MRYUIFTBIDC Cup, played on a very wet surface that gave neither team scope to play attractive football, Cambodian referee Tuy Vichhika took center-stage and needed a police escort as he left the pitch after the 1-1 draw between Vietnam's U-19 team and provincial Chinese club side Wuhan Hongxiang. Relations between the two nations are notoriously fraught and so it proved on the football pitch at Olympic Stadium tonight. I lost count of the yellow cards brandished by the Cambodian match official, it was at least 9, as he clamped down on the Vietnamese penchant for heavy tackling early in the game. The first-half was a washout as both teams struggled manfully with so much water on the pitch surface. It improved after the break and Hongxiang looked to have an early penalty when Chen Hao was scythed down in the box, only for Vichhika to flash a yellow card at the player for simulation. On 76 minutes Hao was again fouled and this time, the referee pointed to the spot, with Huang Lei lashing home a twice-taken penalty with venom. A moment of handbags at five paces saw players and officials from both teams squaring off against each other until the police moved in to quell the fracas, before the the match ended in more controversy. In the second minute of time added on, with Vietnam pressing for an equaliser, Nguyen Xuan Nam went down in the penalty area, all too easily I have to say, and referee Vichhika pointed to the spot. Despite Chinese protestations, keeper Xia Yong saved Nguyen Thanh Hien's poorly-struck kick, only to drag the same player down as they both went for the rebound. Vichhika initially saw it as a dive, but changed his mind after consultation with his linesman, and awarded another spot-kick. The Chinese protests continued with two assistant coaches being dismissed from the pitch. After a two-minute delay, Hien lashed the ball home to make it 1-1. The final flashpoint of the match came as Hongxiang's Zhang Xian saw a straight red for an off-the-ball incident that allegedly involved strangling his opponent. That brought the curtain down on this fiery encounter with points shared.
Postscript: The official match report shows Tuy Vichhika flashed no less than 13 yellow cards (6 for Vietnam and 7 for Hongxiang), with the Chinese team also losing a 2nd player to a red card, Chai Lei, for a second booking, though I didn't even see that in all the commotion.