Crown’s Oladiji Olatunde (R) vies with Naga’s Om Thavrak during their MCL match at Olympic Stadium, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
Unmarked Leng Makara brought Phnom Penh Crown springing back to life with a stunning 87th minute equaliser as the former champions forced an honourable 1-1 draw against recent Hun Sen Cup winners Naga Carp in their Metfone C-League tie at Olympic Stadium yesterday.
Minutes before the Crown midfielder restored parity by slotting home substitute Khim Borey’s splendid cross, the four-time champions had endured a shocking penalty miss by Bin Thierry, Naga goalkeeper Phorn Ratana superbly anticipating the spotkick to his left.
Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber brought in two of his most experienced players Khim Borey and Kouch Sokumpheak, who was making his first appearance after months on the sidelines with injury, for the last half an hour of the game. The move paid handsome dividends as Khim Borey played a huge part in his side’s bold recovery.
It was the national team striker’s dash into the box that had forced two Naga defenders to tug him down at the cost of a penalty and it was his assist which eventually altered the course of the contest by earning a valuable point in the end when the side was in danger of conceding three.
If it wasn’t for Phorn Ratana's heroics, Crown would have been in a much happier state solely because they showed greater verve in attacks and were decidedly more creative.
Yet, time and again the Naga goaltender stood firmly in the way.
Early in the first half, Crown spearhead Oladiji Olatunde saw his on-the-run effort foiled and then it was Heng Pheng’s turn to suffer the same fate twice with both having goal written all over them.
Naga’s African signing Ishola Abiodun had taken his team to the front 11 minutes into the first half when his fast wing play left the Crown backline in a quandary, forcing goalkeeper Samrith Seiha to dash out of his charge in desperation more out of raw courage than confidence.
The result proved disastrous as the Naga winger had packed enough punch into his final thrust before running into Seiha to see the ball roll about 20 yards into the net, beating two defenders who had by then retraced their steps.
The Cup winners and two-time league champions grimly held on to that lead. Either by accident or design they managed to keep their goal intact until those frenzy moments broke their resolve. Ironically, Abiodun had the best chance of all to double the Naga lead late in the second half but he unaccountably missed a sitting duck from close range.
There were some injury concerns for Naga, the most troubling being their star midfielder Chun Chum, who had to be pulled out after an hour on the pitch. Kop Isa and Sun Sovanarithy were also casualties in the action.
Army snatch share of points
Undeterred by their rivals’ reputation and robust tactics, newcomers Senate Secretariat had the Ministry of National Defence by the scruff of their neck before the Army men wriggled out with an 89th-minute goal for a 1-1 draw in yesterday’s second fixture at Olympic Stadium.
The Hun Sen Cup runners-up behind Naga Corp unexpectedly ran into rough weather after Senate stormed into the lead in the 36th minute through a penalty conversion by Phea Sopheaknimol.
After a prolonged struggle, MND found a way out of the tight corner, with Pum Tola levelling the scores minutes from the final whistle.
Boeung Ket win it late
Reigning Metfone C-League champions Boeung Ket Rubber Field remained undefeated in this year’s title defence by edging Kirivong Sok Sen Chey 2-1 on Saturday in a dramatic encounter at the Old Stadium.
With star goal-getter Chan Vathanaka starting on the bench with a slight fever and five more regulars unfit to start, Boeung Ket nevertheless began in dominating fashion but appeared to lack the determination needed to capitalise on their many opportunities.
Kirivong, with a stripped-down squad following a six-man exodus from the club after they finished fourth in the Samdech Hun Sen Cup earlier in the month, weren’t going to take the game sitting down and managed to grab the lead through Heng Kimhong.
Boeung Ket coach Prak Vuthy reacted by bringing on the poorly Chan Vathanaka at the end of the first half, and it was a case of one-way traffic in the second session as the Kampong Cham outfit pressed hard for an equaliser.
With fifteen minutes left on the clock, Nigerian import Bisan George spread relief among Beoung Ket fans by blasting a shot from 15 metres out into the lower left-hand corner.
With players and spectators resigned to a draw, three minutes of added-on time allowed Deguleh Momoh to find fellow African Chukwuma Ohuorougo, who gave the keeper no chance with his vicious strike to end the tie in favour of the champions.
BBU scrape out a draw
The two university-backed teams, Build Bright United and Asia Europe University, put their training to the test at Olympic Stadium on Saturday in an intriguing 1-1 draw. After a scoreless first half, AEU nudged ahead via a goal from Sary Mathnorotin on 56 minutes.
The Preah Vihear side tasted victory, but in a final twist in the tale Kao Viso stepped up to net the leveller for BBU in the 95th minute.
An Jinya claims matchball
National Police Commissary’s Japanese import, An Jinya, scored a sublime hat-trick for his new team in their impressive 5-1 victory against Preah Khan Reach at Olympic Stadium on Saturday.
A rapid-fire double by the free-roaming Jinya in the first half was augmented by a third just past the hour mark.
Khuon Laboravy reduced the deficit for PKR on 79 minutes, but the Police’s victory was never in doubt as Tith Dina and former national player Srey Odom got their names on the score sheet late on.