Lebanon start campaign with 2-0 win over Bangladesh

Bengaluru, Jun 22 (PTI) Strong contenders Lebanon opened their SAFF Championship campaign with a nervy 2-0 win over former champions Bangladesh at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Thursday.

Hassan Maatouk netted the all-important goal in the 74th minute for Lebanon while Khalil Bader added a second in the injury time. But before those decisive moments, both the teams traded blows in equal measures to keep the match in balance.

Despite the massive gulf between the teams in the FIFA Rankings Lebanon are 99th and Bangladesh stand at 192 there was no dearth of excitement in the match.

The first half, though, was relatively less eventful as the teams could have been sussing up each other and the turf. Lebanon was the more dominant team in that phase as they created a couple of chances but lacked the finesse to convert them.

However, the nature and speed of play changed considerably in the second half. Both Lebanon and Bangladesh went at full tilt to break the deadlock.

As the intensity of the play went up, there were few rough moves too by either side. Referee John Crystal had to pull out yellow cards twice in quick succession to book Ali Tneich of Lebanon and Bishwanath Ghosh of Bangladesh for some harsh tackling.

The first clear chance post the half-time came Lebanon’s way. Zein Al Farran received a quick pass from the left-wing and evaded a couple of Bangladesh defenders, but could not go past the stretched arms of goalkeeper Anisur Rahman.

Lebanon custodian Ali Sabeh was also pressed into service very soon as he had to put his body on the line to save an advancing Mohammad Foysal, who was stopped a kick away from netting the goal.

Foysal was the standout player for Bangladesh as he remained a constant threat through his speedy runs.

Just as the match was drifting to a goalless draw, Lebanon found a moment of inspiration. Karim Darwich collected the ball from a defender and did not delay in finding Maatouk standing in the Bangladesh half.

Maatouk controlled the long pass well and slipped the ball past Rahman as Lebanon players fell in each other’s hands in relieved celebration. Bader’s strike in the added time ensured that it stayed just like that.