Metfone C-League champions Boeung Ket saw a two-goal cushion an hour into the game disappear in the final stages as Lao Toyota pulled off a 3-3 draw in the first leg of the AFC Cup 2018 qualifying playoff at Olympic Stadium yesterday evening.
The spectacular comeback in the last 10 minutes has now given the visitors a distinct away goals advantage when they get down to play the return leg in Vientiane on Friday.
The clash between the two sides at the same stage last year ended 1-1 in Phnom Penh, but Boeung Ket went on to clinch a place in the group stage on the back of their 1-0 away win in a 2-1 aggregate victory.
Fresh from their Cambodian premier league championship success, Boeung Ket got a dream start when in the fifth minute they were awarded a penalty after a Lao Toyota player handled the ball.
Brazilian Maycon Calijuri, who was the second highest goalscorer during the league season behind NagaWorld’s Golden Boot winner Authiere Kipson, turned in the spot-kick to give stand-in coach Keo Kosal a cheerful start.
With AFC Cup rules allowing only A-licensed coaches to operate from the touchline, the league-winning Hao Socheat, being a B licence holder, made way for former Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng assistant coach Kosal.
Just as Boeung Ket were trying hard to consolidate on their lead came the equaliser in the 33rd minute from Lao Toyota captain Kazuo Homma, the Japanese striker polishing off a nice move.
With the teams zealously holding on to their space, a breakaway move by Boeung Ket in the 53rd minute saw Maycon produce a stunning long-range effort from about 30 yards out and into the net, and within minutes the Hun Sen Cup’s top scorer Khoun Laboravy netted his side’s third goal from close quarters, with a slight deflection working in his favour.
As the situation began to grow desperate for the visitors, there were several bold moves by Lao Toyota and one such concerted effort produced a goal of high quality when Ivorian midfielder Frederic Pooda let rip with his trusty left foot, a powerful shot beating keeper Sou Yaty to his right.
With the comeback signs getting stronger, Kazuma’s diving header in the 86th minute levelled the scores and Lao Toyota had turned around what seemed a dire situation into an honourable draw.