Monday, February 28, 2011

Less profile please

Naga in yellow, 3-2 winners over the Police
Referees are supposed to get through a game without being noticed but in Cambodia that's rarely the case. Instead, anyone would think they wanted to be the center of attention based on their propensity to flash their colourful cards at all and sundry and to make game changing decisions that few on and off the field agree with. Thong Chankethya irritated both sides in Saturday's Crown versus BBU match, only for his colleague Yien Kivatanak, to do exactly the same the following day, as Naga Corp scraped through 3-2 over National Police Commissary. But it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who watched the C-League last season as these two referees were the busiest of the card-happy officials, with Chankethya managing to pull-off the award as the best referee of the campaign, which I must admit caused me a few chortles out loud. Anyway back to Kivatanak, who I believe is the son of one of the football federation officials, and his determination to spend his evening writing reports, having booked 7 players in the Naga and Police teams as well as giving an early bath to two Police players, Touch Pancharong and Sophal Udom. Did it impact on the result? - of course it did with the game all square at 1-1 after the end of regulation time, Naga had nosed ahead in the 2nd minute of extra-time before Pancharong was shown a straight red for kicking out at Sun Sovannrithy on 103 minutes, though at the time I thought it was accidental. Sovannrithy had moments before kicked the ball away when Kivatanak blew for a Police free-kick and Pancharong was already swinging his leg to take the kick quickly when he caught the Naga man, who went down as though he'd been shot. The referee wasted no time in flashing the red card. Afterwards, I asked Pancharong if he meant to kick the player and he said he was just trying to take a quick free-kick as his team were behind. The 2nd red card was for a 2nd cautionable offence when Sophal Udom went nose to nose with a linesman over a throw-in and Kivatanak responded to the linesman's flag-waving with a yellow card, followed by a red. At least Udom didn't hit the referee this time as he did last season.
This Hun Sen Cup quarter-final was all Naga early doors and Kop Isa opened the scoring on 34 minutes with a neat finish from Teab Vathanak's cute pass. The Police team, who will be new boys in the C-League this coming season, came close near the break but Naga kept the lead until 57 minutes when Sophal Udom's shot got a wicked deflection off a prostrate Om Thavrak and looped over the flailing arms of Mak Theara in goal for 1-1. Sun Sovannrithy got on the pitch before the leveller for his first game in months and gave the Naga attack some fresh impetus, twice going close to restoring their lead. Full-time came with the scores still level though most of the players must've been tired through all the play-acting and rolling around the floor they'd put us through in the 90 minutes. The two teams of stretcher-bearers must've been knackered. Just two minutes into extra-time, Teab Vathanak ducked low to head Meas Channa's near post cross past keeper Chanraksmey before referee Kivatanak took a hand in proceedings to issue two red cards to leave Police without a hope. That was compounded when Vathanak broke away in time added on and fed Chhim Sambo, who rounded the keeper and rolled his shot in to make it 3-1. A final flourish from the Police saw Ieng Tine lash in a drive after Long Nasy had struck the post for a consolation, only for Kivatanak to blow for full-time before the game could restart. Naga's prize for the victory is to meet Preah Khan Reach in next weekend's semi-final.
National Police Commissary lost out narrowly
Referee Yien Kivatanak concentrates on getting the pre-game toss-up correct, watched by the captains

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