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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Preah Khan falls to weakened Khemara despite strong start

Preah Khan falls to weakened Khemara despite strong start

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Khemara Keila's Ty Bunvicheth (centre) tests the Preah Khan Reach defence during Khemara’s 3-1 victory in their Cambodian Premier League match on Wednesday.

Khemara Keila's 3-1 victory leaves them in third at season’s end, with a potential rematch with Preah Khan Reach looming as both prepare for the playoffs

Photo by: Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)
Khemara Keila's Ty Bunvicheth (centre) tests the Preah Khan Reach defence during Khemara’s 3-1 victory in their Cambodian Premier League match on Wednesday.

With both teams already assured of a place in the Cambodian Premier League's Super 4 playoffs in two weeks' time, Preah Khan Reach (PKR) fielded a lineup shorn of at least half a dozen regular faces, while Khemara Keila were decimated by injuries and suspensions to their already lightweight squad.

From the start, Khemara fielded an all-Khmer team, and it looked as though they would be overrun by Preah Khan, who buzzed and harried their opponents, with regular full-back Lay Raksmey pushed forward and causing the Khemara defence all sorts of problems with his surging runs. In the first quarter of an hour, Preah Khan had already carved out half a dozen very presentable chances, with Lay Raksmey, Chorn Chanpideth, Suon Makara and Olisa Onyemerea all guilty of wasting opportunities to put their team ahead. Their misses would come back to haunt them.

On 17 minutes, PKR's stand-in goalkeeper Sam Chamrouen made a complete hash of a harmless cross from Chan Piseth and spilled the ball to Samuth Dalin, who rolled it into the unguarded net to put Khemara ahead from their first attack of the game.

Normal service was restored after the goal as PKR continued to push forward, creating more clear-cut chances that they failed to convert. Another Lay Raksmey run and cross gave Sok Raksmey a glorious opportunity to put his names in lights, but he blazed wildly over the bar from 10 yards, despite having all the time in the world to score. The same player was guilty of two more wasteful attempts late in the half, one of which came after Khemara's keeper Mak Theara raced out of his area, though Sok Raksmey could only lob his effort wide of the gaping goal.

If PKR's keeper Sam Chamrouen was embarrassed by the first goal, he would've wanted the ground to swallow him after another massive boob with just six minutes of the second half played. Khemara winger Loch Ratha fired in a skimming shot from 30 yards, which Chamrouen completely missed with what should've been a regulation take into his chest. Instead it nestled in the back of the net, and PKR had a mountain to climb.

PKR's pressure finally paid off just after the hour mark with a stroke of good fortune to reduce the deficit. Sok Vannak's cross took a deflection as Kao Kiry challenged Khemara's skipper Chan Dara, though it was impossible to say who got the final touch. Whoever it was didn't matter; PKR were back in the hunt. Keo Kosal set pulses racing when he escaped his marker on the edge of the box and took aim, only to fire his shot wide of the target, and with it, PKR's last chance of a point.

Sensing their opponents were tiring, Khemara made two late substitutions, and the extra legs paid dividends. Loch Ratha, Samuth Dalin and substitute Nelson Olatunde all had glorious opportunities to extend their lead but failed, before Olatunde raced clear in time added on and made no mistake with a fine drive from 20 yards. The victory ensures Khemara finish the season in third place and look likely to face a rematch with PKR in the forthcoming playoffs.

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