In what was billed as a battle of youth, a winning goal from Myanmar prodigy Aung Thu saw Cambodia coach Prak Sovannara suffer a 2-1 friendly match defeat yesterday evening in his first game in charge of the national team since leaving the post in 2013.
Myanmar defender Zaw Min Tun had broken the deadlock at the Olympic Stadium in the 14th minute, ghosting in behind the Cambodian defence to get his head onto the precisely flighted free-kick of Aung Thu and give the visitors the lead.
In a poor first period for Cambodia, mercurial winger Chan Vathanaka came closest to equalising midway through the first half. The young forward beat a slew of Myanmar defenders on the left wing before slamming his strike against the post.
Myanmar took the slender lead into the break.
After a frustrating first half for home fans, Prak Mony Udom put the hosts back on level terms five minutes into the second half.
The Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng midfielder was put through into the box by a superbly weighted Keo Sokpheng ball.
Mony Udom was left with little to do but guide the ball with his right foot beyond Kyan Zin Htet in goal for Myanmar and send the modest Cambodian crowd into a frenzy.
However, Myanmar soon regained the lead in the 70th minute through irrepressible forward Aung Thu, the forward showcasing his close dribbling skills to evade the Cambodian defence and round goalkeeper Sou Yaty to put his side back in front.
With time running out, Vathanaka had two quick-fire chances to level the game, but fired them both wide of the mark – his wayward shooting perhaps a result of spending much of the last year on the bench at Japanese J3-club Fujieda MYFC.
In this battle of young talent, Myanmar’s Aung Thu was the winner on the night. Vathanaka will be looking for a better performance in Cambodia’s final AFC Cup qualifier group game on Tuesday when Jordan pay a visit to the Olympic Stadium.
Under the stewardship of now-dispensed Brazilian head coach Leonardo Vitorino, the Angkor Warriors have won only once from four group matches played, with heavy defeats coming against Vietnam and their next opponents Jordan.
Coach Sovannara in his post-match press conference said he was hoping for a better performance against Jordan while deflecting criticism of Vathanaka, whom he coached at Boeung Ket on his way to his 2016 C-League triumph.
“It’s not what I hoped and not the best way to start my tenure as coach again,” said coach Sovannara.
“But I know there are things we need to change and to improve to be competitive against our rivals. As for Vathanaka, he will need time to get back to how he used to be. He hasn’t been playing much in Japan.”