Naga Corp and Phnom Penh Crown both come back from being a goal behind to beat Kirivong Sok Sen Chey and Preah Khan Reach respectively on Saturday
Phnom Penh Crown’s Uche Prince Justine (right) and Preah Khan Reach’s Anthony Nzekwest vie for the ball during their Metfone C-League game at Olympic Stadium Saturday.
Kirivong Sok Sen Chey’s Seng Kamsen (right) slides into Naga Corp’s Tiet Chandarasokha during their match Saturday.
Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)
With Naga Corp keen to get their Metfone C-League back on track after missing a couple of games due to their involvement in the AFC President’s Cup in Myanmar, they were up against a buoyant Kirivong Sok Sen Chey team with three wins from their last four matches. Both teams were at full strength Saturday at Olympic Stadium and it was Kirivong who made the first impression, taking the lead after nine minutes.
Naga fullback Chan Darasokha needlessly brought down Un Sopheak after the striker had recovered his initial shot, which had been cleared off the goal line by Kim Chanbunrith. Referee Sreng Haody pointed to the spot, and Julius Chukwumeka despatched with ease. The official ordered a retake for encroachment, but the Nigerian coolly sent the ball in the opposite corner to put the Takeo-based team ahead.
Naga had to wait just five minutes before they restored parity. Joseph Oyewole was a permanent thorn in Kirivong’s side and he timed his run into the penalty box to perfection, meeting Meas Channa’s pinpoint cross with a well-directed header.
It was all Naga at this stage, and Oyewole had two more opportunities to extend their lead, but found Keum Makara in the Kirivong goal equal to his best efforts.
On 36 minutes, Naga’s Chin Chum had the ball in the net and was wheeling away in delight only to see the assistant referee’s flag raised and his headed goal cruelly ruled out.
Kirivong replaced the injured Keum Makara in goal at halftime, and his stand-in, Kun Thnou was instantly in the thick of the action, denying Joseph Oyewole and Meas Channa with decisive saves.
Match referee Sreng Haody then took centre stage on 70 minutes. Naga’s Tieb Vatanak crumpled in a heap under an innocuous challenge from Kirivong’s Bryan Edem, and the referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot. Once the protests had died down and Naga had made a substitution, skipper Sun Sovanrithy stepped up to confidently send the spot kick wide of Kun Thnou’s despairing dive.
Both teams struck the woodwork in the closing stages, with Kirivong’s Yem Botra volleying a poorly punched clearance from keeper Mak Theara against the upright and, moments later at the other end, Joseph Oyewole doing the same and then seeing Kun Thnou bravely block his follow-up effort.
Reigning champions Naga deserved their victory which pleased coach Prak Sovannara, who declared himself “happy with the result,” as they move into fourth place in the league table with the mid-season break fast approaching.
PP Crown 3 Preah Khan Reach 1
With a trip to Singapore next week for the Singapore Cup, Phnom Penh Crown needed to beat their old rivals Preah Khan Reach (PKR) to maintain their title aspirations and give them breathing space while they are drawn away from league action. PKR, without talismanic skipper Sam El Nasa, lost to the new league leaders BBU the previous week and were keen avoid consecutive defeats.
PKR’s prayers were answered after just eight minutes, when teenager Chea Samnang took advantage of Keo Sokngorn’s abject failure to clear the ball from his six-yard box to pounce and poke the ball home. However, their delight soon turned to despair.
PKR’s giant centre-half Anthony Nzekwest tugged the arm of Crown striker Uche Prince Justine as they chased towards the penalty area, and after an earlier booking, referee Duong Socheat had no choice but to dismiss Nzekwest with just 20 minutes of the game played.
As PKR sat back to defend, Crown failed to press home the numerical advantage in the first half. They did get the ball in the net just after the half-hour, when Sani Saidu knocked it home after keeper Ouk Mich had fumbled a Tieng Tiny free kick. However, the assistant linesman’s flag was raised and the goal cancelled out.
After the break, the one-way traffic continued in Crown’s favour as they stepped up the pace. Justine revelled in the space he found, but his goal-scoring instinct deserted him on three occasions early on. However, on 64 minutes he struck another of his trademark unstoppable drives into the roof of the net, with Ouk Mich grasping thin air and the Nigerian sprinting off to celebrate with a somersault and a prayer.
It was only a matter of time before PKR succumbed again, and it was Keo Sokngorn, who put Crown in front to make up for his earlier mishap. With eight minutes to go, he picked up a poor throw from Ouk Mich and returned the ball with venom from 25 yards out, leaving the goalkeeper a forlorn figure.
Two minutes later, and Justine was celebrating again. This time he tapped the ball over the goal line, looking suspiciously offside from a Hong Ratana shot to add more insult to injury against the brave PKR rearguard. Justine should’ve notched a hat trick with the last kick of the game, but Ouk Mich stood tall this time to deny the Metfone C-League’s joint leading scorer.
Phnom Penh Crown returned to the top of the table with the victory, and will be pleased to have bolstered their championship hopes after three draws in their previous four games.