Hosts Cambodia and Myanmar ended locked in an action-packed 2-2 draw in their final group B game of the BIDC Cup at Olympic Stadium yesterday. The high intensity tie left both sides level on four points a piece, but Myanmar topped the group on a better goal quotient.
In an early kick off, Thailand lived up to their reputation as the team to beat, outplaying Vietnam 3-0 to head Group A. Despite the defeat, Vietnam took the second semifinal spot from the group ahead of Chinese Provincial side Hong Xiang FC on superior goal difference.
The battle lines for tomorrow’s semifinals are now drawn. Thailand face Cambodia while Myanmar take on Vietnam.
With a slushy midfield greeting them and imposing a lot of limitations on distribution and ball control, both sides produced plenty of pace on the wings. There was no dearth of action at both ends and both goalkeepers were forced to display ridiculous reflexes.
It was Myanmar who broke the ice in the 22nd minute when their trusty midfielder Thiha Zaw latched on to a sneaky pass from the top of the box and managed to hoodwink the Cambodian backline.
But after a series of counters, Cambodia, who went into the game with eight changes from their previous fixture, levelled the scores when Prak Mony Udom converted a penalty that was earned by Sos Souhana, whose brazen dash into the box brought an inevitable response from the Myanmar defence.
The huge home crowd was given a lot to cheer minutes after resumption when substitute Tum Saray headed home the side’s second goal off a cross from Chhin Chhouen.
Armed with the 2-1 lead, Cambodia attacked with renewed vigour but Myanmar weathered the storm admirably well. Not only did the visitors keep the home team at bay, they successfully launched their own counter in the 62nd minute when substitute Yan Naing Htwe, who had barely been on the pitch a few minutes, found the net after the Cambodian goal had come under a panic attack.
Star striker Khuon Laboravy came in as a second half substitute at a time when Cambodia were pushing hard to retain their slight edge, and the last ten minutes saw high tension drama at both ends.
National coach Lee Tae Hoon praised the efforts of the team and dubbed it a highly positive performance. He also had a word of appreciation for goalkeeper Um Vichet, who got the nod for this game ahead of Sou Yaty,
“It was a tough game for both sides and the underfoot conditions clearly didn’t help,” Lee said. “We look forward to meeting Thailand on Friday.”
Thailand outclass Vietnam
In the earlier kickoff yesterday, Thailand’s routine and unhurried 3-0 victory came on a progressively tricky surface that retained a fair amount of moisture till the end following a sudden 15 minute downpour during the first session.
Revelling in the role of an aggressive midfielder, Pakorn Parmpak was the man-of-the-match for Thailand, snatching a goal either side of the break, while an injury time strike by Nitipong Selanon rubbed salt on Vietnam’s already wounded pride.
Going into the match, needing a draw or a margin of defeat by no more than four goals, Vietnam had their task cut out against a well-drilled and well-formed Thailand who enjoyed a lion’s share of the exchanges. Vietnam stumbled upon a couple of good chances in both halves but poor finishing and some good backline work by the Thais contrived to deny them their due.
A poorly timed challenge on Thailand’s attacking spearhead Narakorn Kana on the edge of the box led to a penalty in the second minute of added time before the breather. Though the fall seemed light and too easy, referee Yamamoto Yuda of Japan pointed to the spot and Pakorn Parmpak sent Vietnam goalkeeper Dang Van Lim the wrong way.
Pakorn was back midway through the second half to double the lead and a minute into injury time Nitipong Selanon, who found a free passage to the box, came up with a tidy finish to mark Thailand’s third.
Amid mounting pressure to save the day, Nguyen Van Manh came closest to a score when his fierce free kick beat all but Thai goalkeeper Watchara Buathong’s body. The striker had a second bite off the rebound but this time the ball cannoned off a defender’s boot.
There were a few more close shaves for Thailand, but none serious enough to dent their goal or confidence.