|Cambodia v Laos, back row, LtoR: Sovan, Laboravy, Vathanaka, Samoeun, Piseth, Yaty. Front: Pheng, Suhana, Visal, Srin, Sokumpheak (capt) - photo by Masayori Ishikawa/Khmer Goal - click to enlarge|
Cambodia's Suzuki Cup adventures began with a 3-2 defeat against the hosts Laos in Vientiane, but it was a close-run game in which the visitors showed their battling qualities to drag themselves level after going two goals behind in the second-half. Five Phnom Penh Crown players started the game. The first-half was a close affair which Cambodia just shaded according to the tv pundits but neither team could break their duck and it was goal-less at the break. Both Kouch Sokumpheak and Sos Suhana went close early on, in the opening half. The home team came out at the start of the second half with real purpose, no doubt inspired by coach David Booth's half-time blast, and opened the scoring on 54 minutes when two Cambodian defenders failed to deal with a long ball and Sihavong scored with a well-placed drive. Sou Yaty in the Cambodian goal was in the thick of it, with three good saves but didn't reach a ball delivered into the corridor of uncertainty between the last defender and the keeper, and Khampheng got the merest of touches to claim Laos' second on 70 minutes. To their credit Cambodia responded just three minutes later with a cracking goal from Khuon Laboravy as he bamboozled the Laos defenders and let fly with his trusty left foot. Cambodia's tails were up and just two minutes later, substitute Sok Chanrasmey got his knee to a Laboravy center and eased the ball over the line, despite Laos claims for offside. Game on and a great recovery from the visitors, albeit relying on a long ball strategy for their offensive moves. However, their hopes were dashed just six minutes later when Khampheng took a leaf out of Wayne Rooney's book the night before, and curled a free-kick over the wall and past Yaty's despairing dive, for what turned out to be the game's clincher. Yaty had to make two more saves whilst Laboravy took a tumble in the box but the referee was having none of it. To be honest, he went down too easily. And that was that. Laos just about deserved it on the balance of play, but Cambodia showed they weren't there just to make up the numbers.
After the game, Lee Tae-Hoon, the Korean coach of Cambodia, had this to say. “We missed our chances in the first half and let our guard down early in the second, allowing those two goals which put a lot of pressure on us. It is always very hard when it comes to playing the opening game against the hosts. We have to do better in our next match. There are a lot of things we need to get right.” David Booth, the successful coach of Phnom Penh Crown in 2011, who took over the Laos team just a few weeks ago, said: "We didn’t play well in the first half and we kept giving the ball away but in the second half we were a lot stronger. Maybe the players thought we had done enough when we went two goals up and they lost their concentration and let in two quick goals. They could have easily given a third away at that point but we got the lead back and held on for the win, which was very important for our first game.” Cambodia face Timor-Leste in their next game on Thursday, who will be cock-a-hoop after their 4-2 win over Brunei in the opening game. Murilo de Almeida grabbed a hat-trick to make his mark in the tournament. Timor have six players playing abroad - two are playing in Kuwait, three in Brazil and one in Thailand - with the remainder from the local amateur league. Cambodia will have their work cut out to kickstart their Suzuki Cup hopes into life.
Cambodia NT: Yaty, Pheng, Visal, Piseth, Sovan, Samoeun, Srin (Sothearath), Sokumpheak, Suhana (Chanrasmey), Laboravy, Vathanaka. Subs: Sophea, Udom, Chhoeun, Daravorn, Soksana, Virak, Sovannrithy. Bookings: Sokumpheak, Srin. Goals: Laboravy (73), Chanrasmey (75).
|Ex-PPCFC coach David Booth, now with Laos, emerged victorious|
|Cambodia's Lee Tae-Hoon, ponders his next move at the press conference|