A spirited performance by Cambodia in their final 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup qualifier last night in Yangon could do little to avoid the harsh reality of having to return home without a point from all four matches in the campaign.
The 2-0 loss to hosts Myanmar at the Thuwunna YTC Stadium was probably a fair reflection on the quality on display, although it wasn’t for a lack of trying by Hok Sochetra’s men.
The newly installed head coach was looking to turn a corner with Cambodia after an inglorious run under previous appointment Lee Tae Hoon of South Korea.
However, the 39-year-old will be hit with the realisation that their regional rivals have all stepped up their game significantly, leaving the Kingdom in the dust.
An engrossing but ultimately goalless first half yesterday saw Myanmar never look particularly troubled. Moe Win squandered the home side’s best chance on 20 minutes, as Cambodia started to show a hunger that had been lacking throughout the tour.
The interval served to spice up the hosts, who had Khin Maung Lwin lash a shot inches wide on the first breakaway of the second session.
Cambodia’s veteran striker Khim Borey created a shot for himself out of nothing but blasted over, while Kyi Lin missed a completely free header inside the box. Khim Borey then failed to connect properly with a header from a set piece as an opener became increasingly imminent.
To the relief of the home crowd, Myanmar snatched the lead on the hour mark through Kyi Lin, who made the most of his header, this time off a deep cross from the right. Five minutes later and the hosts were two ahead, Zaw Min Tun threading a neat pass across the face of goal for Kaing Situ to take a touch and fire past 19-year-old keeper Um Vichet.
Cambodia refused to let their heads drop, to their credit, and continued chasing every loose ball and tackle with great alacrity. But they simply couldn’t muster a comeback strike to shed some light on their gloomy evening.
Myanmar defender Pyaye Phyo Aung hammered the final nail in Cambodia’s coffin with an expertly curled free kick past the fingers of Um Vichet in the first minute of stoppage time.
The hosts now require just a point from tomorrow’s game against Laos to qualify for the final stage, which will be held in Malaysia and Thailand from November 24 to December 22.
In yesterday’s other match, Khampheng Sayavutthi and substitute Kanlaya Sysomvang converted second-half penalties as Laos came from behind to beat Brunei 3-1.
Brunei captain Rosmin Kamis had fired his side ahead with a 26th minute free-kick but Kovanh Namthavixay capitalised on a defensive slip to level the score. The Laotian pair of Khampheng and Kanlaya then scored one each from the spot to secure all three vital points.
Laos will chase a win in their game tomorrow, but may make it through with a draw should East Timor fall to Brunei in the concluding fixture.
Played at the Thuwunna YTC Stadium in Yangon
Saturday October 13
- Laos v Myanmar – 3:30pm
- Brunei v East Timor 6:30pm
To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Riley at [email protected]