Sunday's games were academic, so Naga and PKR field teams of reserves
Photo by: NICK SELLS (www.nicksellsphotography.com)
Kirivong Sok Sen Chey’s Julius Chukwumeka (right) attempts to pass Preah Khan Reach’s Suon Thuon Sunday during their CPL match.
NAGA Corp, already qualified in fourth place for the Super 4 playoffs, fielded a vastly different team Sunday against Post Tel, with five players serving suspensions and another five regulars keeping the bench warm. That gave Post Tel, already relegated from the Cambodian Premier League along with Phouchung Neak, a real opportunity to claim only their fourth win of the campaign, and if truth be told, that's what should've happened.
Instead, Naga scraped by a solitary goal courtesy of a neat near-post header from defensive linchpin Sun Samprathana, who got on the end of a Kim Chanbunrith free kick five minutes into the second half.
Naga had the better of the first period, with Soeung Monyroath gifted two clear-cut chances to put his side ahead. The first on 15 minutes rebounded back off the post, and his second, two minutes later, was a poor header that he sent over the crossbar from inside the six-yard box.
Aside from that, it was a first half riddled with unforced errors, with both teams guilty of wasteful passes and possession in the drizzling rain.
In the second half, Naga scored what turned out to be the decider early on, and that sparked Post Tel into their best spell of the game. On another day, Gafar Durosinmi would've been hailed as the match-winning hero, but not on this occasion, squandering a hat trick of chances that he would normally eat for breakfast. He also found Naga's substitute goalkeeper Pich Yothin in good form, as the stopper got his hand to two of Gafar's efforts to help his side take all the points.
Kirivong 5 Preah Khan 4
With fifth place already beyond them, Kirivong Sok Sen Chey had just their pride at stake in their final game of the league campaign. Preah Khan Reach (PKR) had already booked their spot in the Super 4 and gave the opportunity to some of their second team to gain some match experience, with three players missing through suspension and another seven first-team regulars not included in the starting lineup.
The match began at a frenetic pace, and with both teams displaying some shocking defending, the crowd were treated to half a dozen goals in the first 30 minutes of play.
Kirivong's Vietnamese import Vin Nhek Troeung finished off a cross from Ouk Thorn for the opener after 10 minutes, before two goals in as many minutes from PKR's Olisa Onyemerea nosed his team in front. A powerful header from a Keo Kosal cross on 18 minutes was followed with a deft touch for the Nigerian's second, after a perfect cross from his strike partner Michael Ikenwa.
Not to be outdone, Kirivong carried the game to their opponents. PKR's Suon Thuon tapped the ankles of Julius Chukwumeka - who returned to the team after a lengthy injury layoff - in the area, and the striker picked himself up and dispatched the spotkick with venom.
On 24 minutes, an error by Kirivong goalkeeper Kun Thnou gifted Ikenwa a goal, when he allowed the striker's header to squirm through his hands and over the line. Keo Kosal then netted a fourth for PKR with a well-hit cross-cum-shot on 27 minutes.
Chukwumeka was revelling in his return to action against such a poor defence and threw himself at a centre by Him Salam, sending his header into the bottom right-hand corner on 37 minutes. Two more opportunities came his way before the halftime break, but he blazed one of them over the crossbar from close in, and Preah Khan's goalkeeper Sam Chamroeun blocked the other. PKR headed into the interval leading 4-3.
Before anyone could catch his breath at the start of the second period, Kirivong regained the lead with a quick-fire double strike that left PKR reeling. Him Salam fired them level from close range after less than a minute, and then Chukwumeka headed in his hat trick, just a minute later.
Despite both teams offering up more chances on a platter to their opponents with some comical defending, no one else was able to trouble the scoreboard, and Kirivong ran out 5-4 victors. Kirivong completed their season in equal fifth place on level points with National Defence Ministry (MND), but missed out on the cash prize because of MND's superior record in their head-to-heads, which takes precedence over goal difference in this year's CPL.