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Preah Khan Reach beat Naga Corp 3-2 to take third

Preah Khan Reach beat Naga Corp 3-2 to take third

Preah Khan Reach overcome a two-goal deficit from the first half of their Samdech Hun Sen Cup third-place playoff against Naga Corp Saturday

Photo by: Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)
Naga Corp’s Sun Sovannrithy (right) sees his second half penalty saved by Preah Khan Reach goalkeeper Ouk Mich during their playoff.

Determined not to repeat their dramatic penalty shootout defeat in last week’s semifinal, Naga began like a runaway train in Saturday’s third-place playoff of the Samdech Hun Sen Cup. Preah Khan Reach (PKR) simply couldn’t contend with the pace set early on by the casino-backed side, succumbing to two neat strikes from youngster Kop Isa in the 15th and 18th minutes.

Naga, affected by suspensions and with Sun Sovannrithy surprisingly relegated to the bench, gave Kop Isa a rare start, and he repaid his manager’s faith with a lively pace and two goals. His first was a coolly taken finish after Teab Vatanak’s header sent him on a clear run at goal. He lashed home his second from eight yards after Kim Chanbunrith’s byline pull back found him in acres of space. It was no more than Naga deserved for their bright opening to the game.

After going behind, PKR brought on their talismanic skipper Sam El Nasa, also left on the bench before the start, and his introduction gave them much needed impetus. He twice broke free in the penalty box, but Naga’s goalkeeper Pich Rovin Yothin was in great form, diving at his feet to snuff out the danger while receiving a boot in the face on both occasions for his troubles.

Photo by: Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)
Preah Khan Reach’s Nguon Chansothea (below) fails at a sliding challenge on Naga Corp’s Chhim Sambo during their match Saturday.

With shades of last week’s semifinal when Naga came back from the dead against Phnom Penh Crown, it was PKR’s turn to stage a comeback. Fifteen minutes into the second half, PKR pushed Sam El Nasa up front, allowing the former national team captain to round off a pass from Kao Kiry with a neat finish.

The writing was on the wall as PKR piled on the pressure. On 72 minutes, Khuon Laboravy had the easiest goal of his career when Heang Saravuth broke clear and unselfishly squared it to his teammate for a tap-in. Seven minutes later, Saravuth scored PKR’s third to put them in the lead, albeit with a fluked finish after he miscontrolled a pass from Prak Monyoudom and toe-ended a lob over the onrushing Pich Rovin Yothin that sailed into the net.

Less than a minute later, Naga were given a lifeline opportunity to level the score. Sun Sovannrithy, an early second-half replacement, went down under a clumsy challenge by Sok Rithy, and referee Khuon Virak pointed to the penalty spot with a flourish. Sovannrithy picked himself up to take the spotkick, but his low drive was smothered by PKR’s keeper Ouk Mich as the chance to equalize went begging. Penalty kicks have not been kind to Naga in this Cup competition.

There was still time for PKR’s Sam El Nasa to be dismissed with a second yellow card for a trip, but Naga failed to capitalise on the numerical advantage with the six minutes remaining, and PKR ran out 3-2 winners, earning themselves 20 million riels (US$4,781) in prize money. Referee Khuon Virak had a busy day too, brandishing nine yellows in addition to the late red.

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