Phnom Penh Crown hold out for a nervy 3-2 victory over resilient Prek Pra Keila on Wednesday
Phnom Penh Crown were made to sweat for the three points against a dogged Prek Pra Keila on Wednesday, but their hard-fought 3-2 win saw them leapfrog Naga Corp to the top of the Metfone C-League standings.
Crown, coming off from their 9-1 thrashing Sunday of Chhma Khmao, looked ready for another goalfest, but had their nerves tested as Prek Pra pegged two goals back after being three down to give the game an exciting finale.
Crown showed their intentions early, with Prek Pra guilty of playing too high up the pitch. It was evident these tactics would be their undoing when, in the fifth minute, Uche Prince Justine beat an offside trap but hit his attempt straight into keeper Yok Ary’s hands.
Crown eventually opened the scoring nine minutes later, when a superb cross from Chan Chaya found Justine at the edge of the six-yard box. He eluded the defence to volley past Yok Ary.
Despite the goal, Crown were unable to assert their dominance, with some stunning football by Prek Pra keeping the favourites on edge. A strike by Feut Soulkiphly came within inches of the equaliser in the 19th minute, while a shot on the other end by Justine scampered well wide moments later.
The next quarter of an hour became a slogfest, with neither team managing to gain the upper hand. However, two penalties to Crown in quick succession around the half-hour mark saw the game swing firmly in their favour.
Justine was brought down inside the box by Prek Pray’s Christopher Kingston in what appeared to be a soft challenge, but the referee immediately pointed to the spot.
Amazingly, Justine’s penalty attempt was punched away, but Chan Chaya controlled the rebound and slotted the ball home for a 2-0 lead.
Just two minutes later, in a case of history repeating, Kingston was given a yellow card for an identical challenge on Justine in the area, with the striker redeeming himself from the spotkick to give Crown a three-goal advantage at the break.
With the score threatening to become a blowout, the underdogs showed their fighting spirit and made a game of it in the second half. Just five minutes after the restart, Denis Nwaizu sent a cross into the box, with Sos Souhana controlling a Mat Hassan nod down to send the ball into the bottom corner.
The goal seemed to spur the team and just moments later, substitute You Arafat brilliantly set up Hassan, who fired home in similar fashion to bring the margin back to within one.
Prek Pray missed some wonderful opportunities to draw level against a tiring Crown side, none more so than in the 84th minute when, with the keeper at his mercy, Sos Souhana’s shot sailed over the posts.
Nevertheless, Crown managed to hold on for the win, which saw them jump over juggernauts Naga Corp to top spot in the league standings on goal difference. Prek Pra, meanwhile, remain rooted in the relegation zone.
Crown manager Makara Be was furious with his side’s performance, in particular their notable lack of stamina towards the end.
“We were lucky to have won this match,” he declared. “We started brightly and were coasting home before my players suddenly lost gas. I am happy with the result, but not the performance.
“We rotated the squad to give the players a breather,” he added. “But they were tired in the second half, and full credit to Prek Pra for their good performance.”
Makara Be also blamed the fact that his players had stayed up to watch Wednesday’s late World Cup matches, which kicked off at 1:30am, citing it as a reason for the lacklustre performance.