Big guns are set to blaze at Olympic Stadium tomorrow when the much anticipated Metfone C-League clash between former champions Boeung Ket Rubber Field and Phnom Penh Crown kicks off at 3:30pm.
Given their relative strengths, track records and star value, this stand-out fixture in a card of six matches framed for the weekend has all the trappings of a thriller in the making. The sheer intensity of this contest is expected to keep spirits high on the pitch as well as in the stands.
It is with a sense of relief that Boeung Ket coach Prak Vuthy will send out his players for this vitally important game after coming out of a two-match duck with a well merited win over Naga Corp last week.
Back-to-back defeats by TriAsia Phnom Penh and National Police Commissary had left the Kampong Cham outfit somewhat shaken but victory over one of the heavyweights, Naga, has given the side a big confidence boost.
The Crown backline, amongst the sturdiest in the business, will no doubt cast a hawk’s eye on two of Boeung Ket’s attacking assets, Chan Vathanaka and Khuon Laboravy, respectively representing youthful energy and vast experience. Undone by late goals against them twice in succession, the most useful lesson Boeung Ket has learnt is to stay alert defensively and deal effectively with the pressures of holding out in the closing stages.
Crown’s dynamic duo of George Bisan and Newton Ben Katanha are capable of rattling the strongest of safety nets and the four-time champions have in their ranks this season some of the fastest legs as wingers.
The attacking formations that coach Sam Schweingruber has set forth have proved profitable and it is churlish to expect Crown not to put their rivals through hoops of fire.
The workload for the goalkeepers is bound to be heavy.
In Sou Yaty, Crown have a pair of safe hands. The national team No.1 has allowed just one goal past him in four games, though the teams he has faced so far are lot lighter than Boeung Ket.
The sharp end of the title campaign is months away but what happens tomorrow may have some bearing as to how well it shapes up for either side.
A clash of University-backed sides Western and Build Bright United follows the Boeung Ket-Crown contest. With 10 goals conceded in two games, BBU’s top priority would be to stem the rot while Western would be keen to break the tedium of drawing their last two games.
Defending champions Svay Rieng have a tough assignment tomorrow at Old Stadium where they meet Ministry of National Defence, whose rugged style of play can trouble the best.
Svay Rieng scampered home on the back of substitute Hoy Phallin’s opportunistic strike against TriAsia, who enjoyed long spells of dominance in the game but failed to make good on the chances that came their way.
The Armymen are not easily dislodged, however, so Svay Rieng will have their work cut out.
Tomorrow’s first match at Old Stadium sees Asia Europe University come up against Kirivong Sok Sen Chey. Both sides are on the lookout for some comfort padding.
Sunday’s opening game at Olympic Stadium pits the MCL’s first foreign franchise, Albirex Niigata, against 2009 champions Naga.
As Naga coach Prak Sovanara suggested, the loss to Boeung Ket is behind the team and what the players are looking for is to play hard to their known strengths.
Albirex have taken such severe beatings in their last few games that it is highly unlikely they will pose a serious threat to a well-rounded side like Naga.
The weekend’s final fixture, between TriAsia and National Police, could produce a nip-and-tip finish.
TriAsia were far from disgraced in that 0-1 loss to Svay Rieng while the Policemen are riding high after an exquisite win over Kirivong.
Taking a line through their beating of Boeung Ket, collateral form indicates that TriAsia and Police are well-matched and that no quarter will be sought or given in this tight game.
Saturday February 22 At Old Stadium
AEU v Kirivong SSC – 1:30pm
Svay Rieng v MND – 3:45pm
At Olympic Stadium
Boeung Ket v PP Crown – 3:30pm
Western Uni v BBU – 6pm
Sunday February 23 At Olympic Stadium
Albirex v Naga Corp – 3:30pm
TriAsia v Nat Police – 6pm