Metfone C-League got underway this afternoon and with ten goals in the two matches, some cracking goals, a temporary walk-off and three red cards, there was something for everyone. Naga would've expected to start their season on a high but came unstuck against National Police, who surprised everyone, including themselves with a 4-2 win. In the 2nd match-up, the Rubbermen of Boeung Ket began their C-League life with a 3-1 win over a Kirivong team that finished the game in disarray. One thing you cannot say about Cambodian football is that it rarely fails to entertain. More of the same please.
Let's start with the opening game of the new season. Naga fielded three new Nigerian signings including Ken Nwafor from Crown and Ek Sovannara from Chhlam Samuth, whilst National Police stuck with their line-up from last season after new boy Olabode Abosede missed the kick-off time, though they did include wingman Nov Soseila after his return from a 2-year football walkabout. Without last season's 28-goal top scorer Julius Oiboh, Naga looked toothless from the start and so it proved despite Kop Isa giving them a 14th minute lead, drilling home a low cross from Badmus Bolaji. Police equalized within two minutes when Tith Dina struck a thirty-yard first-time effort that gave Phorn Ratana no chance in the Naga goal. Seven minutes on and Dina was at it again, picking his spot after a smart lay-off by Srey (who used to be Sophal) Udom and four minutes before the break, the Police went 3-1 in front. Sim Vutha cut in from the right flank and let fly with a 30-yard screamer that sailed into the top corner for an early contender for goal of the season. Police had to pinch themselves. From the kick-off, Naga moved forward and Teab Vathanak did what he does best, fell over in the area and won his team a penalty. Vathanak's been doing it for years and the match officials fall for it more often than not. Choun Chum (who used to be Chin Chom, another confusing name change that is prevalent this year) made no mistake with the spot-kick. Five goals in the 1st half of the season's opener. Lovely jubbly.
Naga should've come out guns blazing but they didn't. Without the free-scoring Julius and four of their new signings from Crown sitting out suspensions in the stands, their comeback never took place. In fact, Police went further ahead on the hour mark when Soseila's free-kick found Noun Borey (though I could've sworn it was Srey Udom) in acres of space and his header crept inside the post with Ratana flapping at thin air. Though Chim Sambo struck the post and Vathanak ballooned over from five yards out, Naga sans Julius are not the force they were last season, when they finished runners-up, and finished the game a well-beaten and spent force. For Police, it was a jubilant start to their campaign and in Tith Dina, they have a young man who continues to impress.