Azkals suffer close loss to Cambodia in AFF Championship opener

The Philippine Azkals lost to Cambodia in their AFF Championship opening match (FFC/AFF photo)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

The Philippine Azkals men’s national football team was close to securing their first victory but failed to contain Cambodia in the second half, 3-2, in the ongoing 2022 AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup last December 20, 2022.

It was a terrific effort from the Filipino booters after coming back from a 0-2 deficit but seemed to lose gas in the last 30 minutes of action which prevented them from replicating their crisp offensive sets.

Cambodia drew first blood 16 minutes after the official whistle after striker Reung Bunheing found the back of the net off his teammates’ cross pass from the left side of the pitch.

After taking an early 1-0 lead, the Cambodians didn’t stop being the aggressors and pounded the Azkals’ backline defense that had plenty of holes in the first half.

Cambodia extended their lead to 2-0 courtesy of Orn Chanpolin’s powerful left-footed kick that went past Kevin Hansen’s legs, the Azkals’ goalkeeper.

However, the Filipino booters kicked off their redemption run after veteran Kenshiro Daniels scored the first goal for the Azkals in the 41st minute.

Daniels got the first possession after an Arnel Amita miss from the penalty box and was quick to re-volley the ball and tally the goal conversion.

14 minutes after his first goal, Daniels capped off his majestic outing with a brace after drilling past Cambodia’s goalkeeper with a thundering right-footed kick.

It was Amani Aguinaldo who made the goal possible after placing a well-calculated lob pass in the middle of the pitch to the rushing Daniels.

Just when the Azkals thought they already took full control of the match, the Cambodians struck back and retook the lead off a Bunheing header in the 59th minute.

The Filipinos then failed to score a single goal in the next 30 minutes and could only watch the Cambodians generate more attempts.