A late set piece stunner from Laos thwarted Cambodia’s spirited fightback as the hosts scrambled to a 3-2 victory in the AFC Suzuki Cup qualifiers at Vientiene’s New National Stadium on Sunday evening.
Earlier in the afternoon, the opening match of the qualifying cycle for the main tournament – to be jointly hosted by Singapore and Vietnam from November 23 – saw East Timor turn a 2-1 half time deficit to a 4-2 victory built around a triple strike from Murilo Ribeiro De Almeida.
Laos striker Khampheng Sayavutth, whom his chums fondly call Charmer, landed two vital blows including the match-winning free kick that curled over the Cambodian defensive wall to the far corner of the net, well out of keeper Sou Yaty’s reach.
Minutes before this spine-breaker for Cambodia, the home side had seen with horror their two-goal advantage disappear in a matter of moments.
After being frustrated many times over, striker Khun Laboravy found himself let loose in a sweet spot at the top of the box, and his trusty left foot packed enough power to send the ball to the top corner.
This timely strike did wonders for the Cambodian morale and in quick time Laboravy showed the presence of mind to turn the ball across the goal mouth to an advancing Sok Chanrasmey, the substitute using his knees to guide the ball in.
Laos hit the front early in the second half when 20-year-old Khonesavanh Sihavong latched on to a long ball from the midfield to hoodwink two Cambodian defenders and the goalkeeper. The 28-year-old Khampeng then caught the defense off guard to double the lead.
“We were much better in the second half but after going two goals up, we made a mistake in wanting to score more,” said Laos coach David Booth, whose familiarity with Cambodian football as Phnom Penh Crown’s coach in their triumphant 2012 Metfone C-League campaign may have played a part in his tactical approach.
“We have to be better for the next match obviously and do not get carried away with things,” added the 66-year-old, who replaced Japanese Norio Tsukitate only a few months ago for his second stint with the Laotian national team. He previously served in 2010 for around six months.
Cambodia coach Lee Tae Hoon, meanwhile, conceded that home advantage had a part to play.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Cambodia’s next fixture will be on Thursday against East Timor at the National Stadium, with kick off slated for 3:30pm Cambodian time.
In today’s action, Brunei face Laos from 3:30pm while Myanmar will take on East Timor at 6:30pm.
Two qualification spots are on offer in Vientiane to join Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines in the final phase next month.