2009 Bayon Cup winners ACLEDA Bank pose with their trophy after the final at Phnom Penh’s Old Stadium Sunday.
2009 Bayon Challenge Final Standings
Hanoi Drink Team
Saints Minsk Search & Destroy
Royal Bassac FC
SPECTATORS and fellow participants at Phnom Penh's Old Stadium on Sunday witnessed the conclusion of the 2009 Bayon Challenge International Football Tournament. After a closely fought final finished goalless, ACLEDA FC defeated Bayon Wanderers 2-1 in a dramatic sudden death penalty shootout to claim the Bayon Cup.
After a day's crammed schedule of games played in sweltering conditions, tired legs characterised a tense final that started late. With the sun sinking behind the grandstand at kickoff to provide some respite, a slower-paced match saw Bayon Wanderers start brighter, forcing an excellent save from the ACLEDA keeper in the opening minute. Once ACLEDA had settled, however, they began to dominate possession. Joe Davis, the only member of the ACLEDA squad not employed by the bank, was instrumental in the team's ability to hold the ball. Bayon Wanderers defended doggedly, employing a sweeper in response to the waiving of the offside rule for the duration of the tournament.
Both sides earned their final berths via shootouts in the semifinals, and with five minutes left, the game seemed destined to be decided in the same fashion. ACLEDA were the fitter of the two sides, yet by this stage of the competition their assaults, predominantly down the right wing, were ineffective. At the final whistle, substitutes joined players in the centre circle and the crowd took to the pitch, forming a crescent from touchline to touchline.
Doug Collins scored the first for Bayon Wanderers with a low strike to the bottom left. Kham Kim Samray equalised with a bullet to the right. Both sides missed their second and third spot kicks, sending the competition into dreaded sudden death.
Luigi Savarina stepped up under extreme pressure, but could not beat ACLEDA keeper Hean Kosal, who saved low to his left. It was up to Nup Bora to seal victory for the bank side, and after kissing the ball before placing it on the spot, he fired low and hard to see Bayon keeper Tim Kangas fumble the ball into the bottom left corner.
"It is a big surprise," ACLEDA team captain, Neth Piseth, said after the game. "We have not been champions [of anything] before." Expressing his pride for his team's having played the entire tournament without conceding a goal, the captain named Pham Chanthol as his choice for man of the match.
Billy Barnaart, the Dutch organiser of the competition and active member Bayon Wanderers since their conception in 1995, was also delighted with the success of the two-day event. His philosophy is based on smiles and the spirit of the game, and he commended the players for being physical on field and great lads off the field. "They enjoy their football," he said. He was especially pleased with Bayon Wanderers' making the final, explaining: "[Bayon] didn't have the best players, but were the best team. They are like young lions."
Barnaart thanked his eleven sponsors for helping finance the event and looked forward to next year's competition, which he said would be more international. Already confirmed to join teams from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City who participated this year are teams from Bangkok, Jakarta, Seoul and Tokyo.
The Bayon Challenge International Tournament now sits firmly in the region's sporting calendar and promises to grow in years to come.