Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On the night

The Cambodian U23 starting line-up against Laos. LtoR: (back row) Tiny, Rady, Sokngorn, Seiha, Sovannarith, Rithy; (front row) Narith, Soseila, Sokumpheak, Chhaya, Borey
The Cambodian U23s made heavy weather of their 2-1 BIDC Cup win over Laos last night after taking a two-goal lead on 27 minutes. Laos, unbeaten in 12 games, didn't cave in and nicked a goal back on the stroke of halftime. They came out fighting in the 2nd half and keeper Samreth Seiha had to be on his best form with three quality diving saves, though Cambodia had a couple of chances too. The Laos pin-up boy Singto Lamnao shot himself in the foot when he was sent off for a second bookable offence and embarrassed himself with a theatrical dive in the box with just 7 minutes played of the 2nd period. As we know from experience, teams down to 10-men raise their game and that's what happened with Laos. The Cambodians opened the scoring after 22 minutes when Kuoch Sokumpheak got behind the defence and rolled the ball across to Keo Sokngorn, who beat the keeper with the deftest of touches. Five minutes later they went two-up when Sun Sovannarith's 30-yard through ball split the defence and the crowd's favourite, Nov Soseila, touched it past the keeper, played a one-two off the post and knocked in the rebound. The large crowd loved it. Lamnao should've scored for Laos but blazed his shot over before they reduced the lead in the last minute of the half. A grubber of a free-kick by their best player, Soukhavong Kaysone, had Seiha scrambling and he could only palm it out to Sayavuthi Khampeng, who lashed it into the roof of the net. Cambodia are now through to the BIDC Cup Final, which will be played on Saturday night, having won their opening 2 matches. However, the Cambodian coach Scott O'Donell wasn't happy with his team's performance in the 2nd period. "Its a good lesson for us. We've got to start to learn how to defend leads. As soon as we scored two goals we stopped playing. We've got to learn to do better. It was a very frustrating and disappointing 2nd half performance from us....Full credit to them (Laos). I thought they played very well particularly in the 2nd half with 10 men. They made it very difficult for us...we've got to learn from it." He's absolutely right. Cambodia didn't make their numerical advantage tell but that's the beauty of this competition. It replicates next month's SEA Games and is a valuable learning experience for the Cambodian youngsters. They won without playing well, in direct contrast to their superb display against HAGL on Sunday. They won't get away with it too often in international games, but if you win when you don't play well, its a good base from which to build on.
The Cambodian U23 line-up: Samreth Seiha, Pheak Rady, Sun Sovannarith, Tieng Tiny (Chan Dara), Sok Rithy, San Narith (Phuong Narong), Khim Borey, Keo Sokngorn (Prak Mony Udom), Nov Soseila (Oum Kumpheak), Chan Chhaya (Khuon Laboravy), Kuoch Sokumpheak.
The Laos U23 starting line-up from last night
The two teams enter the field, Cambodia are in blue
The Cambodian team waiting for the pre-match handshakes
The two captains, Sun Sovannarith in the blue of Cambodia and Kitsada of Laos
Referee Duong Van Hien from Vietnam tosses his coin
The game under floodlights with an Apsara TV cameraman getting the same view
I know, the sky blue press bibs are a nightmare. With me is Ung Chamroeun, who writes the Khmer language reports for the Phnom Penh Post and also blogs about Cambodian football

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