Striker Chan Vathanaka produced a brilliant hat-trick wearing the captain’s armband to steer Boeung Ket Angkor to a 3-2 win over defending champions Phnom Penh Crown, who fired the first salvo in the fifth minute of the key Metfone C-League clash at Olympic Stadium yesterday evening.
A late Crown goal from Keo Sokpheng and several near misses in the closing stages led to a thrilling climax, but two sensational saves by Boeung Ket goalkeeper Sou Yaty in those frenzied moments ensured coach Prak Sovanara’s team three precious points.
The victory sees Boeung Ket retain their one-point advantage over rivals Ministry of National Defence, who on Saturday kept the pressure on the leaders with a 2-1 win over Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng at Old Stadium.
After honours were even at half-time, with Svay Rieng’s Obi levelling Keo Vannak’s 12th minute goal, Armyman Sor Piseth’s 82nd-minute goal settled the tie in the home side’s favour.
With the Army win adding to the burden of expectation, Boeung Ket found themselves quickly behind when South Korean Jan In-yong scored.
The early Crown goal, however, acted as a spur for Boeung Ket. Approaching the 30-minute mark, Vathanaka worked his way into Crown’s box and unleashed a stinging left-foot shot past goalkeeper Keo Soksela’s outstretched right leg.
Emboldened by the equaliser, Vathanaka’s second goal came under much easier circumstances, and almost at the stroke of half-time. All Vathanka had left to do this time was to tap in a clever short pass inside the box by Dzarma Bata.
Having dragged themselves in front, Boeung Ket saw Vathanaka cushion the lead in the 54th minute.
Meanwhile, third-placed NagaWorld scored a comfortable 4-1 win over CMAC United. Sary Matnortin, Khim Borey, Richard and George Kelechi scored a goal each for Naga. The lone consolation for CMAC came from the penalty spot in injury time.
Two MCL matches have been carded for Wednesday, with NagaWorld, who are heading to the AFC Cup qualifying playoff in Mongolia later this week, meeting National Police at the Olympic Stadium, while Crown are to meet Western at the RSN Stadium.