Build Bright United survive a late assault on their goal to run out 3-2 winners over last year's champions Phnom Penh Crown Saturday while Khim Borey grabs a brace to push put Post Tel.
Khemera Keila forward Anthony Ali (front, red shirt) fends off a challenge from fellow Nigerian and PKR defender Alex Ikeduba at Olympic Stadium Saturday.
ROUND FOUR of the Cambodian Premier League at the weekend saw the three league leaders play for clear space at the top. Preah Khan Reach (PKR), Phnom Penh Crown and Kirivong Sok Sen Chey all started their games on six points with just a goal in aggregate separating the sides.
Up first at the Olympic Stadium Saturday were PKR, still high from their stunning upset of Phnom Penh Crown last Sunday, and pitted against Khemera Keila, who have yet to find their form.
PKR quickly took control with Nigerian player Olisa Onyemerea walking through a slumbering defence in the opening minutes to pass across the face of goal and find Prak Monyoudom for the simplest of tap-ins from 3 yards.
Khemera eventually did wake up to put considerable pressure on PKR, stringing together neat passes and creating opportunities at their opponent's end. Anthony Ali was proving a nuisance for the PKR defence, but his efforts at goal lacked the power and accuracy needed to really worry keeper Ouk Mich.
With PKR's Phea Piphub trying to dig out the ball from between his legs while on the ground Khemera's Ty Bunvicheth thought he'd assist, issuing an unsavoury set of kicks to his opposite number's nether region. The PKR man deservedly went in the referee's book while Phea Piphub writhed around in agony.
With seconds remaining in the half and Khemera pressing too high to level the score, PKR's Khuonla Boravy somehow found himself clean through with an entire half pitch of empty space to exploit. Despite a colleague clearly available in a square position, the forward seemed to overanalyse the situation, dribbling weakly too close to keeper Mak Theara, who pounced to smother the ball with a collective groan sweeping the stands.
Khemera came out shouting in the second half and were gifted a fortuitous penalty when an obvious case of ball-to-hand was misdiagnosed by the referee as handball in the area by Khuonla Boravy. Star striker Kuoch Sokumpheak stepped up to take the spotkick, coolly converting under the diving Ouk Mich.
PKR appeared to have the slight edge and, after nice buildup play, went ahead again through Samel Nasa who chased down a clever lofted ball by Khuonla Boravy to knock around the keeper and pass into the empty net. PKR maintained their advantage til the final whistle to take a deserved 2-1 win.
BBU topple Crown
In Saturday's later kickoff, Phnom Penh Crown - the most successful club in Cambodia of late with league and Cup titles to their name and riding on success in the Singapore Cup - were humbled for the second time in as many matches as a stoic Build Bright United (BBU) held on for a famous 3-2 victory.
Crown's standout Cameroonian striker Jean-Roger Lappe Lappe, who had netted three in his last two games, was sold to Thai Premier League club Samut Songkhram two weeks ago for an undisclosed fee, and Crown were clearly lacking his offensive prowess.
BBU capitalised on miscommunication between Crown keeper and defender who collided with each other to allow Prum Puthsethy to poke home the loose ball after seven minutes.
Crown were displaying skill and slick passing but couldn't match the gritty determination of a passionate BBU side.
A moment of madness from Crown's Oscar Mpoko saw him kick out at Un Viputh whilst they were both on the turf with studs catching the BBU player in the face. Astonishingly, the referee only brandished Mpoko with a yellow for what in the West would potentially be a career-ending act of violence (a la Eric Cantona). However, Un Viputh did seem to shake off the assault in double quick time, and the players shook hands later, during the interval.
Rising Crown hitman Keo Sokngorn was looking sharp as ever but failed to find his usual composure in between the sticks.
In the 32nd minute, BBU's Ek Vannak floated over a long cross to the far post towards Oriola Adeseye. The Nigerian produced an erudite head back across goal to find the head of teammate Prum Puthsethy who directed past keeper Peng Bunchay to double BBU's lead.
Crown, who have also been missing midfield maestro Srey Veasna through injury, were looking shell-shocked and a shadow of their former self with a sizeable crowd of "neutrals" loving every minute.
A momentary lapse in concentration gave BBU defender Inn Virak a scare when his wild swipe at a cross span off his boot to smack his own upright, and the rebounded effort by Keo Sokngorn cleared off the line. However, Inn Virak quickly tempered his teammates' nerves when his hoof from deep flew into the Crown box and found an unmarked Sem Bunny, who was gifted time to take touches to control and punt past keeper Peng Bunchay.
With the fans in dreamland over the 3-0 scoreline, you could sense one of those epic comebacks that has plagued Tottenham twice against Man United in recent years. Sure enough, Crown pegged one back just before half time through substitute Nigerian forward Tunji Ayoyinka.
After the break, Crown pushed hard to gain momentum but it was BBU's Adeseye who was shining brighter, his skill and power proving too hot to handle on numerous occasions but sadly unable to convert his chances.
Then, Crown drew back within one when a clumsy attempted clearance by BBU's Bun Sophea was turned into his own net off a Chan Rithy cross.
In probably the most enthralling finish to a CPL match so far this season, Crown threw the kitchen sink at the BBU goal in search of the equaliser, only to be denied by a heroic performance from keeper Hem Simay which included a sublime double save off shots from Chan Rithy and Chan Chhaya.
With the crowd cheering every successfully-thwarted Crown advance, BBU held on to their slender lead to deal yet another blow to Crown's defense of their CPL title.
Khim Borey back to best
On Sunday, National Defence Ministry (MND) continued their rich vein of form after a shaky start to the season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Post Tel Club. MND had suspended star striker and former club and national team captain Khim Borey, along with four other key players, for two years after a match-fixing scandal during the Samdech Hun Sen Cup. However, with club sponsor Moeung Samphan worried that club talent would leak to rival clubs, Khim Borey and colleagues have been reinstated in the line-up since last week. Indeed Khim Borey proved his worth, netting the only two goals of the game. His first, a spectacular freekick from 20 yards curled expertly over the wall, left the keeper no chance, and when Nov Sok Seila was tripped in the area by Post Tel's Phea Sopheaknimul, Khim Borey confidentally sent the keeper the wrong way from eleven metres.
Sunday's late game between Naga Corp and Kirivong was entertaining enough, but saw goal attempts few and far between. The decisive moment came in injury time of the first half, with Him Salam knocking in from close range off an In Vicheka pass. Kirivong then scraped through a scrappy second half to emerge 1-0 victors and claim a share of the CPL summit once again with PKR.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAM RITH
Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)