Cambodia disappointed at home falling to a slender 1-0 defeat to Malaysia in yesterday evening’s opening AFF Suzuki Cup match at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium.
Cambodian coach Felix Gonzalez Dalmas had surprised fans with a first-team lineup lacking a number of regulars. Left on the bench were Malaysia-based midfielder Thierry Chantha Bin and fleet-footed Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng winger Prak Mony Oudom.
Young Phnom Penh Crown forward Brak Thiva was given a well-deserved starting berth and was joined in attack by Keo Sokpheng, Chan Vathanaka, and Reung Bunheing. Captain Souey Visal and Hong Pheng were charged with stopping the visiting attack, while Um Vichet was handed the keeper’s jersey ahead of Keo Soksela.
In only the second minute, and with fans still shuffling into the stadium, Bunheing fluffed his lines after receiving an expert square ball from Sos Suhana. But the 26-year old forward failed to get any significant purchase on the ball and the Malaysian keeper gratefully gathered up his attempt.
In a busy first period for Tan Cheng Hoe’s men, forward Norsharul Idlan Talaha was at fault for missing successive gilt-edged chances for the visitors before atoning for his errors by breaking the deadlock on 30 minutes. Unmarked Talaha’s pinpoint header from a Mohamad Zaquan Radzak cross left Cambodia keeper Vichet no chance.
Malaysia took a slender lead into the half-time break while introducing defensively-minded substitutions in an attempt to keep Cambodia’s attacking triumvirate at bay. But the hosts’ inability to convert their many second-half chances meant Malaysia took the win and all three points.
The dejected Kouprey’s next travel to meet Myanmar for their second Group A fixture in what is sure to be an electrifying Monday evening clash in Yangon.
The biennial AFF Suzuki Cup is among the key regional football tournaments in ASEAN. The 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup was the most watched sports programme of the year in Indonesia and Thailand, with cumulative viewership figures of 35 million and 40 million respectively, eclipsing the ratings enjoyed by global sporting events like the UEFA EURO 2016.