| PHNOM PENH (16 Nov 2009) – Kuoch Sokumpheak was the hero for the Cambodian national Under-23 side when his header two minutes to the end gave them the BIDC Cup following their 3-2 win over Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) in the final that was played at the National Olympic Stadium.
And with just that one goal, 30,000 thousand screaming Cambodian football fans rose to their feet in what was the U23 first major international triumph.
The hosts had taken the lead in the 12th minute when Sokumpheak split the HAGL defence with a perfect through ball before strike partner Chan Chhaya unleashed a fierce drive inside the near post.
And in the 36th minute the young Cambodian side, who had conceded a 6-0 loss to the Singapore U23 several weeks ago, went 2-0 up.
Khim Borey, playing in a deeper midfield position than usual, floated in an inch-perfect corner kick for the unchallenged Chhaya to head home his second goal from inside the box.
But HAGL came back strongly and while Brazilian hitman Rodrigo Toledo’s attempt might not have been counted in the closing stages of the first half, there was no evading the grounder from Le Van Truong, who made good on a corner from Doan Van Sakda in the 54th minute for the first goal.
And just five minutes later, HAGL drew level when they capitalised on a defensive mistake from defender Pheak Rady to allow Tran Minh Thien to pounce and score from the near post.
The score stood all square at 2-2.
Just when things seem to be heading into penalties, substitute Lay Raksmey delivered a sublime cross to the far post for the unmarked Sokumpheak to place his header into the corner.
The win allowed the Cambodian youth side to pick up the USD20,000 prize money from sponsors Bank for Investment and Development of Cambodia (BIDC).
“I am very happy to win the tournament,” said Scott O’Donell, the head coach for the Cambodia U23 side.
“It’s great. Look at the crowd. Everyone is very happy and it’s great for the Cambodian team to get some success on home soil. The fans have been excellent in the way they’ve supported the boys throughout the competition.
“This has been a very important part of our preparations for the SEA Games. The whole tournament was aimed at that. Four games in six days are what we’ll be up against in the SEA Games.
“We made a couple of changes. We got a good cross in and a good finish from Sokumpheak. I was very happy for Chhaya scoring his two goals. He’s a good boy, he works hard, and he deserved it.”
Cambodia’s Samrith Seiha was voted the tournament’s Best Goalkeeper, Laos captain Kitsada was named the Most Valuable Player and Evaldo Goncaves of HAGL collected the Top Scorer award.
Each received USD1,000 in prize money from the sponsors.
In the third-place playoff, Vissai Ninh Binh beat the Laos U23 side with a solitary goal from Dinh Hoang Max to collect the USD5,000 reward.