Qualifiers - Group C: Tajikistan impress, Syria, Lebanon share points
Dushanbe: Tajikistan flexed their muscles to defeat Maldives 9-0 in their opening AFC U-19 Championship 2020 Qualifiers Group C match in front of their fans at the Republican Central Stadium on Wednesday.
Syria and Lebanon, meanwhile, played to a 1-1 draw in Wednesday's other match.
Group C is the first of 11 to have kicked off the qualifying campaign where the group winners and four best runners-up will join hosts Uzbekistan in the 2020 Finals. The remaining groups will be contested in November.
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Tajikistan 9-0 Maldives
Tajikistan were quickly off the blocks against Maldives as they took the lead in the fourth minute and by the time the final whistle was blown, the Central Asians had sent a loud and clear warning that top spot is what they are after.
Forward Shahrom Samiev starred with a hat-trick but it was midfielder Sharifbek Rahmatov who got the goal rush going as he opened the scoring in the fourth minute.
The lead was doubled by captain Manucher Safarov five minutes later and by the 21st minute, Tajikistan were 4-0 up and the match was effectively over.
Samiev (pictured above) scored his first two in the 13th and 21st minutes and strike partner Islom Zairov (pictured below) hit a brace as well - finding the net in the 36th and 42nd minutes as Tajikistan took a 6-0 lead into the half-time break.
Samiev completed his hat-trick just a minute into the restart and there was a bit of a reprieve for Maldives after that as Tajikistan were content to protect their lead rather than chase more goals.
Unfortunately for Maldives, defender Ibrahim Dhaisam turned the ball into his own net in the 76th minute and Rahmatov ended proceedings by scoring his second two minutes from full time.
Syria 1-1 Lebanon
In an evenly contested affair, Syria and Lebanon had to be satisfied with a share of the spoils.
With only the group winners assured of a place in the Finals, both teams targeted the three points but neither could make much headway in the opening 40 minutes.
That, however, changed five minutes before the break as captain Amar Ramadan finally found the breakthrough to give Syria the lead.
Lebanon, however, came back fighting in the second half and drew level through substitute Karim Mekkaoui in the 73rd minute.
Friday's action will see Syria playing Maldives before Lebanon take on Tajikistan at the Republican Central Stadium.
Photos: Tajikistan Football Federation
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