Preah Khan Reach captain Sam El Nasa jumps to head the ball from a corner kick over the Build Bright United defence during their 2011 Samdech Hun Sen Cup final at Olympic Stadium on Saturday. PKR won the match 2-0 to taste their first Cup success. Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun
After five years of fruitless frustration, the greatest moment of Military Police backed club Preah Khan Reach arrived on Saturday evening when coach Rith Dikar’s energetic side pulled off a 2-0 victory over Build Bright United in the final of the 2011 Samdech Hun Sen Cup at the Olympic Stadium.
“It has taken us so long to win something big like this. Now that we have broken the jinx I am certain the team will win many more,” said an ecstatic Rith Dikar after his team collected the glittering trophy and a winners cheque for 80 million riels (US$19,875).
“It was a tough game [even] though we won by two clear goals. There were some anxious moments, but our backline and the goalkeeper did a splendid job,” added the PKR tactician.
BBU coach Meas Sam Oeurn, meanwhile, expressed mixed emotions.
“We had our chances, but we could not convert them and that made all the difference,” he said. “I am terribly disappointed we couldn’t win after having come this far, but I am glad to be associated with the team’s best ever finish so far. The University backed outfit, which put up a stout-hearted show especially in the second half, had to rest content with prize money of 40 million riels.
If there was one team in this highly popular national competition that had transformed itself into a well-knit cohesive unit in the last few months, it was undoubtedly PKR. With a fluid midfield providing ample opportunities for what is easily the best chained forward line, PKR has been trumping the best in the business with two aces up their sleeves - the talismanic Khuon Laboravy and smart operator and skipper Sam El Nasa. It was again this combination that proved lethal against BBU.
A sizeable student contingent cheered on BBU as they spun a few good moves in the first quarter before PKR tellingly counter-punched. A firm swipe at the goal by Tum Saray saw BBU keeper Sos Proshim parry the shot only for the ball to fall invitingly in front of an alert Sam El Nasa, who toe-poked in with great relish.
The captain had a gilt-edged chance to double the lead before half time, but his completely unmarked header off a cross from Lay Raksmey was inches off the mark.
Four minutes after the breather, a chaotic scene in front of the PKR goal triggered a BBU serial charge in which hard-working Sophath Sokunthina was twice unlucky. His first shot was blocked by agile PKR goal stopper Ouk Mich before the BBU striker clipped the rebound off the cross bar. Oum Chandara then controlled it to carve out another chance, but his wildly lashed volley flew wide.
Having lost out on this close call to equalise, BBU quickly fell foul to Khoun Laboravy’s individual charm. The tournament’s leading goal scorer streaked through the defence to glance a header home off Prak Mony Udom’s corner kick amid cries of handball. This claim was later dismissed by the PKR management with Laboravy himself indicating that there may have been a bit of his shoulder coming into play.
There were a few half-hearted attempts by BBU in the closing stages, and their hordes of supporters began to make early exits from the main stand in resignation.
There were further calls for celebration in the PKR camp after the final whistle, with Khuon Laboravy deservingly topping the goal scorers list with an impressive 22 goals to grab the Golden Boot award while Ouk Mich’s great assurance and between the sticks earning him the Best Goalkeeper award. Both players picked up cash incentives of one million riels each.
A referee team led by Thong Chanketya was honoured with a prize of five million riels to share between the four match officials.
In a grand gesture, Prime Minister Hun Sen donated $50,000 to the Football Federation of Cambodia for its developmental work. The donation was handed over to FFC President Sao Sokha by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema during the closing ceremony on Saturday.
The Fair Play award and five million riels bonus went to last year’s champions National Defence Ministry, who finished fourth this year after losing 1-0 to Naga Corp in the third place playoff on Friday.
An opportunistic strike by Kop Isa minutes before half time turned out to be a match winner for Naga as the former league champs weathered a storm from the Army side.
“I am happy we could get up to third place,” said Naga coach Prak Sovannara. “It was not easy to defend that slender lead with 10 men once we lost Tiet Chandrasokha to two yellow bookings for nearly 30 minutes.
“Our defenders did a good job under pressure and Chhim Sambo was very unlucky to hit the cross piece late in the game.”
The win ensured third place for Naga and a purse of 20 million riel.