Two late goals keep Cambodia unbeaten in AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying, with the Philippines and Brunei still to come in the tournament underway in Phnom Penh
Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Cambodia's Sam El Nasa (right) competes for the ball with East Timor players during their qualifying match for the Asean Football Federation’s Suzuki Cup, at Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh on Sunday.
SUZUKI CUP Qualifying
All matches played at Olympic Stadium, Phnom Penh
Camboda 3 / Laos 2
Philippines 1 / East Timor 1
Camboda 2 / East Timor 2
Philippines 1 / Brunei 1
Philippines v Laos (2pm)
East Timor v Brunei (4pm)
Laos v Brunei (2pm)
Cambodia v Philippines (4pm)
Cambodia v Brunei (2pm)
Laos v East Timor (4pm)
CAMBODIA salvaged a point from a hard-earned draw with East Timor Sunday to keep alive their hopes of reaching Southeast Asia's showpiece football tournament, the Suzuki Cup, this December.
Playing in front of a boisterous home crowd at Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium, Cambodia staged an inspiring comeback from 0-2 down to grab a tie and keep momentum after a 3-2 win over Laos in their opening game of the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers on Friday.
"The most important thing is that we got the one point," said Cambodia head coach Prak Sovannara.
"We came back after being two goals down, and that speaks a lot about the ability of the players and, personally, it is a wonderful result."
Cambodia failed to capitalise on several chances to score in the first half and were forced to contemplate a stunning strike from East Timor's Anggisu Barbosa seconds before the break that put the visitors 1-0 up going into the second half.
East Timor extended their lead in the 67th minute after Cambodian keeper Samreth Seiha fouled Jose Perreira inside the penalty box, and Perreira duly converted.
Khim Borey got Cambodia on the scoresheet from a penalty with 12 minutes left to play. Two minutes later, Sun Sovvanarith grabbed the equaliser.
"We are not disappointed with the score," Khek Ravy, president of the Cambodia Football League, told reporters after the match.
"It means our team is still battling so we are happy with the result. It's wonderful for us that we can draw," he said.
East Timor manager Pedro Almeida was equally gracious, praising the October 17-25 qualifying tournament for the experience it gave the region's minnows.
"We are also happy for the Cambodian people who supported both teams," Almeida said.
Two remaining places
Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Brunei and East Timor are battling it out for the two remaining places in the December 5-28 Suzuki Cup finals, where the qualifiers will be joined by co-hosts Thailand and Indonesia, as well as defending champions Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Myanmar.
Cambodia can look forward to their next match, against the Philippines on Thursday, knowing their potentially greatest challenge is behind them after they picked up the maximum three points against Laos on Friday.
Khek Ravy said about 15,000 fans braved the afternoon heat to witness that surprise victory at Olympic Stadium.
"We didn't expect to win the match against Laos because the Lao team is supposed to be stronger than the others," he said.
"Our footballers have been playing very well at the moment, both mentally and physically, thanks to the many [recent] matches they have had and all the training indoors and outdoors they've had during the year.
"We are very happy and honoured to be hosting this tournament, as it means our sport is improving and becoming more developed with political stability and an economy that's growing year by year," he added.
Cambodia, who recently returned from a training camp in South Korea, play their fourth and final match against Brunei on Saturday.