THE weekend was bursting with local football action from the 2010 Samdech Hun Sen Cup preliminary round matches played at the four centers of Siem Reap, Battambang, Svay Rieng and Kep. Almost all of the Phnom Penh heavyweights, including Phnom Penh Crown, Build Bright United, National Defense Ministry, Khemara Keila, Naga Corp, and Preah Khan Reach, registered prefect records from their opening matches, while Cambodian Premier League dropouts Post Tel look set for a shock exit.
Post Tel, who had made the quarterfinals in 2009, succumbed to a 2-1 loss to home team Kep Thursday, and were then put on the receiving end of a 6-0 drubbing by Koh Kong province Saturday. They will have to win both of their remaining games to stand a chance at qualifying for the knockout stage in the capital.
Navy backed side Phouchung Neak recorded a remarkable Cup run in 2009, making the semifinals, which impressed the football federation enough to grant them Premier League status, after Kampot province had relinquished their promotion place due to a lack of funding.
On Friday in Kep, Phouchung were held to a 0-0 stalemate by CPL side Kirivong Sok Sen Chey, and then scratched out a 2-0 win against Life University Sunday. Kirivong went level on points but top on goal difference of group E Sunday after battering Kampot province 6-0. With Kampot claiming a vital point thanks to a 1-1 draw with Life University, it is still technically possible for any team to advance, and Tuesday’s fixtures could provide some sparks.
In Battambang, reigning champions Phnom Penh Crown took control of group A with victories from both their games. They dispatched hosts Battambang Province 4-0 Thursday before thrashing the Pailin team 7-0 Saturday.
Kampong Chhnang outfit Rithisen recorded a huge 12-1 win over Banteay Meanchey Province Thursday, a scoreline that was astonishingly mirrored by Chhma Khmao over Kratie Province in Svay Rieng the same day.
Tam Matt, coach of Rithysen, was delighted at the result, but noted three tough games came up. “Banteay Meanchey is a weak team and we won easily, but with Battambang, Pailin, and especially cup holders Phnom Penh Crown will be difficult,” he told the Post by phone. “I can see neither positives nor negatives in the next matches, but I keep pushing my boys to do their best. However, we know already that Phnom Penh Crown will go ahead in this group.”
Battambang picked themselves up from the Crown defeat to inflict further misery on Banteay Meanchey Saturday, with the host side winning 3-1.
In Siem Reap, Red Lion FC (Tor Krahom) are already eliminated following two defeats, while the three other teams in group C; Build Bright United, Prek Pra Keila and Preah Vihear; are still in the hunt for the top two places. In the opening ties Thursday, Build Bright United (BBU) smashed Preah Vihear 6-0, while Prek Pra Keila defeated Red Lion 2-0. BBU and Prek Pra Keila then played out a 0-0 draw Saturday to take a share of the lead on four points each, while Preah Vihear kept themselves in it with a 3-2 victory over Red Lion.
“BBU is one of the big teams but they couldn’t score any goal against us,” said El Fatel, coach of Prek Pra Keila. “I’m so confident in my team, and hope that we will beat Preah Vihear in our last preliminary round match [at 4:15pm today]. I believe that we will travel to Phnom Penh with BBU.” Prek Pra Keila will also join the university side in the CPL this coming season.
In Kep, group F was left wide open, with four teams on three points. Wat Phnom, formerly Spark FC and the surprise package of last year’s CPL, won their fixture with Kang Reach Sey 1-0 Thursday. Kang Reach Sey then restored face with a victory 2-1 over hosts Kep Saturday.
“The low-standard field caused difficulties for all teams in our group,” bemoaned Kang Reach Sey manager Hul Sakda. “Our loss to Wat Phnom was just unlucky. However, I believe in the performance of my youngsters in the next two fixtures. They will overcome this preliminary round and make the last-16 stage in Phnom Penh.”
Svay Rieng games saw group H favourites Preah Khan Reach book their place in the next round by means of 4-3 wins against BB World Thursday, and local side Chhma Khmao Saturday. Kratie Province were given no chance of qualifying after a 12-1 trouncing by Chhma Khmao Thursday and a 7-1 rout from BB World Saturday.
The stage is now set for a crucial clash today between Chhma Khmao and BB World, with the home side needing just a draw while the latter needs all three points. “BB World have many youngsters who play with determination, but I hope that my players will do better to obtain victory for the club,” said Pin Dara, coach of Chhma Khmao who have also been promoted to the CPL this year. “I believe that we will qualify with Preah Khan Reach.”
In Battambang, Ministry of National Defense (MND) and Mekong Kampuchea University clinched their places in the next round after both registered two wins out of two. MND pushed past Pursat 4-2 Sunday after treating Kampong Chhnang club DATE (Development and Appropriate Technology) to a 4-0 lesson. Mekong Kampuchea University had beaten Pursat 3-1 Friday before sealing qualification with a 2-1 victory over DATE Sunday.
“Now we are looking forward to victory in the next stage,” said MND assistant coach Hor Sok Heng, adding that he was happy that none of his players have contracted injury. Current CPL champions Naga Corp made sure of advancement Sunday with a 12-0 rampage against Kampong Thom in Siem Reap Sunday. Despite a 5-2 loss to Naga Friday, Oddar Meanchey still have a chance of making the knockout round after beating hosts Siem Reap 1-0 Sunday. “I can’t predict the result, but I hope that my team will win over Kampong Thom in our last match Tuesday,” said Koeu Slaymann, manager of the Oddar Meanchey team.
Despite their deep financial problems, Khemara Keila breezed through their first two games at Svay Rieng to qualify from group G. A 5-0 feast against Prey Veng Friday was followed up with an 8-0 destruction of Kandal Province.
“The organising committee did not follow the schedule which had been set up, so we made some wrong preparations,” revealed Khemara manager Lah Salakhan. “However, we are already qualified, so I’m happy about that.”
With Arizon Cambodia already out of the running after two losses, Kandal Province and Prey Veng clash today will decide who joins Khemara Keila in Phnom Penh February 7.