ASIAN QUALIFIERS – GROUP H: LEBANON BEAT SRI LANKA TO BOOST HOPES…

Goyang: Lebanon kept the pressure firmly on Korea Republic at the Group H summit after a 3-2 win over a spirited Sri Lanka in the second round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 on Saturday also guaranteed them a top-two finish.

An entertaining opening half at Goyang Stadium saw Sri Lanka go in front through Waseem Razeek before Lebanon replied immediately after with goals from Joan Oumari and Mohamad Kdouh, and then took a 3-1 lead into the interval when Oumari added his second on the stroke of half-time.

Razeek netted from the spot just after the hour to pull Sri Lanka back into the game but they were unable to complete the comeback for their first point in Group H as Lebanon survived a scare to pick up the victory.

Lebanon started the game as strong favourites but were stunned in the ninth minute when Kavindu Ishan played a lovely defence-splitting ball to Razeek, who raced into the area, held off Hassan Chaitou and finished past Mehdi Khalil.

But the Cedars produced the perfect response when they levelled straight from the restart as Mohamad Haidar’s inswinging free-kick from the right was headed home by Oumari from six yards out.

And the Lebanese almost went in front soon after when another dangerous cross from Haidar found Hilal El Helwe, but his header was well saved by Sri Lanka goalkeeper Sujan Perera.

It wasn’t long until they did take the lead, though, and it was another cross from the right that proved the Sri Lankans’ undoing once more as Kdouh rose highest at the back post to head Hussein Zein’s delivery into the back of the net.

Jamal Taha’s side took a two-goal advantage into the break when, as half-time approached, Oumari acrobatically fired home from six yards after the Sri Lanka defence was unable to clear a corner from the left.

Sri Lanka began the second half strongly, and Razeek was inches away from pulling one back when his free-kick from a narrow angle was tipped onto the post by Khalil.

But the South Asians then gave themselves real hope in the 61st minute when the lively Razeek was upended in the box by Chaitou before dusting himself off and converting the ensuing penalty with aplomb into the roof of the net.

Substitute Hassan Saad headed over with 10 minutes remaining as Lebanon sought to restore their two-goal cushion before Nader Matar went even closer only to be denied by Perera, but the West Asians held out for the win.

Lebanon will next face Turkmenistan on Wednesday before a top-of-the-table clash with Korea Republic on June 13, while Sri Lanka will round off their campaign against Korea Republic on Wednesday. (Source – AFC)

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