Photo by: Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)
Preah Khan Reach’s Khounla Boravy (right) sprints past Phnom Penh Crown’s Kuy Tha during their third place playoff Saturday.
A MATCH that started brightly for the reigning Cambodian Premier League champions Phnom Penh Crown descended into farce, and could’ve resulted in them forfeiting the game when they walked off the pitch with a minute of the first half still to play. Manager Makara Be called his players off after referee Khoun Vireak had booked Keo Sokngorn for a late tackle and, as Preah Khan Reach (PKR) took the resulting free kick, the match official blew his whistle to end the half, before the ball rolled into the empty net.
Chaotic scenes followed, on the touchline and in the grandstand, as officials, players and fans vented their anger at each other. After half an hour cooling-off period, the referee re-appeared with a security escort. Crown agreed to continue and the second half began, though the leniency shown by match officials and the football federation to Crown was more than they deserved.
The match, to decide the third- and fourth-place rankings in the CPL, was just eight minutes old when Crown took the lead. A vicious inswinging corner from the right by Chan Rithy caught PKR keeper Ouk Mich by surprise, and he could only help the ball on its way into the net.
That was about as good as it got for Crown, as PKR took control and dominated the rest of the game. On 32 minutes, Keo Kosal’s presence in their box caused panic in the Crown defence, and Ek Sovannara made a hash of his headed clearance, giving Samal Nasa a simple tap-in from close range.
Then, after Keo had blasted over from close range, PKR took the lead with two minutes of the first half remaining. Lay Raksmey and Keo combined to provide a perfect cross for substitute Khuonla Boravy to send a bullet header past the helpless Crown keeper Peng Bunchhay. As the fourth official lifted his board to show one minute of additional time, Keo Sokngorn was booked, and in the ensuing melee the Crown team well called off to the bemusement of the PKR players and the match officials. It was the cue for bedlam to reign for half hour.
Once the second half got under way, Crown had clearly lost their desire, and PKR should’ve added a bagful of goals. Khounla was the main culprit, missing a hat trick of clear-cut, one-on-ones with the keeper, who distinguished himself when all around him did not.
Unusually quiet, Olisa Onyemerea also had a great effort kept out by a strong hand from Peng, as the one-way traffic continued. Crown skipper Thul Sothearith profited from more leniency by referee Khoun Vireak, when he should’ve been dismissed for a blatant professional foul, having already been shown a yellow card. But it was that sort of day when Crown could literally get away with anything.
It was fitting that PKR won the game and claimed the third place spot, worth 10 million riels (US$2,413) more than fourth, whilst Crown will no doubt be seething with their inept showing in the Super 4 playoffs.