In form striker Chan Vathanaka struck a fabulous four-timer in Boeung Ket Rubber Field’s runaway 6-0 victory over Sri Lankan Army Sports Club in their 2013 AFC President’s Cup Group C encounter at Olympic Stadium yesterday.
Turkmenistan giants Balkan FC, meanwhile, showed their resolute class in a hard-fought 3-2 win over West Bank champions Hilal Al-Quds under a scorching mid-day sun. The side from Palestine had scrambled into a slender lead only to surrender to a second half Balkan fight back.
The star of the Boeung Ket show was decidedly the 19-year-old Vathanaka, who has shown a great deal of promise this season as a fast emerging talent. He gave his side a flying start when tempering his speed of thought with speed of foot as Boeung Ket got going with their first goal as early as the eighth minute.
But his next three goals were well spaced and bore the stamp of his quality as a young and versatile striker.
Yet the turning point of the whole game was the second goal that Vathanaka posted with a penalty conversion. It was a sure-foot confident spotkick, but the circumstances leading to that clearly impacted both the sides.
The penalty award was the result of an intentional handball by Sri Lanka Army midfielder Sajith Chameera, who desperately stretched out his palm to divert a ball that was curling into the goal off a Keo Sokpheng flagkick.
Iraqi referee Mohammad Qasim Eesee Sarray lost no time in pointing to the dreaded spot and red-carding the offender. That clearly was the beginning of the end as the Sri Lanka coach Shanmugam Pathmanathan saw it at a press briefing after the match.
“We were down by a goal, a penalty staring at us, an important player lost. That would have been dreadful for any side, and we could never recover after that,” the coach said.
Pathmanathan also suggested that travel weariness could have played a role in the team’s somewhat lacklustre performance, but he refused to make an excuse out of it.
“We were using parallel defence, and Boeung Ket forwards were readily finding gaps to work on. They exploited our weaknesses very well,” he added.
Boeung Ket coach Prak Vuthy said the penalty had raised the players’ spirits several notches, noting that the short and swift passing worked effectively for the side when their rivals were struggling with the shortage of manpower to deal with the crisis.
After his double strike in the first half, Vathanaka went for the jugular in the second, quickly ramming home his third and winding up his cameo performance with his fourth bang on the 90th minute.
Keo Sokgnon stepped in as a substitute in the 66th minute and moments later was celebrating a goal. Midfielder Keo Sokpheng, who was distinctly unlucky not to have found the net much earlier, found one later in the game to complete the rout.
Balkan turn over Hilal Al-Quds
Turkmenistan champs Balkan struck a goal in the fifth minute through Mamadaly Karadanov, but Hilal Al-Quds levelled the terms with a 37th-minute strike by Adham Abuwarees.
The visitors from the West Bank stumbled upon a penalty in the second half when Balkan defender Maksim Belyh brought down Maen Obaid inside the box off what seemed an innocuous challenge.
But it was Belyh’s resentment over the decision that led to his first yellow booking, but the colour quickly changed to red with another quick booking when the Balkan player continued to rant, leaving his team in total distress.
Yet Balkan found a hero in striker Amir Gurbani, who not only helped the side to get even at 2-2 but nailed the match winner barely seconds before the end of regulation time.