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ACLEDA bank another trophy

ACLEDA Bank successfully defend their Bayon Challenge International Tournament title Sunday at the Old Stadium with another clinical shootout

Photo by: NICK SELLS (www.nicksellsphotography.com)
A player from the Saigon Saints team (back, centre) converts his penalty past the diving ACLEDA goalkeeper (front, left) during their Sunday final of the 2010 Bayon Challenge International Tournament at Phnom Penh’s Old Stadium.

ACLEDA Bank football team survived two nerve-tingling penalty shootouts to retain their title in the Bayon Challange International Tournament at Phnom Penh’s Old Stadium Sunday evening. Staring defeat in the face against Vietnam-based Saigon Saints, ACLEDA turned the final shootout on its head and won 4-3 via sudden death. Saints had a chance to clinch the 11-a-side competition when the teams were locked at 3-3, but missed and allowed the Bank-backed side to claw themselves back into it. Regulation time of 40 minutes in the final had ended goalless, with ACLEDA missing a few open chances.

“Last year we defeated Bayon Wanderers on penalties to win the title,” recalled ACLEDA captain Chan Taol. “We have won again under similar circumstances [this year]. I am extremely happy because we came through another tough penalty test against Hanoi Drink Team 7-6 in the semifinal. We played very well, but missed several chances to wrap up the game.”

The skipper also recognised the efforts of his beaten opponents. “They were quite tough and highly competitive on the field,” he remarked.

Saints captain Mark Symmonds remained upbeat despite missing out on glory by the closest of margins. “We were so near yet so far,” he said after the final Sunday. “I thought we had it in the bag. It was not to be, but it was a very good final. Two of the best teams in the competition involved. We had our chances, they had theirs.”

Symmonds also revealed that tactical decisions in the shootout had cost them dearly: “We didn’t want the English guys to take the penalties; they are not good,” he stated. “So we let the non-English take them, and a Danish guy was the one who missed at 4-3.”

Both skippers expressed confidence in the two-day annual event’s continual growth in popularity. “It is getting better all the time and I hope more teams will take part in the years to come,” asserted Chan Taol. “It is much better organised this year than the one we attended in Bangkok,” added Symmonds. “I am sure this will grow bigger and better.”

In the playoff for the third place, visitors Hanoi Drink Team from Vietnam defeated local outfit Apsara Dancers 1-0.

Event organiser Billy Barnaart, who plays for Apsara Dancers, said he was pleased with the way the event has gone. “We revived this tournament two years ago,” he noted. “It was first played during the 90s. The response is getting better all the time and I hope more teams will take part next year.

“This is basically an amateur tournament, but mark my words, the competition is tough but in a very friendly atmosphere,” he continued. “The teams pay for everything here. There is no prize money and every one will get a trophy. But the spirit of competition is very high, and that is what matters.”

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