By Shrikant Shankar
Sanjar Ahmadi of Afghanistan scored twice in the first half to reverse a one-goal deficit after Sri Lanka's Mohamed Zain had given them the lead in the 17th minute. Then in the 78th minute, Mohammad Yamir Ali headed in the third to get all three points for Afghanistan.
In the first half, Afghanistan started as the better team and as early as the first minute Afghanistan's Waheed Ahmad attempt went over the crossbar.
Then in the fourth minute Sri Lanka quickly countered from an Afghanistan corner and forced a corner of their own.
Lanka's Nadeeka Pushpakumara sent the ball towards the far net where WRD Ruwanthilaka headed it towards the goal, only for the keeper, Hameedullah Yousufzari to tip it over.
Both the teams were intent on attacking and for the next 10 minutes both had chances to take the lead. Then in the 17th minute Sri Lanka went 1-0 up. Faisal Safa of Afghanistan headed a long ball backwards but there hardly any power on it. Taking advantage Sri Lanka's Mohamed Zain intercepted and put the ball in the back of an empty net.
Afghanistan quickly found a reply as in the 22nd minute, Yousef Mashriqi lay it off to Ahmadi who shot directly at goal from the edge of the penalty box. The ball flew into the left-hand top corner of the goal.
Sri Lanka made a substitution in the 28th minute as Chameera Krishantha came in for Suranda Bandara.
Mohammad Esrafil got past the defenders down the left flank and squared the ball in front of the goal. Balal Arezo failed to reach it at the near post but Ahmadi tapped the ball into an empty net.
Bandara Warakagoda of Sri Lanka was yellow carded for a foul on Ahmadi in the 45th minute. Then Afghanistan had two more chances to increase their lead. Mashriqi sent his attempt way above the crossbar and then Esrafil hit a tame shot straight at the Lankan keeper from close range.
In the second half, Afghanistan started off more comfortably as they were keen on keeping the ball. Afghanistan's Ahmadi and Sri Lanka's Krishantha both got yellow cards for two-footed challenges in a span of three minutes.
Deep into the game, Afghanistan were dictating more of the play and in the 78th minute they went 3-1 up. Haroon Fakhrudin took a corner and Mohammad Yamir Ali scored from a free header.
Afghanistan made two more substitutions as Massod Hashmi and Hashmat Jan came in for Mashriqi and Ahmadi. Then two minutes of added time was awarded.
Afghanistan then had a chance to put the game beyond any doubt in the first minute of added time. Arezo broke free of the Lankan defence but put the ball into the side netting. The scores stayed same as the referee blew the whistle for full-time.
Afghanistan coach Mohammad Yousef Kargar was delighted with the win. "We had a lot of chances and we had 60 per cent of ball possession. We controlled the game," he said.
On their next match against Bhutan he said, "We have beaten them before and we want to beat them again. This time we will look to score more goals."
Jang Jung, the Sri Lanka coach, said he was disappointed as they slipped from a one goal lead. "We could not keep the lead and we gave too much of space in the field," he said.
On playing India in their last match he said, "We have to win, it will be difficult but there is no option."
By Shrikant Shankar