Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng failed to secure a second Metfone C-League (MCL) title on Monday night but remain unbeaten and one point from clinching the league as they drew 1-1 away at third placed Visakha at their Grand Phnom Penh International City ground.
English import Charlie Machell scored Svay Rieng’s goal as the 2013 champions kept their composure after a nerve-shredding 5-4 midweek penalty shootout Hun Sen Cup semi-final win over heavyweights Phnom Penh Crown.
Svay Rieng needed the heroics goalkeeper of Om Oudom on Thursday to reach the final as they close in on a league and cup double.
Irish head coach Conor Nestor’s astute blend of tactics and man-management remains almost guaranteed to clinch the league in just his second season in charge – a remarkable feat after finishing sixth last term.
Nestor had urged Svay Rieng’s passionate “Blue Swords” fanbase to remain grounded as they relentlessly moved in to add to their 2013 title and look to remain unbeaten in the 2019 campaign.
Spurred on by the fans’ fervour and Cameroonian striker Befolo Mbarga’s 24 goals, Svay Rieng are looking to become the MCL’s first “Invincibles”.
With star Cambodia forward Prak Mony Udom backed up by talented young players and powered by Japanese midfielder Daisuke Kobayashi, Svay Rieng now face Boeung Ket – who saw off Visakha in their semi – in the Hun Sen Cup final in their bid to clinch the domestic double.
Svay Rieng, Cambodia’s most successful cup side, are looking to win the Hun Sen Cup for a fifth time.
Visakha, who were only founded in 2017, continue to show their mettle after unsettling the top order last year by nearly winning the league in their first MCL season, following promotion in 2017, before eventually finishing third behind Boeung Ket and champions NagaWorld.
With an impressive 15 wins from 23 matches, Visakha matched Svay Rieng, who have won 19 games without defeat, stride for stride but are realistically battling it out with NagaWorld for second place in only their second top-flight season.
Last season’s champions NagaWorld drew 1-1 away to Boeung Ket on Sunday and are only ahead of Visakha on goal difference with three games to play.
In Thursday night’s Hun Sen Cup semi-final against Phnom Penh Crown at the capital’s Olympic Stadium, an edgy, rain-soaked affair finished goalless and went to a dramatic penalty shootout.
With Crown 4-2 up after spurned Svay Rieng attempts, keeper Oudom was the hero with three saves in succession before the final spot kick was dispatched into the top right corner to send the Blue Swords delirious.