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MD4 - Group H: Sri Lanka 0-3 Lebanon

Colombo: Lebanon overcame difficult playing conditions at the Colombo Race Course Ground to secure a second successive Asian Qualifiers victory thanks to a 3-0 win over Sri Lanka on Tuesday.

First-half penalties from Hassan Maatouk and Hilal El-Helwe laid the foundations for the success as Liviu Ciobotariu’s charges, fresh from last week’s defeat of Turkmenistan, added yet more impetus to their FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Asian Qualifiers Group H campaign.

The result, which was sealed courtesy of a late El-Helwe strike, leaves Lebanon on six points and occupying third spot in the group standings following second-placed DPR Korea’s 0-0 draw with table-topping Korea Republic earlier in the day.

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In damp conditions, both sides struggled to find their rhythm early on, although Lebanon captain Maatouk’s angled drive did bring out a smart save from host goalkeeper Sujan Perera on 10 minutes.

Five minutes later Lebanon went ahead, Maatouk becoming his country’s all-time leading goalscorer by successfully converting a penalty after defender Nicholus Harsha Fernando had unceremoniously upended Rabih Ataya in the area.

With Sri Lanka, who were beaten 8-0 by Korea Republic on Matchday Three, finding it difficult to gain a foothold, Lebanon were awarded a second penalty when Ataya was brought done by Chalana Chameera on 38 minutes. This time El-Helwe held his nerve from 12 yards to double his side’s advantage.

The pattern of play changed little in the second half, as first El-Helwe and then Nader Matar were both denied by the alert Perera.

Perera followed those excellent stops up with an even better one to repel Felix Michael’s fierce drive, before the custodian saved bravely at the feet of the on-rushing Maatouk in the 68th minute.

With Sri Lanka clearly tiring, Ataya flashed a header wide from El-Helwe’s pinpoint cross, while Maatouk guided a shot inches wide of the far post when through on goal.

As the clock ticked down, El-Helwe duly rounded off the scoring with a consummate finish on a night when Lebanon were rarely troubled by their hosts.

Lebanon will continue their qualification bid on November 14 when they entertain Korea Republic, with Sri Lanka now not set play again until their trip to Turkmenistan five days later.

Photos: Football Federation of Sri Lanka

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