Cambodia’s seemingly endless wait for a tournament win over a host nation continued on Saturday as an injury-time strike saw them fall 3-2 to Brunei during the opening match of the 2012 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy at Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium in Bandar Seri Bangawan.
Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
Lee Tae Hoon, Cambodia's team coach, under pressure.
The competition and match venue is named after the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei, who was present at the opening ceremony on Saturday and stayed to watch his side edge their regional rivals.
Although the nine-day tournament is primarily for U21 squads, both teams made full use of their allowance of three over-age players in starting line-ups. Cambodia opted for the experience of midfielder and skipper Chhun Sothearath, defender Sok Rithy and striker Teab Vathanak, while the senior trio from Brunei proved the difference in the game.
According to The Brunei Times, Lee Tae Hoon’s Cambodia started the brighter of the two, with winger Prak Mony Udom earning and converting a penalty in the sixth minute after he was brought down in the box by Abd Mu’iz Sisa Udom.
Just before the break, however, midfielder Md Hendra Azam Md Idris pulled one back for the hosts as the Cambodian defence failed to clear the ball.
In the 75th minute, Brunei took a 2-1 lead when Adi bin Said slotted home off a through ball judged to perfection by substitute Md Shafie Hj Md Effendy.
Eight minutes later, Cambodia equalised through a free kick by their own substitute Chan Vathanka, who was recently named footballer of the year by the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia.
In time added on, Ak Md Abd Halim Pg Hj Hassan was fouled at the edge of the area by Sok Rithy, and captain Md Najib bin Hj Tarif stepped up to curl the ball into the top right corner to send the home support into hysterics.
It was a great night for South Korean coach Kwon Oh-son, but his compatriot Lee Tae Hoon will likely be feeling the pressure after recording yet another poor result in international competition.
Cambodian fans, especially those who followed proceedings in Brunei live on the internet, have begun their call for his dismissal.
The Football Federation of Cambodia has been criticised heavily for its unconditional faith in a manager who has enjoyed little success.
The last time a Cambodian national team of any age claimed victory over a home side was a staggering four decades ago, when they beat South Vietnam 2-1 during the Vietnam Nat-ional Day Tournament on November 1, 1972.
Saturday’s other Group B match, played concurrently at Bandar Seri Bangawan’s Track & Field Sports Complex, saw Malaysia and Vietnam end deadlocked at 0-0.