Cambodia courageously stood up to a powerful Jordan side before going down 1-0 in their Group C second-leg clash at Olympic Stadium in the campaign for 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualification.
For all their dominance, Jordan could only take all three points on the weight of Monther Abu Amara’s first-half goal as they did just enough to earn a win that sees them qualify for the continental showpiece with 11 points.
Vietnam’s 0-0 draw with Afghanistan in Hanoi saw them also qualify, with nine points.
Star forward Chan Vathanaka came agonisingly close to an equaliser to leave interim coach Prak Sovannara with some pride after his gallant players put that 7-0 first-leg thrashing in Amman behind them.
Sovannara opted for a new-look starting line-up, holding back both Vathanaka and Prak Mony Odom.
Ministry of National Defence midfielder Chhun Chhoeun found favour up front but the home side could hardly get the ball further up field than the centre circle as Jordan lay siege in the first 15 minutes, often crowding the box.
During this period of pressure, Jordan made several threatening moves but at least twice the woodwork came to Cambodia’s rescue, while an agile Sou Yaty handled the mounting pressure well until his goal was finally breached in the 17th minute.
With two Jordanian players muscling their way in on the right, a scattered Cambodian defence failed to track midfielder Amara, who expertly fired home from the edge of the box.The intelligent Amara once again put Yaty to the test minutes later as he and his teammates piled on the pressure.
It was in this demanding phase that Vathanaka replaced forward Ouk Sothy and with his first touch he earned a corner in Cambodia’s first foray deep into the Jordan half.
And the versatile striker’s best chance came in the 39th minute when a left-foot free kick brought a full house to its feet, only for his effort to be spectacularly tipped over by experienced goalkeeper Amer Shafi.
Mony Odom came in as a second-half substitute as Cambodia continued to soak up Jordanian pressure, with Yaty proving hard to beat.
But luck came to Cambodia’s rescue when a stunning long range effort from Rajaei Ayed struck the underside of the crossbar only to bounce back into play five minutes before the end.
On reflection after the final whistle, the thought of how close Cambodia came to a share of the spoils had Vathanaka not been denied would have crossed the minds of the home fans – hopefully pleased their team had turned around a crushing rout in Amman with a battling display.