Cambodia came out after the break with purpose and it took just seven minutes for the home side to send their fans into a frenzy with the equaliser. Sam El Nasa floated a pass to Laboravy on the left-hand side of the area and he tussled with two Laos defenders, came out on top and whacked his shot past Souksavath from eight yards out. Cambodia continued to press, Chhoeurn had a shot blocked by his own teammate El Nasa before the substitute sent the massive crowd into raptures on 58 minutes. Laboravy was inch perfect in his delivery through the middle and El Nasa took the ball in his stride and fired past Souksavath from the edge of the penalty box with calmness and precision. Cambodia were now in front but their lead lasted just two minutes. On the hour, Tieng Tiny gave away a free kick 22 yards out and the pocket-rocket Manolom Phomsouvanh stepped up to deliver his trademark dead-ball strike with such power that Ouk Mic had no chance as the ball arrowed into the far corner. Two exquisite free-kicks by the teenage Lao winger. Rather than feel sorry for themselves, Cambodia upped their game again and Sokumpheak had another near post shot blocked by the Lao stopper Souksavath, before he made no mistake thirty seconds later. With 68 minutes on the clock, Sokumpheak snuck behind the Laos defence, moving onto a Laboravy pass, composed himself and flicked his right-foot shot wide of the keeper and into the net for 3-2. The crowd were back on their feet and dancing for joy.
Both teams made changes, but Cambodia had enough in the tank to keep possession with Sokumpheak in his element, delivering neat and incisive passes whenever Cambodia eased out of their own half. With three minutes left, the Phnom Penh Crown striker looked to have sealed it when he headed in Phuong Soksana's cross but a linesman's flag was fluttering in the breeze and the crowd sat back down again. But only for a minute as Sokumpheak weaved his way to the bye-line, sent across an inch-perfect center which Sam El Nasa despatched from five yards out to put the icing on the cake and leave the Cambodian fans almost delirious with pleasure. It was a wonderful comeback for the home team that should fill them with confidence ahead of the away leg in Vientiane at the weekend. Cambodia's coach Lee Tae-Hoon refused to pull out any individuals for praise at the after-match press conference, preferring instead to talk about the team as a whole, though it wouldn't take a genius to identify that Kouch Sokumpheak was head and shoulders above anyone else on the Olympic Stadium pitch this afternoon. To be honest I couldn't understand a word of what the South Korean coach said in his comments to the press and I was straining my ears to catch every word. Laos' Austrian coach Hans Peter Schaller blamed his team's defeat on individual mistakes, too many young players, missing six key players and; "we made it too easy for Cambodia in the 2nd half, after we controlled the first half. If we cannot beat Cambodia at home, we don't deserve anything." Roll on Sunday and more of the same please Cambodia.
Cambodia line-up: Mic, Rady, Pancharong (Raksmey 86), Tiny, Rithy, Sothearith, Sopanha, Chhoeurn (Soksana 82), Saray (El Nasa 34), Laboravy, Sokumpheak. Subs not used: Vichet, Vichheka, Piseth, Dina, PM Udom, Narong, Souhana, Chan Vanno, Veasna.
The starting XI for Cambodia: Back Row LtoR: Rady, Sopanha, Tiny, Rithy, Laboravy, Mic. Front Row; Sothearith, Chhoeurn, Pancharong, Saray, Sokumpheak