The 2011 Samdech Hun Sen Cup competition welcomes the last 16 teams to Phnom Penh for the knockout rounds starting tomorrow. We preview the first four clashes at Olympic Stadium set for this weekend.
Prek Pra Keila v Battambang
Saturday January 22 - 2pm
Both teams see the best chance of claiming their first quarterfinals berth this year after previous defeats at this stage against top names. Battambang’s only appearance in the last 16 saw them concede an embarrassing 10 goals to no reply against Post Tel Club in 2009.
Prek Pra manager Sith Roset is confident his team will advance despite the suspension of defender Sos Hanafi. “Battambang won’t be a difficult obstacle [for us] because we know their tactics well after observing their last match against Build Bright United,” said Roset.
Midfielder Sen Soukey has been in sparkling form during the group stage, and will be a key player for Prek Pra.
Meanwhile, Bun Borann, general secretary of Battambang asserted that his young squad wouldn’t give their opponents an easy ride. “If Prek Pra play like they did against Banteay Meanchey, we could overcome them,” he said. “We have many young players with great speed.”
However, Battambang’s first choice goalkeeper will miss the tie after being sent off in the previous match.
Build Bright United v Rithy Sen
Saturday January 22 - 4:30pm
Progression to the quarterfinals seems a formality for Build Bright United, having done so on each of the four previous occasions, while Kampong Chhnang outfit Rithy Sen surprised everyone last season by eliminating Kirivong Sok Sen Chey 4-2.
BBU coach Meas Sam Oeurn is happy with the performance of his news recruits Keo Chea and Heng Sok Ly, with the latter leading the team’s scoring charts on 8 goals. “When I can not use Nuth Sinoun, Sok Ly is my best choice in the attack,” said the coach. “I won’t underestimate Rithy Sen, but I believe that we will win.”
Best goalkeeper award winner in 2009, Hem Simay, has recovered from a shoulder injury but the coach has voiced concerned over his weight.
Rithi Sen coach Tam Matt is hoping his side can produce another memorable upset.
“We will try to win the game, even if we are not 100 percent sure of victory,” he said, adding that midfielder Ouk Channarith was their star man.
San Osman will not feature against BBU tomorrow after suffering a injury to his left hand.
Preah Khan Reach v Neak Khiev
Sunday January 23 - 2pm
Things certainly haven’t been made easy for Neak Khiev as they are pitted against three-time Cup finalists Preah Khan Reach.
The Kampong Cham side showed potential in the first half of their group match against heavyweights Phnom Penh Crown before letting the floodgates open to lose 4-0.
“We did well in the group stage, so we will repeat it against Preah Khan Reach,” said Neak Khiev coach Vorn Vibol. “If Preah Khan Reach use their young squad against us, we will win the game.”
PKR General Secretary Ork Samnang said that the tie posed little problems for them. “We don’t worry at all about Neak Khiev,” he said. “We know well their weakness in attack and defence.”
More goals are expected from national team striker Khuon Laboravy, who amassed 13 in the group stage.
“He will be top scorer of the tournament if he keeps up his strong commitment,” added Samnang.
Phnom Penh Crown v Chhlam Samuth
Sunday January 23 - 4:30pm
Chhlam Samuth (formerly Phouchung Neak) will hope to claim sweet revenge over Phnom Penh Crown, who ousted them 1-0 in the exact same fixture last year.
In 2009, the Navy side reached the semifinals in their best Cup run to date, while reigning league champions Crown have yet to fail to make the last 4 in a Cup campaign.
Crown’s newly appointed head coach Bojan Hodak has returned to the Kingdom after missing all of the group matches while taking a coaching course in his homeland of Croatia. He offered a note of caution ahead of Sunday’s tie.
“We have to be careful. [Chhlam Samuth] gave Preah Khan Reach a hard time, only losing two-nil in the group stage. This is the Cup, and we all know that anybody can beat anyone else in a one-off game.”
However, the coach assured that everyone in his team were “fit and raring to go.”
There still remains some doubt over the eligibility to play of former National Defence Ministry players Khim Borey and Suong Virak, who were forced to sit out of the group games due of a Cambodian Football Federation enforced ban.
Tieng Tiny, Sun Sopanha and Chan Chaya will rejoin the squad on Sunday after serving one-match suspensions in the previous match. Hitman Kouch Sokumpheak will be looking to add to his eight-goal personal tally.
Chhlam Samuth coach Chay Sangha recognised his side faced a formidable challenge in overcoming the two-time Cup winners, especially considering they will be without three key players – two with injury and one suspended.
“However, I expect a 50 percent that we can win,” he said. “We’ve worked hard. My striker Pov Samnang, who has now seven goals, will make it difficult for Phnom Penh Crown.”