Lebanon's valiant effort goes in vain

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Lebanons valiant effort goes in vain
George Felix Melki of Lebanon vies for the ball with North Korea players during the Asian Cup match.

Sharjah - They did all they could but it wasn't enough

By James Jose

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Published: Thu 17 Jan 2019, 9:44 PM

Last updated: Thu 17 Jan 2019, 11:46 PM

Lebanon came up with a valiant effort to make the cut for the AFC Asian Cup round of 16, but they fell short despite victory over DPR Korea in Group E on Thursday night.
The 4-1 result at the Sharjah Stadium wasn't enough to take The Cedars through as one of the four best third-placed teams and they went out of the group stage for the second time after their first appearance in 2000, when they hosted the competition.
They did all they could but it wasn't enough and their campaign ended in tears. Nonetheless, their fans gave them a standing ovation.
Bahrain from Group A, Kyrgyz Republic from Group C, Vietnam from Group D and Oman from Group F booked their berth in the round of 16.
Although, Lebanon had the first shy at goal with captain Hassan Maatouk's freekick from a dangerous position was deflected for a corner on six minutes, it was DPR Korea who took a surprise lead.
Three minutes after that freekick, DPR Korea won one for themselves. And Pak Kwang Ryong sent a low shot from the edge of the box, which managed to slip past the diving goalkeeper Mehdi Khalil, who despite getting a touch to it, failed to judge the bounce perfectly.
The Cedars came close to cancelling that out on 20 minutes with Maatouk's curling effort almost sneaking past. But it was held on by shot stopper Rai Myong Guk.
The goal did arrive on 27 minutes following some superlative work from Maatouk. The former Ajman and Fujairah striker weaved past Sim Hyon Jin and Ri Yong Jik on the left before sending it across the goal. An unmarked George Felix Melki then tucked it home.
Lebanon should have taken the lead on 32 minutes if not for Sim Hyon Jin, who made a goal line clearance off Hilal Alhelwe's header following a corner.
They came close again on 36 minutes after Alhelwe had the defence in tatters following a Pass from the right. But Maatouk lost his footing while aiming to hit at the far post and DPR Korea could heave a sigh of relief.
The Cedars did take the lead on 66 minutes with Alhelwe sending his first time left-footer in following Mohamed Haidar's cross from the left.
The Lebanese were all over DPR Korea in the final segment of the game and scored their third from a penalty.
Substitute Rabih Ataya was brought down by captain  Jang Kuk Chol inside the box and the referee Christopher Beath pointed to the spot. And Maatouk was spot on with the spot kick, sending Ri Myong Guk the other way.
Alhelwe then got the fourth in the final seconds of stoppage time.

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