The Cambodian men’s U23 football team managed to give the Malaysian side a scare in their final match of the 31st SEA Games in Vietnam before catching a charter flight home on May 16.
In their final game, the Cambodians – led by Japanese football hero Keisuke Honda – went into the match knowing they had already been knocked out of Group B, but used the frustration of their campaign as motivation to chase their rivals hard.
With a convincing counterattack, the Cambodian team created a special opportunity when Malaysian defender Zikri Khalili made a mistake and handballed in his goal area, giving defender Chuon Chanchav a chance to open the scoring from the spot kick. He didn’t miss, and the Cambodians took the lead and held it until the half-time break.
One goal down, the Malaysian team, which desperately needed to win to take the number one group spot and over their rivals Thailand, changed their formation and attacked as if their lives depended on it. The aggressive approach paid dividends when Muhammad Hadi Fayyadh converted a penalty in the 51st minute.
A Cambodian counterattack created a golden opportunity for Narong Kakada, who was able to control the ball with his chest after a fine pass from his teammate. He took his shot, beating the keeper and returning the Young Kouprey to the lead in the 62nd minute.
The pressure was clearly starting to pile up on the Malaysians, but just five minutes later, Malaysian striker Hadi Fayyadh blocked and control the ball under a challenge from Chanchav before scoring the most beautiful goal in the game to help Malaysia equalise 2-2 in the 67th minute. This turned out to be the final goal of the match, with neither side was able to break the stalemate.
With the shared point from the draw, Malaysia will advance to the semi-finals as the second team from Group B with eight points from two wins and two draws, assuming the heavily favoured Thailand beat Laos in the final match of the day to lead Group B. Cambodia finished with just four points from one win, one draw and two losses, and have accordingly been knocked out of the competition. They returned home on May 16.