Thousands of passionate fans packed out Phnom Penh’s National Olympic Stadium last night to witness the final of this year’s hard-fought Hun Sen Cup, one of the Kingdom’s most prestigious football tournaments.

Organisers claimed an attendance of 29,769, almost capacity for the newly refurbished facility, which boasts 30,000 seats, and meets international FIFA standards.

The roar of the crowd was deafening as apparent crowd favourites Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC took to the field to face their storied opponents, Phnom Penh Crown. 

In stifling heat, neither team appeared to be able to make the most of numerous attacking opportunities. With the frustrated players unable to make crucial passes stick, and some poor decision making, the scores remained locked at nil all as the half time whistle was blown. 

The second half saw more of the same, as there appeared to be no way for either side to complete a successful attacking movement. There were several good chances, and even several shots on target, but each was called back by the sideline officials and ruled offside.

As injury time drew to a close, the players braced themselves for an additional 15 minutes each way.

The extra time saw many shots come close, but as the clock continued to wind down, many in the crowd had prepared themselves for the nail biting sensation of a classic penalty shootout.

One player had other ideas. 

Svay Rieng’s star Canadian striker Marcus Haber found himself in space in the Phnom Penh box in the 108th minute of what must have been one of his most challenging matches. He trapped the ball with his chest then fired an absolute scorcher of a volley into the back of the net.

Predictably the crowd went wild, with cries of Svay Rieng! Svay Rieng! echoing throughout the stadium, and thousands of blue scarves being thrust proudly aloft.

Remarkably, the goal seemed to spur the Phnom Penh side into action, with a sea of red breaking over the blue-clad leaders. Sadly for the former multiple champions, it was not to be, with Haber’s volley the only goal scored in more than 120 minutes of football.

The worthy champions celebrated ecstatically, with even some team officials’ wives taking to the field to share in the experience. 

Both teams will now be looking ahead to their Cambodia Premier League campaigns. With matches underway next weekend, the current table mirrors tonight’s result. Svay Rieng sit at the top of the league on 69 points, with Crown in second, with just 64 points. Whether they can do enough to catch the leaders remains to be seen.