Phnom Penh Crown’s Bin Chantha Thierry (R) hits a ball as Kirivong Sok Sen Chey’s Touch Sok Heang pressures during the Hun Sen Cup third place playoff at Olympic Stadium, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
The seventh Samdech Hun Sen Cup concludes its ten-week campaign tomorrow with a highly anticipated grand final clash between Ministry of National Defence and NagaCorp from 4pm at Olympic Stadium.
Both sides have experience at the title decider, the Army team clinching the trophy in 2010, with Naga falling at the last hurdle on no less than three previous occasions. In both of their semi-finals, the teams battled back from one-goal deficits to eventually book their berths in the final via penalty shootouts.
Not only is Cambodia’s most coveted silverware on the line, but also the small matter of a 80 million riel ($20,081) winners cheque compared to 40 million riel for the runners-up.
Naga received some welcome news in the return to fitness of Choun Chum, last year’s top Cambodian striker who netted 18 goals in the Metfone C-League.
“The return of Choun Chum might help us feeling confident about winning the Hun Sen Cup for the first time,” Naga coach Lim Noun told the Post yesterday.
“Our strength will be that we have been at this point three times already and we know how it is to be in the final. Now all we have to do is win it with the offensive tactics we have prepared.”
MND, the side that kicked out top contenders Phnom Penh Crown in the penultimate round, said they had no concerns with their opponents for tomorrow’s final.
“We have many young players that are full of power, while NagaCorp rely on more experienced, older players. That means, for us, the longer the game goes on, the higher are our chances [of winning],” MND coach Op Sam An said.
“We know how Naga play, and we have a strategy planned. We won’t worry.”
With a 20 million riel swing in fortunes riding on the outcome, the pressure may be telling in tomorrow’s showdown.
Crown takes third place
After their heartbreaking loss in last week’s semi-final, Phnom Penh Crown stormed the field yesterday with a dominating performance over Kirivong Sok Sen Chey to win their third place playoff 3-0 and take home the 20 million riel bonus.
The absence of key striker Khim Borey was not of great importance in the early stages of the game as Leng Makara scored a header off a sublime corner kick from Sos Sohanna in the seventh minute.
Kirivong looked like they had been caught on the wrong foot for much of the first half, only staging a resemblance of a comeback in the latter part when coach Tep Long Rachana made two tactical substitutions to grant them more firepower up front.
Crown remained the stronger for the majority of the game, but were missing the clinical touch of their national team forward as they took until the 83rd minute to put the result beyond doubt.
Makara netted his second goal of the day with a stunning shot from 15 metres into the bottom left-hand corner. Two minutes later, and with the Takeo-based club already on their knees, Makara struck a cross to Hong Pheng, who’s volley left no chance for Kirivong keeper Kem Makara.
“All in all, it is a great success for us to have got so far in the tournament although disappointment still lingers because we had a great chance of entering the final that we didn’t take,” Crown coach Sam Schweingruber told the Post after the match yesterday.
“We are now looking forward to the rest of the MCL season and our goal is it to get into top four, which would take us into the playoffs – and from there everything is possible. It is still a long way off, but we are working hard to realise our goals.”
Bin Chantha Thierry, who was heavily criticised by his coach last week for a lack of discipline and teamwork during their semi-final match, got another chance to prove himself in the starting line-up.
“We talked to the player and it is not quite dealt with, as the general attitude of Bin Thierry sometimes collides with my understanding of teamwork, but we don’t want to overreact with our actions and it will be dealt with internally,” added Schweingruber.
To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Derbuc at [email protected]