NAGA Corp’s dream of a place in the semifinals of the 2010 AFC President’s Cup was over Friday after a 3-0 defeat by Tajikistan’s FC Vakhsh in their group B match in Yangon. The competition was held at the Youth Training Center.
With Naga’s Pich Sina suspended after his dismissal in the previous game and midfielder Bou Mesa out through sickness, the Kingdom’s men faced a tough challenge against their formidable foes in 39 degree heat at the Youth Training Centre.
The Tajikistan team got straight to work, bombarding the Naga net within seconds of the start. Naga stopper Mak Theara had to be at his best to deny Rustam Usmanov and then Umedzhon Sharipov.
Vakhsh players were finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the extreme temperatues, with Sharipov needing substitution on the half hour mark after having to lie down on the pitch with heat exhaustion.
However, the Cambodian side still found themselves on the backfoot and fell behind a minute before the interval. Phau Sophy ignored the lurking Makhmadali Sadykov when he played a weak pass to a teammate, with the Vakhsh forward pouncing on to a hit a stunning strike from outside the box past a helpless Mak Theara.
The second half began with Naga still under pressure from the central asian champions. Communication amongst the Cambodians seemed laboured with most players suffering heat fatigue.
In the 64th minute, Naga defenders were caught out of formation to gift Rustam Usmanov acres of space in front of the sticks to extend Vakhsh’s lead.
Moments later, Naga were reduced to ten men when Teat Chandara Sokha got his marching orders for a clumsy challenge on Sadykov right in front of the referee. Sadykov hobbled off shortly after to make way for Akhtam Khamrakulov, who took just four minutes to find the back of the net and put the game to bed.
With three victories, Vakhsh topped group B and joined winners of group C Yadanabon of hosts Myanmar in the next round. Naga Corp, meanwhile finished third behind Pakistan side KRL.
Naga head coach Prak Sovannara said: “We tried our best to win the game, because [if we had won], we could have been at the top of the group.
But Vakhsh are not an easy team. They played with determination, even with the very hot weather.”