Photo by: SRENG MENG SRUN
Build Bright United’s Tuy Sam slides in to challenge Preah Khan Reach’s Sok Chanrasmey during their Metfone C-League Super 4 playoff semifinal match at Olympic Stadium.
Build Bright United 1 PKR 2
For the success-starved Preah Khan Reach, Saturday’s Super 4 playoff semifinal victory over a somewhat disjointed Build Bright United was a giant leap, prompting coach Rith Dikar to jubiliantly declare: “To me success means the title, whoever it may be at the other end.”
When the last 15 minutes of heartstopping action came to an end, the joy in the PKR camp knew no bounds, and the celebration for the military police-backed club’s “finest moment” was long and loud.
Elemental fury has had a knack of playing a critical role in some of the top draw fixtures this season, and it chose to strike once more just when the game was warming up to be a humdinger. In the first 40 minutes, it was clear how well PKR had blended their strength and steel, and how ill-equipped the BBU defence had been to deal with such a bold offensive.
BBU coach Meas Sam Oeun’s apprehension about pitching second choice keeper Sos Proshim ahead of tried and tested Number One Hem Simay - who is nursing an injured shoulder - came ringing true within the first two minutes. The BBU stopper’s butterfingers led to PKR’s first goal, one of the quickest this season. Though Ring Bunheng cleared the loose ball from a dipping cross, it fell right into midfielder Devide Njoku’s advancing legs to net the opener.
The BBU coach’s worst fears were then compounded when otherwise reliable Nhim Sovanara’s intended backpass went horribly wrong as it looped into his own goal.
This double whammy left the side deflated, even as PKR began to safeguard their 2-0 lead. With the break approaching fast, the BBU desperation for a comeback grew even more desperate when the skies opened up and the pitch started flooding. Two half-baked chances by warhorse Nuth Sinoun triggered hope for the university backed outfit, while hardworking midfielder Nelson Oladiji lost sight of two more.
There was one mighty collective shout for a BBU penalty when Augustine Ogbemi went down under a challenge from one of the PKR defenders, but referee Thong Chankithy waved the game on.
Just when it looked as if their attacking plans were in total disarray, a snap goal from the boot of BBU’s Chun Sothearath gave some relief. His reflexive shot from the top of the area beat PKR keeper Ouk Mich hollow. At half time, the BBU push was threatening to be a shove after their revival instinct had been triggered.
The depredations of the 45-minute heavy downpour left the pitch so sodden that the middle park was more surf than turf when the game resumed, and players had to wrestle for a bloating ball by rummaging through the slush. Indeed, one PKR player noted it was “like kicking a wooden ball out there.”
With underfoot conditions getting worse by the minute, it was a challenge for both sides to retain possession, but BBU made a better show of it. PKR coach Rith Dikar revealed later he had commissioned one of his forwards to backline duties to defend their narrow but crucial lead. “I wanted to play safe than feel sorry,” said the tactician.
A few distant free kicks and wasteful corners in the second session saw BBU run out of ideas and time.
“We played well but those early mistakes sealed our fate,” said Meas Sam Oeun. “It was very difficult to come back in the second half because of the poor pitch conditions.”