Saturday sees a total of 15 goals scored in two CPL matches, including Crown’s confirming another top league finish courtesy of a stunning 6-3 win over Spark
A goal bonanza ensured Phnom Penh Crown kept their place at the top of the Cambodian Premier league. Striker Mohamadou Ousmanou netted a hat trick to answer that of Cambodian Premier League's leading marksman Prince Justine, who completed his first hat trick of the season but still couldn't prevent Spark from suffering defeat in their final game.
In many ways, a defeat in this game was a bitter pill for Spark to swallow, as they dominated proceedings for much of the match. Crown were out of sorts after their recent adventures in the Singapore Cup, and a victory looked on the cards for the newly promoted side.
Tunji Ayoyinka gave Crown the lead on 28 minutes with an easy tap-in after a blunder by Spark skipper Sun Sovanrotha. However, Crown were outbossed in midfield and found it impossible to shackle the rampant Justine. He was at the heart of Spark's best offensive moments, and there were many.
On 41 minutes, Justine was free in the six-yard box but leaned back and fired his shot wildly over the bar. A minute later, he made amends with a sublime first touch past Crown keeper Sos Brothim, rolling the ball into an empty net to finish off the move teammate Plong Chanthou had begun. Justine even had time before the interval to try his luck with an audacious scissor kick that flew agonisingly wide.
The second half opened to controversy. Justine's 25-yard free kick was fumbled by Sos Brothim, and Puth Savuth knocked in the rebound, only to see his effort disallowed by the assistant referee's flag. Despite Spark's furious protests, the decision stood, and a sense of injustice prevailed to ignite Spark into more pressure on the wilting Crown back line.
On the hour, Justine set off on one of his blistering trademark runs, left two defenders in his wake, and rolled the ball across the keeper and into the far corner to give his side the lead they deserved. It was his 20th goal of the season, in just 18 matches.
Sensing Spark's burning desire to topple the league leaders, Crown brought on two substitutes they'd kept in reserve, Chan Rithy and Keo Sokngorn, who then turned the game completely on its head.
At the start of a thrilling final 15 minutes, Crown levelled through Ousmanou, who calmly rolled the ball under Spark keeper Pouv Raksa after his fellow striker Tunji Ayoyinka outpaced his marker.
Within a minute, Chan Rithy's sweet left foot had left Pouv Raksa grasping thin air when his 20-yard free kick sailed into the top corner to restore Crown's lead.
Not to be outdone, Spark revived again, and after Plong Chanthou had missed a glorious chance, Justine embarrassed another two defenders with his speed and deft touch to complete his first hat trick of the season, with just six minutes remaining.
But two minutes later, Crown were back in front. Ousmanou returned the compliment to his striking partner, and Ayoyinka fired his shot under the body of Pov Raksa. With Spark visibly shaken, two more goals from Ousmanou at the death completed the remarkable comeback from Crown, who'd looked dead and buried earlier in the half.
Ayoyinka provided the pass for Ousmanou to score a minute. Then, in time added on, Chan Rithy's drive was too hot for the Spark keeper, and the Cameroonian struck home to notch up his own hat trick.
Crown, with a midweek game still to be played, will go into the Super 4 playoffs as the team in form, and in top spot in the final CPL standings.
MND 4 Phouchung Neak 2
National Defence Ministry (MND) earned themselves a fifth place finish and a sizeable sum of money with this crushing defeat over the already-relegated Navy team, Phouchung Neak.
The first half was dull and lifeless, although fans were somewhat immunised by the nine-goal thriller of the previous game.
The Army-Navy battle perked up right at the start of the second half, though, when Sin Dalin finished off a sweet cross from Phuong Soksana with less than a minute on the clock.
Dalin was at it again on the hour mark, after Nov Sokseila danced his way past defenders on another of his surging right-wing sprints.
On 65 minutes, Chhin Chhouern gave MND a three-goal lead with a thunderous 35 yard shot that left Navy keeper Thai Sineth no chance.
Joseph Olatubosn sparked a miniature revival from Phouchung Neak with a sweetly struck 20-yard drive on 70 minutes, only for MND substitute Um Kompheak to strike again, 10 minutes later, when Phuong Soksana's header rebounded off the crossbar.
The last word went to Olatubosn, who netted his second on 82 minutes, but it was too little too late, with his team well beaten by their military counterparts on the day.