Ahead of their June 29 World Cup qualifier against Laos, Cambodia scored a morale-boosting 1-0 victory yesterday over the Malaysian U23 Olympic team in a friendly at Olympic Stadium.
The only goal of a match ravaged by rain during the last 20 minutes came early in the first session when Kouch Sok-umpeak’s right foot brokered no answer from the visitors’ goalkeeper, Khairul Fahmi Che Mat.
This is the first win for Cambodia in recent times against a squad from their South East Asian rivals.
The Kingdom’s South Kor-ean coach, Lee Tae Hoon, was guarded in his appraisal, saying the victory was a good sign but he definitely wanted more from the team.
“I want them to perform at a higher level of efficiency,” Lee told the Post.
“There were some good phases during the match, but there were also some terrible choices. What we need is a good balance.”
Striker Sokumpheak put his mark on the fixture after just 10 minutes by displaying superb individual speed and ball control after getting hold of an aerial delivery from mid-field.
He craftily unlocked the defence and crashed the ball through Che Mat to send the sizeable band of home supporters into raptures.
In terms of possession, the hosts were clearly doing a grand job. With a tight back line monitoring the break- aways, the Malaysians were under enormous pressure.
Seconds before the break, however, came a rare moment of anguish for the Cambodian defenders when a melee brought Malaysian defender Mohamad Fadhli Shas within arm’s length of Ouk Mich, with a goal firmly in sight. Amazingly, the Cambodian stopper recovered in time to avert the danger.
Light rain greeted the players on their return from the break and the floodlights were switched on to deal with the gathering gloom.
Coach Lee brought on Prak Mony Udom for Sam El Nasa and there were some promising moves by Cambodia.
A header from Chhin Chhoeun sailed over the bar when he had the Malaysian goal at his mercy. On the break, midfielder Faris Ramlan came threateningly close to an equaliser.
The only incident of note in the second half was when a ghastly challenge by Tieng Tiny on Shukur Juoh was penalised with a red card by referee Thong Chanketya.
With conditions on the pitch getting worse by the minute, Lee Tae Hoon pulled out forwards Sokumpheak and Khuon Laboravy to give Mat Hassan and Sos Souhana, who as Prek Pra Keila team-mates were making their first appearances at international level, some playing time.
Tum Saray and In Vicheka were also substituted in.
The visitors made several of their own changes, but none could make an impact.
Guiding the ball through the puddles in torrential rain was no joke for the players, though there were moments of hilarity at both ends to amuse the crowd.