Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Man-down Crown grind out victory; MND pull back Spark

Man-down Crown grind out victory; MND pull back Spark

Man-down Crown grind out victory; MND pull back Spark

Phnom Penh Crown held on for a 2-1 win over Khemara Keila Wednesday, while National Defence Ministry overcame a two-goal deficit to draw with Spark FC

National Defence Ministry’s Sin Dalin (left) skips over a sliding tackle from Spark FC’s Puth Savuth during their Cambodian Premier League match Wednesday at Olympic Stadium.

AFTER being reduced to 10 men for the entire second half of their Cambodian Premier League clash against arch rivals Khemara Keila, Phnom Penh Crown showed exactly the grit and determination that has taken them back to the top of the table, and which won them the championship last season, with a 2-1 win Wednesday.

On a threadbare playing surface, Crown began the game in confident fashion and could've opened the scoring as early as the sixth minute, when Srey Veasna was denied by a last-ditch tackle on the goal-line by Joel Omoraka. Four minutes later they opened their account, when Chan Rithy danced his way past two defenders, one of which was his younger brother Chan Dara, and confidently sidefooted his effort past Khemara goalkeeper Mak Theara.

Khemara came back strongly, and a couple of opportunities came the way of their star striker Kuoch Sokumpheak, who wasted both of them on a day he'd presumably rather forget.

With the Khemara captain having an off day, it was left to strike partner Nelson Oladiji to grab the spotlight, when he headed in a Loch Ratha corner to equalize, five minutes before half-time.

A minute before the interval, Kuoch Sokumpheak went over in a heap, and the referee brought out a second yellow card followed by a red for Crown defender Lor Pichseila , who protested all the way to the dressing room.

Crown responded by bringing on national U-19 captain and young starlet Keo Sokngorn, and within five minutes of the restart he cashed in on some slack defensive marking to head in a free kick floated into the area by Ek Sovannara. Sokngorn had been doubtful for the game with a knee strain after playing three games for the U-19 team in Vietnam last week, but made his presence felt immediately with his undoubted flair.

Phnom Penh Crown's Oscar Mpoko (left) fends off the challenge from Khemara Keila’s Tiab Chandarasokha during their CPL clash Wednesday at Olympic Stadium.

With the wind knocked out of their sails, Khemara never fully recovered, finding it impossible to take advantage of their numerical superiority, though both sides created guilt-edged chances as the game ebbed and flowed from end to end.

For Crown, Chan Chhaya and Srey Veasna were guilty of not increasing their team's lead even further, though for Khemara, Chhun Kirivutharo, David Adeyinka and Loch Ratha will be kicking themsleves that they didn't do better when their opportunities arose.

The win for Crown takes them back to the top of the table with a two point lead over Preah Khan Reach, while Khemara remain in third.

MND 2-2 Spark FC
This was a tale of the Spark FC's top shot Prince Justine doing what he does best, and a comeback by the Ministry of National Defence team (MND) who'd looked dead and buried until an unlikely hero struck three minutes from the end.

In the first half, Prince Justine, with his own shoot-on-sight policy, found MND goalkeeper Samreth Seiha in defiant mood, having just reclaimed his place at the expense of the injured Sou Yaty. Justine showed off his thunderbolt shooting from all angles, but Samrith Seiha was up to the task at hand, and gave no quarter to the Nigerian marksman, who leads the CPL's scoring charts.

The duel continued after the half time interval, and it was Justine who came out on top after just two minutes from the restart. MND conceded a free kick on the edge of the penalty box, dead center and as Justine unleashed a thunderous drive, the defensive wall disintegrated leaving Samreth Seiha stranded and the ball rocketing into the net.

Phnom Penh Crown's Chan Chhaya (left) holds off Khemara Keila’s Chhun Kirivuntharo during their CPL match Wednesday.

MND were in danger of losing their cool, when Sin Dalin should've been sent for an early bath after leaving his studs in the leg of Spark defender Oung Saboros.

On 63 minutes, Spark and Justine were at it again. This time Samreth Seiha was penalised for carrying the ball out of his area, and Justine fired another of his trademark free-kick scorchers past the wall, and past the unsighted keeper for his 15th goal of the season, rounded off with a customary backward somersault.

Within a couple of minutes, MND grabbed a lifeline when Um Kompheak stole in unnoticed to head home a Pheak Rady corner.
Spark had switched off and were made to pay, and in Nov Sokseila, MND had the game's most valuable player, terrorizing the Spark defence for the rest of the second half.

With three minutes left on the clock, Nov Sokseila danced his way down the right wing and sent over the most perfect cross imaginable. MND substitute Thong Oudom, who'd been thrown on up front in a desperate search for an equaliser, duly obliged by rising above everyone else and sending his header into the net to ignite a mass celebration by the MND bench. It was a fitting conclusion to a gritty comeback by the Army team.

Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)


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