Photo by: NICK SELLS (www.nicksellsphotography.com)
Naga Corp striker Sunday Okonkwo (centre) celebrates scoring his second against Preah Khan Reach on Sunday at Olympic Stadium.
SUNDAY Okonkwo's brace on the day of his namesake was all Naga Corp needed to consolidate their top-four position, and confine Preah Khan Reach (PKR) to second position in the CPL. The Nigerian grabbed both goals in the second half to seal a 2-0 win for Naga and severely dent PKR's hopes of reclaiming top spot from Phnom Penh Crown, who extended their lead to six points at the top of the table Saturday.
The first 10 minutes was somewhat dreary, with both sides guilty of slack passing. Poor finishing for Naga prevented them from opening the scoring, and PKR captain Samel Nasa tested Naga keeper Oum Chandara from long range.
PKR could have gotten the curtain-raiser in the 28th minute when Olisa Onyemerea's through-ball found Prak Monyoudom, but the U19 national star shot wide. Up the other end, PKR needed an inch-perfect tackle from Sok Vannak to deny Meas Channa a clear scoring opportunity.
The afternoon heat began to tell on the players, who made the most of every stoppage to take on fluids, with the half ending goalless.
Naga came out in the second half with fervent determination, knowing a further slip-up could open the door to the Super 4 for Build Bright United, Spark FC or Kirivong.
Just two minutes into the second period, Okonkwo netted the first of his two goals when he cashed in on a pass across the goalmouth from Chhem Chun.
Okonkwo remained a thorn in PKR defence, as Naga continued to dominate proceedings and the impressive Nigerian duly grabbed his second. PKR's Sok Vannak took a poor first touch to lose possession, and a slick set of interchanges between Yemi Oyewole and Okonkwo allowed the latter to place the ball in the far corner.
With eight minutes left on the clock, Zila Seidu missed a great chance to draw one back for PKR, and as the seconds ran down, Okonwko was substituted to a standing ovation.
Khemara Keila 2-2 Spark FC
The second game Sunday saw Khemara Keila force out a 2-2 draw against Spark FC before an appreciative crowd of nearly 3,000 at Olympic Stadium.
Although eight points had separated both sides, Spark put up a display worthy of praise as Khemara struggled twice to level. The first half ended one goal apiece, after Prince Justine Prince once again proved why he is probably the best striker in the CPL, scoring another spectacular goal. His header off a Oun Sokboroth cross clipped the crossbar as it sailed in.
Spark were obviously the better side in the first half but paid for not putting the game to bed early when Sophal Oudom equalised from a rebound off a stinging Kuoch Sokumpheak shot.
In the second half, Spark broke back again with a goal just inside the hour mark. Prince Justine finished coolly after turning marker Joel Omoraka and using his pace to beat two other Khemara defenders to extend his personal tally for the club this season to 18.
The game then went a bit topsy-turvy, with both sides pressing hard but creating a string of missed chances.
Then Kuoch Sokumpheak showed his value for Khemara when he took the ball on the near side, cut through two Spark defenders and powered home the equaliser with 18 minutes left on the clock. However, the national team star never got up to celebrate, sustaining an injury that forced his substitution.
Nelson Oladiji had a chance to win the game at the death for Khemara but failed to direct his header goalwards, and both coaches seemed happy to share the points.