Photo by: Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)
Players from Phnom Penh Crown (left, in red) and Naga Corp (right, in blue) argue with match official Doun Sochit during their semifinal.
PHNOM Penh Crown saw their bid to retain the Cambodian Premier League title take a knockout blow Saturday, as they fell 2-0 to 2007 champions Naga Corp. The players and coaches, however, pointed the finger at decisions by the referee to disallow two goals that would have drawn them level on two occasions.
“The referee robbed us of this game,” retorted Crown’s Cameroonian striker Mohamodou Ousmanou after the game. “Our goals were clean, yet the referee didn’t give us them.”
Compatriot Oscar Mpoko also felt the officiating favoured Naga. “We tried hard to come back, but it was glaringly obvious that the referee was out to frustrate us,” he remarked.
Thailand-born head coach Apisit Im Amphai also supported the players’claims of referee bias, but admitted that his side had been suffering from fatigue due to a hectic recent schedule including competition in the Singapore Cup.
“My players were tired,” he said. “The trip to Singapore and so many games in the season affected our performance.
“I am angry because many times Chan Rithy was fouled, but referees didn’t do anything. They did not support my team. They should be 50-50,” he said.
Chan Rithy, however, was diplomatic in his reaction to the loss.
“That’s football,” he said. “We tried, but our best was not good enough. We will try to win next time.”
Meanwhile, former Preah Khan Reach (PKR) player and coach Hok Socheatra blamed the club’s failure to reach to the final Saturday on the current coaching staff’s decision to rotate the squad midway through the season.
“I think the technical crew got it wrong,” he opined. “They made so many changes, which affected the team.”
PKR manager Rith Dikar was clearly distraught at his side’s defeat to Khemara Keila on Saturday, declining comment after final whistle.
At the other dugout, Khemara coach and former captain Ung Kanyanith showed he was ecstatic in victory, as his players crowded around him in celebration.
“We are happy to win today,” he grinned. “I hope we can be champions again.”