Cambodia inched closer for a place in the semifinals of the AFF Under-23 Championship 2022 when they edged the Philippines 1-0 in a decisive tie of Group A this evening at the Morodok Techo National Stadium.
Despite having the lion’s share of the possession throughout the tight exchange, a late strike from Sin Sovanmakara nine minutes to the end settled things as the host picked up their second full points from two matches played.
Cambodia had started their campaign in Group A with a 6-0 win over Brunei DS.
“It was a tough game but it was an improved performance from the match against Cambodia,” said Cambodian head coach Hirose Ryu.
“The players were faced with a tough situation and they delivered. It is good standings for the future.”
Buoyed by more than 17,000 fans, the Cambodians got down to business from the get-go as they pushed forward in numbers.
But with several chances deserving of a better finish and with the header from captain Tes Sambath coming off the crossbar in the first half, the Cambodians continued to press their opponents into the second half.
On the other hand, the Philippines played a compact game as they did not commit too much to the frontline.
Their best effort saw Sandro Reyes forcing a hard block from Cambodian keeper Hul Kimhuy while Miguel Mendoza fared no better just before the hour mark.
The game came alive in the last ten minutes of the game with Min Ratanak denied from close while in the 81st minute, Cambodia finally broke the deadlock when Sovanmakara fired in a deflected corner to give the home team the well-deserved win.
“Fitness was always going to be an issue. Some players have not played for quite some time. They were cramping in the closing stages of the match,” said Philippines head coach Stewart Hall.
“But the players worked so hard in the game tonight but physically, we were still not there.”
In the meantime, the return of Paolo Freitas inspired Timor Leste to a 3-1 win over Brunei DS as they picked up their first full points of the competition.
“We played well today, we got the three points,” said Freitas afterwards. “Now we need to prepare well for the next game against the host.”
Brunei were a lot more disciplined this time around where they defended in numbers to frustrate Timor Leste earlier in the game.
And relying more on the counterattacks, it was Brunei who grabbed the lead in the 17th minute when Muhammad Hakeme Yazid Said pounced on a loose clearance from the Timor backline.
However, the introduction of Freitas in the 27th minute turned the game around for the Timorese when they snatched the equaliser just three minutes later.
Freitas was in the thick of the action with a rifling shot that was blocked by Brunei keeper Abdul Mutalip Mohammad.
However, Mouzinho De Lima was on hand to provide the finish for the score to stand at 1-1.
And with just seconds left of the first half, Freitas fired in a superb freekick to put Timor Leste 2-1 in the advantage.
The second half would be all Timor as they maintained their dominance before finally nailing their third goal of the game in the 81st minute off an own goal from Brunei defender Muhammad Wafi Aminuddin.
“We made some individual mistakes in this game although I felt that we did better than the match against the Philippines,” said Brunei head coach Aminuddin Jumat.
AFF U23 CHAMPIONSHIP 2022
GROUP A – Morodok Techo National Stadium
17 February 2022
Brunei 1-3 Timor Leste
Philippines 0-1 Cambodia
GROUP B – PRINCE STADIUM
18 February 2022
1600hrs: Malaysia vs Laos
Pictures Courtesy @Sportfive