Monday, February 1, 2010

Hatful of goals

Reigning League Champions Naga Corp progressed at the expense of Chhma Khmao
Sunday's Hun Sen Cup games served up a hatful of goals and kept the fans entertained. Naga saw off the CPL newcomers Chhma Khmao 6-2 much to the disappointment of the Olympic crowd who'd favoured the underdogs from Svay Rieng. In the first match, Build Bright United showed their class with a 7-0 win over Prey Veng, to put the provincial upstarts firmly in their place.
BBU skipper Prum Puthsethy netted a hat-trick in his team's 7-0 demolition of Prey Veng
The all-Khmer BBU line-up that faced Prey Veng
Naga were not only up against the Black Cats of Svay Rieng but also the crowd, who showed their pleasure when the CPL new boys opened the scoring through the busy Mak Chhordaravuth. They were deathly quiet when Naga's Sun Sovannrithy rifled home the equaliser a few minutes later. Sovannrithy was playing in an unfamiliar striking role though spent most of the time on the floor, being upended constantly by the Svay Rieng defenders. A minute later he was floored again, this time by keeper Pen Socheat, who had the last laugh when he saved Teab Vathanak's penalty. After the break, Naga continued to press whilst Svay Rieng maintained their plucky and dogged resistance. Vathanak did find the net when he fired through a forest of legs but Svay Rieng levelled again when Pov Phearith's 30 yard free-kick arrowed into the net like a cannonball. A stunning strike. That spurred Naga on and Om Thavrak put them ahead again before two headed goals from Vathanak sealed his hat-trick and Sovannrithy also cashed in to add the gloss in a 6-2 success.
BBU were way too hot for Prey Veng to handle and coasted into a six-nil half-time lead, as it looked like another double figures result was on the cards. However the youngsters from the Chab Meas provincial team did much better after the break restricting the BBU students to just one more strike, in their 7-0 success. BBU skipper Prum Puthsethy led the way with a hat-trick, Om Chandara netted twice with sub Sophat Chansikunthina and left back In Vireak also getting on the scoresheet. BBU now face Naga in the quarter-finals in a few weeks time.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

A closet Naga fan?

Naga celebrate reaching the CPL Super 4 final and I'm merely trying to get a good photo. Rumours that moments before I was sitting on the bench are untrue.
There is a nasty rumour circulating that I am not the neutral media person I pretend to be and that I am in fact a dyed-in-the-wool Naga Corp man, who was seen jumping for joy when both of their goals went in on Saturday. I refute that allegation. Yes I did stand up and for some unknown reasons my arms were raised but it was more out of relief that the deadlock had been broken, than for any bias towards one or other team. There are also some photos in the public domain that add weight to the suggestion that I favour Naga Corp. I've posted them here for your perusal but to suggest that I spend part of my time on said bench is a matter of pure coincidence. I will however concede that Naga skipper Om Thavrak is my favourite player in the CPL for his blood and guts performances and desire to win at all costs. My kinda player.
Okay, so I'm sitting on the bench but it was momentary whilst I congratulate Naga skipper Om Thavrak on another blood and guts performance by the CPL's hardman

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thavrak's moment of joy

The man, his medal and the cup - a proud moment for Om Thavrak
Om Thavrak is a player's player. Wholly committed to the cause, he's the Naga skipper and was understandably ecstatic at their CPL Super 4 championship success, even though he had to sit out the nail-biting extra-time excitement after limping off on 75 minutes. You could see his desire to stay on despite his injury, but he had to watch from the bench as Sunday Okonkwo tucked in the goals that gave Naga their 3rd title in six years. Bubbly off the pitch and a motivator on it, his leadership qualities have been vital to Naga's cause this season and though they finished the regular season in 4th place, their 2-nil win over Phnom Penh Crown in the semi-final and today's success against Khemara will make up for the disappointment of losing in the Hun Sen cup final at the beginning of the campaign. He's an uncompromising centre-half and plays with his heart on his sleeve in every game. Thavrak was recalled to the Cambodian national squad last season for the Suzuki Cup but won't feature in the forthcoming SEA Games squad as he's over the age limit. Not that he's complaining, as he joins his colleagues in celebrating their CPL championship success.
As usual, Om Thavrak has time for a smile as he leads Naga into today's final
Thavrak, no 6, is celebrating even before the final whistle
All smiles as the camera crews make a beeline for the Naga skipper
Amid the mayhem all around him, Thavrak is calmness personified for the tv cameras

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Super 4 Saturday

Naga collect the cup, the cheque and their medals as they pose with FFC President Sao Sokha
Whatever your opinion about the Super 4 finals, today was a great climax to the season with thrills, spills, a walk-off and an extra-time winner to clinch the Cambodian Premier league championship for Naga Corp. Their final success wasn't pretty but it was effective as they played the better football and deservedly pipped plucky Khemara 2-1 in the Super 4 decider. With so much at stake, the feast of football we were hoping for was replaced by nerves and a game of cat and mouse for the first 90 minutes. Naga were the more measured of the teams, playing some neat football without really threatening whilst Khemara relied on the long ball to their two strikers without any success. After the lights came on in extra-time, Sunday Okonkwo stooped to head Naga in front on 107 minutes though before the game could restart, they were down to 10-men when Tiet Chandara Sokha was sent off for lifting his shirt over his head and dismissed for a 2nd bookable offence. More pedantic crap from referee Tuy Vichheka as usual. Khemara couldn't press home their numerical advantage and when Okonkwo profited from a lack of communication at the back and rolled the ball into an empty net on 114 minutes, it was all over bar the shouting. In fact, no-one told Khemara centre-half Joel Omoraka and he blasted in a 30-yarder with a minute to go to set Naga nerves jangling, but they held out and went wild with joy at the final whistle, and rightly so. It was their 3rd title win in six years, as they collected the trophy from the Minister of Tourism Thong Khon and a cheque for 40 million riel. Though I'm neutral, I was chuffed for my favourite player, Naga skipper Om Thavrak, who had to watch from the bench after limping off with an injury on 75 minutes. He was ecstatic and will take days to calm down. The crowd played their part too, the thousands that came to watch upped the noise level for once and the friendly banter between the teams' fans was a pleasure to witness.
Naga mean business as they pose before the game begins
Naga manager Michael Thachnen wins the CPL title for the 2nd time in 3 years
Michael Thachnen lifts the CPL trophy aloft to everyone's delight
Minister Thong Khon presents a cheque for 40 million riel to the winners
The best left back in the CPL, national team player Sun Sovannarith

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