Cambodia went down to a late strike as Afghanistan snatched a 1-0 victory in the Asian Confederation 2018 World Cup qualifier Group E encounter yesterday evening as they chalked up their first victory in front of an estimated crowd of 55,000 at the Olympic Stadium.
Hardworking midfielder Mustafa Zazai struck the only goal of a match full of thrust and parry in the 85th minute, driving home the ball following a scramble inside the Cambodian box.
Goalkeeper Um Sereirath, one of eight players to be drafted in from the under-23 squad at the SEA Games, managed to save a header from Zamir Daudi but Zazai pounced on the deflection.
“The better team won today. We had more chances, we had greater possession and we defended well,” Afghanistan coach Slaven Skeledzic said after the game.
“I am very happy with this result after our 6-0 loss to Syria. It boosts our morale for the rest of the campaign,” he said.
The German-Bosnian coach said the Cambodian backline defending deep did pose problems for his players, but overall he said his team had shown greater enterprise both in attack and defence.
Cambodia’s coach Kazunori Ohara said missed chances eventually took their toll and to go down by that late goal came as a disappointment for the team
A totally revamped Cambodian side took the pitch, bolstered by the presence of key players from the SEA Games campaign, except Prak Mony Odom who was nursing the injury he picked up in the match against Myanmar.
While the game swung Afghanistan’s way late on, substitute Chan Vathanaka was unfortunate to have missed a goal barely a minute after coming on.
Presented with a open chancel following a skirmish that had scattered the defenders, his goalbound shot hit the upright and the ball was then scrambled to safety.
Earlier on, the first half produced plenty of action but no goals.
A first minute flutter saw Sun Sovanrithy drive the ball wide after he had greeted a long clearance from Chhin Chhoeun not far from goalkeeper Mohammad Fardin Kohistani.
By the half hour mark Khun Laboravy had missed an open header and captain Kouch Sokumpheak’s angular shot had gone inches wide.
At the other end, Mustafa Zazai had driven wide two of his on-the-run shots at the target, even as his firm right footer was palmed away by Um Sereirath
Two Afghan frontliners Fardin Hakimi and Ahmad Arash Hatifi were constantly in the attacking mix, both letting rip with a few decent chances.
Cambodia coach Ohara and his counter part Skeledzic complimented the massive crowd for making this a memorable encounter.