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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CPL season opens with 4-2 thriller

CPL season opens with 4-2 thriller


2009 Cambodian Premier League season gets underway with Kirivong Sok Sen Chey spectacularly coming back from two goals down to knock four past Khemera Keila

Kirivong Sok Sen Chey’s Samuel Oseika (below) slide tackles Khemera Keila captain Kuoch Sokumpheak during their Premier League match Saturday at Olympic Stadium.

THE opening game of the 2009 Cambodian Premier League season saw 2007 Hun Sen Cup champions Khemera Keila take on the provincial might of Takeo's Kirivong Sok Sen Chey Saturday at Olympic Stadium.

Cambodian football fans didn't have to wait long as Hun Sen Cup golden-boot winner Kuoch Sokumpheak opened his Premier League campaign with a goal after just 4 minutes for the favoured Khemera side. From a freekick on the right wing, Chan Veasna whipped in a superb cross to find the national team striker with a glancing header into the far corner. Kuoch Sokumpheak was showing no signs of fatigue having returned home Friday after a disappointing showing in a week-long AFC qualifying tournament in Bangladesh with the Cambodian squad. The stocky little forward looked sprightly in the first half, beating men with skill and pace on numerous occasions.

The pace of play was curtailed by the heat of the midday sun beating down on the players, and normally solid midfield movement succumbed to sloppiness.

With 8 minutes to go in the half, Khemera's African forward Alichigozie squandered a golden opportunity when his shot from just 3 yards out bounced off a floored keeper and deflected wide. He must have thought it wasn't to be his day when his header ricocheted off the bar from the ensuing corner.

With seconds remaining before the interval, Alichigozie was pulled back in the area by Kirivong's Phan Vanda with the referee awarding the penalty after a consultation with the linesman. The usually reliable Kuoch Sokumpheak stepped up to take the kick but skied his effort over the bar.

Shortly after the restart, Alichigozie finally made up for his earlier misses to find the back of the net after the Kirivong keeper had spilled his initial attempt.

Despite having the two-goal cushion, Khemera were looking vulnerable with Kirivong pressing forward to expose the defensive frailty of their opposition. The comeback was initiated in the 55th minute when Kirivong's In Vicheka found space at the far post to direct his header in from a well-worked Julius Chukwumeka cross on the right side. In Vicheka then turned provider 15 minutes later when his brilliant cross was attacked beautifully by national team player Ly Ravy, again at the far left post, to bring the sides level.


Khemera Keila’s Anthony Alichigozie (right) is sent off for a second yellow card after fouling Samuel Oseika (centre).

You could sense a swing in momentum. Khemera were looking shell-shocked by the aerial assault from the orange-clad Kirivong with wasted chances of the first half coming back to haunt the Phnom Penh side. With 9 minutes left to play, Kirivong went in front for the first time when Chukwumeka powered his way through defenders to smash a shot past Khemera keeper Mak Theara.

Khemera had another setback moments later when Alichigozie was sent off for his second bookable offence, a rash challenge deep in the Kirivong half on Samuel Oseika. As if to rub salt in the wound, Kirivong's In Vicheka went straight up the other end, exhibiting delightful skill to flick the ball past desperate Khemera defenders on the left. His floated cross into the area invited Him Salaam to score with a diving header to seal the thrilling comeback win for the Takeo province club.

After the game, Leng Chantharen, assistant coach and secretary general of Kirivong Sok Sen Chey since its establishment in 2007, made reference to his team's ill communication in the first half, but noted: "In the second half, my team understood each other and played better with a stronger determination than Khemara."

The coach noted that, although his club wasn't the strongest in the league this season, they are good enough to win some matches and hope to achieve league success in the near future.

"I think there are always strong teams to play, but Kirivong Sok Sen Chey club is not scared of any team," he said. "We prepare ourselves for each match and we train every day, in the morning and the evening."

Kirivong forward and scorer of their first goal, In Vicheka, said he was very pleased at the team's cooperation, adding: "I'm happy my effort went in to help my side to victory."

In the second match of the day, Wednesday's fixture between Post Tel club and Build Bright University (BBU) was brought forward to replace the Phnom Penh Crown v National Defence Ministry (MND) game.

Current league and cup champions Phnom Penh Crown requested a postponement of the fixture to allow them to fly to Singapore Saturday in preparation for their Singapore Cup match against Young Lions Tuesday. The fixture against MND has been rescheduled to Wednesday May 13 at 3pm.

The game Saturday was a close affair, with teams attacking with equal flair in the opening stages. Post Tel showed good promise on the right with Touch Sok Heng and Gafar Surosinmi, while BBU opted for a more central approach.

In the 22nd minute, a fine strike from distance by BBU's Oriola Adeseye capitalised on a flatfooted Post Tel keeper to open the scoring. With three minutes to go in the first half, Post Tel's Justin Chijioke saw his clumsy challenge on BBU's Ek Vannak concede a penalty. However, Adeseye sent his shot well wide of the left post to record the day's second missed spotkick.

Adeseye's goal was to prove decisive, as the teams played out a tense goalless second period with pressure on each others' defences, but no clinical touch in the final third.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MEAS SOKCHEA
Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)

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