Saturday, November 2, 2013

Last-gasp equaliser

PPCFC's trio for Cambodia U-23: LtoR, Sos Suhana, Sou Yaty and Bin Thierry - click to enlarge
The international-match starved Cambodian football fans came out in large numbers this afternoon to support the Cambodia U-23s in their first match in the Mekong Region BIDC Cup (aka MRYUIFTBIDCCup2013) and they went home happy enough with a last-gasp equaliser ending the game at 2-2. With Myanmar surprising Vietnam 1-0 in the early kick-off, Cambodia went into their game with Malaysia, who didn't send their full SEA Games team but were more than a match for the home side throughout the game, with three Phnom Penh Crown players in the starting line-up - keeper Sou Yaty, midfield anchor Bin Thierry and Sos Suhana. Coach Lee Tae-Hoon went for a defensive line-up with Keo Sokngon as the lone striker, while Boeung Ket's young winger Ros Samoeun found himself in the starting XI at left-back and Sok Rithy as skipper. Yaty was easily the busiest of the two goalkeepers throughout the match and made more than half a dozen good saves, his best coming on 16 minutes when he finger-tipped a six-yard header from Ahmad Hazwan Bakri over the cross-bar. Two minutes later and Sokngon found himself in space but screwed his shot wide of the far post. Yaty saved well low down from Malaysian skipper Irfan Fazail and on 37 minutes, Thierry's peach of a pass sent Sokngon racing clear, only for his weak effort to be blocked by keeper Tarmizi Roslan. With Yaty beaten, Nen Sothearoth cleared a Bakri header off the line and in injury time, Yaty was again well-placed to catch Thamil Arasu's point-blank header.

Less than two minutes after the restart and Malaysia went in front. The Cambodian defenders stood off and allowed Thamil Arasu the time to bend his 20-yard effort around Yaty's despairing dive. Fortunately, the Cambodian fans had to wait less than three minutes for an equaliser. Suhana fed Phoung Soksana and his low cross evaded the Malay defenders and Sokngon was on hand to force the ball into the roof of the net from close range. Soksana fired high and wide and Yaty rushed off his line to deny Bakri, before the Crown keeper pushed an Arasu shot on the turn, around the foot of the upright. With ten minutes remaining, Malaysia made their superiority count when Arasu finished with lightning reflexes from a cross into the box and silenced the home crowd for a few moments. Another Yaty finger-tip save denied Arasu but that was the last we saw of Malaysia who sat back and allowed Cambodia to push forward for the final five minutes. Soksana broke clear but fired his shot the wrong side of the post, Sokngon had two more chances saved easily by keeper Roslan and it was left to substitute Chan Vathanaka to rescue the game, four minutes into time added on. Thierry's ball forward was taken inside two defenders by Vathanaka and his low drive appeared to wrong-foot Roslan, much to the delight of the vociferous home crowd, as the ball nestled in the net. There wasn't even time to take the kick-off and Cambodia claimed a precious BIDC Cup point with a 2-2 draw. It wasn't a particularly good performance from Cambodia, with the visitors looking quicker and slicker for the most part, but the final five minutes (plus stoppage time) will remain in the memory, much more than the previous 85, and that gloss will give the home fans heart that Wednesday's game against Laos may just see Cambodia go one better and beat their neighbours. Yaty was outstanding throughout and Thierry, pumped full of pride at representing his country for the first time in a competitive match, ran him a close second as MOTM, with Suhana busy as usual, a hallmark of his national team appearances.
Cambodia U-23s v Malaysia: Yaty, Sothearoth (Pancharong 51), Samoeun, Sovan (Khemarin 81), Rithy, Thierry, Sothearath (Vathanaka 66), Suhana, Chhoeun, Soksana, Sokngon. Subs not used: Sophea, Piseth, PM Udom, Pheng, Saray, Dara. Bookings: Rithy, Thierry. MOTM: Yaty. Goals: Sokngon (50), Vathanaka (94)

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