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Host side too hot for Cambodia

Male, The Maldives
Maldives showed why experience can count double, or rather quadruple,
with a 4-0 rout of visitors Cambodia on Monday night in their opening
group match of the AFC Challenge Cup. The hosts fielded the veteran
trio of striker Ibrahim Fazeel, defender Abdul Ghani Assad and
goalkeeper Imran Mohamed, all of which had played against the Kingdom a
decade ago.
Photo by: Ung Chamroeun

Maldivian players (red shirts) celebrate at the end of the their AFC
Challenge Cup group match against Cambodia on Monday at the Rasmee
Dhadu Stadium in Male.
The Maldives eased into the comfort zone within
barely a minute of Chinese referee Zhao Liang blowing his whistle at
the Rasmee Dhadu Stadium. Mukhthaar Naseer, who scored the winning goal
against India in the 2008 SAFF Championship, sent the home fans in
early delirium as his rocket from the right-hand byline blasted through
Cambodian keeper Ouk Mich’s hands and into the far side netting.

Fazeel and skipper Ashfaq Ali then piled the pressure on tourists,
carving out numerous gilt-edged chances. In the 41st minute, Naseer
drew across two defenders and hit a square pass to his skunk-haired
skipper, who duly knocked it into an unguarded right corner to double
their lead heading into the break.

Cambodia’s best chance of
the first half fell to 2011 Samdech Hun Sen Cup Golden Boot winner
Khoun Laboravy. Prak Mony Udom set up the prolific striker, but
Laboravy’s fumbled attempt proved no problem for Maldivian stopper
Sam El Nasa, the only current Cambodian player to have
faced the Maldives three times, was replaced by Sok Pheng in the last
minute of the first period.

For the first 15 minutes after the
restart, Cambodia enjoyed the majority of possession. Chhun Sothearath
was presented with space to break into the penalty area, but Maldivian
defender Akram Abdull Gani came across well to thwart the attack.

Cambodian defenders Lay Rasmey, Tieng Tiny, Say Piseth and Touch Panhcharong were finding it difficult to subdue the
rampaging Ashfaq, whose speed and movement has earned him hero status in his homeland.

Chan Rithy came on for the final quarter-of-an-hour, but his presence
alongside Kouch Sokumpheak had little impact for the travellers. Sun
Sopanha’s corner kicks were consistently cleared by the Maldivian

With six minutes of regulation left on the clock, a
poor throw out by Ouk Mich was snapped up by Qasim Shamweel who played
through Ashfaq to notch his second of the night. Four minutes later,
and captain fantastic claimed his hat-trick with another well worked
move to put the game to bed.

In the post-match press conference,
Cambodian coach Lee Tae Hoon admitted to being outclassed by the home
side. “They are too good. With their home crowd, they made it very
difficult for our players,” he said.

“It’s great for us to play
against the good team – it’s a good experience for the players. [There
is] nothing to blame on my boys, they worked very hard.”

Maldives coach Diego Cruciani was clearly delighted with the result.
“All the credit goes to the players because I had just three practice
sessions with them,” he said.

Cambodia now face inaugural AFC
Challenge Cup champions Tajikistan tonight at 11pm Cambodian time, in
their first ever competitive meeting. Tajikistan beat Kyrgyzstan 1-0 in
Monday’s early match thanks to an 88th minute’s own goal by Kyrgyzstan
captain Sydykov Ruslan.

Hosts the Maldives, which currently lead group C, will play Kyrgyzstan in today’s first match at 6pm Cambodian time.

Cambodian squad voiced their dissatisfaction with the late night
scheduling of their fixtures, with all three of their group games
kicking off at 9pm in Male. “We have never played at 9pm, so it was
difficult for us,” said one player.

Phnom Penh Post
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