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Cambodia hold on for victory

The Kingdom’s U23s take their tournament record to 2-0 and secure a berth in the BIDC finals, but coach O’Donell says he’s unhappy with the performance

THE look on the face of Nov Soseila was one of pure joy as he celebrated scoring Cambodia’s second goal against Laos on Tuesday night at the Olympic Stadium.

The crowd joined in the celebratory mood, egged on by a five-piece band, especially as Nov Soseila has made himself the fans’ firm favourite with his speedy wing play and his never-say-die attitude.

Two goals ahead, with 30 minutes gone, and Cambodia were coasting.

But that very nearly was their undoing in their second match of the 4-team BIDC Cup competition.

Laos, unbeaten in a dozen games beforehand, woke up and took control of the game for the next hour. However, despite reducing the deficit on the stroke of halftime, they couldn’t breach the Cambodian defence a second time and the home fans could at last resume their celebrations at the final whistle.

The 2-1 victory for Cambodia puts them through to the competition’s final on Saturday against opponents yet to be determined.

I'll expect the players who take the field thursday to give 100 percent.

The match began brightly for Cambodia with Nov Soseila and Chan Chhaya causing the Laos back line problems with their speed. It was Kuoch Sokumpheak, back in the team after injury, who finally broke through on the right wing and supplied a sublime cross for teenager Keo Sokngorn to open the scoring on 22 minutes.
Sokngorn had ghosted unseen into the box and lifted the centre over the Lao goalkeeper with the deftest of touches.

Five minutes later, and the crowd were cheering their hero and a second goal when Nov Soseila latched on to a 30-yard through ball from skipper Sun Sovannarith. Nov Soseila nudged the ball around the goalkeeper and watched in horror as it rebounded off the foot of the post, though his quick feet and presence of mind enabled him to touch it over the goal-line before the goalkeeper could recover.

Up to this point, Laos were clearly second best, though the second goal appeared to spark them into life and out of their lethargy. On 39 minutes, their gifted striker Singto Lamnao should’ve netted, but blazed his shot over from 12 yards out.

In the final minute of the first half, a needlessly conceded free kick from the impressive Soukhavong Kaysone was palmed out by Cambodian goalkeeper Samreth Seiha, only for Sayavuthi Khampeng to thump the ball into the roof of the net from five yards out.
Laos were back in the game.

Renewed effort
After the break, Laos took the game to Cambodia but 7 minutes into the second period, they were reduced to 10 men when Singto Lamnao was red-carded for a theatrical dive in the penalty area as Samreth Seiha fell at his feet. The dismissal spurred Laos on even more, and it needed Samreth Seiha at his acrobatic best to keep out shots from Sysomvang Kanlaya, Phommaphanya Saynakoneveng and Kaysone, as Cambodia repeatedly spurned possession, unable to make their numerical advantage count.

Laos threw on five pairs of fresh legs in the hope of salvaging a result, but the Cambodian defence held firm and celebrated their second successive victory at the final whistle.

Team coach Scott O’Donell acknowledged the successful result, but was far from pleased. “I am happy we won but not happy with the performance at all. The first 20 minutes was good, and then we started making some silly mistakes.

“You couldn’t have known Laos had 10 men for the last 30 minutes because they dominated possession and created a few chances. Its a good lesson for us. We’ve got to start learning how to defend leads. As soon as we scored 2 goals, we stopped playing.”

He promised changes for Cambodia’s final group match today against Vissai Ninh Binh.

“I want competition for places. There’s 25 players in the squad, and I’ll expect the players who take the field on Thursday to give 100 percent and try to force their way into the starting 11 for the final. Positions are up for grabs.”

Also on Tuesday, HAGL, who’d lost 3-2 to Cambodia in the first game, despatched Vissai Ninh Binh (VNB) with ease. Brazilian striker Goncaves scored twice and Phung Van Nhien netted a third in an easy 3-0 win.

It would’ve been a lot more if not for the impressive performance of VNG keeper, Ukrainian-born Ding Hoang La. HAGL meet Laos in today’s other group match at 3.30pm.

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