Cambodia head coach Leonardo Vittorino was left wondering where the goals would come from after Cambodia spurned numerous chances before going down 2-0 to the Philippines in the Group B opener of the SEA Games football competition late on Tuesday evening.
Philippines struck two second-half goals and fended off several desperate attempts from the Angkor Warriors to avenge the 1-0 loss they suffered at the hands of Cambodia in the AFC U23 Championship qualifier at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh on July 23.
The day ended on a depressing note for Cambodia after defender Chhoum Pisa, who was adjudged to have used excessive physical force against a Filipino player just before a corner routine, was sent off five minutes before regulation time at the Selayang Stadium.
Sok Samnang, who had produced the match winner in the previous clash between the two sides, missed three gilt-edged chances.
During a goalless first half, Samnang drove the ball inches wide of the right post from the edge of the box with only the goalkeeper to beat. Cambodia would never get a chance as good as that in the rest of the session.
Minutes after restart, Reymart Cubon headed in Javier Augustine’s corner kick in the 55th minute to give Philippines an unexpected but deserved lead.
Cambodia pressed hard for an equaliser but poor finishing undid their promising approach work.
With the Philippines stoutly defending their narrow advantage, the clock was running down for coach Vittorino’s charges.
A free-kick 25 yards out in the 80th minute proved decisive as Kou Ichi Belgira rammed the ball past the Cambodia wall and into the corner of the net with keeper Oum Sereyrath left hopeless.
It took two spectacular saves from the Philippine keeper to deny Cambodia a chance to fight back. A Chreng Polroth free-kick was tipped over, as was Samnang’s firm drive.
But the worst of all misses for the Svay Rieng player came minutes before the end when his shot from close quarters hit the post.
“We started with a not good level, we made many mistakes,” Vittorino said after the match. “We lost many balls in midfield. My team is young. We have so many players who are 17, 18 years old and they need time.
“But I believe that during the competition they can progress.”Cambodia take on Vietnam today with the game set for a 3pm kick-off Cambodian time.
In earlier Group B matches, Vietnam trounced Timor Leste 4-0, while champions Thailand were surprisingly held to a 1-1 draw by Indonesia.