National Defence Ministry condemns Post Tel Club to the lower division in 2010 with a 3-1 victory Wednesday, while Preah Khan Reach put away Spark 3-1
National Defence Ministry keeper Samrith Seiha (second right, blue) send his opposition counterpart, Post Tel keeper Ly Sokheng (centre, green), the wrong way on a penalty during their CPL game Wednesday.
WEDNESDAY'S gritty Cambodian Premier League battle between eighth-placed National Defence Ministry (MND) and ninth-placed Post Tel Club ended in high drama, with MND goalkeeper Samrith Seiha saving a penalty at one end and converting a penalty at the other before Sin Dalin's late strike rounded off a 3-1 for the Army team and confirmed Post Tel's relegation.
Coming into this game with confidence boosted from Saturday's 1-1 draw against Khemara Keila, Post Tel were separated from MND by six points, and looked to drag the Army team into the relegation battle with three games left in the regular season. They got off to the best possible start, when Tek Dam strike in the 18-yard box beat the MND keeper, recording the fastest goal of the season with just 56 seconds on the clock.
The early goal was a slap in the face for the Army team, and they fought back hard for the equaliser, only to see a Khim Borey shot to drift way off target.
After a tepid 10 minutes, the Army midfield began to dominate, taking the bulk of possession but failing to find a way through the Post Tel defence.
The pressure was nevertheless on Post Tel, and goalkeeper Ly Sokheng resorted to time wasting, with referee Doung Socheat given no choice but to book him.
Post Tel managed to hold out to enter the break a goal ahead.
The second half saw Post Tel coming out with more purpose, but MND were determined to maintain their top-flight status. MND nearly paid for their series of misses in the first half, when a long hoof upfield from goalkeeper Ly Sokheng split the defence to grant Tek Dam a one-on-one with goalkeeper Samrith Seiha. The Army stopper carelessly brought down his opponent to concede a penalty, but instantly redeemed himself when he saved from Cameroonian Henri Bitga.
Buoyed by the goal-line heroics, MND pushed straight back at Post Tel, and got the deserved equaliser with 13 minutes left when Thong Oudom cannoned into the bottom corner to leave Post Tel defence looking dejected.
The Army confined Post Tel to their own half in search of the winner, and were gifted a spot kick of their own after Amarachi Onyeahiri miscontrolled to handball in the area on 88 minutes.
Samrith Seiha was the unusual pick as penalty taker, but the kicker calmly sent his opposite number the wrong way to edge the Army in front.
There was just enough time left for Sin Dalin to seal the victory after a goal mouth scramble saw Ly Sokheng fail to handle a shot from Lon Sotheara, who then backheeled the ball for his teammate to slot into an empty net.
Thus Post Tel are consigned to playing in the lower league next year, much to the relief of the ministry who won the first division three times in the '80s and early '90s.
Preah Khan Reach 3-1 Spark
Fans attending Wednesday's later kickoff fixture between Preah Khan Reach (PKR) and Spark FC were treated to another goal-fest, with PKR emerging victorious from a 3-1 thriller at Olympic Stadium.
The league's leading marksman, Prince Justine of Spark, was yet again on target, and in emphatic fashion with one of the goals of the season. Justine was too pretty for his marker Zila Seidu, as he took the ball on his chest and unleashed an acrobatic bicycle kick to open the scoring, and had the defenders standing in disbelief and the crowd standing in reverence.
Both teams created chances early on, with PKR exerting the double attacking threat of Nigerians Olisa Onyemerea and Michael Ekene, while Prince Justine was left isolated up front.
PKR steadily applied the pressure, and on 24 minutes Onyemerea turned his marker stylishly to release a shot too hot for Spark goalkeeper to handle, with the rebound falling for Ekene to make a simple tap in.
PKR then took the driving seat, with captain Samel Nasa given time in the box to fire a shot at goal, which took a wacky deflection on its way in off the boot of Spark captain Than Rachanaoudom.
After the interval, PKR's Onyemerea seemed to lack enough composure to register a goal for himself but, with 15 minutes to go, finally paid off his manager's faith in him by knocking home his 14th of the season off a Kao Kiry throughball.
Neither side could improve on the scoreline, despite numerous good chances, and PKR seemed content to bag three points and reduce the gap with league leaders Phnom Penh Crown.
Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)