Mat Hassan nets twice and Dennis Nwaizu also strikes to down Chhma Khmao 3-1 Wednesday and lift Prek Pra Keila out of the relegation zone
Prek Pra Keila’s Sos Souhana (left) fends off a challenge from Chhma Khmao’s Lea Sopheap during their Metfone C-League match at Olympic Stadium Wednesday.
Prek Pra’s Dennis Nwaizu (left) and Chhma Khmao’s Mom Davy vie for the ball during their match Wednesday.
Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)
Prek Pra Keila clambered out of the relegation zone for the first time this season after seeing off fellow strugglers Chhma Khmao 3-1 Wednesday in their Metfone C-League fixture at the Olympic Stadium. The suburban side came from one goal behind with a brace from Mat Hassan and another from Dennis Nwaizu to record their second consecutive victory in a space of four days.
Backed by their ever vociferous young supporters, Prek Pra kicked off after one-minute’s silence in memory of late teammate Wilson Mene, who was buried in Phnom Penh a week before. The team may well have opened the scoring inside four minutes only for You Arafat and Feut Soulkiphly to miss the target in quick succession.
Their Svay Rieng based opponents responded instantly with a fluffed chance of their own when Sok Kolarama headed wide from a cross by Meak Chadaravuth.
In the 22nd minute, Meak Chadaravuth shrugging off his marker only to toe-poke his shot into the waiting arms of Prek Pra keeper Yok Ary. At the other end, Mat Hassan’s shot was whiskers away from goal after he had beaten the offside trap to leave just the keeper at his mercy.
As the half wore on, both sides pushed forward in search of the much desired curtain raiser, with Prek Pra the ones to crack first. Meak Chadaravuth used his pace to drive past two defenders and cut back to Christopher Kingston, who lashed it in with his left foot.
Undeterred from being behind, Prek Pra supporters upped their chanting and drumming in the stands and helped ensure the lead only lasted five minutes as Mat Hassan grabbed the equaliser.
The Black Cats failed to clear their lines and, after a series of ricochets around the back, the ball found its way to Prek Pra’s 19-year-old forward at the edge of the area. Chhma Khmao defenders stood rooted in expectation of an offside flag, but it remained down for Hassan to fire home, igniting the stands into thunderous applause.
The sides went into the break evenly poised.
Prek Pra coach Yep Phirum made a tactical change in the second period, moving Mat Hassan into the centre from the right wing to bolster the attack. It was to prove a smart move, allowing Dennis Nwaizu a free role in the middle of the pack as Prek Pra suddenly began to dominate possession.
Seven minutes after the restart, Nwaizu put his side in the driving seat after a neat string of passes found him with acres of space at the edge of the 18-yard box. Before any Chmma Khmao defenders could close him down, the Nigerian sent a low drive into the bottom corner.
With half an hour left, Chhma Khmao started fighting back and Kung Moeurnvuchit forced Yok Ary to make a courageous save when he punched his header away. However, the provincial side were made to pay for committing too high up the pitch when Mat Hassan capitalised on a failed offside trap, timing his run perfectly to collect a defence splitting pass from Nwaizu and picking his spot past Chhma Khmao’s Pen Socheat to gift his side a two goal cushion.
From there on out, there could only be one winner as Prek Pra continued to press back their opponents into their own half. Prek Pra could have increased their lead, with You Arafat squandering several glorious opportunities and Mat Hassan passing on his hat trick when his shot from close range hit the upright and bounced back tantalizingly along the line.
With their 3-1 victory, Prek Pra leapfrogged Wat Phnom into eighth place in the league table due to a superior goal difference. Prek Pra assistant manager Ro Seth was understandably emotional about their new found form. “We dedicate all victories to Wilson [Mene] because he will stay around us forever,” he expressed. “Our club is poor, but our heart is not poor. So we are happy today and will continue to do better as the league progresses.”