The Cambodian national men’s under-22 team came agonisingly close to kicking off their Southeast Asian (SEA) Games campaign with a win over hosts the Philippines in front 2,890 people at Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila on Monday night.
Keo Sokpheng put the Angkor Warriors ahead before the break and his goal looked to be enough as the clock ticked past 90 minutes. But in the third minute of stoppage time, 18-year-old substitute Dennis Chung popped up with the equaliser to leave four teams tied on one point in Group A after Malaysia and Myanmar drew 1-1 earlier on Monday.
The 11 competing nations have been split into two groups, with Timor-Leste, whom the Koupreys face on Wednesday at 7pm Cambodian time, the fifth team in Group A.
In Group B, Laos, Singapore and Brunei are matched with powerhouses Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam in the ‘group of death’.
The top two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-finals on December 7, with the third-place play-off and final scheduled for December 10.
The football has begun before the official start of the SEA Games, with the opening ceremony set for Saturday.
Both sides featured the two allowed overage players on Monday – Reung Bunheing and Sokpheng for Cambodia and Malaysia-based duo Amani Aguinaldo and captain Stephan Schrock for the Philippines.
Despite the Philippines boasting a host of overseas-based players – from the likes of the Netherlands, Italy and the USA – Felix Dalmas’ outfit had the better of the first half, and Vishaka star Sokpheng scored first in the 41st minute.
After exchanging a delightful double one-two with club teammate Cheng Meng, Sokpheng lifted the ball over Philippine keeper Anthony Pinthus.
Goran Milojevic’s side fought back after the break and Schrock, Dylan De Bruycker and substitute Christian Rontini all went close to equalising.
Cambodia managed to hold firm but, with the clock ticking down towards a memorable win, the Philippine pressure finally told. The 33-year-old Schrock found Yrick Gallantes who teed up Germany-based Chung to fire past Keo Soksela and snatch a draw right at the death.