Metfone C-League game had a bit of everything thrown in for good measure. Naga, the league leaders, were unbeaten in 16 matches, whilst Phnom Penh Crown were 2nd in the table and looking to make a point with the play-offs looming just around the corner. As it turned out, Crown did just that, overwhelming a Naga team that looked frail and toothless in attack and who also had to contend with referee Yien Kivatanak. On his debut last season this referee sent off 4 players so it came as no surprise to me that by half-time yesterday, he'd booked six and by full time, took his cautions to double figures (10) and dismissed two Naga players. If you book a player for his first infringement then you will end up having to send players off, and this is what Yien Kivatanak does regularly. It's a common thread that weaves it way through the C-League referee fraternity and one which they need to take a long look at in the close season. Anyway, back to the game. It was pretty much a one-sided affair. Crown kicked-off and retained possession for long periods, opening the scoring on seven minutes and not looking back. In attack, Olisa Onyemerea got the nod instead of Prince Justine - only three foreigners are allowed per team - and he had a hand in most of the damage Crown caused. He joined Crown in mid-season after leaving Preah Khan and may be the extra threat that Crown need to carry off the league title. Onyemerea and Justine together would be almost unstoppable for any C-League defence. But it was centre-half Tieng Tiny who ghosted in to volley home from close range after Keo Sokngorn flicked on Sun Sopanha's corner for the first goal. The referee then got busy with his yellow card and notebook as Crown had to wait until the 37th minute for their 2nd. It was a bit dubious as the ball appeared to strike Olisa Onyemerea on the arm as he bundled home Sok Pheng's cross but he didn't care and neither did the referee acknowledge the Naga protests. Half-time and leading 2-nil, Crown were effectively home and dry. Onyemerea had whacked a 25 yarder against the post earlier and Naga's only real threat came when Teab Vathanak's shot deflected off Sani Saidu and onto the cross-bar.
Naga made changes at half-time but they were ineffective. In fact Tiet Chandarasokha's arrival and departure lasted just 21 minutes as he was booked for dissent and then red carded for a needless foul on Onyemerea. Referee Kivatanak couldn't wait to flash his red card. Ten minutes from time, Onyemerea unleashed a curling shot that rebounded off the post to the feet of Hong Ratana who clinically despatched the rebound into the far corner. 3 minutes from the end, Naga were reduced to nine men when goalkeeper Mak Theara caught Ratana with a mistimed tackle just outside his box and was issued with a straight red. It looked a bit harsh to me but was perhaps a bit of justice for a goalkeeper who has committed his share of illegal challenges this season that have gone unpunished. With their three substitutes already on the park, Naga's Soeung Monyroath took the gloves and keeper's jersey. From the free-kick, Onyemerea hit the woodwork for the third time with a neat chip but wasn't to be denied his second goal of the game. A minute later Sun Sopanha snaked along the goal-line and Onyemerea lashed home his low cross. Crown, dominant, had deserved their 4-0 success and Naga will need to find some steel and bite in attack if they are to succeed in the forthcoming play-offs.