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Beirut: Miodrag Radulovic sought to keep a lid on Lebanon’s AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 expectations despite his side’s comfortable 2-0 win over Hong Kong in their opening qualifying match in Group B.

Lebanon had goals from Mohamad Ghaddar (pictured below, centre) and Hassan Maatouk to thank for picking up the three points in the opening game of the final phase of qualifying for the tournament and Radulovic is confident his team can qualify for the first time since 2000 if they continue to perform in a similar manner.

“We still have five matches and nothing is over,” he said. “If we continue with what we started today, I’m confident that we will qualify for the Asian Cup and the future will be better for us.

“I’m very proud of my players, who put in a convincing performance for me and for the fans although the injury of some players forced us to make some changes. The 2-0 win against Hong Kong is very important for us because it will give us a good push before the next matches.”

Both of Lebanon’s goals came in the opening 34 minutes, with Ghaddar opening the scoring 27 minute into the game before Maatouk doubled his side’s advantage seven minutes later, but Radulovic denied he adopted a defensive approach after his side had established a two-goal cushion.

“I didn’t ask the players to sit back and defend in the second-half,” he claimed. “Hong Kong played with a different tactic which forced us to increase our defenders.”

With the game between DPR Korea and Malaysia postponed until early June, the Lebanese are on top of the early standings and Radulovic’s side will travel to Malaysia for their next game in Kuala Lumpur on June 13.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, will host DPR Korea in what promises to be a challenging game for Kim Pan-gon’s side after seeing his team slip to a disappointing result in Beirut. 

“We expected that Lebanon would have the upper hand and we played with a defensive performance in order to keep them at bay, but they managed to score two goals,” said the coach from Korea Republic. 

“In the second-half we were better and we tried our best to make a good comeback and equalise but our opponents managed to hold on with the support of their fans.

“I'm proud of my players as all the matches in the qualifiers are not easy, and hopefully in the home match in Hong Kong things will be different and we will avenge our defeat.”

Photos: AFP

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