Khemara Keila beat Chhma Khmao 1-0 Saturday, while Naga drew with MND
Photo by: NICK SELLS (www.nicksellsphotography.com)
Khemara Keila’s Samuth Dalin (left) goes for a header past Chhma Khmao keeper Pen Socheat (right) during their match Saturday.
THE Svay Rieng Black Cats of Chhma Khmao, one of only two provincial teams in the Metfone C-League, have found their introduction to life in the top division a tough one. 6-0 and 9-0 deficits in their opening two games testify to that. Against Khemara Saturday at Olympic Stadium, their desire for a positive result was supported by Khemara Keila’s own indifferent start to the season.
The match began as expected, with Khemara pressing and trying to quell any early resistance in the league strugglers and both Ek Vannak and Sophal Udom should’ve done better with a double chance after just four minutes. There was little cohesive play from both teams in a dour first forty minutes until Vannak sparked the game into life, five minutes before the break.
A long ball from Demie Paris found Ouk Chhenghort scurrying forward on the right, and his pull back from the byline was swept in with a right foot belter from Ek Vannak. Khemara then had Vannak and Udom miss two more opportunities to increase the score before the interval.
A more purposeful Chhma Khmao came out of the break gunning for the leveler, and, within a minute, were holding their heads in their hands when Meak Chandaravuth blasted a great chance over the bar from eight yards.
As Khemara sat back on their lead, the Black Cats visibly gained in confidence. Skipper Pao Phearith sent a 40-yard free kick just inches wide, before their best chance came and went on 70 minutes. A mix-up in the Khemara defence allowed Meak Chhandaravuth a few yards of space and instead of shooting, he elected to take the ball around keeper Ly Sok Heng only for the opportunity to go begging. The collective groan around the stadium indicated a strong support for visiting provincial side.
That was it for Chhma Khmao, their hopes of a first league point went out of the window as Khemara shut up shop and saw out the rest of the game without incident.
Naga Corp 2 MND 2
With both teams enjoying a winning start to the season, something had to give in this Metfone C-League blockbuster of the weekend. With the Ministry of National Defence (MND) starting line-up weakened by injuries we may have expected Naga to forge ahead, but the Army team, full of early season confidence, were in no mood to roll over.
On four minutes, their diminutive winger Suong Visak picked up the ball on the right and left Samuel Oseika on his backside as he sped into the penalty area, swerved around two more defenders before planting his low drive into the far corner. It was the goal of the season so far without a doubt and Visak was rightfully mobbed by his teammates.
The early action continued apace, although Naga’s Om Thavarak was fortunate to escape without punishment when he aimed a kick at the head of Sin Dalin while both players were on the ground. The intention went unnoticed by match officials.
Naga showed the fighting spirit that helped win them the league title last season and levelled on 12 minutes. A Kim Chanbunrith free kick dropped to Teab Vatanak, and he swivelled and smashed a half-volley into the roof of the net from eight yards out. The look of relief in the striker’s face was palpable after a confidence-sapping start to his season.
MND bounced back and did most of the pressing, with Sin Dalin guilty of missing a wonderful opportunity to score on 22 minutes. Thong Oudom’s 40-yard ball prized up the Naga defence, allowing Dalin to race through. As he rounded keeper Mak Theara and rolled his shot goalwards, Samuel Oseika appeared from nowhere to clear the danger.
The second half was a little less eventful but began with a bang, with Teab Vatanak’s second goal putting Naga in front. With five minutes on the clock, Pho Sophy’s right-wing cross found Vatanak in acres of space and he sent his header into the MND net past a despairing Samreth Seiha.
Despite going behind, the Army heads never dropped and they equalised on 63 minutes. Khek Khemarin’s corner to the near post was met by a perfectly-timed run and flick header from Phuong Soksana for the leveller they merited. That was effectively the last chance of the game as both sides cancelled each other out to end with the points shared.