WITH six out of the eight groups already decided in the 2010 Samdech Hun Sen Cup preliminary round, today's remaining group A and group F fixtures will fill in the missing names for the knockout phase playing out at Olympic Stadium from January 30.
Defending champions Phnom Penh Crown have already confirmed first place qualification from group A after a perfect four victories in Battambang. Crown have scored an impressive 26 goals, keeping clean sheets throughout, and now face navy team Phouchung Neak, who finished second in group E.
Pailin and Banteay Meanchey – beaten 7-0 and 14-0 respectively by Crown – are already eliminated from group A, and their match today is purely academic, with both teams out to grab their first and only points of the tournament.
However, the later match at Battambang’s Vocational Training Centre features a crucial clash between Kampong Chhnang outfit Rithy Sen and hosts Battambang Province, with a win for either side guaranteeing them passage to Phnom Penh along with Crown. Both teams currently lie on six points a piece after three matches, although Rithy Sen hold a whopping 16 goal advantage in goal difference.
Tam Matt, coach of Rithy Sen, said his boys preformed well in their previous group matches and hoped they will keep up their form against Battambang. “Winning a place to Phnom Penh is my team’s dream,” he said by phone Thursday. “We lost out on the chance in three previous tournaments, so we will do our best in Friday’s match. We need at least a draw.”
The coach was visiting Sampov mountain, a popular tourist attraction in Battambang, when he was interviewed by The Post. “We don’t have training today,” he revealed. “I allow my players to relax, but I don’t allow them to go far away.”
Battambang are in a must-win situation to advance to the next round. Swiss expatriate Samuel Schweingruber, coach of the provincial side, stated that his side had no problems with injury, although one defender is suspended after picking up two yellow cards in group games.
“Rithy Sen are good in attacking with high speed, so we can’t use the techniques we did in the previous matches,” he said. “We need strengthen our defensive side.”
Schweingruber highlighted a lack of mental strength by his players. “They gave many gifts to opponents. ... They always lost concentration when the opponents scored goals early. I don’t want them to have this feeling when they play against Rithy Sen.”
The Swiss coach noted that, despite Battambang being gifted technically and physically, “To win the match, we need to play with determination and without any sentimental influence”.
“I hope my players will follow my advice,” he said.
Winners of today’s later kickoff will face group E winners Kirivong Sok Sen Chey in the last 16.
Group F concludes in Kep
Meanwhile, Post Tel Club limp out of the competition after failed to claim a single point from their four matches in group F, while the four other teams remain in the running for a place in the next round.
Koh Kong sit atop the group, three points clear of their rivals, but could potentially still miss out if Kang Reach Sey grab a handful against them in their match today. Wat Phnom will hope to inflict a heavy defeat on Kep to book their place in the last 16.
Kang Reach Sey manager Hul Sakda expressed his belief in the performance of his young squad. “We have some small injuries but its not big problem,” he said. “Koh Kong achieved good results, but they are not good in technique, so I believe my boys will beat them.”
However, Hul Sakda noted his fear that Wat Phnom – who played in the Cambodian Premier League last year as Spark FC – would produce a goal fest against Kep and see Kang Reach Sey ousted on goal difference.
Wat Phnom coach Vann Dara was optimistic of progressing to the knockout stage. “We need success from the match, and we want to show our performance in Phnom Penh under our new name Wat Phnom,” he stated.
However, the coach bemoaned the standard of the pitch in Kep, which is sandy in places. “Sometimes, my players couldn’t use their skill, because of the bad condition of the field. I hope my players won’t have similar problems during their last match.”
The winner of group F will meet National Defence Ministry, who which finished second of group B. Group F runners up will face group B winners Mekong Kampuchea University.