Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen Cup quarterfinal ties to challenge sides' consistency

Hun Sen Cup quarterfinal ties to challenge sides' consistency

Hun Sen Cup quarterfinal ties to challenge sides' consistency

Kampong Chhnang’s Rithi Sen, the last provincial team left standing, will look to shatter National Defence Ministry’s semifinals dreams for yet another year

Preah Khan Reach’s Prak Monyoudom (centre, green) gets close attention from three Khemara Keila players during their Cambodian Premier League Super 4 playoffs semifinal at Olympic Stadium September 12, 2009.

THE remaining two quarterfinal fixtures, to be played on February 21, give some mouthwatering prospects in the 2010 Samdech Hun Sen Cup. One tie will create history for one of its clubs, as they advance to the semifinals for the first time, while the other tie sees a classic matchup between well-acquainted Cambodian Premier League rivals.

Rithi Sen v National Defence Ministry
National Defence Ministry (MND) have made the Samdech Hun Sen Cup quarterfinals for the fourth successive year, and will be looking to finally break through and claim a coveted place in the semifinals. This year they are presented with probably the best chance to do just that, as they face Cup novices Rithi Sen from Kampong Chhnang province.

The Army side advanced to the quarterfinals following a nervy 4-3 victory on penalties over provincial side Koh Kong. Rithi Sen became the first provincial team to grace the last eight round after a fascinating 4-2 win over Cambodian Premier League (CPL) side Kirivong Sok Sen Chey. That match lasted 120 minutes and saw two Kirivong men sent off.

Hor Sok Heng, assistant coach of MND, goes into the quarterfinal tie humbled by the previous round. “We thought that provincial side Koh Kong would not be difficult for us, but we couldn’t score any goals against them and only won because of penalties,” he asserted. “We will now meet Rithi Sen, which will be a big challenge for us, so we need to play with determination.”

The coach also revealed two injury concerns for MND. “Midfielder Nov Soseila picked up a problem with his ankle when playing for the national team against South Koreans side Ulsan University [January 23], and his injury became more serious while playing against Koh Kong [last Saturday]. Defender Khek Khemarin has a calf muscle strain.

“Presently, we are not certain whether either can help the team in the upcoming match or not, but we need take care of them and hope that they will be fit soon,” said Hor Sok Heng.

National Defence Ministry’s Khek Khemarin plays during the last 16 Cup match against Koh Kong last Saturday.
National Defence Ministry’s Khek Khemarin plays during the last 16 Cup match against Koh Kong last Saturday.

Tam Matt, coach of Rithi Sen, was enthused by his team’s triumphant shock result. “We defeated the Takeo provincial side [Kirivong Sok Sen Chey] in Division A2, and now we’ve beaten them again,” he exclaimed. “I recognize that Kirivong Sok Sen Chey is a strong team, and we won over them because two of their players were sent off. We will next meet MND in the quarterfinals. Do we scare them? I don’t think so. With a big team such as MND, we will need to use all our energy.”

Tam Matt was given confidence that during the preliminary round, MND had registered a flattering 4-0 win against Kampong Chhnang side DATE after a goalless first half, but Rithi Sen had knocked in more than 10 against the same side during a friendly. In fact, the coach was already thinking about the next round.

“Some of my players will need to play carefully because they received yellow cards from the previous match, especially Ly Chem, our specialist in the central position,” Tam Matt said. The coach also applauded the contribution of supporters, some of whom had traveled from Kampong Chhnang to watch the previous game. “The fans are considered our 12th player on the field,” Tam Matt said. “Our players will do the best because of the moral support from the fans.”

Preah Khan Reach v Khemara Keila
Preah Khan Reach (PKR) and Khemara Keila both reached the quarterfinals thanks to resounding 5-0 victories over Oddar Meanchey and Prek Pra Keila respectively. There will be little that the teams don’t know about each other, having met in two out of three previous tournaments and clashed regularly in CPL fixtures.

Khemara won the first of their Cup ties back in 2007 with a thrilling 5-3 scoreline in the last 16 stage on the way to clinching the trophy. The following year, PKR claimed sweet revenge in the semifinal, beating Khemara 5-4 on penalties, although they lost the final 1-0 to Phnom Penh Crown. Last year, Khemara [playing as Ranger FC] were knocked out by Naga Corp in the quarterfinals, whereas PKR won third place after stomping Phouchung Neak 3-0 in the playoffs.

Results from the past two CPL seasons have the clubs tied at two wins apiece, although Khemara have a slender two-goal aggregate advantage. Khemara will also be boosted by the return from suspension of last year’s Golden Boot winner Kuoch Sokumpheak, who amassed 21 goals in the previous competition.

Despite financial difficulties, Khemara have signed new players including Ouk Chheng Hoat from Post Tel Club, Sok Pheng from National Defence Ministry, and Soun Makara from quarterfinal opponents PKR. “I hope that my boys will make me smile, even though some new players have yet to integrate fully in the club,” said Khemara manager, Lah Salakhan. “But we’ll keep them busy training during our preparations.”

Prak Sovannara, head coach of PKR, sees the match against historic rivals Khemara as a test. “Khemara have a good record in Cambodian football – they are also runners-up of the 2009 CPL – so we will face a big challenge,” he said. “Our team members need to work together and push the players to focus on training.”

The PKR coach affirmed that his squad members are currently free from injury, and that two former Khemara players, Peas Sothy and Ung Kanyanith – who was appointed as coach of Khemara last year – will play against their old employer.

Meanwhile, PKR captain Samel Nasa said he has high hopes that his side will overcome Khemara, as half of the PKR side boast national team experience.

Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)


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