Lebanon players are going home as heroes: Radulovic
Lebanon players pose before their AFC Asian Cup match against North Korea on Thursday. Lebanon won 4-1. (AFP)
Sharjah - Lebanon's win sealed a third place finish in the Group E, but they lost out to Vietnam on the fairplay rule
Published: Fri 18 Jan 2019, 9:49 PM
Last updated: Fri 18 Jan 2019, 11:51 PM
Miodrag Radulovic had nothing but praise for his Lebanon team despite their exit from the AFC Asian Cup following their 4-1 win over DPR Korea at the Sharjah Stadium on Thursday.
Lebanon's win sealed a third place finish in the Group E, but they lost out to Vietnam on the fairplay rule after both teams finished with identical points and goal difference, according to a report on AFC website.
Lebanon fell behind to an early DPR Korea goal, courtesy of Pak Kwang-Ryong set-piece but Radulovic's men eventually found their footing against the East Asians as they clawed their way back into game with George Felix Melki's leveller.
The West Asians continued their dominant display against Kim Yong-Jun's side and furthered their advantage with goals from Hilal Alhelwe and Hassan Maatouk before Alhelwe struck deep in stoppage time. Lebanon needed four clear goals to advance into the knockout stage but fell short in the end despite their best efforts.
"It was such a disappointment going out like that, my players are inconsolable right now. We fought back from a goal down and pressed hard. We scored four but it was not enough, very unlucky at the end," said Radulovic.
"I believed we were out the moment we lost the first game (against Qatar) and that game destroyed all our hopes of moving forward, we were gutted after that defeat."
Overwhelmed with emotion, Radulovic sang the praises of his players after they missed qualifying for the knockout rounds by a whisker but was equally proud after claiming a first win for Lebanon in the AFC Asian Cup.
"My players did exceptionally well. They are heroes tonight. They have progressed so much in these last four years and I'm really proud of them. They did their country proud, for winning their first AFC Asian Cup match.
"I want to thank the players and the federation for all their efforts. But the most important thing is that my players have the experience now to go on to the next competition."
DPR Korea, who were playing in their fifth AFC Asian Cup, leave the competition without a win, scoring once and conceding 14 goals.
Despite their best efforts to wrestle the game from Lebanon, Kim's charges cracked under pressure in the second half to fall further behind their opponents.
"My players tried to fight until the end but the result did not go in our favour and they are going through a learning curve especially in this last game and we know what we have to improve," said DPR Korea head coach Kim.
"After taking the lead, we lost concentration and conceded the first goal. That goal cost us dearly and we were not the same after that.
"There is a gap between this football generation and the previous ones. Previously DPR Korea were more aggressive in their style of play and maybe a lack of proper preparation was the cause of our defeats."