Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cambodia shine

Cambodia's starting XI. Back LtoR: Udom, Yaty, Raksmey, Piseth, Tiny, Narith. Front: Chum, Veasna, Vathanak, Suhana, Pancharong

Cambodia's national team gave their fans, and themselves, a much-needed boost in the arm by defeating the Malaysian U-23s this afternoon at the Olympic Stadium. The scoreline was 3-1 and with a bit more luck it could've been a wider winning margin. The Malays are no slouches, though they certainly didn't live up to the hype in today's game. Recent draws against the national teams of Laos and Myanmar, a tour down under in Australia and an upcoming training stint in Europe, not to mention a full season, finishing 4th in the Singapore League last year under the name of Harimau Muda A, is an impressive CV. Their goal is the SEA Games in December, with the country having won the past two competitions in 2009 and 2011. On their performance at the Olympic Stadium today, they won't have a cat in hell's chance. Though their strikers kept Sou Yaty's hands warm with a couple of long-range attempts early on in today's friendly encounter, a deflected cross that flicked off the shin of Tieng Tiny was Yaty's main source of concern before Cambodia took a surprise tenth minute lead. With Choun Chum limping off to be replaced by Khim Borey on seven minutes, the Crown striker made an immediate impact. Malay keeper Izham Roslan lost his bearings as he came out of his area and Borey spotted his chance to roll the ball into an empty net from just outside the box. 1-nil and Borey couldn't quite believe his luck. Bulky Izzaq Ramlan looked as though he might cause Cambodia a few problems when he rounded Yaty after Say Piseth's weak header, but he went too wide and then planted a header over the top soon after. Prak Mony Udom chased a San Narith ball over the top and got to it before the onrushing Roslan, but couldn't direct his heavy touch goalwards. In the final minute of the opening half, Cambodia stunned the Malaysians with a second goal at just the right time. Udom, growing in maturity this season, poked a pass through for Teab Vathanak and the Naga midfielder dinked a tidy finish past Roslan. He almost repeated the feat in injury time but lobbed well over from Borey's give and go.

Tieng Tiny's rash penalty box challenge in the first minute of the 2nd half was ignored by local ref Thong Chankethya and a minute later, Yaty dived full length to keep out a downward header by Wan Zack Wan Nor as the visiting U-23s pushed forward. Sixteen minutes in and skipper San Narith was replaced, with the armband passing to Borey. Two minutes later and Malaysia reduced the deficit. A scuffed free-kick through a sea of legs was turned in my Thamil Arasu and it looked as though Cambodia would have a battle on their hands. Despite Malaysia throwing on four fresh faces, the onslaught never happened and it was the home side who came up with the better ideas. Borey cut inside and curled a shot into Roslan's hands, while Chhin Chhoeun's lob on the run went the wrong side of the upright. With five minutes left on the clock, Borey and Chhoeun exchanged long-range passes and the temporary captain's cross to the far post was nodded down and in by substitute Khuon Laboravy, much to the relief of the audience. Kouch Sokumpheak appeared for a brief cameo and it needed two more diving Yaty saves to keep the result at 3-1 in Cambodia's favour. Coach Prak Sovannara declared himself; "very proud of the team and the performance is what we wanted, and it reinforces what we are trying to achieve as we aim for the Philippines later this month." The national coach chose a mixed team with old hands such as San Narith, Tieng Tiny, Choun Chum and Teab Vathanak rubbing shoulders with the younger element of Soun Veasna, Prak Mony Udom and sub Hoy Phallin. The national team will go into training camp from Sunday and may squeeze one more friendly in before they head to Philippines for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers between 22-26 of this month.
Cambodia line-up: Yaty, Raksmey (Sokumpheak 88), Pancharong, Piseth, Tiny, Veasna (Khemarin 64), Narith (Phallin 61), Vathanak (Laboravy 74), Suhana (Chhoeun 49), PM Udom, Chum (Borey 7). Subs not used: Seiha, Bunchhay, Thavrak, Sopanha, Sovannrithy, Rithy, Vatahanak, Chanrasmey. MOTM: PM Udom.
The 4 Phnom Penh Crown players on national team duty. LtoR: Kouch Sokumpheak, Khim Borey, Samrith Seiha, Sos Suhana

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