Japanese star Keisuke Honda used the international break to be with Cambodia for their AFF Suzuki Cup clash with Myanmar at the Mandalthiri Stadium after scoring for A-League side Melbourne Victory in their 4-1 win on Sunday.
Honda retired from international football following Russia 2018 after 98 caps and three World Cups.
Having missed the narrow 1-0 loss to Malaysia at home last week, the sight of Honda in the dugout was inspirational for the players. But neither Honda’s presence on the touchline nor Chan Vathanaka’s goal in the first half could galvanise the team as a second half comeback saw Myanmar to a 4-1 victory.
It was a Cambodian capitulation that would have disappointed manager Honda and his head coach Felix Gonzalez as the team, after an assertive first half, looked purposeless in the second.
“We learned some serious lessons from the [3-1 friendly loss to Malaysia in September when Cambodia conceded three goals in the second half after leading by a goal]. We intend to find solutions for them,” Gonzalez said.
“Obviously we need to hold out well for all 90 minutes. Here, once again, we failed to show the same amount of zeal with which we played the first half and we need to address this serious issue.”
A second defeat in Group A, coupled with Malaysia’s 3-1 win over Laos at home on the same night, has dealt a serious blow to the Kingdom’s chances of progressing.
Cambodia play Laos next at home on November 20.
Vathanaka darted in to convert a Sos Sohana centre on 22 minutes, and the Angkor Warriors kept Myanmar on the back foot until the break.
Myanmar coach Antoine John Paul Hey brought on the country’s best known striker, Aung Thu, to bolster the attack even as midfielder Hlaing Bo Bo produced a stunning volley from the edge of the box to level the scores.
Cambodia conceded a penalty after a clumsy tackle by experienced defender Soeuy Visal, but Keo Soksela, who was replacing Um Vichet in goal, saved.
Unfortunately for the Visakha keeper, he fumbled the collection of an Aung Thu attempt and the ball invitingly fell into the path of Aung Than Htet as the game reached the hour-mark, with the home fans enjoying the lead for the first time.
Honda sent on Svay Rieng forward Prak Mony Udom, but Myanmar quickly rammed home two more goals, the first from Si Thu Aung, with Bo Bo hitting home a stoppage time strike that completed an impressive 4-1 scoreline.