Two-time finalists Naga Corp began their bid for the Samdech Hun Sen Cup with a runaway 9-0 victory over a youthful and spirited Pailin in a Group A tie at the Olympic Stadium yesterday. A five-goal haul by frontliner Teab Vathanak featured in Naga’s barnstorming win described by coach Prak Sovanara as a highly satisfying start to the season.
The Naga tactician also had some gracious words of encouragement for the boys from the town once famous for gemstone mining, branding them spirited and gutsy, two traits which were clearly lost in the punishing scoreline.
After spending nearly 25 minutes shaking off a bit of pre-season rust, the 2009 Metfone C-League champs went about their business with ruthless efficiency against a side which was totally ill-equpped to deal with a well organised outfit like Naga.
Kop Isa capped a nice right wing run with tidy finish to open the scoring. He then conveyed a cross of merit to Chin Chum who produced a composed finish.
Crossing over with a 2-0 cushion, Naga frontline dynamic completely changed once Teab Vathanak began to assert himself with several probing raids into the box.
Even as Chin Chum doubled his contribution, Vathanak went on a blitz of goals with one coming from a penalty he himself had forced.
The final rub of salt on Pailin wounds came minutes before the end when substitute Prak Chan Ratana seized a moment of free access into the six yard box.
In the opening match of the second phase yesterday, Battambang sprang a mild surprise on last year’s league survivors Chhlam Samuth by hitting back to 2-2 at half time after being two goals down in the first half an hour.
A strong second half showing however, saw the Sea Sharks safely home 5-2.
Chhlam Samuth’s new recruit Nuth Sinoun, who has hopped over to the new camp from Naga this season, produced an opportunistic goal that was his hallmark at his prime as a national team striker a few years ago.
As if taking a cue from Sinoun, another former national striker, Pov Samnang, quickly doubled the first half lead for the Sharks. But little did this new look team know about a Battambang counter-attack.
A spectacular on-the-run finish by Math Sim kept Battambang buoyant and Ly Vutha ensured that the provincial side crossed over with first half honours even.
The second half for Chhlam Samuth proved more productive, with Nuth Sinoun finding the go ahead goal.
Ros Sam Oeun then conjured a double in a five minute spell, slamming the door shut on a Battambang revival.
Meanwhile at the Old Stadium, a game that was seemingly heading to a thrilling draw after a goalless first half changed course when Kirivong Sok Sen Chey produced an extra time winner to peg back a resilient Kampot 3-2 in their Group B fixture.
The southern town had risen beyond all expectations in throwing the gauntlet at a seasoned league side like Kirivong, but in the end Kampot had to endure this heart breaking experience when Ek Sopheap expertly curled a free kick in to settle the argument.
After a barren first half, Tong Vibol for Kampot and Pech Seiha for Kirivong took the fight to a high level of intensity. It was the Kampot midfielder who struck first, only to see Pech Seiha restore parity.
Then it was Pech Seiha's turn to fire Kirivong ahead. Unfailingly Tong Vibol came roaring back with the equaliser.
With the two double strikes having cancelled each other out, a draw was firmly on the cards until a last ditch effort by Kirivong just about paid off.
In the earlier kick-off, 2010 Cup winners National Defence Ministry proved too strong and wily for Asia Europe University in a 5-0 rout despite losing right back Pheak Rady to a straight red card for his tackle from behind on Yan Sokthearith two minutes into the second half where all the goals came from.
A brace by Seung Chanvanno was the highpoint of the Army’s victory, with Meak Chhordaravuth, Chhin Chhoeun and Ung Dara chipping in with a goal each.