Turkmenistan giants Balkan used their superior muscle power to mow down local hopes Boeung Ket Rubber Field Football Club 2-0 in a crucial AFC President’s Cup Group C tie at the Olympic Stadium yesterday.
The victory sealed a place for Balkan in September’s final stage of the Cup with their last game on Friday against Group punchbags Sri Lanka.
The Cambodian Metfone C-League Champions had a frustrating time dealing with the physicality of their rivals, often coming up short in their counter play. The defeat now pitches Boeung Ket against Jerusalem based Hilal Al Quds in a must-win fight for the second qualifying spot.
The West Bank Champions, narrowly beaten 2-3 by Balkan on the opening day, took out their rage over that loss on a hapless Sri Lankan Army team, thrashing the Islanders 10-0 in the first fixture. This huge win gives Hilal a distinct advantage when it comes to goal difference and affords them the luxury of going in for just a draw against Boeung Ket to get a qualifying passage.
It took no more than eight minutes for Balkan to sprint ahead when the tall figure of Karadanov Mamedaly stood up to his full height and nodded home a perfectly relayed aerial cross by left winger Yevgeniy Tkachenko. The action in front of the goalmouth was so swift and sudden that Boeung Ket goaltender Peng Bunchay hardly had time to react.
Once ahead, Balkan chose to zealously guard that small but significant lead and managed to cross over with their goal intact. There were one or two moves of promise on the part of Boeung Ket during the first half but neither Momoh Deguile in the midfield nor Chan Vathanaka in his role as a striker could get the freedom of movement they were seeking.
While Balkan kept pushing the early in the second half, there were two notable attempts by Boeung Ket – both of which were well handled by Balkan goal keeper Farhat Bazarov. First he punched away to safety a power-packed right-footer from substitute Keo Sokhpeng and then firmly blocked a Chan Vathanaka attempt from close range. Boeung Ket would never quite get opportunities like these again.
As desperation was creeping into Boeung Ket’s play, Balkan hardly slackened their grip. Instead they were tightening their hold, and five minutes before regulation time Rahmet Shermetov hammered in Balkan’s second goal to put the contest beyond Boeung Ket.
Boeung Ket coach Prak Vuthy conceded that Balkan’s superior physical presence was indeed a vital element.Balkan coach Rahim Kurbanmamedov said overall he was happy with the way his players handled the weather and the opposition. The team’s focus remained, the coach contended, on winning their last match against Sri Lankan Army and winding up their campaign unbeaten.
Jerusalem-based Hilal showed no mercy on the Sri Lankan Army men and accomplished the aim they had set out for – to pump as many goals as they could so would they have a sound goal buffer.
For the second match in succession, the Army men began on a wrong foot. Defender Warakagoda’s irrational act of pulling down a Hilal player by his shirt cost him dear. He was sent out for the offence in the 13th minute and the side penalised with a penalty.
Hilal midfielder Roberto Kettlun converted the spot kick and added two more to his tally to emerge as the side’s top scorer. Iyad Gharqoud and Fadi Abulatifa bagged a brace each, while Mousa Abujazar, substitutes Maen Obaid and Adham Aburawees got their names onto the scoresheet as 10-man Sri Lanka struggled throughout.