One of Cambodia’s smallest crowds for a competitive match in recent years turned out at the 50,000-seat Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh yesterday evening to see visiting Jordan deliver a 1-0 defeat to the Angkor Warriors.
In front of little more than 13,000 supporters, Jordan started their penultimate 2019 AFC Asian Cup group C qualifying match the brightest, with the ball spending plenty of time inside the Cambodian half and at the feet of visiting attackers.
Cambodia, now led by coach Prak Sovannara and who chose to begin the game without mercurial wingers Chan Vathanaka and Prak Mony Udom, went behind in the 17th minute.
Quick-thinking Jordanian forward Munther Abu Amarah seized on a scything ball into the box from midfielder Rajaei Ayed Fadal Hasan to tap home from 10 yards out.
Cambodian defenders Soeuy Visal and Rous Samoeun were wrong-footed at the back, allowing in the pacey forward for the game’s only goal.
In a quiet first period for the hosts, substitute Vathanaka came closest to equalising with four minutes of the half remaining, his swinging free kick destined for the top right corner if not for a smart fingertip save from Jordan keeper Ahmad Nawas.
Hoping to change his side’s fortunes in the second half, coach Sovannara attempted to add some attacking impetus by bringing on Mony Udom.
The creative Svay Rieng midfielder was one of few to show flashes of skill in an otherwise unremarkable second period for Sovannara’s men.
The hosts did, however, have keeper Sou Yaty to thank for keeping the score down, the Boeung Ket custodian keeping out efforts from Mahmoud Al Mardi, Baha’ Faisal Mohammad and Fadal Hasan, to name just a few of the visiting attackers on target. Ultimately, a single first half strike was enough to hand Jordan all three points and maintain their position at the top of group C.
Despite the loss, the result is a drastic improvement over the footballing lesson delivered by FIFA 113th-ranked Jordan in their previous meeting with 170th-ranked Cambodia; a 7-0 hiding in Amman in their March qualifier.
With the wreckage of another failed qualification bid ready to be picked apart, Cambodia now await their final group match – a dead rubber against fellow group stragglers Afghanistan next March.
Whether the interest of Cambodia’s waning fan base will still be piqued by Vathanaka and Co in 2018 is anybody’s guess.