After sharing four first-half goals, the Maldives U23 side got a decisive break in the 79th minute to edge out Cambodia 3-2 in a Group B encounter for the 2016 Bangabhandu Gold Cup Invitational Football Tournament at the Shamsul-Huda Stadium in the Bangladeshi city of Jessore yesterday.
The Islanders flew out of the gate with a third-minute goal from Ismail Easa that shook the Cambodian defence, but coach Lee Tae Hoon’s men quickly recovered to restore parity through Son Vandeth, who emerged from a crowd in the box to drill home the equaliser in the 17th minute.
Following several dramatic exchanges at both ends, the Maldives grabbed the initiative once again when the hardworking Naiz Hassan found the target in the 37th minute.
But a minute into added time before the breather Tit Dina came up with a tidy finish to level the scores at 2-2.
The defences of both sides got stretched time and again until a quirky clash between Cambodia’s young goalkeeper Um Serirath and the fast-advancing Naiz Hassan worked in favour of the Maldives.
As Serirath hit the turf, Naiz, who kept his balance, worked the ball around into an unattended net, beating off a desperate lunge by a retreating Cambodian defender in the bargain.
This late blow left Cambodia with little time to grab a draw, though one Chhoeum Chhum cross well inside the box bang on regulation time did cause a stir in the Maldives camp before the move petered out.
Cambodia will now take on Bahrain in Dhaka on Wednesday and meet hosts Bangladesh U23 on Friday in this four-team group campaign