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Cambodia taught a lesson

Pham Thanh Luong of Vietnam (right) scores the first goal against Cambodia at Chao Anouvong Stadium on Friday. AFP

Cambodia coach Scott O’Donell says his youngsters were outclassed as they lost 6-1 to Vietnam Friday in their final SEA Games group match in Vientiane

Pham Thanh Luong of Vietnam (right) scores the first goal against Cambodia at Chao Anouvong Stadium on Friday. AFP

THERE was no hiding place for the Cambodia U23 team as they suffered their heaviest defeat in their last SEA Games Group A match, with national coach Scott O’Donell summing up the game in typically blunt fashion.

“We were totally outplayed by them,” stated the Australian-born tactician, now in his second spell in charge of the Cambodia team. “There was a complete difference in class between us and Vietnam. They controlled the game; they did what they wanted to, when they wanted to. Our individual defending was poor, our clearances were poor, we didn’t track their runners, we allowed them too much time and space, and they punished us.

“It’s something we’ve got to learn from,” he added. “If you don’t defend properly, and you are not well-organised, maintain your shape and balance, and you don’t reduce the time and space they have to play, they’ll do what they want, and that’s exactly what happened.”

Cambodia were playing for their pride against their more experienced neighbours Vietnam, with progression in the competition already impossible. Vietnam, who needed a point from the match to confirm their place in the semifinals, made it clear from the outset that they would give no quarter.

They pressed from the start, playing their fast-paced style and exchanging passes quickly and effectively around the edge of the Cambodian penalty area to keep the Kingdom penned back in their defensive third of the pitch.

Vietnam captain Pham Thanh Luong cut inside Sun Sovannarith and fired in the first goal on 11 minutes, giving Sou Yaty in the Cambodian goal no chance, though the stopper got down well to keep out another effort from the same player a few minutes later.

Cambodia rallied on 22 minutes, when a well-struck half-volley from Keo Sokngorn looked destined for the far corner, before the giant Vietnam keeper Bui Tan Truong got his fingertips to it and pushed it wide. Sun Sovannarith put a free kick down the keeper’s throat two minutes later, and moments after that, Prak Monyoudom raced clear of the Vietnam defence but dragged his shot wide of the target.

Vietnam’s stranglehold on the game remained, though they didn’t cash in until three minutes before the break, when a corner was headed in unchallenged by Phan Thanh Hung. Halftime beckoned, and Cambodia had done well to restrict their opponents to just two goals.

Sou Yaty was again in the thick of the action early in the second half, distinguishing himself with a double save on 54 minutes from Luong and Pham Minh Duc. Cambodia lost Lorn Sotheara after a clash of heads, and while he was off the pitch getting treatment, Vietnam netted a third. It was the skipper Luong who scored his second goal on 63 minutes.

Just two minutes later, slack marking allowed Hoang Dinh Tung a free header and goal number four, with his first touch after coming on as a substitute.

Cambodia registered a small consolation when Khim Borey latched onto a Chhun Sothearath pass, turned neatly and fired it past Truong on 68 minutes. The flicker of a fightback was still there a minute later when Keo Sokngorn’s cross to the far post was a whisker away from substitute Um Kompheak, but it was quickly extinquished as Vietnam added two more goals before they were finished.

On 83 minutes, Tung added his second after Yaty had parried a shot from Nguyen Ngoc Anh. Then, in the last minute they scored a sixth when Tran Manh Dung slotted in with ease, with the Cambodian defence caught all at sea.

In their defeats against Thailand and Malaysia earlier in the competition, the Cambodian youngsters had offered more resistance, but Vietnam were in no mood to allow their neighbours any hint of an upset. They now go on to meet Singapore in today’s first semifinal at the Chao Anouvong stadium.

In a shock result Friday, Malaysia beat gold-medal favourites Thailand 2-1 to earn their place in today’s second semifinal against host nations Laos, who will be backed by 20,000 screaming home fans at the national stadium. Thailand will return home shell-shocked and without medals, having won gold at all eight previous SEA Games.

However, there is still a chance for a Thai gold in the women’s event, with the team playing Vietnam in the final Wednesday at Chao Anouvong stadium. The sides finished first and second in their five-team round robin competition.



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