Cambodia coach and Japanese World Cup hero Keisuke Honda, as economical with his words as ever, said he had found a lot of positives after his new charges stormed into a 1-0 at a rainy Olympic Stadium on Monday night before going down to Malaysia 3-1 in his first match in charge of the Angkor Warriors.
The former AC Milan star said he was neither disappointed nor disheartened with the performance, though he felt the scoreline should have better reflected his side’s attacking threat after Cambodia failed to make a host of first-half charges count in the friendly before tiring considerably in the second on a rain-sodden pitch .
A heavy downpour before the scheduled kick-off threatened to disrupt the spectacle of one of Asia’s most iconic footballers – with no less than three world cup appearances for Japan – assume the managerial role for a country as lowly ranked as Cambodia.
But with a beaming smile, Honda greeted a stunning left foot volley by Soeuy Visal early in the first half.
Warriors hit post
Malaysian eyes were now clearly as much on that slender lead as they were on how best Honda would marshal his men after he announced a starting line-up that was innovative and bold given the limited resources at his disposal.
Keeping the midfield solid through experienced Theary Chantha Bin and Kouch Sokumpheak, the Melbourne Victory midfielder included emerging talent such as 20-year-old National Police forward Chey Chetra in his attack, while banking on NagaWorld goalkeeper Sou Yaty’s vast experience to protect a carefully chosen back four.
While Malaysia showed their usual attacking flair at every opportunity, the Cambodian formation posed them some serious questions as the home side kept the lead until well past the halfway mark.
Chantha Bin’s curling long drive struck the inside of the upright, while Keo Sokpheng was denied a glorious chance by the visiting keeper, who also thwarted threatening Cambodian moves to keep Malaysia in the contest.
The first crack in the Cambodian resolve came just past the hour mark when Saad Sharul levelled in the 62nd minute, pouncing on a rebound following a Syazwan Andik header.
The provider of the first goal was back within 12 minutes to get his name on the scoresheet when he headed home across from substitute Shahrel Fikri, before Fikri nailed the third in stoppage time.
Malaysian coach Tan Cheng Hoe saw the result as a vindication of the faith he kept in his players after they had gone down to Chinese Taipei 2-0 days earlier by winning what he described as a tough battle.
Cambodia and Malaysia, drawn in the same Group A in AFF Suzuki Cup will meet each other in their opener on November 8. Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar complete the group.