Crown Champions as NagaWorld Loses Shootout Gamble

Ismail Vorajee / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Phnom Penh Crown FC defeated NagaWorld FC on Saturday to claim their sixth C-League title. KT/Yeun Punlue

In perhaps the most dramatic and fitting way to cap what has been a hectic 2015 Metfone C-League season for all involved, Phnom Penh Crown FC took the difficult route on their way to a second successive Metfone C-League championship title in Saturday evening’s C-League playoff final against NagaWorld FC at National Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh. 

Despite going into the game with a comfortable two goal cushion following a 2-0 first-game win in late November, Crown unwittingly let Naga back into the tie, conceding three second-half goals to send the game into extra time, and eventually to a nail-biting penalty shootout.

A goalless first period saw both sides spurn glorious chances, with Franco-Khmer midfielder Va Sokthorn coming close midway through the half, before Sovannara Nhim smacked the ball against the upright from a pinpoint corner for Naga. 

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Sovannrithy Grabs Opener

The deadlock was finally broken, somewhat against the run of play, after an In Sodavid backpass was seized upon by ex-Crown stalwart Kouch Sokumpheak who, under pressure from inexperienced Crown keeper Keo Soksela, saw the ball find the feet of Sun Sovannrithy to slot home the game’s opener. 

National team captain Thierry Chantha Bin then restored parity for the defending champions from the penalty spot after goalscorer Sovannrithy handled the ball in the box.

Sokumpheak then edged Naga ahead once more, courtesy of a thumping header from teammate Prak Chanrathana’s cross, putting Naga up 2-1. But Meas Channa’s men still needed to find one more goal to send the tie into extra-time.

In search of the vital goal, Naga piled on the pressure, forcing Crown deep, and with only a minute left on the clock Korean defender Yong-sun Baek gave away a penalty, which was duly converted from the spot by a grateful Sokumpheak. The score, now 3-3, sent the game into extra time. 

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Soksela Shootout Hero

Extra time saw Naga forward Barry Lelouma come close from the dead-ball; his free-kick finding its way past a host of players and to safety just inches from goal. Sam Schweingruber’s men could have sealed their win after Baek powered a Sokthorn freekick against the bar, the ball dropping down towards goal only for the referee to decide it had in fact not crossed the line. 

By the end of extra-time, the score remained tied at 3-3 and it was left for the dreaded penalty-shootout to separate the sides after a breathless 120 minutes.

And so, it was left for an unlikely hero, young shotstopper Soksela, in only his second senior appearance, stepping up to give the defending champions an almighty advantage. 

Masahiro Fukasawa’s opener was well saved by Soksela, before Thierry made no mistake from the spot to smash in the first for Crown. Kazuaki Ban found the back of the net for Naga, although Sokthorn failed to do the same for Crown. Sokumpheak then beat Soksela for the third time in the game before inspirational Crown captain and defensive rock Kok Boris found a way past Samrith Seiha in between the sticks for Naga. Ex-Crown striker Khim Borey could not beat Soksela, who seemed to be growing in stature with every penalty kick. Odion Obadin’s effort was prevented by Seiha before Soksela was the hero once more by keeping out Lelouma.

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All that was left was for Crown’s Baek to steer the ball beyond Seiha to seal a second successive championship for the six-time C-League winners.

Boeung Ket Angkor FC duo Chan Vathanaka and Prak Sovanna were on hand to accept Football Federation of Cambodia prizes for Top Goalscorer and Best Coach respectively, with Vathanaka garnering a further award for C-League MVP. Soksela, Crown’s hero, was awarded the golden gloves award for best goalkeeper.

Boeung Ket Claims Third

On Friday evening, Boeung Ket Angkor FC ensured a third-place finish after a brace of goals from national team defender Rous Samoeun helped the Rubbermen to a 2-1 (6-4 Aggregate) victory over Cambodian Tiger FC. 

However, Prak Sovannara’s men, who were unexpectedly ejected by NagaWorld at the semifinal stage of the C-League playoffs, will have a chance to usurp their illustrious rivals on Sunday when they travel to Bangkok to face ASEAN superclub Buriram United FC for the final of the second edition of the regional Toyota Mekong Club Championship. The Cambodian club upset the odds to reach an unprecedented final defeating the league champions of Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Chan Vathanaka (R) helped Boeung Ket Angkor FC to a third-place finish in the 2015 Metfone C-League. KT/Yeun Punlue

Phnom Penh Crown successfully defended their championship after their defeat of NagaWorld FC in the 2015 C-League Playoff final. KT/Yeun Punlue

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