Former champions Naga Corp bounced back from a one-goal deficit to post a 2-1 victory over arch-rivals Phnom Penh Crown in their Metfone C-League encounter yesterday at Olympic Stadium.
The clash of the top guns lived up to its pre-match hype only in the last half hour, producing intense exchanges during which Naga had their share of chances to stretch the lead and the defending champions Crown theirs to at least wrench a point.
It was Crown who first broke out of meandering midfield exchanges to show attacking promise.
An aerial pass, which invitingly fell in the path of an advancing Khim Borey, set the ball rolling for Crown.
The talented striker has been out of competitive mode for at least a year and a half, and he chose the best possible way to reassure his camp that he is grating his grooves.
Having got deep into the box and scattered the defence, his only challenge was to get enough force behind the ball to see it home, which he did admirably well.
Armed with that 22nd minute goal, Crown managed a few more attacking patterns before allowing a Naga comeback in the 41st minute through midfielder Choun Chum, a hat-tricker in the side’s 4-0 rout of Build Bright United on Sunday.
Choun Chum produced a header of quality to level the scores, making ample amends in the bargain for missing out on an open header minutes before Crown had opened the scoring.
The game took a dramatic turn within minutes after restart when in a crowded box, defender Neang Chenla rose high to nod home a Sun Sopanha freekick set piece.
That go-ahead goal for Naga turned match winner after the side survived some fierce Crown attempts in the closing 20 minutes of the game.
Khim Borey misdirected an easy header while the imposing figure of Liberian Duncan “Melvin” Tarley, who came off the bench, sent his right footer soaring high from close range.
Crown would not get better chances.
Naga could count on at least two worthy chances to stretch their hold.
Having let them go, they had to dourly defend their territory to cling on to that slender lead.
In the end, Naga’s tenacity won the day as Crown could possibly take Khim Borey’s return to goal-scoring ways as one of the positives from the game.
To contact the reporter on this story: H S Manjunath at firstname.lastname@example.org