Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC inches closer to the group stage of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup 2020 after a lopsided 4-1 win against Master 7 of Laos at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday.
PKR Svay Rieng FC surprised many football observers, who were expecting the final score to be closer.
Midfielder Hoy Phallin and striker Jean Befolo “Privat” Mbarga led the charge for the Cambodian team.
There were plenty of scoring chances for PKR Svay Rieng FC early on and the dynamic duo took full advantage of them. Cameroonian star Mbarga was particularly aggressive, scoring and assisting on almost all of the Cambodian team’s goals.
In the 15th minute, a cross from Mbarga found Hoy, who easily converted from up close. The lightning-quick Mbarga had several more scoring opportunities after that, but was stopped tantalisingly close to the goal. In one edge-of-the-seat moment, only the heroic efforts of Japanese goalkeeper Shota Wada prevented him from scoring.
In the 25th minute, Malian star Souleymane Coulibaly took advantage of a miscommunication and defensive lapses on the Cambodian backline to tie the score 1-1.
In the 40th minute, a defensive breakdown allowed Mbarga to easily slot home his first goal of the game. The first half ended with PKR Svay Rieng ahead, 2-1.
Mbarga followed that up with another goal in the 62nd minute. Wada correctly guessed the direction of Mbarga’s attempt from long distance, but was unable to completely stop it and instead deflected it to his own goal.
Master 7 FC tried to get back into the game, but its efforts were often stymied by a tough Cambodian backline and expert goalkeeping from Aim Sovannarath.
Hoy scored his second goal in the 69th minute, giving PKR Svay Rieng FC an insurmountable 4-1 lead with a little more than 20 minutes remaining.
While happy with the win, PKR Svay Rieng FC believes there’s better play to come, with head coach Conor Nestor commenting, “Next week, we will try and improve our performance and confirm our place in the group stages.”
He added, “We like to control the game by keeping the football and although we had the ball a lot in this game, we played too many longer passes and lost our rhythm a little bit.”
The AFC playoffs will now travel to Laos for the second leg, where PKR Svay Rieng FC only needs a draw in order to advance. The two teams play their next game at the New Laos National Stadium in Vientiane on Jan 29.
“We only need a draw, but our mentality doesn’t allow for playing for draws. We will go to Laos with a plan to win,” Nestor stressed.