Phnom Penh Crown and Preah Khan Reach won their respective Samdech Hun Sen Cup quarterfinal ties Saturday to set up a repeat of last year's final
Phnom Penh Crown’s Chan Chhaya (left, red shirt) sees his header fly through the crowd and into the far corner to snatch victory from Build Bright University in the quarterfinal match Saturday at the Olympic Stadium.
The quarterfinal stage of the Samdech Hun Sen Cup 2009 got under way Saturday at Olympic Stadium, with Phnom Penh Crown and Preah Khan Reach both progressing to the next round. Phnom Penh Crown edged out Build Bright University 1-0 with a dramatic late headed winner, whilst Preah Khan Reach won through to the semifinals with a convincing 3-0 victory over Post Tel Club.
The day's first fixture saw defending champions Phnom Penh Crown come up against Build Bright University (BBU), who had reached the quarterfinals via a penalty shootout against Kirivong Sok Sen Chey. There was a notable increase in attendance in the main stand, presumably due to the higher standard of play compared to earlier rounds involving the provincial teams. The opening minutes were played at a blistering pace with BBU failing to take the initiative when Nigerian striker Onyemerela fired a volley just past the right post.
Crown controlled the ball well, their defence competantly thwarting persistant attacks from BBU.
BBU's goliath Nigerian defender Zila Seidu made his presence felt at both ends of the pitch, collecting a rebound from a corner outside the box, rounding a couple of players before supplying a telling cross from the right which glanced past the face of In Sonvirakbotra.
Crown shifted the ball with speed and precision - a cross by Chan Rithy on the left should've been tapped in from close range at the near post by Srey Veasna.
Both sides exhibited lapses in concentration, resorting to panicky defence and hurried clearances which were lucky when finding a colleague.
Loch Sopheat (left) of Post Tel Club takes on Khuon Laboravy of Preah Khan Reach Saturday.
A goalless first half wasn't well received by the crowd, who reserved their biggest cheer for when a stretcher bearer was nearly knocked off his pitchside seat by a wayward pass.
Predictably, the pace slowed past the hour mark with teams finding acres of space wide but displaying a lack of imagination up front. The game seemed destined to give BBU their second period of extra time in two appearances.
However, in the dying minutes, Crown turned up the heat, with Chan Rithy laying siege to the right wing. One of his crosses found substitute Chan Chhaya, who capitalised on loose marking to deflect his header through a crowd and into the far corner.
BBU desperately pressed for a last-gasp equaliser with keeper Hem Symay floating in a long ball, only to see Nhem Sovanara's back header saved easily by Crown keeper Peng Bunchhay.
After the game, Crown manager Makara was happy to see his team emerge victorious from a "hard game" against BBU, praising supersub Chan Chhaya for scoring a "beautiful goal" to win the game.
However, the manager pointed out that Crown were "missing choice players through injury; striker Keo Sokngon and right winger Chham Ratanak,"
"They are key players, young players with a lot of talent,"he siad. "With our team at full strength we have a good chance [in the semifinals]."
Preah Khan beat Post Tel
The day's second matchup pitched Preah Khan Reach (PKR) against Post Tel Club.
Both teams showed a lack of composure in the early stages, with PKR looking uncertain defending, resorting to wild swipes to blast the ball to safety.
In the 10th minute, PKR's Vietnamese star Duong Lam Vu stepped up to take a free kick from 25 metres out. The stinging shot flew past the wall and nestled in the bottom left corner.
Post Tel came back, with Ek Vannak twisting and turning to get past his marker but directing his shot down the throat of the PKR keeper.
PKR found space wide, and were the better team at maintaining possession, ending the half with a slender one-goal lead.
The second half saw PKR quickly spread fear in the Post Tel defence when a cross by Lay Raksmey caused Oum Veasna to fumble his catch, nearly dropping the ball at the feet of Samel Nasa.
Moments later, Post Tel fears were confirmed when another long ball was mishandled by Oum Veasna following a challenge with Khuon Laboravy; the PKR striker knocking home the simplest of chances to put his side two up. Post Tel appeals of a foul on the keeper fell on deaf ears.
Post Tel's best chance of the game came from a wide move. Hok Sothitya broke through tackles to cross the ball which cannoned off defensive limbs before falling to Ho Sambo a few yards out. The Post Tel forward dismayed teammates by smashing his shot off the underside of the bar.
Hok Sochetra - Cambodian footballing legend and national player from 1995 til 2003 - was brought on in the 68th minute; making up for a lack of pace with superb touch and composure on the ball.
In the final minutes, PKR's Tom Saray collected the ball in the box after a defensive hash, laying off to Hok Sochetra who blasted through the keepers arms to put the game to bed.
PKR midfielder and national squad member Sok Rithy was given a staight red in the 87th minute for an overzealous tackle and accompanying dissent.
After the game, PKR coach Wan Dath said: "[Sok Rithy] cannot play in the next game, but he can play in the final. This makes it very difficult for my team."
Despite agreeing with the decision to dismiss Sok Rithy, Wan Dath said: "When I meet with the federation I will talk about the referees. I know the ref is young and this was a special game."
Phnom Penh Crown and Preah Khan Reach will play their semifinal on March 14 at 2pm. The winner goes through to the final played on March 28.
Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)