A late second-half goal sealed Cambodia’s fate as Vietnam recorded a 2-1 win in the AFC Asia Cup qualifiers Group C tie at a packed Olympic Stadium yesterday evening.
Cambodia will travel to Hanoi for the second leg on October 10.
This was Vietnam’s first victory after a goalless draw with Jordan in late March and holding Afghanistan 1-1 in mid-June.
A second defeat for Cambodia followed a 7-0 loss to Jordan and a 1-0 win at home against Afghanistan.
In a dramatic start to this highly anticipated clash, Vietnam scored a snap goal as early as the fourth minute through skipper Nguyen Van Quyet, who deftly found the mark, beating goalkeeper Sou Yaty to his right.
Six minutes later, Chan Vathanaka brought another massive crowd to its feet when he slammed home an equaliser to keep Cambodia in the fight.
Keo Sokpheng’s timely turn inside the box resulted in the Phnom Penh Crown striker finding Vathanaka, whose firm shot brooked no answer from the Vietnam goalkeeper.
Minutes before the break, however, Vathanaka had been well placed in front of the goalmouth but his open header went over the crossbar much to the disappointment of the Cambodian fans.
While the Cambodian defence and Yaty tightened the vigil and kept the few promising Vietnam attempts at bay, the visitors gave very little away.
With both sides testing the other’s resolve, the crucial turning point in the game came when the Cambodian defence was caught off guard with an unmarked Nguyen Van Toan heading the ball into the top corner of the net approaching the 80th minute.
It was a winning start for Vietnam’s interim coach Mai Duc Chung, who took charge of the men’s team after they failed to qualify for the semifinals at the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, where he led the women’s side to the gold medal.