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MD3 - Group A: Syria 2-1 Maldives

Dubai: Omar Al Somah bagged a brace for the second game running to lead 10-man Syria to a 2-1 victory over the Maldives on Matchday Three of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Asian Qualifiers Group A at Rashid Stadium on Thursday.

The two sides came into the Matchday Three fixture on the back of contrasting results. Syria had beaten the Philippines 5-2 in the opening day of the Qualifiers, while the Maldives were on the receiving end of a 5-0 defeat by China PR on Matchday Two.

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Led by the attacking prowess of strike-partners Omar Al Somah and Omar Khribin, Syria took the game to their opponents’ half from the start, delivering cross after cross even as the two Omars failed to convert their chances.

It took 26 minutes, but the Maldives’ defence finally yielded to the Syrian pressure, and it was Al Somah who broke the deadlock. The striker stepped up to take a free-kick from 25 yards out and rifled an effort into the bottom right corner, for his third goal of the Qualifiers campaign.

Al Somah came within inches of doubling his tally in the 58th minute after climbing highest at the far post to head Al Mawas’ cross, but his header narrowly missed the target.

Two minutes later, Al Somah tried his luck again and this time he struck gold. An outswinging corner from Ward Salama found its way to the striker whose towering header clipped the hands of goalkeeper Mohamed Faisal and nestled into the back of the net to make it 2-0.

The visitors had a golden scoring chance in the 66th minute when Irufan Ashfaq broke free on the counter, finding himself one-on-one with the Syrian goalkeeper.

Chasing him was defender Ahmed Al Salih who was left with no choice to stop Ashfaq except holding from behind, prompting the referee to produce the red card, reducing Syria to 10 men.

Maldives wasted no time in taking advantage of their numerical superiority. Within three minutes they had halved the deficit after Hassan Sifaau sent a long throw-in into the Syrian penalty box that was met by an Ashfaq header into the bottom corner.

Ashfaq’s goal would prove to be merely consolation as the Eagles of Qasioun weathered a late storm to emerge 2-1 winners and move level with China PR with six points from two games. Team Dragon remain top thanks to a superior goal difference to the Syrians who remain in Dubai to host Guam on Tuesday.

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