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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Julius seizes all four against Black Cats, Khemara hold Crown again

Julius seizes all four against Black Cats, Khemara hold Crown again

Kirivong 4 Chhma Khmao 2

Relegation certainties Chhma Khmao were in no mood to allow Kirivong Sok Sen Chey from Takeo to punish them as they did earlier in the Metfone C-League season in this battle of the provincial teams. With memories of April’s 8-0 drubbing, the Svay Rieng-based Black Cats made the early running but lacked a cutting edge when it mattered most.

Kirivong rebuffed their efforts and with only their second attack of the match, took the lead on nine minutes. Top scorer Julius Ononiwu (formerly known as Julius Chukwumeka) pounced to rob defender Khom Piseth, made a beeline for the penalty box and lashed his shot inside the near post for a fine individual effort.

Three minutes later and the Nigerian marksman was on target again. Strike partner Tran Cong Danh dinked his way past two defenders and spotted his teammate in space six yards from goal. His pass was inch perfect and Ononiwu made no mistake, sidefooting home with ease.

The rest of the first half almost sent the spectators to sleep. Kirivong sat on their lead and were sloppy in their passing, while the Black Cats found it impossible to break down their opponents.

The half time interval triggered a rainstorm that came and went as soon as the teams reappeared. With nine minutes of the second half played, Chhma Khmao reduced the deficit from the penalty spot. Kirivong’s Touch Sokhieng rashly challenged Meak Chhordaravuth and referee Khuon Virak pointed to the spot, allowing Men Piseth to slot home the penalty kick with precision.

However, Chhma Khmao’s thoughts of a fight-back were dealt a killer blow just three minutes later. An interchange of passes between Felix Ndukwe and Julius Ononiwu left the Black Cat defenders at sea, and Ononiwu cashed in with a low drive into the corner for his hat trick.

Four minutes later and Ononiwu rolled in his fourth of the game and his 17th of the season. Felix Ndukwe spotted his run and supplied a sublime chip, which Ononiwu controlled, rounded the goalkeeper and scored with ease. His one-man demolition of Chhma Khmao was complete. He had scored five goals when the two teams met previously.

With four minutes remaining, the Black Cats salvaged a bit of pride when Phan Dara scored on the rebound with an unstoppable volley after Ndukwe had blocked his first effort, but it was too little too late. Kirivong remain in fifth place and will hope Julius Ononiwu can continue his goalscoring exploits if they are to mount a serious challenge for a Super 4 playoff place come the end of the regular season.

PP Crown 1 Khemara Keila 1
Phnom Penh Crown are the pundits’ favourites to capture the 2010 Metfone C-League championship but they’ll be glad to see the back of Khemara Keila, who have taken on the mantle of their bogey team this season. The teams drew 2-2 back in April, and Sunday’s encounter also ended all square, though Crown will rue the opportunity to return to the top of the table if they’d claimed all three points.

It was all Crown in the first half, with the game taking twenty minutes to warm up as both sets of players struggled to keep their feet on the slippery surface. Uche Prince Justine was prominent in Crown’s best efforts with Khemara goalkeeper Hong Visokra kicking and punching the ball away to deny the striker. Justine also tried his luck with an acrobatic overhead kick, but his shot sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.

Sun Sopanha, Crown’s skipper for the day, was prominent in midfield and his thirty yard drive through a forest of legs nearly caught Hong Visokra unawares, but the keeper managed to kick to safety at the last moment.

Six minutes before the break, Sopanha led by example and opened the scoring with a beautifully executed free kick. Khemara’s Kun Kuon was cautioned for a body-check on Srey Veasna, and Sopanha curled the resulting 20-yard free kick around the wall and past a despairing Hong Visokra dive.

Khemara began the second half in a more determined mood, with their captain Kuoch Sokumpheak weaving his magic in a withdrawn midfield role. And it was Sokumpheak who conjured up an equaliser from nowhere, despite playing throughout with a stomach upset.

Eighteen minutes after the break, the national team skipper tried his luck with a drive from distance that skidded through the legs of Crown’s Peng Bunchhay and over the goal line, much to the goalkeeper’s acute embarrassment.

With sixteen minutes left on the clock, Khemara’s Kun Kuon was red-carded for pulling back Uche Prince Justine, signalling a frenetic finale to the game. Khemara’s Chhun Kirivatharo floated a free kick that grazed the cross bar whilst at the other end, Friday Nwakuna’s shot was blocked on the line by Kenneth Tobe.

Justine blasted two long range efforts over the top and in the final minute, and Keo Sokngorn’s diving header was pushed out at the foot of an upright by Khemara stopper Hong Visokra.

The Khemara players and coaching team celebrated their point at the final whistle with much jubilation, whilst Crown’s players walked off dejectedly having spurned the chance to make the top spot in the standing’s their own.

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