Victories for Phnom Penh Crown and Khemara Keila see CPL heavyweights Preah Khan Reach lose their perch atop the league for the first time this season
Khemara Keila's Kuoch Sokumpheak (front blue) controls the ball in front of Build Bright United’s Ung Marady Saturday.
THE chance to go top of the Cambodian Premier League (CPL) was at stake in this game for a depleted Phnom Penh Crown team who've maintained their composure to keep on the coattails of leaders Preah Khan Reach despite an indifferent start to the season. Their 3-2 success against the second-from-bottom Post Tel on Saturday took them to the top spot in the league standings for the first time this season, but for much of the match they lacked their usual fluency and authority, and plucky Post Tel were never out of the game until the final whistle.
Post Tel's tricky striker Gafar Durosinmi made a nuisance of himself from the start, and with more composure would've given his team a seventh-minute lead, but he leaned backwards to send his sidefooted effort over the bar.
On the half-hour, Crown's Srey Veasna latched onto a fifty-yard punt forward by Kuy Tha and was just about the pull the trigger when a last-ditch tackle by skipper Kun Kuon saved the day. The game continued to switch from end to end, and just as the referee was putting the whistle to his mouth to blow for half-time, Durosinmi held off the challenge of Thul Sothearith to deftly clip over the oncoming keeper Sos Brothim to give Post Tel the lead at the interval.
A stern word from the Crown coaching team at the half seemed to do the trick, as they came out from the break all guns blazing and levelled within two minutes. Srey Veasna challenged Post Tel keeper Thong Chanraksmey for a high ball, and the loose ball fell into the path of Mohamadou Ousmanou, who rifled home.
Seven minutes later, Crown went ahead. Substitute Chan Chhaya outwitted Thong Chanraksmey with a simple shimmy on the edge of the Post Tel area to roll his effort into an empty net. Then in the 58th minute, Crown had all but sealed their victory with a third goal. This time Ousmanou was all alone to head in Chan Rithy's floated cross.
Post Tel didn't roll over as expected and came back strongly, netting a second goal and giving Crown a few extra heartbeats in the process. Durosinmi was again at the heart of it, though his deflected shot was touched in on the goal line by teammate Kao Nisey on 75 minutes.
Crown weathered the brief storm to hold onto their lead, although in the final moments, referee Duong Socheat meaninglessly stamped his authority on the game. In sending off two-goal hero Ousmanou and Post Tel's Kun Kuon for a minor dustup, the official ensured the match ended on a sour note.
Referee Duong Socheat (right, green shirt) sends off Phnom Penh Crown’s Mohamadou Ousmanou (left) in the closing stages of the CPL match against Post Tel Saturday.
Build Bright Utd 2, Khemara Keila 4
With the opportunity to move into second spot in lieu of Preah Khan Reach's week off, Khemara Keila Saturday faced fifth-placed Build Bright United (BBU), a team always capable of an upset or two on their day. With injuries and U19 departures affecting their starting lineup, Khemara took time to settle before opening the scoring on 27 minutes. Chan Veasna's looped centre from the right was met by leggy Nelson Oladiji, and he sent his header past BBU keeper Chhim Rotha. The Nigerian striker performed a trademark somersault, to which the spectators at Olympic Stadium roared in approval.
However, BBU proved no pushovers, and equalised within four minutes, albeit with a touch of luck on their side. Skipper Chhun Sothearoth's 40 yard free kick from the touch-line sailed over everyone's heads including Khemara keeper Mak Theara to draw the sides level.
Neat passing and willing running was a feature from both teams, as they put on a good show for the CPL faithful, with Khemara making the next telling contribution. A centre from Ty Bunvichet eluded everyone until it reached Loch Ratha at the far post, and his low drive put his team ahead six minutes before halftime.
Ten minutes into the second period and Khemara extended their lead, after BBU failed to clear their lines. Khemara skipper Kuoch Sokumpheak had his header was weakly cleared by Rem Bunheang, falling straight to Oladiji who needed no second invitation to steer his shot inside the upright.
BBU continued to keep up the pressure and on 65 minutes, Chhun Sothearoth's grabbed a second, striking an unstoppable drive from 12 yards. The goal only served to spur Khemara back into action at the other end, with Kuoch Sokumpheak snapping up a loose ball in the six yard box to fire his team into a 4-2 lead.
In the last minute, Khemara lost Sophal Odom to a red card for a second bookable offence, but the disappointment was quickly forgotten at the final whistle, as they moved into second place in the CPL standings.
Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)