A NAME change at the midpoint of the season from Preah Khan Reach has seemingly brought about a swing in Svay Rieng’s fortunes.
In a seven-goal thriller at Old Stadium on Saturday, Svay Rieng edged out four-time champions Phnom Penh Crown 4-3 to storm into the title round of the Metfone C-League playoffs for the second time in three years.
In the other Super 4 semi-final played simultaneously at Olympic Stadium, defending champions Boeung Ket Rubber Field huffed and puffed to a 1-0 victory over a luckless Build Bright United, with the only goal coming in the first spell of extra time after regulation period ended goalless.
The final showdown for the seasonal honours will be staged at Olympic Stadium on Saturday with Svay Rieng one step away from breaking a 10-year championship jinx while Boeung Ket, who topped the league phase with something to spare, are bent on zealously defending their title.
The third place play-off between Crown and BBU has been slated for Friday at Olympic Stadium.
The decision by the Football Federation of Cambodia to schedule the two vital last-four matches at the same time at two different venues not only defied logic and common sense but it also let down the football community by forcing the audience to make a tough choice instead of enjoying the both ties. Efforts by the Post to find out the FFC’s rationale behind this move proved fruitless.
Boeung Ket overcome BBU
Even as a gripping contest was unfolding at the Old Stadium, defending champions Boeung Ket were profoundly struggling to make an impact on dark horses BBU, who had turned their form line of five points from nine matches upside down by crashing into the Super Four with a recovery in the second half of the regular season.
Containment was clearly BBU’s buzzword, and the African trio of Ugwu Anayochukwu, Daniel Omochoko and Olugbami Adewale almost achieved this.
The usually bustling Bisan George, Boeung Ket’s leading scorer, was so tightly marked that he could hardly impose himself the way he had done in almost every other match. Adewale was so effective in breaking up Boeung Ket advances that he seemed instinctively drawn to the danger areas.
Boeung Ket coach Prak Vuthy made the tactical gamble of keeping the side’s precociously talented Chan Vathanaka on the bench for little more than an hour. But when the 19-year-old took the field, the dynamics seemed to change.
Yet Build Bright were in no mood to go down, and Anayochukwu came closest to scoring when his free header from a corner narrowly missed the mark.
There were a few more BBU efforts in front of the Boeung Ket goal, but none serious enough to cause alarm.
When the teams got down to play the first 15-minute session of extra time, a penalty shootout was possibly working in the minds of both camps, but a snap goal in the 102nd minute changed the complexion of the game.
George ignited the move from the edge of the box, and a stray ball fell invitingly in Keo Sokngorn’s path for him to glide it in. The BBU defence, which had worked so hard and so efficiently until then, looked clueless, with the entire backline being taken totally by surprise.
Boeung Ket rode out the second spell of extra time, surviving one really close call that could have given BBU a new lease of life.
“It was a tough game for us,” Prak Vuthy told the club’s official website (beoungketfc.com). “BBU defended well and looked to catch us on the break, but we kept going till we got the break and scored.”
Tum Saray hat-trick hero
For the past few weeks, Tum Saray had been sparingly used as a substitute, but Svay Rieng team management gave him a jump up to start, a tactical move that ultimately brought rich rewards for the Military Police-backed side.
It was Tum Saray’s hat-trick which formed the cornerstone of Svay Rieng’s victory though Khun Laboravy’s injury time strike did indeed provide the winning buffer as Crown’s Dutch striker Elroy van der Hooft also found the net in time added on.
The first two goals of Tum Saray’s triple link came in the first half, but Crown did well to level the scores by half-time through seasoned Kouch Sokumpheak and captain Khim Borey.
Tum Saray again found the go-ahead goal for Svay Rieng in the 55th minute, even as the side hung on gamely to that 3-2 advantage until those fiery moments of injury time when Khun Laboravy got his 19th goal of the season to ensure that Svay Rieng scrambled home to safety.
In the 2010 edition, Svay Rieng lost 3-2 to Phnom Penh Crown in the final.
Crown coach Sam Schweingruber voiced his disappointment at their lack of conviction at the back.
“We’ve conceded just five goals in our last nine matches, and then we concede four goals like this in one game. We didn’t deserve to win,” he was quoted as saying on the club’s official Facebook page after the game.
“We were complaining too much, we lost the ball too much and we lost our discipline. We weren’t the better team today and our lack of discipline at important moments cost us dearly.”