Syria exploited a poor performance from Cambodia to rout the Angkor Warriors 6-0 at the Olympic Stadium yesterday evening.
The third straight victory for coach Fajr Ibrahim’s men took Syria to the top of Group E in the second round of the World Cup qualifiers for Russia 2018, ahead of the side’s high profile clash with Japan.
This was Cambodia’s fourth loss in as many outings.
If the massive crowd felt relieved at the sight of Syria missing a 13th minute penalty it was aghast within minutes as the physically robust visitors hammered four goals in the next half an hour, cleverly taking advantage of the home side’s sloppy defending.
After spending the break in a relatively jubilant mood, having seen off a short but sharp spell of rain, the Syrians greeted the restart with an early goal and boosted their tally to six late in the game to put a seal of absolute authority on the contest.
“We have achieved what we had set out for. It was good teamwork and I am happy we have given something to cheer for our population that is in such distress,” said coach Fajr Ibrahaim after the match.
For his part, a disappointed Lee Tae Hoon said the team needed to work hard to do better in the remaining three away and one home match.
“We allowed lot space for the physically strong Syrians to make use of,” noted the South Korean strategist.
Referee Wang Di of China had no hesitation in awarding a penalty to Syria after a cross touched the outstretched hands of Tit Dina (pictured being tackled by Syrian defender Ahmad Alsaleh) in what appeared to be more of a case of ball to hand.
Cambodia goalkeeper Sou Yaty anticipated Sanharib Malki’s spot kick, diving smartly to his left to push it around the post in a save that brought a huge roar of approval from the stands.
But the sense of relief was shattered when Omar Khrbin posted Syria’s first goal with a crafty header. Malki himself made quick amends for that penalty miss by firing the second goal even as Omar returned to fire the team’s third.
Syria’s fluid midfield kept the wingers on the move all the time and just before half-time Mahmoud Al Mawas came up with a tidy on-the-run finish to make it 4-0 before the break.
While Cambodia put up a few counter moves which barely threatened the visitors, the home side could not contain the Syrian onslaught for long.
Omar Midani found the mark early in the second half after a few testing exchanges inside the Cambodian box, and Osama Omari rounded off the tally.
Lee Tae Hoon pulled Bin Theary and Prak Mony Odom from the bench to lift sagging morale. Both could only cause a mild flutter.
But despite the rain and the scoreline, the Cambodian fans were exemplary, applauding every goal and staying until the very end.
The party atmosphere if anything increased towards the end, with the Bak Tuk High School brass band launching into a rendition of 80s’ classic The Final Countdown with the score 5-0 and with 15 minutes to play.