Cambodia’s head coach Hok Sochetra was spot on in his prediction of a close game for last night’s 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers clash against neighbouring rivals Laos.
The match, played at the Thulwunna YTC Stadium in Yangon, saw Laos emerge as 1-0 victors while Cambodia were forced to play the last half-an-hour with 10 men.
“In terms of physical size and skill, we are quite similar to [Laos] and we play football in a similar way so it may be quite a close game,” the Cambodian coach had been quoted as saying on Saturday on the official website.
He would have been bolstered by his side’s performance yesterday following their humiliating 5-1 defeat at the hands of traditional tournament minnows East Timor in their opening match on Friday, a result Hok Sochetra put down to “lost confidence”.
Despite surrendering most of the possession to the Laotians, Cambodia carved out numerous chances including a one-on-one between striker Phoung Soksana and Sengphachan Bounthisanh, which the keeper managed to thwart on 28 minutes.
Laos pushed hard for a goal and had their efforts rewarded on 39 minutes as a shot was deflected by Cambodia stopper Sou Yaty into the path of Viengsavanh Sayyaboun, who in turn picked out team-mate Visay Phaphouvanin to lash the ball home.
The second half saw Cambodia only marginally behind, and an equaliser could well have come on the hour mark when Chhin Chhoeun broke clear only to see his shot blocked by a defender.
Moments later, however, their captain Sun Sopanha collected a second yellow for a clumsy challenge to receive his marching orders and seemingly end Cambodia’s chance of a comeback.
Sou Yaty was an inspiration between the sticks, pulling off a string of timely interventions on at least five occasions to maintain a respectable scoreline.
In what had been expected to be one of their best chances of picking up points, Friday’s game turned into a nightmare for the Kingdom as the East Timor’s majority of foreign-based players, including some that were born in Brazil, ripped through the diminutive defence to seal their first victory in 15 attempts in the competition.
A brace each for Murilo de Almeida and Adelino Trindade either side of the break put them well on their way, and an Alan Leandro penalty late on put the icing on the cake.
A stoppage time spotkick for Keo Sokgnorn served as scant consolation for Cambodia, who look destined for another early elimination.
They now must regroup again for tomorrow’s match against Brunei, who lost 1-0 in their opener on Friday to hosts Myanmar with right-back Yan Aung Win netting the decisive strike.
In yesterday’s other game, Myanmar edged East Timor 2-1 thanks to a double from Kyi Lin, and Alan Leandro scoring for the visitors.
To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Riley at firstname.lastname@example.org