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Lebanon gift Qatar victory in opening World Cup qualifier
Lebanon’s bid to qualify for the World Cup started in disastrous fashion on Sunday as they gifted Qatar a 1-0 victory in Beirut.
A horrifically short 63rd minute backpass from Ramez Dayoub was intercepted by Qatari striker Sebastián Soria, who was left with a simple finish.
Youssef Mohammed missed a golden chance to draw level in injury time when he passed wide from 8 yards but the hosts were unable to equalize.
Lebanon now go into next Friday’s game against Uzbekistan knowing a win is necessary to kick-start their bid to make the finals for the first time.
The game had sparked a political crisis earlier in the week when it was announced that fans would be prevented from attending because of security concerns.
Qatar has been among the country’s leading calls for intervention in Syria and the government said there would be threats to the players’ safety.
The decision was later rescinded and barring a solitary Russian flag there was no sign of the Syrian crisis at the stadium, with Lebanon’s red and white in abundance.
The match itself started with Qatar on top and they almost took a deserved early lead in the seventh minute.
A corner taken by Adel Lamy was headed onto the bar by Ibrahim Abdulmajed, with the Lebanese defense failing to clear. The ball eventually fell to Yusef Ali, whose shot was saved at full stretch by the diminutive Ziad el-Samad.
The hosts appeared happy to concede possession and look to break and half way through the half those tactics almost led to the breakthrough in a classic counter attack.
Abbas Atwi robbed the Qataris of possession in the midfield and exchanged passes with Mohamad Ghaddar. Atwi found himself in the clear but while his shot beat Qasem Burhan in the Qatar goal it crashed against the post, with Hassan Maatouk’s rebound blocked on the line by Mohammed Kasola.
As the game continued Lebanon began to dominate and it was they that were looking mostly likely to take the lead until Dayoub’s ill-fated intervention.
The right-back collected a ball near the right touchline with little pressure on him but instead of clearing the ball to safety he rolled it back towards Samad. The pass fell well short and the Uruguayan-born Soria calmly dummied the goalkeeper and slotted into an empty net.
Dayoub’s evening went from bad to worse shortly after when he was booked and then substituted in quick succession.
After the goal the Lebanese had long spells of possession, with Qatar defending deep and in numbers. The home side struggled to create clear chances, with long-range efforts from Haytham Faour and Youssef Mohammed failing to trouble Burhan.
But in the third minute of injury time Mohammed had an incredible chance to steal a point. The ball came in from the left-hand side and the midfielder’s slow volley trickled past the post with Burhan beaten.
The result will be deeply disappointing to the country making its first appearance in the final qualifying round for the World Cup.
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