Star striker Chan Vathanaka missed a 55th-minute penalty as Cambodia twice bounced back from a goal down during a highly combative first half to force a 2-2 draw against Chinese Taipei in the first leg of the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers playoff at the National Stadium in Kaohsiung city yesterday.
The second leg between the two sides will be played at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh next Tuesday.
In an ill-tempered second session, Cambodia’s captain Chantha Bin Thierry was dismissed from the field with a red card after his second yellow booking barely a minute after Vathanaka’s somewhat feeble left-footer from the spot was stopped by Chinese Taipei goal keeper Pan Wen Chieh.
Cambodia was awarded that penalty after Keo Sokpheng was recklessly tackled as he advanced into the box.Down to 10 men, Cambodia put up a stout defence to thwart several incisive moves by Chinese Taipei, who also lost the services of midfielder Chen Hao Wei after his second booking in the 74th minute.
Seemingly innocuous move
Earlier in the first half, the sides shared four goals and several goal mouth skirmishes.From a seemingly innocuous move, midfielder Wen Chih-Hao, who plays in China for the Beijing Enterprises Group, showed aerial accuracy beyond belief by landing a long ranger in the net as early as the sixth minute.
But within two minutes of this snap goal that visibly left the backline in a state of shock, Cambodia hit back through Chan Vathanaka and Keo Sokhpeng working in tandem. Vathanaka’s on-the-run cross across the face of the goal was deftly turned in by Sokhpeng,
Chinese Taipei regained the lead in the 22nd minute when Chen Po-liang beat goalkeeper Sou Yaty with a powerful finish from the edge of the penalty area.
Once again, it was Keo Sokpheng who played a big role in helping Cambodia level the scores.
The Phnom Penh Crown star’s close-range attempt was parried away by the goalkeeper but the fast-advancing Chhin Chhoeun pounced on the rebound to drive the ball in.
While Cambodia were left to rue the missed penalty, the Angkor Warriors camp can take some comfort in those two away goals that give the side a slight advantage when Chinese Taipei take to the Olympic Stadium pitch in the return fixture.