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MND stun Crown for first Cup win

National Defence Ministry shatter Phnom Penh Crown’s dreams of a third successive Cup title as the final seconds tick away, thanks to a dramatic winner by Thong Oudom to seal a 3-2 contest.

IN keeping with the exciting football served up throughout this year’s Samdech Hun Sen Cup competition, the entertainment and suspense was maintained right up until the final kick of the Cup Final itself at Olympic Stadium Sunday, when the National Defence Ministry (MND) netted an injury-time winner over Phnom Penh Crown to claim the title for their first time.

With three added minutes on the clock, MND were awarded a free kick which Ieng Piseth swung high into the Crown penalty area. Thong Oudom outjumped everyone else to loop his header into the goal and was subsequently pulled to the ground and mobbed by his ecstatic teammates.

There was just enough left on the clock for Crown to restart the game before referee Tuy Vicheka blew for fulltime to spark celebrations worthy of any cup success.

MND had started positively from the kickoff in hot weather against a weakened Crown lineup, shorn of four regulars through suspension. On 25 minutes, they got their noses in front after dogged wing play from Phuong Soksana. He bustled his way past three defenders and his low centre was rifled into the roof of the net by Sin Dalin to send one half of the audience into raptures.

Photo by: Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)
National Defence Ministry’s Thong Oudom (right, white shirt) watches his header loop over Phnom Penh Crown keeper Thong Chanrasmey (left) to score the winning goal.

Crown finally awoke from their lethargy late in the half with a rather fortunate equaliser. Thong Oudom’s headed clearance struck Chan Chhaya, and his quick reaction shot was deflected into the path of Heng Sokly, who couldn’t miss the target from 5 yards out.

The second half mirrored the first, with MND making all the early running. Twenty minutes in, the Army team recaptured the lead through substitute Chhin Chhoeurn.

On the pitch for just five minutes after replacing the injured Nov Soseila, he stole in at the far post to add the finishing touch, as all others failed to react to a 40-yard free kick from Khek Khemarin that sailed into the Crown penalty box.

With players finding the heat unbearable, both sides used up their allotment of substitutions, and it looked as though MND would hold out for their first-ever domestic trophy. That was until just a minute remained, when goalkeeper Samreth Seiha miscued a routine clearance straight to Chan Rithy who rolled the ball into the unguarded net from 25 yards out. Seiha was inconsolable until deep into injury time, when defender Thong Oudom loped upfield and settled the final with his winning header.

Photo by: Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)
National Defence Ministry’s Chhin Chhoeurn (right) celebrates thier Cup final victory as Phnom Penh Crown’s Heng Sokly (left, front) covers his head in disappointment.

“I’m so happy that National Defence [Ministry] won their first ever championship in club history,” said MND assistant manager Op Sam Ath after the game. “We worked so hard and now we achieved a great result. However, I also recognise that our victory came with elements of good fortune, with some first team players of Phnom Penh Crown not featuring in the final.”

Crown manager Be Makara expressed his regret for not having a full strength squad for Sunday’s match. “Most of our missing players were defenders,” he noted. “With our defence weakended, National Defence [Ministry] had many chances to score against us. I’m so disappointed that we couldn’t win for the third consecutive time.”

MND collected their medals from Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, as well as a cheque for 80 million riels (US$19,124), with Phnom Penh Crown picking up half that amount.

Other awards during the closing ceremony included Preah Khan Reach collecting the Fair Play Award of 5 million riels, as well as honours shared in the golden boot competition between last year’s top scorer Kuoch Sokumpheak of Khemara Keila and Phnom Penh Crown’s Srey Veasna.

Both strikers netted 18 goals each during the two-month-long competition. Crown first-team goalkeeper Peng Bunchhay picked up the best goalkeeper accolade for 1 million riels.

Kep Chuktema revealed during his public address that Prime Minister Hun Sen had donated US$50,000 to the Football Federation of Cambodia to show his support for local football.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY UNG CHAMROEUN

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