Prek Pra captain Khin Voeun (left) and National Defence striker Plong Chanthou fight for the ball yesterday. Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun
PREK Pra Keila earned an honourable goalless draw against a decidedly stronger Ministry of National Defence to wind up their 18-match Metfone C League Campaign at the Olympic Stadium yesterday.
But relegation worries for coach Jack Tonye Charles’s side are far from over. A victory for Prek Pra over the Army men would have driven away the drop zone demons, but having missed out on the pitch, Prek Pra will now have to anxiously wait until Saturday to know their fate.
Numerically, Prek Pra are two points ahead of Chhalam Samut, who take on Kirivong Sok Sen Chey in their last game of the season. A win for the Sea Sharks will cruelly push Prek Pra to the second tier.
Any other result, Prek Pra will survive and the Sharks will go down with Rithy Sen, who knew as early as game week 16 that they were the first to fall over the cliff.
With so much at stake, playing a disciplined Army unit like MND was no easy task and the pressure was squarely on Prek Pra. It was the Army men who dictated terms in the first quarter, working out creative patterns to hustle the Prek Pra defence.
It was during this demanding phase in the first half that Prek Pra’s survival instincts and huge vocal support in the stands from its large fan base came tellingly into play. Putting up a stoic defence that was reinforced by some excellent keeping by Yok Ary, Prek Pra successfully rode out the first half storm.
But it was the second half which brought out the best in both sides. Prek Pra frontliner Ali Philip cracked open the MND resolve on several occasions, even as MND’s splendid approach work was often undone by poor finishing, when not by an alert Prek Pra backline.
As the midfield intensity grew, the action was rapidly shifting from one end to the other, keeping young Oum Vichet under the MND bar and Prek Pra goaltender Yok Ary on his toes. It was basically a battle between the goalkeepers in which both excelled, coming up with some stupendous saves.
If Vichet showed unbelievable reflexes in tipping over an Ali Philip reverse kick from close range, Yok Ary’s response was to keep the net safe from two successive shots on target by Touch Sokheng and Chhin Choeun, two of the most troublesome MND forwards on view.
But the most scary moment for Prek Pra came in the 70th minute when in a goal-mouth chaos, there was an MND sniper within touching distance of Yok Ary and his right leg lash at the ball miraculously hit the upright even as two more MND Blue shirts pounced on the ball. The rapid fire died down when Ary covered the last one.
Prek Pra’s 18-match campaign ended with four wins and three draws for a tally of 15 points, while the Army men had 29 points from nine wins, seven defeats and two draws. They now hold fourth spot, the position they secured last season, but Build Bright United can displace them if the university side come up with either a win or a draw.
PKR rout Rithysen
Preah Khan Reach took out their narrow defeat at the hands of champions Phnom Penh Crown last Sunday on a hapless Rithysen, blanking the bottom enders 5-0 in the day’s first match.
The Victory ensured the Military Police-backed PKR a clear third place with 34 points, a notch below their No 2 ranking in 2010.
Khuon Laboravy turned in a free kick from Sam Oeun Pidor to open the PKR scoring in the 15th minute, taking his own personal tally in the league to 14 goals, a long second behind Naga Corp’s Julius Oiboh at 27.
The second goal came quickly enough through Sam Oeun Pidor, a well placed angular shot from the top of the box. A hasty clearance by Mat Isary saw Rithysen concede an own goal even as Phany Irotha struck twice to complete the rout. Rithysen were on such a tight leash that they could hardly venture out of their own half.
With 16 defeats, Rithysen bid farewell to the Olympic Stadium and the provincial side from Kampong Chhanang will slide back to Division I from which they moved up only this year. That one season has been one of despair for the team, having conceded 90 goals in all on an average of five goals per game, while accounting for just 12 goals scored.
Rithysen also carry home the dubious record of finishing the league season with just two points from two draws, making Chhama Khamov’s previous worst of four points look that much more respectable.