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Taha says room for improvement after Lebanon edge Sri Lanka in Asian Qualifiers


Goyang: Head coach Jamal Taha has admitted Lebanon can do much better but that three points was the most important thing after his side claimed a 3-2 win over Sri Lanka in the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 at Goyang Stadium on Saturday. 

The Cedars went into the game level on points with Group H leaders Korea Republic and knowing a win could secure a top-two finish, but were dealt a blow when they fell behind to Waseem Razeek's early goal.

Lebanon's response was swift, however, and they went into the interval 3-1 up after Joan Oumari bagged a brace and Mohamad Kdouh also netted. Sri Lanka pulled one back through Razeek's penalty just after the hour, but the West Asians held out to move onto 10 points from four matches.

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“It was a difficult match because it was the first official game for us [in Korea Republic], but the most important thing is that we managed to get the three points ahead of the match against Turkmenistan," said Taha, whose side cannot finish any lower than second after the Turkmens' defeat to Korea Republic later on Saturday.

“We put in a good performance in the first half and missed several easy chances, and this put some pressure on us in the second half. Looking at our performance after the break, we must work hard to be better in the future."

“It was very tough to play against a team who played defensively and on the counter-attack. That is why we tried to make the most of set-pieces, as well as shooting from outside the box.

"After the goal that we conceded, we stood up and scored three goals but missed three more good opportunities as well.”

The victory means Lebanon have now won three and drawn one of their four games in Group H as they continue to challenge Korea Republic for top spot and a place in both the third round of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying and the Finals of the AFC Asian Cup China 2023.

Taha's side also moved four points clear of third-placed Turkmenistan, who they play on Wednesday, when another win would set up a mouthwatering finale against Korea Republic on June 13.

“The next match will be different because Turkmenistan have another style of play which could give us space to play in," added Taha.

"We have three days to pick ourselves up, and we want to get three more points but with a better performance. We must work hard mentally because most of our players were down as they thought that we could win this game by a big margin.

"But nothing in football is easy. We will watch the match again and correct our mistakes, and I’m sure that we will put in a better performance against Turkmenistan.”

Sri Lanka, meanwhile, went into the game having yet to pick up a point in Group H, but put in what was arguably their finest display of the campaign to give Lebanon an almighty scare.

A standout performance from the two-goal Razeek was among the highlights of a spirited display for the South Asians, who will round off their campaign against Korea Republic on Wednesday.

"Our problem was that we were limited with our preparations in Sri Lanka and the players found it difficult to adapt to the conditions," said head coach Amir Alagic.

"I can't say anything bad about them though because this is a totally new team, with six new players. Waseem was influential, as were the rest of the players, but this is a new team that needs two years together and then we will be competitive in South Asia.”

“I'm very sorry that we were close to getting a point but we made defensive mistakes in the first half which cost us cheap goals. I’m happy with our fighting spirit and the way we played as a team.”

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