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Qualifiers - Group C: Tajikistan book Finals berth

Dushanbe: Tajikistan are the first team through to the AFC U-19 Championship 2020 Finals after defeating Syria 1-0 to win Group C of the Qualifiers on Sunday.

Forward Shahrom Samiev's 23rd minute goal proved to be the difference as the hosts ended their qualifying campaign with a perfect record of three wins, having scored 11 goals and conceded none.

Lebanon, meanwhile, finished second ahead of Syria on goal difference after a 2-0 win over Maldives earlier on Sunday.

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Tajikistan 1-0 Syria

Tajikistan went into the match only needing a draw - having defeated Maldives 9-0 and Lebanon 1-0 - while Syria had to win to progress to the Finals.

The West Asians had opened their campaign with a 1-1 draw with Lebanon and secured a hard-fought 3-2 triumph over Maldives and with the onus on their opponents to win, Tajikistan were understandably content to take their time in pressing forward.

The Central Asians, however, began to gradually exert control and after a couple of half attempts by Syria, Tajikistan upped their tempo.

It was a move that paid off almost immediately as they took the lead in the 23rd minute, with Samiev (pictured above, left) rising unchallenged at the far post to nod home captain Safarov Manucher's cross.

It was the forward's fifth goal of the campaign - having scored a hat-trick against Tajikistan and the matchwinner against Lebanon - and he will be a player to watch in the Finals.

Having taken a valuable lead, Tajikistan starved Syria of the ball and the West Asians were limited to sporadic shots from distance as they went into the break trailing.

Needing to score twice to book their ticket to the Finals, Syria played with more aggression in the second half but the Tajikistan defence held firm to confirm their berth to next year's Finals in Uzbekistan in fine style.

Lebanon 2-0 Maldives

Lebanon's hopes of winning the group and earning an automatic berth at the 2020 Finals were dashed by their 1-0 defeat to Tajikistan on Friday, with the West Asians having opened their campaign with a 1-1 draw with Syria.

Lebanon started the more aggressive of the two sides and their positive play brought early dividends as defender Adam Hijazi gave them the lead in the 17th minute.

Maldives, however, were far from disheartened and showed their resolve by pushing back as the South Asians - who lost 9-0 to Tajikistan and 3-2 to Syria - tried to find their way back into the match.

Lebanon had to wait until the 76th minute to confirm the points, with defender Abdul Razzak Dakrama finally ending Maldives' resistance, who then saw Savee Ibrahim sent off deep into added time.

The 11 group winners and four best runners-up will join hosts Uzbekistan in next October's Finals.

Should hosts Uzbekistan emerge group winners or are among the best four runners-up, the fifth best second-placed team will advance to the 2020 Finals, scheduled for October 14-31.

The remaining groups will contest the Qualifiers in November.

Photos: Tajikistan Football Federation

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