Visiting South Korean team Ulsan University had a man sent off but held on to their one goal advantage to win their friendly game against Cambodia Saturday
Cambodia's ChanRithy (right) battles with Ulsan University’s Son Min Seong during their friendly match Saturday at Olympic Stadium.
FOR their first game of 2010, the Cambodian national team faced South Korean collegiate side Ulsan University under the sweltering sunshine at Olympic Stadium Saturday, watched by a crowd of 5,000. Even though the students do not feature in their top domestic tier – the K-League – they amply demonstrated the strength in depth of South Korean football with a composed display like their own national team, who qualified for the World Cup finals in South Africa later this year.
Saturday’s match turned into a game of two halves, with Ulsan displaying maturity beyond their years in a self-assured first forty-five minutes of football. Their one goal advantage, though fortunate, was deserved. Cambodia offered much more determined resistance after the half time interval and did enough to limit the scoreline to the solitary strike.
For Cambodia’s national coach, Scott O’Donell, it’s all part of the learning process. “I like to win,” he stated after the game. “I wasn’t happy that we lost but there were some positive performances. We’ve still got a lot of work to do in our attacking third - selecting the right options and having the confidence to shoot - but I was happy with the second half performance.”
Cambodia picked up a man advantage on 65 minutes, when Ulsan’s midfield destroyer You Joo Hun was dismissed for a second bookable offence. Embarrassingly for referee Sreng Hao Dy, it needed his assistant to point out that he’d already booked the same player in the 14th minute, before the referee produced a red card. It was one of six cards he brandished in the match.
However, the home team couldn’t capitalise their numerical precedence. “They defended well,” admitted O’Donell. “They were well organised like most Korean teams. I would’ve liked a result, but you never get what you deserve in football. It was a great experience for the players to be up against bigger, stronger boys. Hopefully we’ll learn from that.”
It could’ve been a very different story if Kuoch Sokumpheak hadn’t rolled his shot wide of the post from twelve yards in only the second minute. Captain for Saturday, the Khemara Keila star forward is off to Indonesia today to try and earn himself a professional contract in the Super League there. With more composure Saturday, he could’ve taken with him a couple of goals.
After Kuoch Sokumpheak’s early miss, Ulsan turned on the style. Lee Dong Kun was the game’s stand-out player in the first half, and in the seventh minute he made space for a shot from 25 yards. The ball took a looping deflection off the shoulder of Tieng Tiny, leaving Sou Yaty in the Cambodian goal completely flat-footed to open the scoring.
The collegiate outfit looked dangerous every time they pressed, and the goalscorer struck the foot of the post on 15 minutes. The Cambodian keeper then came out well to block a shot from Ulsan skipper Lee Sang Gi after Lee Dong Kun had carved open another opportunity.
Cambodia found it hard to tune into the pace of the game as Ulsan passed around with ease. Keo Sokngorn and Kuoch Sokumpheak caused some menace to the student’s defence in the closing stages of the half, but there was still time for Sang Gi to elude the close marking of Om Thavarak, though his lob sailed inches wide of Yaty’s goal.
A revitalised Cambodia came out for the second half and Chan Rithy, a sixth minute substitute for the injured Nov Soseila, struck the crossbar with a thumping drive within a minute of the restart.
With You Joo Hun dismissed just after the hour mark, Cambodia pushed for an equaliser. Khim Borey shot just over from the edge of the box, and Kuoch Sokumpheak sent a header skidding wide when he found himself unmarked ten yards out.
Neither side were prepared to give any ground, and some of the late tackles in midfield were fortunate to go unpunished. With eight minutes to go, Cambodia’s best chance of the match went begging. Kuoch Sokumpheak fed Keo Sokngorn who drove the ball goalwards, rebounding off Ulsan keeper Yang Jin Ung, only to strike off Tieng Tiny a yard out and agonisingly loop over the bar.
O’Donell claimed his side gave the opposition too much respect in the first half, but were a “different kettle of fish” after the break.
“I encouraged the players to release the ball early ... to move the ball around, make it harder for them to get close to us. I think we did that a lot better in the second period,” he said.
With Kuoch Sokumpheak on his way to Indonesia, O’Donell was full of praise for his young captain, regarded by many as the country’s best talent.
“I wish him all the best, he’s a good boy and a good player,” expressed the coach. “They’ve seen videos of him and they like what they saw, so they invited him over for a trial. I think it would be great for Cambodian football, not only for the national team, but also for other Cambodian players, if he is successful in the trial. It’s going to be hard as there will be a lot of players trying to get contracts, but if he performs well in training and games ... I’ll keep my fingers crossed for him.”
Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)