Fluttering their wings like an excited bird, TriAsia Phnom Penh run into the Metfone C-League’s first foreign franchise Albirex Niigata in tomorrow’s twilight fixture at Olympic Stadium on the back of a surprising but deserving win over last year’s runners-up Boeung Ket Rubber Field.
It is reasonable to expect a sizeable presence of the city’s Japanese community for this floodlit show to cheer at least half a dozen of its players on the pitch from both sides.
The momentum is clearly with TriAsia after the way the team handled league heavyweights Boueng Ket, wrenching out a match winner late in the game.
TriAsia’s Japanese coach Daisuke Yoshioka is confident that the side will keep up its good work while cautioning his players against treating any opposition light.
Kihara Mazakazu is likely to spearhead the team’s attack with Tomohiro Masaki expected to keep a tight watch on midfield options.
Though Albirex are off to a patchy start with two successive defeats, the fact that the side has managed to score once against Boeung Ket and twice past Svay Rieng is an indication that the tide could turn in the weeks ahead.
Tomorrow’s first game features reigning champions Svay Rieng – last week’s runaway 6-2 winners over Albirex – facing Asia Europe University.
Meanwhile at the Old Stadium, the two fixtures tomorrow could be good value for money (even in the absence of entrance fees).
In the opener at 1:30pm, Boeung Ket take on National Police Commissary in what could be a testy encounter. The 2012 league champions are in a recovery mode after going down rather tamely to TriAsia, while the Police, who drew with Build Bright United 1-1 last week, are keen on holding their form.
Two-time champions and holders of the Hun Sen Cup, Naga Corp will be up against BBU, who have acquired this habit of springing surprises against higher-rated teams.
Naga coach Prak Sovannara struck a philosophical note after the side’s goalless draw against Kirivong Sok Sen Chey last week, contending that a team cannot expect to win if they don’t capitalise on their chances.
Sunday’s opening match involves Western University, recent 3-1 winners over AEU, and Ministry of National Defence, who put up a gutsy show against Phnom Penh Crown in a 1-1 draw last time out.
The late evening match-up between Crown and Kirivong should provide plenty to cheer about for those rooting for the teams from the stands.
A late equaliser from MND and a few chances that didn’t click could have left Crown somewhat disappointed with the 1-1 outcome last weekend, but if Swiss coach Sam Schweingruber’s bunch stick to their known strengths, Kirivong could find the going tough.
However, the visitors from Takeo, who have been lurking in mid-table for quite a while now, can hold their own against any side.
Kirivong may not have won anything big but one glorious reference point in the team’s campaign last year was that incredible 7-5 win over Boeung Ket after being four goals down. So the team is made of much sterner stuff than many give credit for.