show, they amply demonstrated that they are made of much sterner stuff than they had been credited with and perhaps will command greater respect when they take to the pitch again.
Army knock back Svay Rieng
The fall of the defending champions Svay Rieng to Ministry of National Defence at the Old Stadium on Saturday somewhat overshadowed Boeung Ket’s win over Crown at the Olympic Stadium, where Build Bright United later shocked Western University 2-0.
The Armymen, always the sort to spring surprises when least expected, enjoyed the upper hand throughout in that 3-1 victory, with two goals within the first six minutes creating a solid foundation.
Phong Soksana fired the first salvo for MND in the third minute and saw his team-mate Ek Vannak double the lead in as much time to cast the die for a huge upset.
After being frustrated time and again, Svay Rieng saw a glimmer of hope emerge from Dzama Bata’s 71st minute goal but Chhin Chhoeun hammered in the proverbial last nail in the 83rd minute to see MND safely home.
In Saturday’s first fixture at the Old Stadium, Kirivong Sok Sen Chey’s Carlos Alberto gave his side a ninth-minute lead which the visitors from Takeo held on to until George Kelechi leveled for Asia Europe University in a well fought 1-1 draw.