AFC Asian Cup 2019: Lebanon fall one goal short of Round of 16 as Vietnam progress

Asian Cup Lebanon DPR Korea

Lebanon fell one goal short of making it to the knockout stages of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 after a thrilling 4-1 win over DPR Korea in Group E. However, it will be Vietnam who will progress from Group D to the Round of 16 as the final of the best third-placed teams.

Both Lebanon and Vietnam ended up with three points and a goal difference of minus one, however it will be the Golden Dragons who will progress to the knockout stages, thanks to their better disciplinary record (five yellow card compared to Lebanon’s seven) and will face Jordan on January 20.

Lebanon went into the match knowing that they needed to defeat DPR Korea with a four-goal margin in order to leapfrog AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 champions Vietnam and qualify as the final third-placed team. However, they were stunned when DPR Korea went into the lead as early as the ninth minute.

Nader Matar brought down DPR Korea’s Pak Kwang-ryong in front of the box in the eight minute and the 26-year-old North Korean who plays for Austrian club SKN St Polten himself stepped up to take. His effort was a low drive past the defensive wall and Lebanese goalkeeper Mehdi Khalil made a meal out of it letting it slip through him.

The Cedars, recovering from the shock of going behind, tried in earnest to find a way back and have a shot at qualifying for the knockout stages. In the 22nd minute, Hassan Maatouk, impressive in the tournament for his side who were yet to open their account, fired in a free kick that was fetched comfortably by Ri Myong-guk.

However, that unwanted record was about to end minutes later and it was Maatouk who was the architect behind the goal. He took possession of the ball outside the box, reached the byline, danced past North Korean defenders and delivered a cross for George Felix Melki to just tap in for the equaliser in the 27th minute.

AFC Asian Cup 2019: Lebanon 1-1 DPR Korea – George Felix Melki (27′)

Lebanon could have taken the lead nine minutes later when Hilal Alhelwe did well to escape the defender’s attention and cross the ball in. Captain Maatouk who was in the box had to adjust his run for the delivery and in the end saw his mistimed effort roll wide of the goal.

DPR Korea could have gotten back in the lead in the second half as Lebanon goalkeeper made amends for his first-half mistake with some good sweeping up during a North Korean counter attack. Goalscorer Kwang-ryong also failed to keep his shot down from a free kick in the 55th minute as the East Asians spurned back-to-back chances.

And then, Lebanon doubled their advantage when Mohamad Haidar supplied Hilal Alhelwe with a cross in the 65th minute. Alhelwe decided to take the shot first time and his left-foot volley bulged the net to make it 2-1. But Lebanon needed another three if they had to qualify for the Round of 16.

AFC Asian Cup 2019: Lebanon 2-1 DPR Korea – Hilal Alhelwe (65′)

They will score a third in the 80th minute after Rabin Ataya was brought down inside the penalty area. Captain Maatouk took the penalty and converted it past the diving Myong-guk to cap off an excellent display on the night with a goal.

AFC Asian Cup 2019: Lebanon 3-1 DPR Korea – Hassan Maatouk (80′)

Lebanon still had time to score another, but that came too close to the full time and counted for nothing for the Lebanese. It was Alhelwe who found his second heading home a corner in the eighth minute of the second half added time. However, Lebanon still fell one goal short of the Round of 16 as the referee blew the final whistle.

Meanwhile, for DPR Korea, it is back to the drawing board as they exited the tournament as the first team to debut in the competition and collect no point at all.

LEBANON: Mehdi Khalil, Nour Mansour (Hassan Ali Chaito 81′), Joan Oumari, Robert Melki, Walid Ismail, Samir Ayass (Adnan Haidar 77′), George Felix Melki, Nader Matar (Rabin Ataya 53′), Hassan Maatouk, Mohamad Haidar, Hilal Alhelwe

DPR KOREA: Ri Myong-guk, Kim Chol-bom, Jang Kuk-chol, Sim Hyon-jin, An Song-il, Kim Yong-il, Pak Kwang-ryong (Ri Hyok-Chol 61′), Kim Kyong-hun (Kang Kuk-Chol 29′, Choe Song-Hyok 75′), Ri Un-chol, Ri Yong-jik, Han Kwang-song