The first round of the 2011 Metfone C-League will conclude with a double header this afternoon at Olympic Stadium. Here is an analysis of the match-ups.
National Defence Ministry v Rithy Sen - 2pm
Kampong Chhnang based Rithy Sen are primed for their first foray into the top tier after gaining promotion from Division A1 as the runners-up last year. Coach Tam Matt remained wary of his opening opponents, but admitted to still be basking in their success of last season.
“We know well about the strength of the Army team, but we still hold half a belief in our performance,” he said. “However, the real reward for us is our first appearance in the top league. We receive a lot of support from local people [in the province].”
28-year-old Ouk Chanarith, who featured prominently for the club during this year’s Samdech Hun Sen Cup campaign, will be their key man despite his bulky frame. 16-year-old striker San Osman is also one to watch for Rithy Sen, while midfielders Ly Toman and Sum Sokhy have been praised by their coach ahead of today’s match.
Meanwhile, National Defence Ministry (MND) manager Tep Long Rachana expressed little concern over their game against the debutants.
“Our players have matured in the top flight, so we can get three points from [today’s match with] Rithy Sen whose players lack of experience,” he said.
During the offseason, club veterans Rang Borin and To Vanthan decided to quit football in search of other vocations. According to the Army manager, MND will introduce some players from their youth team, including goalkeeper Oum Vicheth who played also during Hun Sen Cup.
“We will use them for some circumstances, but experienced players such as Phoung Soksana, Chhin Chhoeurn, and Thong Udom are as always our key men,” he added.
The teams met just once previously in the quarterfinals of 2010 Hun Sen Cup when MND completed a 9-1 rout.
Build Bright United v Chhlam Samuth - 4pm
Build Bright United have steadily become one of the most accomplished sides in the last two years of domestic league and cup competition. Coach Meas Sam Oeurn has yet to recover from the heartache of losing this year’s Hun Sen Cup final 2-0 to Preah Khan Reach.
However, he asserted that his players were in fine form for a successful league season. “Now we don’t have any injuries; all players can play,” he told the Post.
“Chhlam Samuth, which have returned to the first league, is not an easy [side to beat]. They had a great achievement in the playoffs [to gain promotion], but I believe that my boys will overcome them.”
BBU is one of four clubs which have shunned the use foreign players in their squad for this campaign, along with MND, Preah Khan Reach and National Police Commissary. Midfielders Chun Sothearath and Chan Veasna and frontmen Prom Puthsethy and Nuth Sinoun will once again be the driving forces behind the university backed side. The game also sees forward Heng Sokly face off against former colleagues whom he played with for Phouchung Neak.
Chhlam Samuth, which translates as Sea Shark, was formed from the coalition between Wat Phnom and Phouchung Neak clubs before the Hun Sen Cup and seized the place in the Metfone C-League vacated by cash-strapped Khemara Keila by means of a three-team playoff last month.
Kim Pheakdey, general secretary of Chhlam Samuth, recognized the strength of today’s rivals.
“It won’t be an easy match. BBU did well in the league and cup, so we need to try our best,” he said.
Pov Samnang and Paul Olabode of Nigeria are set to make an impact upfront for the Navy affiliated team, while former Khemara trio Chhun Kirivatharo, Loch Ratha and San Thydeth, and former Phnom Penh Crown defender Ek Sovannara are also set to feature in the starting lineup.