Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng football club’s magical run in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup 2020 came to a dramatic halt after the Cambodian team suffered a 4-0 loss to Ceres-Negros FC of the Philippines in the group stage of the continental championship.
The game was played on Tuesday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
The big margin was a surprise to many football observers, who were expecting a close game between the best football club in Cambodia and Southeast Asia’s top-ranked team.
There was no shortage of effort on the Cambodian side, but in the end Ceres-Negros FC proved too much for PKR Svay Rieng FC.
Forward Bienvenido Marañón of Spain scored a brace to lead the Ceres-Negros FC effort.
The much-vaunted Ceres-Negros FC frontline immediately went to work in the opening minutes.
Taking advantage of disarray in the Cambodian backline, midfielder Dennis Villanueva of the Philippines sent a pass to attacking midfielder Takashi Odawara of Japan, who slotted home a goal past goalie Aim Sovannarath in the 12th minute.
Two minutes later, Filipino-Aussie defender Joshua Grommen converted a cross from team captain Stephan Schrock for a 2-0 Ceres-Negros FC lead.
Grommen’s goal has become a subject of controversy, with some people claiming that he tapped the ball towards the goal with his left hand. A review of footage from the game showed that Grommen indeed used his left hand to punch in the ball, but the violation was apparently missed by the referees.
In the 24th minute, PKR Svay Rieng FC had a chance to narrow the gap with Thiago dos Santos awarded a penalty kick after a foul by Grommen. But German-born keeper Roland Müller correctly guessed where the ball was headed and easily saved the Brazilian forward’s attempt.
The charges of head coach Risto Vidaković did let up on their attack and scored another goal in the 55th minute courtesy of Marañón.
Teaming up with defender Manuel Ott, the Spanish forward found an opening in the Cambodian backline and his attempt from up close slipped past Sovannarath and found the back of the net for a 3-0 Ceres-Negros FC advantage.
Marañón scored his second goal in the 70th minute for the final score.
The wards of head coach Conor Nestor desperately tried to get back into the game but were stopped every time they threatened to score. Nestor previously said that they ‘would give everything’ for this match.
Striker Jean Befolo “Privat” Mbarga, PKR Svay Rieng FC’s best player, was uncharacteristically stymied by an iron-strong Ceres-Negros FC backline. The lightning-quick forward failed to score this time after scoring most of his team’s goals in the previous stage of the tournament.
Ceres-Negros FC dominated the possessions game (62 percent to 38 percent in comparison to their Southeast Asian rivals). The team also had more attempts at the goal (20 to 10) and shots on target (8 to 3).
The two teams are in Group G together with Than Quang Ninh FC of Vietnam and Bali United FC of Indonesia. Bali United FC beat the Vietnamese squad, 4-1, on their own group stage opener.
PKR Svay Rieng FC will next face Bali United FC at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh on Feb 25.