The much-coveted Samdech Hun Sen Cup will adorn the National Police Commissary’s trophy cabinet as their first prized possession following the club’s guts and glory 2-0 win over Build Bright United in an enthralling final at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday.
The Policemen stormed into a 13th minute lead courtesy of a Noun Borey header off a perfectly delivered corner kick by Ol Ravy, whose hard work was finally rewarded when he nailed the second deep into injury time to complete a memorable twilight triumph.
The University-backed side put up a stout-hearted performance but despite the disappointing outcome in the end and a rueful look back over all their spurned chances, BBU could still be proud of achieving their best Cup run after being touched off in the semi-finals a couple of years ago.
“We were well aware of BBU’s tactic of attacking heavily on us, but we were prepared for it, so it was easy for us to fight back and defend against it,” Police coach Ung Kanyanith told the Post.
“Ultimately, we earned the victory which we expected to do. I, the other coaches and all the players, as well as all the staff are so excited about this triumph and we all will be trying hard to defend the title next year and for years to come.”
BBU assistant coach Chan Veasna, meanwhile, noted a lack of composure in defending corners as the root cause for their failure in the decider.
“We did brilliantly in our previous Cup games against [Phnom Penh] Crown and Boeung Ket, but today my players made a few mistakes, especially when [Ol Ravy] took the corner kick. We obviously tried to fight back, but our midfielders and strikers didn’t cooperate well with good understanding. We are so sorry [to the fans] for this result,” he said.
History had already been made long before the first touch on Saturday with both teams having never managed to go this far in any major domestic competition.
Neither side lost that sense of great occasion nor did the huge captive audience that included former Chelsea manager Avram Grant, whose presence in the stands diverted for a while the attention of several lensmen away from the action on the pitch.
When the teams got over the initial awe and nerves, it was evident that the Police would be the one with more aggressive intent.
But what came as a mild surprise was the speed with which the Police grabbed the lead and the side had to be thankful to some sloppy BBU defending which forced goalkeeper Sos Prohim to make a panic save at the cost of a corner.
That resulting set piece from Ol Ravy and Noun Borey’s immaculate header very quickly pinned BBU down, the kind of choke the side never could get out of, that despite several counter attacks of their own.
The Police spent the half-time break in a much lighter mood than their rivals with that slender lead behind them.
Though BBU showed greater urgency in the second session and progressively got bolder in attack, they just could not get a breakthrough. Captain Prom Puthsethy, Pich Sina and Hong Sokly were all denied a goal by one means or another.
At times that crucial slice of luck deserted them. When not, the Police somehow managed to scramble the ball to safety, such as a standout goalline clearance by Ol Ravy off a BBU free kick. Even as BBU’s tale of near misses continued amid a couple of substitutions, the Police were more than happy to close up shop at the back and keep punching the breeze for more attacking options.
Tith Dina, who has had an outstanding Cup campaign, was one of the prime midfield movers. Ol Ravy caught the eye with some deft passing and wing runs capping a highly satisfying day for him on the pitch with that injury time goal, a simple tap in job after BBU goalkeeper had been caught in a fix.
In general, the Police asserted themselves much more than BBU could or did and the trophy was seemingly in their bag the moment Noun Borey’s thinking head put the team on the path to victory.
Apart from team honours, two Police players also scooped up individual awards. Prak Phirun was declared the tournament’s best goalkeeper and collected one million riel (US$250.63) as its reward.
Tith Dina was named the player of the tournament and he could literally ride home with that honour on a brand new Yamaha motorbike.
Boeung Ket Rubber Field striker Khuon Laboravy emerged as the top scorer with 12 goals, an effort which made him richer by one million riel.
As winners of the 2014 edition, the Police collected a cash prize of 80 million Riel, with runners-up BBU banking 40 million riel and third placed Boeung Ket taking home 20 million riel. The road to the final had been littered with a clutch of fallen favourites including holders Naga Corp, whose controversial stance to forfeit the third place play-off last Wednesday to Boeung Ket is currently being probed by the Football Federation of Cambodia’s disciplinary committee.
According to FFC Spokesman May Tola, the Committee will look into the video footage of the stoppage time handball incident and the referee’s report on it before taking a final decision on possible punitive action against Naga for refusing to complete their game.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BYCHHORN NORN, TRANSLATION BY CHENG SERYRITH