Preah Khan Reach's Moul Daravorn (R) contests a header with Phnom Penh Crown's Khim Borey yesterday at Olympic Stadium. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
The preliminary stage of the Hun Sen Cup wrapped up yesterday with four more teams securing their places in the quarter-finals, but reigning champions Preah Khan Reach saw their hopes of obtaining a third successive title come to an end.
In the most anticipated clash of the day at Olympic Stadium, two-time winners Phnom Penh Crown took on PKR, with the holders needing a win to stay in the competition.
“We could play with less pressure because, if you want to see it like that, we were already qualified at the beginning of the game,” Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber told the Post after the game, referring to the fact the team would advance if the scores remained 0-0 or stayed level.
But neither side appeared to be resting on their laurels, with a whole host of scoring opportunities created at both ends.
PKR started off stronger in pursuit of the vital win.
Fifteen minutes into the game, Sok Chanraksmey had a gilt-edged chance with a header from five metres out that was matched by an astonishing reflex save by Crown keeper Samrith Seiha.
Three minutes later, Seiha was called upon to deflect a smart shot off a cross, during which he picked up an injury to his shoulder that forced his substitution at half-time.
The deadlock was broken in the 36th minute, when a crisp pass across the field found Crown’s Sos Souhana, who took a quick shot that was saved by PKR’s Sor Sophea, only for Crown captain Khim Borey to tap in the rebound. The score ignited the crowd, half of them in delight, half in agony.
The Military Police-backed team now knew they required two goals to keep themselves alive in the tournament, and threw caution to the wind as they pushed higher up the field. The new tactical alignment led to huge holes in their defence, which was exploited five minutes later when Hong Pheng was given easy passage into the danger area to net with a sharp strike from 15 metres.
After the interval, it was once again Khim Borey, who seemed to be always standing in the right spot at the right time, who nudged his side even further ahead.
Crown continued to carve out openings through long passes hit behind an exposed PKR backline, but the majority were wasted. On 58 minutes, Khim Borey found more space in the box to pick out a pass to Sos Souhana for a seemingly insurmountable lead of four goals. Crown were looking odds on to clinch top spot from Group D, but there was fight left in the champions.
Twenty minutes before the end, Crown reserve keeper Yok Ak-Ary was penalised for holding the ball too long, allowing PKR’s Prak Mony Odom to peg one back off the resultant indirect freekick.
Crown’s Uk Sothy then needlessly handled the ball in the area, granting a penalty kick that Prak Mony Odom converted.
A final twist to the plot came in the final minute as Sok Chanraksmey struck another back for PKR after Yok Ak-Ary misjudged his jump for a high ball.
The 4-3 result meant Crown missed out on first place in the group and a quarter-final against Kirivong Sok Sen Chey, who were hammered 5-0 by Metfone C-League titlists Boeung Ket Rubber Field in their Group C tie earlier at Olympic Stadium. Goals from Keo Sokngorn, Yub Romtonl, Hong Makara and a brace by Chan Vatana completed the rout for the Kampong Cham side.
Crown will now face Boeung Ket in the knockout phase tomorrow.
“If we want to be seen as a top team, we can’t make stupid mistakes like this in games that matter. We had a 4-0 lead, and with that the easier quarterfinal against Kirivong, and we let them take that away from us through a time-wasting infringement and a penalty due to a handball. This cannot happen,” Schweingruber said.
In games at the Old Stadium yesterday, Asia Europe University strolled into the quarter-finals with a 7-1 destruction of Porsenchey, while Svay Rieng beat Pailin 3-0.