Cambodia look to build on momentum in this afternoon’s Singapore must-win

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Cambodian defender Taing Bunchhai (left) tries to challenge Damoth Thongkhamsavath of Laos during their Group B match at the SEA Games in Vietnam on May 9. CAMSOC

The Cambodian men’s U23 national football team will be seeking to build on their dream start when they meet winless Singapore in their second Group B match of the ongoing 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) at Thien Truong Stadium in Vietnam, from 4pm on May 11.

Ryu Hirose’s side – with their Japanese manager Keisuke Honda on the touchline – had a perfect opening to their games campaign on May 9 after trouncing Laos 4-1 in front of a big crowd in Nam Din province.

The result means that Cambodia will go into their second group match with confidence after such an impressive performance on their opening day. They will be looking for another convincing win against Singapore, who remain winless at the Games so far. Singapore was only able to manage a 2-2 draw with Laos, and was crushed 5-0 by Thailand on May 9.

Speaking at a press conference after the game, Hirose expressed his delight at the team’s performance as well as his surprise at the victory.

“We always focus on these local derbies. Meeting Laos is always a big game for us, and with this unexpected win, we are very happy,” the Japanese coach told reporters through his interpreter after the match.

In front of 30,000 fans at Thien Truong Stadium, rising star Sieng Chanthea showed why he is in the hearts of Cambodian fans as his strike from the left flank went into the top of the net to help the Young Kouprey lead in just the 4th minute. Lao defender Anantaza Siphongphan scored an own goal after Visakha striker Sa Ty’s shot was deflected from the Lao goalkeeper before bouncing off him into the net as the U23s finished the first half with a 2-0 lead.

The start of the second half was a lively affair, as Laos looked deep within themselves and pushed for a comeback, but it was Cambodia who piled more misery on their neighbours after Ky Rina scored their third goal in the 64th minute. Laos managed to find the back of the net three minutes later, following a defensive blunder by Min Ratanak.

Im Somoun of Cambodia restored their lead with an easy tap-in from a neat cross by his teammate to complete the win for the Kingdom, but his team will regret the number of wasted chances they had in front of the goal mouth in the final 15 minutes.

Hirose identified several areas that he would like to see improvements in if Cambodia hopes to qualify for the semi-finals.

“I observed many good aspects to our play, but also picked out some things that I would like to see us do better. It was a good game, and we started very well in the first half. We missed some good chances to score goals in the second half, which is a pity. Nonetheless, it was great experience for the players, and will help them to improve in their next match,” he said.

He also highlighted famous player Honda’s role with the team, saying they often worked together to bolster solidarity among the Cambodian players and improve their skills.

Coach Michael Weiss of Laos spoke highly of the Cambodian side, adding that Cambodia displayed a convincing style and had talented youngsters.

Laos’ defeat was attributed to a lack of stamina, as players had yet to fully recover from their intense game with Singapore, the German said, voicing his belief that chances remain for his team to make the semi-finals and that the players will fight to the last second on the pitch.

Meanwhile, in the second match of the day, the Thailand squad secured a comfortable 5-0 victory over Singapore in their second match of Group B to bag their first win after their shock 2-1 loss to Malaysia in their opening game.

The Young Kouprey are expected to have a tougher match in the must-win game against Singapore, before meeting Thailand in two days time. Their final group match is against Malaysia on May 16.