Phnom Penh's military-affiliated teams vanquished their provincial opponents Saturday with Phuchoung Neak thumping Preah Sihanouk 6-1 and Defence Ministry firing four past Kampot
Cambodian Navy football team Phuchoung Neak sailed into the quarterfinals of the Samdech Hun Sen Cup on Saturday after beating maritime rivals Preah Sihanouk Autonomous Port (PSAP). The Phnom Penh side - based on the Chroy Changvar peninsula - ran out comfortable winners in a 6-1 victory over the south coast squad in the early kickoff game.
PSAP were put under fire right from the off, conceding a penalty in just the fifth minute and prompting Phuchoung's Pov Samnang to step up confidently to open the scoring for the local side.
Phuchoung dominated possession with neat passing and movement in midfield. Pov Samnang made a dashing run along the right side in the 37th minute and looked up well to find Heng Sokly in the centre. Showing tremendous close ball control, Heng Sokly skipped past three flatfooted PSAP defenders before firing a torpedo-like shot into the left-hand corner of the goal. PSAP keeper Khun Samithy was powerless to stop the ferocious effort - one of the best goals in the competition so far.
Despite the sides seeming evenly matched throughout most of the first half, the scoreline clearly frustrated the provincial side, with towering African central defender Oghenekevwa Evwara lucky not to receive a yellow for his reckless challenge on Heng Sokly in the 41st minute.
PSAP started the second half with more vigour, putting pressure on Phuchoung. However, a 54th-minute corner from the left-hand side offered Phuchoung's Thai Sineth an unchallenged header at goal. The effort careered back off the bar only to find Soeur Seiha unmarked on the near side to head the rebound into an empty net.
Yim Buntha gave PSAP a ray of hope four minutes later, walking through the Phuchoung defence before finishing with a well-struck shot from 12 metres.
However, the Navy side hit back to maintain their three-goal cushion when Pov Samnang latched onto a long ball from Kao Niso, who steamed through to score his second of the game in the 66th minute.
With the game won, Phuchoung played with less ambition, giving PSAP space in midfield. But the travelling side failed to take advantage. Phuchoung had several more good chances, even hitting the bar twice.
In the 82nd minute, Phuchoung's African striker Sunday Silva controlled a long ball into the box that was followed by a neat touch to loft it over the keeper for the Phnom Penh side's fifth.
Victory was well and truly sealed a minute from time when Pov Samnang exposed PSAP's leaky defence one last time to find Silva unmarked in the centre. The foreign forward slotted home his second to make the final score a resounding 6-1 to Phuchoung Neak.
Phuchoung head coach Chay Sangha predicted his team would play even better in the next round as they welcome the return of key player Tuy Som - absent for Saturday's fixture - and have a month to practise before the quarterfinals.
Defence turn to attack
Phnom Penh's National Defence Ministry FC (MND) showed their attacking might with a 4-0 win over Kampot province in Saturday's late kickoff. In what at times resembled a training ground exercise, MND breezed past the provincial side to set up an intriguing quarterfinal clash with rival military side Phuchoung Neak.
From the kickoff, MND exerted their authority, flooding the Kampot half with wave after wave of attack. The travelling team soaked up the pressure, defending well in the early stages, but offered little in the way of counterattacking football.
MND eventually broke the deadlock in the 13th minute when a long cross by Lorn Sotheara from wide on the left found Sok Pheng unmarked in the box to glance a header into the right corner.
The Kampot defence worked diligently to stem the flow of MND attacks, holding them at 1-0 until late in the half. But a string of corner kicks eventually bore fruit for the military outfit when Huot Sokunthea headed onto the bar in the 41st minute and the ensuing rebound was tucked away from close range by Sok Pheng.
On the stroke of halftime, Lorn Sotheara picked up the ball from Sok Pheng wide on the left and showed delicate skill to skip through the Kampot defence. He found space to shoot from a tight angle through the Kampot keeper Dom Sokry's legs to put his side 3-0 up after the first 45 minutes.
The second half was a largely forgettable affair with both sides seemingly content with an MND victory. Cambodian national star player and MND team captain Khim Borey must have thought it wasn't to be his day after squandering a handful of easy chances. Finally a goal-scoring opportunity proved irresistible when a defence-splitting pass from Nou Sosehla in the 82nd minute gave Khim Borey a one-on-one with Dom Sokry, the striker calmly lifting the ball over the keeper to bring the tally to four.
MND showed better physical presence and tactical skill, with Nou Sosehla on the right wing displaying some of the games' only real attacking threat.
After the game, MND coach Op Sam An observed that the numerous missed chances could be attributed to the Golden Boot competition. Top scorer in the Samdech Hun Sen Cup finals stands to win a million riel in prize money.
"They wanted to score a goal for themselves in order to win best shooter," said Op Sam An. "This philosophy is making the team weak.
"Now, we have advised them to give up their own personal interest. They have to cooperate with each other and think of the team."
The National Defence Ministry team prides itself on being comprised of purely local talent.
"My team is supported by the Cambodian military, " said Op Sam An. "If we fielded foreigners, it would be against our principle."
"We are teaching [our players] the weak points of other players and foreign football players [so they can] defeat them.... It is no big problem to compete with [the] foreign players. "
MND now turn their attention to the quarterfinal game against Phuchoung Neak on Saturday, March 7 at 2pm. Skipper Khim Borey confirmed there was sufficient confidence in his squad to progress to the semifinals. "We have met [Phuchoung] several times, and we never lose, " he said.
Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)