Reigning champions Naga Corp capture the league lead on Sunday with a 2-1 victory over Prek Pra Keila; Khemara Keila emerge victorious after a magnificent 3-2 match with MND
Naga Corp’s Meas Channa (centre, white shirt) gets tackled by Prek Pra Keila goalkeeper Yok Ary (right) during their Metfone C-League match at Olympic Stadium Sunday.
Khemara Keila’s Kun Kuon (left) challenges National Defence Ministry’s Khim Borey during their Metfone C-League game Sunday.
Photo by: Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)
Naga Corp continued their relentless march towards retaining their Metfone C-League title with another no frills, workmanlike victory over Prek Pra Keila Sunday to retake top spot in the table.
They always had too much in reserve for the league newcomers, who’ve found life in the upper strata of Cambodian football a struggle. And in Joseph Oyewole, Naga undoubtedly have one of the classiest performers in the league. His non-stop, all-action midfield mastery and his presence in the opposition penalty area are a major threat in every game he plays.
Naga had to wait until the half hour mark before they made their dominance count. A raking pass from Oyewole put Meas Channa away on the right flank, and his teasing centre was despatched on the volley by Teab Vathanak from six yards out.
Put Sotheara gave the vociferous Prek Pra supporters something to cheer about just before the break, when he knocked the ball into the Naga net only to see referee Doung Socheat rule it out and caution him for a handball.
Two minutes after the interval, Prek Pra and Put Sotheara were able to celebrate properly when the winger notched the equaliser. Mat Hasan set up Dennis Nwaizu for a shot on goal, but his drive was half blocked before falling to Sotheara, who made no mistake from close range.
That stung Naga into action, and it was Teab Vathanak who was on hand again just four minutes later to recover the lead. Pho Sophy’s surging run took him past three Prek Pra defenders and his accurate cross was headed in by Vathanak for his eleventh goal of the season. He now shares top billing with Kirivong’s Julius Chukwumeka in the race for the Golden Boot goalscoring award.
Naga easily rebuffed Prek Pra’s attempts to force a draw, while both Vathanak and Meas Channa fluffed guilt-edged opportunities to increase the lead with Prek Pra goalkeeper Yok Ary equal to their efforts on both occasions.
At the other end Mak Theara in the Naga goal was lucky to escape without censure when he deliberately kicked Dennis Nwaizu in the chest in the final action of the match. With another three points in the bag, Naga now sit a couple of points above Build Bright United at the head of the Metfone C-League table.
Khemara Keila 3 MND 2
The National Defence Ministry (MND) roadshow, which saw them lift the Hun Sen Cup at the beginning of the season, has struck a rocky patch and Khemara Keila were the latest team to benefit. Khemara themselves had an awful first half of the Metfone C-League campaign and will be buoyed by Sunday’s success, which they hope can signal a change in their fortunes.
With a strong wind in their favour at Olympic Stadium, the Army team pressed on early, and from one of their half dozen corners Khemara’s debutant goalkeeper Hong Vi Sokra suffered a knock that left him motionless on the floor for five minutes. He recovered with a bandage around his head and nursing four stitches in a cut chin but could little to prevent the Army taking the lead on 27 minutes.
A hopeful punt forwards caught the Khemara defence in disarray and Suong Virak struck a screamer of a shot on the turn that sailed over Hong Vi Sokra’s bandaged head from 25 yards out.
With a minute remaining on the clock in the first half, Khemara were grateful for a flukey equaliser. Ek Vannak’s volleyed effort struck the knee of Army defender Thong Oudom before ricocheting off the head of Paris Zidougha and cannoning into the net.
Khemara then scored again two minutes into additional time, when Suon Makara’s first effort was blocked by Rang Borin but the lanky striker recovered quickly to fire past Sou Yaty at the goalkeeper’s near post to give his side a shock lead.
The Army made two substitutions at the start of the second half, with a debut handed to central defender Om Thavarak, but it was Khemara keeper Hong Vi Sokra who was again in the thick of the action just seven minutes after the break. As he collected the ball close to his goal, he lashed out at Suong Virak with both feet in a karate-style kick that should’ve resulted in his dismissal and a penalty. However, referee Sreng Haody saw the incident in a different light and incredulously gave Khemara a free kick.
Twenty minutes into the second half and Suon Makara was on target again to further Khemara’s advantage. Chhun Kirivatharo’s cross was cleared by Om Thavarak as far as the edge of the box before Makara struck it sweetly into the far corner and led his teammates on a celebratory dance.
With Khmeara happy to see the game out, MND refused to give up and were appealing for another penalty four minutes from full time. It was Hong Vi Sokra again, who clumsily barged into Khek Khemarin from behind to send him sprawling, but referee Haody gave the free-kick to Khemara. Sokra injured himself again in the incident and was replaced by Ly Sokheng.
In the fourth minute of additional time, Phuong Soksana headed in a Lorn Sotheara corner at the near post to reduce the scoreline but Naga’s comeback efforts were cut short by the final whistle as Khemara’s players rejoiced in their rare success.