The top-of-the-table showdown between NagaCorp and Phnom Penh Crown ended even on Saturday as Crown came back to draw 1-1.
Either side could have come out victorious in a tight and heated affair, but Naga were left to rue a late missed penalty and had to settle for a tie. The game leapt into life after a cagey first ten minutes through a spectacular 30-yard strike from Crown’s George Bisan, which fizzed agonizingly over the Naga crossbar.
Naga hit straight back as forward Lelouma Barry was prevented from scoring after a well-timed, last-ditch tackle by Tony Obadin as Barry was almost through one-on-one with the keeper.
The young Guinean caused the Crown defense plenty of problems in the first half, cutting in from the left-hand side and constantly threatening in front of goal.
Despite having plenty of possession, Crown struggled to open the Naga defense and most of their efforts on goal were from long-range, including a shot from Ouk Sothy that forced an awkward save from Seiha Samrith before the half-hour mark.
After a period of attacking play from Naga, they opened up the scoring in the 39th minute through a beautifully curled left-footed shot from the edge of the box by Choun Chum.
Crown emerged in the second half reinvigorated and wasted no time in pulling level in the 54th minute as Khim Borey’s free-kick from the right-hand side found an unmarked Leng Makara, who caught a sweet volley to go level.
Crown somehow failed to take the lead ten minutes later as Bisan went past the Naga right-back, only to see his shot saved and then bundled off the line as Leng Makara was about to pounce.
The second half was one of the most heated in the C-League this season, with any worries of a sterile affair dispelled as tempers began to boil.
This came to a climax in the 77th minute when Crown keeper Sou Yaty took down Teab Vathanak in the penalty box, only for Naga’s Sun Sovannrithy to blast the resulting penalty over the bar to the delight of the thousands of Crown fans at Olympic Stadium.
“Going away with the point, I think looking at the fact that they missed the penalty late in the game is a result that we can live with,” Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber said after the game.
“I’m still a bit disappointed that the big games are not really going our way and we’re not really applying how we really want to play for a lot of the game time.”
Naga’s assistant coach Meas Channa said that he was pleased with his side’s performance despite the late penalty miss, but said he was frustrated by poor marking for the Crown equalizer.
“For the goal I assigned one player to mark [Makara] but he didn’t mark him. Hopefully we’ll look to try better here through the season.”
Boeung Ket failed to capitalize on the draw to go top after a shock 1-0 defeat by Kirivong last night.
Earlier in the day, Build Bright United pulled off a surprise 1-0 victory against reigning champions Svay Rieng. TriAsia’s slump in form continued as they were beaten 2-0 by Asia Euro University and National Defense perpetuated Albirex Niigata’s misery at the foot of the table with a 4-1 win at the Army Stadium.