Striker Teab Vathanak scored a stoppage time goal which proved a mere consolation as Cambodia succumbed to their second successive defeat at the 2012 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy, losing 2-1 to Vietnam on Monday night in the Brunei capital of Bandar Seri Begawan.
Cambodia coach Lee Tae Hoon made three changes from their first match against hosts Brunei, with Chan Vathanaka, Tum Saray and Nen Sothearoth replacing Prak Mony Udom, Srey Udom and Ung Dara and the Kingdom starting with five defenders.
According to The Brunei Times, Vietnam, one of the favourites to win the February 25-March 5 tournament, created the lion’s share of scoring opportunities. However, Cambodia keeper Sar Sophea and his backline prevented their opponents from opening scoring to finish the first half at the Track & Fields Sports Complex deadlocked at 0-0.
The second session saw Vietnam, featuring 10 players who were in the squad that clinched runners-up of the AFF U19 Championship last September in Yangon, pile on the pressure.
In the 53rd minute, skipper Que Ngoc Hai smashed an unstoppable strike from just outside the area to give his side the lead. However, it took until injury time for Vietnam to give themselves some breathing space, with Pham Hoang Lam doubling their advantage.
Cambodia, who had lost 3-2 to Brunei via a stoppage time winner on Saturday, managed to peg one back through Teab Vathanak, but it was too little too late.
Vathanak is making a return to the national team after three years out with injury having last represented Cambodia in the qualifying round of AFC Challenge Cup in Bangladesh in early 2009.
As the Kingdom’s desperate search for a win continues, so does the uncertainty over Lee’s future as coach. The Football Federation of Cambodia have stated that the South Korean’s contract will end around July of this year. Lee succeeded Australian tactician Scott O’Donell in August 2010.
Some fans have drawn up a list of potential replacements, which includes former Cambodia U16s coach Daisuke Yoshioka of Japan, Cambodian national striker of the 1960s-70s Pen Phath, Naga Corp coach Prak Sovannara, Preah Khan Reach technical director Rith Dika, Lee’s assistant coach Ieng Saknida and former Phnom Penh Crown coach Bojan Hodak.
Cambodia will this evening meet East Timor, who surprised everyone on Monday night by beating the highly favoured Malaysia 2-0. Vietnam lead Group B with 4 points, ahead of East Timor and Brunei on 3 points with a game in hand.
Another defeat tonight will mean Cambodia have failed to advance from the group stage in four out of the five international tournaments they have competed in under Lee’s watch.
Their only knockout phase appearance came in the 2011 BIDC Mekong Cup which featured six regional U21 teams and was played at Olmypic Stadium. Cambodia were knocked out in the semifinals by eventual runners-up Thailand.