Boeung Ket are the Metfone C-League champions for the second consecutive year, and the third in their history, after a 10-9 penalty shoot-out victory over Ministry of National Defense on Saturday.
The play-off final, held at the Olympic Stadium, was postponed by almost one hour after it was reported that Boeung Ket had made an appeal against the inclusion of the Army’s 23-goal North Korean forward Choe Myong Ho.
The powerful striker found himself yellow-carded in his last two league matches and Boeung Ket, who expected his suspension, were understood to be appealing his presence in the match day squad.
Despite their protestations, Myong ho and the match were allowed to start – albeit a little later than scheduled.
BK’s Sok Sovan guided the ball home in the 14th minute to give the defending champions an early lead. The Army failed to clear Brazilian Maycon Calijuri’s corner kick into the box and Sovan was on hand to slam the ball into the roof of the net for the opener.
BK held the lead for the remainder of the half and into the second period before the Army’s Korean import Kim Kyong hun –somewhat fortunately – levelled matters with the equaliser in the 68th.
A wild miskick from the edge of the opposition box from Army midfielder Op Kamol saw the ball find the feet of Kyong hun, who fired the ball past BK keeper Sou Yaty.
With the game finely balanced, both teams saw opportunities come and go before the referee blew for the 90 minutes. A further 30 minutes of extra time failed to separate the sides and all that was left was for penalty shoot-outs to decide the fate of the 2017 championship trophy.
In the shootout, after successive players found the back of the net and a few misses, it was Army’s Choe Myong ho who was the unfortunate victim as his penalty was expertly saved by Yaty, who dived to his right to parry the ball away with a strong hand.
Yaty instantly wheeled away to celebrate with his teammates in the centre circle while Myong ho could only collapse to the turf in despair.
For Hong Pheng, BK’s central defensive rock, the victory can be credited to teamwork. “Sometimes there is anger, hurt, sadness, fun together, in everything we’re together,” he said. “But we do not forget the love of solidarity on the pitch. So we have been successful. Thank you everyone for your new year 2018, happiness, achievements and thanksgiving,
“Thank you to the supporters of Boeung Ket Football Club and Cambodian Football fans.”
Khuon Laboravy, the club’s striker and targetman who scored Boeung Ket’s final penalty, said the title was a result of perseverance.
“Not giving up from the beginning until the end, we did it. This award is a gift for Boeung Ket and Kampong Cham,” he said.
For BK coach Hao Socheat, the victory answered his detractors, many of whom doubted he could emulate the success of previous coach Prak Sovannara, who had led the club to the 2016 title before being dispensed with prior to the 2017 season.
As champions, the club were rewarded with $15,000 and a ticket as Cambodian representatives into the prestigious 2018 AFC Cup group stage. They are also expected to contest the RHB Singapore Cup.
For The Army it was another painful defeat at the hands of their perennial rivals. BK beat the Army to the title in last year’s regular season and were also defeated 3-0 in the 2017 pre-season CNCC Charity Cup.
Reacting in defeat, the club in a statement urged fans to continue their unwavering support.
“Thanks to all the efforts and commitments of the team, managers, coaches and players who have given us great hope and dreams, especially the loyal supporters of our club.
“Although the dream did not happen [this] year, we still hope and believe it will happen in the years to come.”