Cambodia beats Azkals in AFF Cup opener

The Philippine Azkals absorbed a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Cambodia to start their campaign in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Mitsubishi Electric Cup on a wrong foot on Tuesday, Dec 20, at the Morodok Techno National Stadium in Phnom Penh.

Azkals goalkeeper Kevin Ray Hansen secures the ball from a Cambodian attacker. (Photo from Philippine Azkals)

Kenshiro Daniels scored two goals in an effort to help the Filipinos save some blushes and recover from a sluggish start that saw them trail 2-0 but were not enough after they conceded a goal to the Cambodians at the 59th minute which proved to be the dagger against the Azkals.

The loss was the first time the Filipinos fell at the hands of the Cambodians since 2002, spoiling the debut of new Azkals head coach Josef Ferre who assumed the position just a few weeks ago.

The Filipinos' defense looked a step slower to the Cambodians' crispier execution and relentless attacks which immediately bore fruit with two goals against Philippines' goalkeeper Kevin Hansen –the first coming from Reun Bunheing at the 16th minute before Orn Chanpolin rifled in another from outside the penalty box at the 22nd minute to take a 2-0 lead.

Unbothered by the deficit, the young Filipino crew kept the pressure on the Cambodians before a rebound from Daniels off a long-range shot from Arnel Amita found the back of the net for the Azkals' first point at the 41st minute.

The equalizer then came, again, courtesy of Daniels who, this time, nailed a shot from the middle to beat Cambodian goalie Keo Soksela at the 55th minute, 2-2.

The celebration, however, proved to be shortlived as Bunheing immediately spoiled the party with a header that shoved Cambodia ahead for good, 3-2, just four minutes after.

The Azkals tried to make a run for another equalizer but they failed to capitalize on the late chances from Stephan Schrock and Harvey Gayoso.

The Philippines tries to rebound from the opening day loss when it hosts Brunei at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Friday, Dec. 23.