Cambodian fans braved a heavy downpour yesterday to witness general manager Keisuke Honda’s first game in charge of the national team – a 3-1 defeat to visiting Malaysia.
After a thirty-minute delay due to inclement weather and a brief pause for remembrance of founder of the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals Beat Richner who died Sunday, fans at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium were rewarded with an opening strike straight out of Honda’s playbook.
18 minutes into the game, a lofted free-kick from the boot of Cambodia’s Terengganu FC midfielder Thierry Chantha Bin found the head of former Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Perak forward Keo Sokpheng who in turn found the waiting boot of Souey Visal – the Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng defender unleashed an unstoppable left-footed volley into the back of the net much to the delight of coach Honda watching proceedings from the sidelines.
Honda’s defensive drills seemed to have had an immediate impact as the unwavering Cambodian defence took the slender lead into half-time. However, the edges began to fray in the second period as Mohd Saad Shahrul seized on a chance in the 62nd minute to level for the visitors.
Fans were quietened soon after as Andik Mohd Ishak claimed the lead for Harimau Malaysia connecting with Shahrel Fikri’s delivery to quieten the near-capacity Olympic Stadium throng.
A third for Malaysia came via MD Fikri Fauzi in stoppage time leaving Cambodia – and Honda – ruing their luck.
Cambodia face Malaysia in their opening AFF Suzuki Cup match in November and the part-time Japanese coach – and Melbourne Victory midfielder – will be looking for a better performance.