Cambodia began with a 2-0 over Laos. Back Row LtoR: Raksmey, Sovan, Yaty, Soksana, Rithy, Laboravy. Front Row: Chhoeurn, Phearith, Sothearath, Pancharong, SarayMekong BIDC Cup, or the MRYUIFTBIDC Cup as it's now affectionately called. Cambodia won 2-0 and Laboravy stood pretty much head and shoulders above everyone else, both in stature, age and ability to create chances, as the Laos coach, Veunsavanah Sivisay, acknowledged after the match. "Cambodia were stronger than my team, especially number 11 (Laboravy). He was the difference, he was fast and simply too strong for my boys to cope. Most of my team are just 16 or 17 years old." So what was hyped as an U-21 tournament, started with a young Laos national team, who'd just competed in the AFF U-19 championships, being whipped by a 23 year old striker with bags of international and domestic experience and the home side's captain for the day. To Cambodia's credit, they harried and buzzed around in the early stages, full of enthusiasm and egged on by a crowd of thousands of schoolchildren invited to give the match an atmosphere. It worked, as every positive move by the home side was greeted with mass cheering and clapping from the students. The first real action of the game came on nine minutes as Tum Saray was booked for going down too easily in the Laos penalty box. With Laboravy looking dangerous on the left, it was one of his characteristic shimmies that took him to the bye-line on 22 minutes, and his low cross was touched in by Phoung Soksana at the near post, we think with his knee, to whip the crowd into a frenzy. Around the half-hour mark, two incisive Saray passes inside both full-backs gave Cambodia two more opportunities, as the home side began to dominate the exchanges. For the first, Laboravy's bye-line cross looked to have given Soksana his second goal until Laos skipper Sousadakone Liepvisay got in a blocking tackle at the last moment. For the second, Chin Chhoeurn got his shot away only to see Laos keeper Soukthavy Soundala save the day, with Soksana blasting the rebound over the bar from 15 yards out. With five minutes of the first-half remaining, it was Laboravy again, with Saray the supplier, who should've reacted quicker when set free but allowed Phoutthasay Khochhalern to get in a last-ditch tackle. A minute later, Laboravy weaved and dazzled his way past two players but found keeper Soundala in fine form. The final action of the half, in time added on, saw Sou Yaty, in the home goal, produce his second save of the afternoon, fisting a 25-yard effort from Tokty Khounthoumphone from under the cross-bar. Yaty had stood firm to a Lembo Saysana rising drive ten minutes earlier with Laos' first real goalscoring chance.
The start of the second period was greeted with a rain shower that turned progressively worse and spoiled the game as a spectacle from the hour mark onwards. With water lying on the pitch surface, both teams found it impossible to play any type of passing game, with the Laos coach bemoaning afterwards that it was a "swimming pool and the game should've been stopped by the referee." In fact the referee did call the two captains together before deciding to continue. Just after the break, Saray had a low drive blocked by Soundala but it Laboravy who again grabbed the limelight when his 69th minute free-kick took a deflection off the wall and thundered against the crossbar. Soksana wasted yet another good opportunity a couple of minutes later before Yaty came to Cambodia's rescue with his best save of the game. As both teams found the going tough, Laos striker Xaisongkham Champathong conjured up some magic to send a shot that looked destined for the top corner, before Yaty pulled out a fingertip save to deny him. Cambodia adapted better to the conditions and it was only a matter of time before they increased their lead. With ten minutes to go, a goalmouth scramble saw Laboravy and then substitute Sok Pheng denied by desperate defensive blocks and then Saray was denied a goal for a challenge by Laboravy on Soundala. The killer second goal finally arrived six minutes from the final whistle. Pheng was brought down 20 yards out and Laboravy returned from some touchline treatment to find his range and accuracy from a free-kick that evaded the wall and also Soundala to send his teammates, and the wet crowd, into raptures. He was substituted moments later to a standing ovation. Cambodia saw out the final minutes to begin their defense of the BIDC Cup with a near-perfect 2-0 success, that sets them up nicely for their next game against Myanmar on Wednesday in pole position. The national team coach, South Korean Lee Tae-Hoon was a happy man after the game. "Laboravy is a very special player, he played ever so well, but so did Soksana, Chhoeurn and Saray, they all played well today. I was also very pleased with Yaty, he made a few good saves, though I will play Vichet in the next game. It's a good start."
Cambodia line-up: Yaty, Raksmey, Pancharong, Sovan, Rithy, Phearith, Sothearath, Saray, Chhoeurn (PM Udom 60), Soksana (Pheng 74), Laboravy (Dalin 86). Subs not used: Vichet, Rady, Daravorn, Sokngorn, Souhana, Veasna. Bookings: Saray, Rithy.