In a thrilling climax to the demanding phase of the 2012 Metfone C-League Campaign, defending champions Phnom Penh Crown produced one last hurrah before the curtain came down on their season.
Crown crafted a sensational equaliser deep into injury time to hold NagaCorp 1-1 in the last fixture at the Olympic Stadium yesterday. The highly anticipated title round involving the top four finishers in the league begins on September 9.
The exciting outcome neither advanced Crown’s cause nor it hampered Naga’s.
Naga had already clinched the top spot in the standings before going into this tie just as Crown had lost their chances of making it to the next stage last week itself.
There were chances galore on both sides, but it was Naga who drew first blood in the 75th minute through Ou Lihorng. The lead stayed with Naga until Chim Ratanak found the leveller almost in the dying seconds of the game. The draw helped Crown finish fifth with 27 points, pushing Build Bright United to the sixth on better goal difference.
An earlier kickoff saw Ministry of National Defence upset a less than full strength Preah Khan Reach 3-1, a result that again neither helped the winners nor hurt the losers.
While MND are nowhere near the Super Four, PKR had their berth booked weeks ago. For the record, 17-year old Nub Tola fired PKR to the front in the 36th minute. Early in the second half MND responded with two quick goals. Ung Dara and Chhin Chhoeun scored a goal each a minute apart and late in the game Pov Phearith rounded off the MND tally.
MND, whose major triumph came in the 2010 Hun Sen Cup, slipped down to seventh in the overall standings this season with 20 points, three ahead of Kirivong Sok Sen Chey, who were barely above the demotion red line.
Boeng Ket swamped the now demoted Chhalam Samut 7-0 to move up to second behind Naga in the standings on Saturday. Striker Nwakuna Friday got home with a four-timer with Sin Dalin adding a double and Dalinton completing the rout.
In Saturday’s first kickoff Build Bright United sang a harsh farewell from C-League to Western University, who are now down to Division I. BBU won 7-1 which featured a Ito Dan treble and doubles from Rin Bunheang and Pich Sina. Western University’s lone goal, a penalty conversion, came from Prom Yaneth.
“It is a good feeling winning the League phase. But our target is to regain the title we last won in 2009” reflected Naga’s coach Prak Sovanara.
The battle lines have now been drawn for the September 9 semifinals. Naga, who head the standings with 38 points, will take on National Police, who wrapped up their campaign with 33 points.
In the other major clash for a place in the final, Boeng Ket will lock horns with Preah Khan Reach, who finished third with 33 points, nosing out Police on goal difference.
The race for the Golden Boot is heating up. With the lead changing hands several times in the past few weeks, Boeng Ket striker Nwakuna Friday hit the front this week. His four goal haul took him to 20 goals so far this season two ahead of Police striker Nelson Oladiji and three in front of Naga hitman Choun Chum.
To contact the reporter on this story: H S Manjunath at firstname.lastname@example.org