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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 'Handball' and heat can't hold back Russia

'Handball' and heat can't hold back Russia

Controversy marked the latest soccer game between Cambodia and Russia when a disputed

handball against the Russians gave Cambodia a successful penalty.

But the Russians battled this and the steaming temperature to snatch their third

victory this month, winning the game 2-1.

"What heat!" moaned coach Leonid, of the visiting team, the National Youth

Football Team of the Russian Federation.

The Russian sportsmen had serious problems adjusting to Phnom Penh's "cool"

November weather. Back home it's minus 20 degrees Celsius.

"Be patient, guys," the sweating Russian coach told his team just prior

to the game on Independence Day. "Otherwise you won't survive the heat."

The Russians tried to gain the upper-hand and quickly succeeded. Nine minutes into

the game, center-forward Dmitriev rolled the ball to the right flank from where his

partner Protzenko slammed it into the Cambodian net.

In the stands, Russian diplomats and their families, including the Ambassador Yuri

Miakonykh, broke into cheers, deflating the early hopes of the Cambodian fans, including

the Premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh who sat beside the ambassador in the VIP box.

At the 40 minute mark in the first-half the Cambodian referee called a handball when

one of the Russian defenders touched the ball just in front of the net.

The referee's decision sparked an immediate controversy on the field when he awarded

a penalty kick to the home team.

"Our man didn't touch the ball," insisted the Russian coach. "The

referee made a mistake."

But the Russian side never appeared downhearted despite the constant cheers of the

home crowd. They had their own supporters.

After the referee's penalty decision the Russian fans immediately unfurled a red

and white banner declaring "Guys, we are here with you" and raised the

morale of their countrymen soaking with sweat on the pitch.

Mid-fielder Hem Son Chay capitalized on the penalty shot and scored the equalizer.

The Russian goalkeeper misjudged and dived to the left just as the ball rolled into

the right of the net.

As the match developed, Russia's dominance became apparent as they took the offensive

and held it against a rather defensive home team.

Competition for the ball became tougher as the game progressed. The referee was forced

to hold up a yellow card when a Cambodian defender felled a Russian attacker meters

from the Cambodian goal-mouth.

At the 69th minute Ajupov gave his team a go-ahead goal with a powerful left kick

curving the ball into the right-hand corner of the net, making the score 2-1 to the


This continued their run of success. Earlier, in matches on Nov. 5 and 7, the Russians

beat two local teams 4-0 and 2-0.

The Russians have had youth on their side with their eldest player no more than 21-years-old,

compared to their Cambodian counterparts, the oldest of which was 36.

The Cambodian side also found themselves physically weaker than the Russians and

had difficulty keeping up with the ball.

Height too was a disadvantage. The Cambodian goalkeeper measures 1.65m compared to

the Russian, standing 1.97m tall.

Throughout the game, Cambodia's most experienced player, 36-year-old Tes Simana looked

exhausted but told The Post: "I'm feeling as strong as ever."

The Cambodian government is now seeking foreign assistance to develop the country's

sporting potential.

"We need all facilities, good care and encouragement from the government,"

said Simana "And I will try my best to help develop the game," added the

veteran of Cambodian soccer who started 20 years ago.



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