It was a case of Svay Rieng shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted.
The title holders for barely another week scored a pyrrhic 3-2 victory over would-be champions Phnom Penh Crown in the penultimate round of the Metfone C-League at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday that neither advanced their own cause nor hurt their rivals.
The defeat for Crown came after eight straight wins and 16 unbeaten games, having already assured themselves of a fifth championship ahead of the season-ending match next Sunday against their nearest rivals Boeung Ket Rubber Field, who are certain of their runner-up status no matter what the outcome.
The start was anything but happy for Svay Rieng, who conceded an own goal 33 minutes into the game when Soeuy Visal headed into his own net. But James Adenkule repaired the damage when he equalised two minutes later to greet the half time with some relief.
Svay Rieng’s top gun Dzarma Bata, who is a clear frontrunner for this year’s Golden Boot, added one more to his tally just after the break to make the chase harder for Crown’s George Bisan, who is now three goals adrift on 19.
It was left to the seasoned Kouch Sokumpheak, whose only goal against Naga Corp last week clinched the title for Crown, to restore parity but Samoeurn Pidor’s opportunistic strike settled the argument in favour of Svay Rieng.
In the rest of Saturday’s action, Asia Europe University’s 5-2 drubbing of National Police Commissary came as a reaffirmation that the University-backed side has had a remarkably good season.
Striker Badawi Afawin’s hat-trick played a huge role in AEU’s win that was bolstered by goals from George Kelechi and Mohammad Hamza. For the Police, goals from Tani Reijin and Nuon Borey late in the first half came after Kelechi, Hamza and Afawin had shared four goals between them in the first 23 minutes of the game. Afawin went on to complete his treble in the 77th minute.
Another team leaving a good impression, despite making their top tier debut this season, is TriAsia. Helped along by a brace from Soung Vireak, TriAsia got the measure of Ministry of National Defence 2-0, a reflection on the in-and-out running form shown by the Armymen throughout this season’s campaign.
Kirivong Sok Sen Chey had to endure another frustrating day on the pitch, beaten as they were 2-1 by the team that had been stuck at the bottom of the pile all the way, Albirex Niigata, the first foreign franchise to figure in the domestic league.
Albirex, the Cambodian offshoot of their namesake J. League club, owe their success to Japanese midfielder Tatsuta Kazuki’s double strike. In between Kazuki’s goals came one from In Vicheka’s as a poor consolation for the visitors from Takeo, who are still facing the threat of relegation.