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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia fail to advance

Cambodia fail to advance

The U23 national football team loses 4-nothing to Malaysia Tuesday in Vientiane to leave no chance of a semifinals place

Cambodia's Nov Soseila (left) attempts to pass Malaysia's Subamaniam Kunanlan during their match at Chao Anouvong Stadium, Vientiane. AFP

CAMBODIA’S dreams of football glory at the SEA Games will have to wait for another two years after Malaysia quashed their prospects of qualifying for the semifinals with a 4-0 win Tuesday.

After a 4-0 loss to Thailand last Friday, and a 4-1 win over East Timor Sunday in their earlier Group A matches, Cambodia required a victory over Malaysia to keep alive their hopes of advancing to the knockout stage. Malaysia also needed a win, so it was a make-or-break game for both teams at the Chao Anouvong stadium in Vientiane.

Malaysia began brightly with Idlan Talaha wasting two good opportunities in the first 15 minutes, with goalkeeper Samreth Seiha coming to Cambodia’s rescue on both occasions. The best of Cambodia’s early chances fell to Khim Borey, restored to the attack following the exclusion of Chan Chhaya.

Khim Borey escaped his marker and with space to manoeuvre, he miscued and dragged his shot across the face of the goal.

On 35 minutes, Malaysia made the breakthrough they’d been threatening. Manaf Mamat played a neat one-two with Idlan Talaha on the edge of the Cambodian box, evaded Samreth Seiha’s dive and rolled the ball into an unguarded net.

Two corners in quick succession for Cambodia ended with Kuoch Sokumpheak heading wide. In the lead-up to halftime, Idlan Talaha had two more half chances, the second clipping the outside of the upright just moments before the break.

Cambodia came out gunning for a leveller after the interval, and in his eagerness Chan Dara was booked for a foul on Idlan Talaha. On 51 minutes, Kuoch Sokumpheak blasted a shot over the bar from a Nov Soseila centre.

Two minutes later, Cambodia were presented with a perfect opportunity to equalise. A push in the back of Kuoch Sokumpheak gave the referee no alternative but to award a penalty. After a moment of indecision, Kuoch stepped up to score easily but the referee cut short his celebrations and ordered a retake for encroachment. His second spot kick went straight at goalkeeper Allawee Ramli, who saved comfortably.

Cambodia continued to press and Keo Sokngorn tested the goalkeeper’s handling with a twenty yard drive before Tieng Tiny’s free kick brought the best out of Ramli, who got his fingertips to the goalbound shot to keep his team in front.

Malaysia’s Rahim Safiq (right) scores a penalty and his team’s fourth goal against Cambodia in their group A match Tuesday. AFP

In a see-saw game, Malaysia finally broke Cambodian hearts with a second goal on 77 minutes. Manaf Mamat got behind Pheak Rady and his low centre was neatly turned in by Idlan Talaha from just inside the box.

Coach Scott O’Donell sent on Chan Chhaya, the last of his three substitutes, leaving three at the back as Cambodia went in search of goals. Unable to find a way through the Malaysian defence, they were punished on the break as Samreth Seiha acrobatically kept out a shot from Safiq Rahim but couldn’t stop the follow-up from Kunanlan Subamaniam, eight minutes from time.

Then, four minutes later, another quick break led to another goal. Samreth’s rash challenge on Subamaniam was deemed a foul, and Safiq Rahim slotted home the resulting penalty kick.

In time added on, Malaysia goalkeeper Rahmi pulled off another great save to deny Prak Monyoudom’s 25 yarder. As if to sum up Cambodia’s night, a Kuoch Sokumpheak drive was headed in by stand-in skipper Tieng Tiny, only for the referee to disallow the effort for offside.

As Malaysia celebrated their success, Scott O’Donell’s youngsters sat dejectedly on the pitch contemplating what might have been.

The manager had no complaints about the decisive penalty incident. “It was obviously disappointing,” he said. “But it was our own fault because we encroached the penalty area before the ball was kicked, so we have no one to blame but ourselves.”

As Cambodia went looking for goals, gaps appeared in the defence, which resulted in more goals being conceded. “It’s something we spoke about,” revealed O’Donell. “The need to remain disciplined and maintain our shape even when we are committing more players forward in search of goals. It is a tough lesson to learn but we have to learn from it. The difference was in the quality of the finishing. I thought for 70 minutes the game was fairly even, but as we all know the game is for 90 minutes not 70.”

The Cambodian team play their final match Friday against one of the favourites, Vietnam, at the Chao Anouvong stadium. Vietnam need at least a draw to make certain of their own qualification into the semifinals, after a draw against Thailand (1-1) and wins over East Timor (4-0) and Malaysia (3-1). Portuguese coach Henrique Calisto’s youngsters have impressed everyone with their lightning quick passing and sense of urgency that they’ve injected into their games and they are serious contenders for the gold medal.

Though relations between Cambodia and Vietnam have been ultra-friendly in recent months, with the BIDC Cup tournament in Phnom Penh and training facilities made available for the Cambodian squad in Ho Chi Minh, there will be no quarter given on the playing field. Cambodia have their pride to salvage and will want to end their SEA Games competition on a high, whilst Vietnam are renowned for their aggressive style of football, and matches between the two nations are always eagerly contested.

Vietnam also cannot take a Thai victory over Malaysia for granted, so a point from the game is vital.

O’Donell stated that his approach to Friday’s game would not change significantly, despite his team failing to get out of the group stage.



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