Kirivong’s Heng Kimhong (right) volleys under pressure from BBU’s Run Rany during their MCL match on Saturday. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
Defending Metfone C-League champions Boeung Ket Rubber Field kept the national team on the hop after an early strike, but head coach Prak Sovannara’s men got their act together in the second half to complete a 2-1 win in the friendly at Olympic Stadium on Friday.
Ahead of their departure on Wednesday to Manila for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers, the tune-up fixture did the national camp some good, but also left Sovannara with a puzzling question or two as to the composition of his final squad.
Striker Keo Sokngorn found the net for Boeung Ket 15 minutes into the game to strongly push his claims for a late inclusion, but not only did his effort fail to win the game for the league champs, it also did not help him to force the national coach to rethink on his selection.
Midway through the second half, Soun Veasna equalised for Cambodia and three minutes before the final whistle, Sok Rithy struck the match winner to bring some cheer to the national side.
After the game Sovannara, who is into his second term as head coach after a stint in 2009, said his task in the next few days would be to prune the list of 25 probables down to the final 22 for the Philippines trip.
Two wins, the first against a touring Malaysian U23 team here in Phnom Penh, in the weeks before going to Manila could be two good reasons for the coach to be optimistic of his team’s chances of qualification.
In a way, history also backs his confidence because he is the only coach so far to have taken Cambodia to the Suzuki Cup proper where other foreign coaches had failed.
Goalless gridlock in MCL
With the national camp luring away players from top clubs, MCL matches involving six teams had to be postponed until the return of the Cambodian team from Manila, leaving just two fixtures at Olympic Stadium intact for the weekend.
Saturday saw two evenly matched sides, Build Bright United and Kirivong Sok Sen Chey, play out their second-round fixture weeks in advance.
There were no goals and few thrills for the two mid-divisioners, though Kirivong carried a regret that they could not reproduce their first-round form that had given them 4-1 victory when the two met on March 2.
The goal-less gridlock between the visitors from Takeo and the University-backed side meant that both have a mountain to climb in their search for one of the four lucrative spots of contention for the Super 4 play-offs.
AEU smash fellow newcomers
In their debut season, Asia Europe University are faring far beyond expectations and the side credited with a few plucky displays in the last few months proved too wily and strong for table trailers Senate Secretariat yesterday.
The University lads won 3-0 after taking the break with a two-goal advantage while keeping their sheet clean.
Some smart work saw Seuy Visal open the scoring and two minutes before the breather Moun Nara doubled the lead.
Although Senate managed to keep their rivals quiet, AEU broke through yet again, this time Thun Darapich in the 64th minute to take a stranglehold of the tie.