Pursat players (yellow) compete with Battambang’s Mighty Girls during their High School Cup final yesterday in Kampong Thom. Photo by: Soluy Hansen
The thrilling conclusion to the 2011 National High School Girls Football Championship saw the Pursat outfit emerge victorious over Battambang’s Mighty Girls team with a hard fought but scrappy 1-0 win yesterday in Kampong Thom.
Both teams started nervously, finding difficulty in playing the passing game on a very dusty and bumpy field. Battambang launched some sustained attacks through right winger Bun Chivey, but to no avail.
After just seven minutes, a catastrophic defensive error allowed Pursat’s Chem Chenda space in front of the sticks to slot in the opener and leave the Mighty Girls shell-shocked.
From there on out, it was all Battambang but the stoic backline of Pursat reduced the chances to just a few potshots from distance.
A careless handling of a backpass by the Pursat keeper on 19 minutes almost granted the equaliser from the ensuing freekick, and a further handball that went unseen by the match officials only served to infuriate the Mighty Girls.
After the restart, it became clear that Battambang did not want to go home without a fight, but the Pursat defence remained equal to their attempts.
An excellent opportunity for Battambang’s Dep Panida off a set piece was not converted and it started looking like it was not to be their day. A handful of advances up the field for Pursat yielded little, as they appeared content to sit on their lead and keep bodies behind the ball.
Battambang’s national team striker Srey Teav had a shot headed clear off the line and a host of further near chances still couldn’t see the Mighty Girls grab the vital leveller as the sands of time disappeared into the sandy turf.
At the final whistle, Pursat were in ecstasy while Battambang were in tears. The Mighty Girls had yet again lost in the final after failing to find a way through a physically strong defence.
Pursat deservedly take home the trophy after conceding just a single goal from six tough games in Kampong Thom, with discipline and team spirit overcoming limited skill and tactics.
Pursat coach Ouk Sothy was delighted with his team’s triumph, revealing that training at their substandard home ground had helped them cope with the dusty imperfections of the pitch during the past week’s competition.
Despite the underdog tags, Pursat boasted some talented individuals amongst their squad. Right winger and captain Sorn Sreyteav and left winger Tan Linda had featured in the U16 sides that travelled to Singapore last November, achieving success in a 7-a-side tournament.
Mighty Girls keeper Keng Chanue expressed her team’s heartache at their in inability to claim the title over unfavoured rivals. “Normally the Pursat team is not that strong or play that good to beat us, but I guess [the loss was] because we had difficulty adapting to such a poor playing surface,” said the 17-year-old stopper who has been playing for three years.
“I will train more and work harder to win next time.”
Teammate Cheung Lipa echoed the sentiments about the playing conditions. “I am really, really sad because we could not control the ball in the second half. It was out of my control. I cannot believe that we lost.”
Battambang coach Sam Scweingruber was left ruing their sudden loss of quality in the final, but gave praise to their conquerors.
“Four of our key players never got into the game for the entire match,” he told the Post yesterday. “That is not just because of us, but also [because] Pursat really worked super hard and closed the gaps and destroyed any sort of constructive game.”
The Swiss born tactician also opined that the organising committee had opted for the worst of Kampong Thom’s fields to play the final on. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAM SCHWEINGRUBER