2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers
AFC – Fourth Round – Group A
Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium, Beirut, Lebanon.
Qatar (1) [Sebastian Soria 64']
A 64th minute strike from Sebastian Soria was enough to earn Qatar a highly important three points in their quest for a historic maiden appearance at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals.
It was always going to be difficult, facing a talented team like Lebanon in front of their own fans in Beirut. At the same stadium last year, the Lebanese side defeated Asian giants South Korea and 2007 Gulf champions UAE.
But, for Al Annabi winning that match was extremely vital, the unfair schedule of qualifiers meant that they will have to play three matches in three different countries over a period of ten days, and knowing that they will have to face South Korea on Friday in Doha then travel to Tehran to face Iran four days later in the intimidating atmosphere of Azadi Stadium, returning from Beirut empty handed would have been a very early blow to their hopes of going to Brazil.
Despite missing one of their main stars, Roda Antar, due to injury, the Lebanese were not short of attacking power with Mohammed Ghaddar and Hassan Maatouk up front.
Ghaddar is currently playing his football in Malaysia with Kelantan. His form was impressive in the past few months and he proved that during the latest friendly against Oman in Muscat with a perfect header in Wigan’s Ali Al Habsi goal. Maatouk played on the left hand side and caused a lot of trouble to the Qatari defense with his dazzling skills and perfect crosses.
Autuori, in his second official match in charge of Al Annabi, made only a couple of changes to the side that faced Iran in February, both on the left, with Lekhwiya’s youngster Khaled Moftah (full-back) and Adel Lami (winger), replacing Mesahl Mubarak and Talal Al Baloushi.
Qatar took advantage of a shaky start from the home side, and threatened early with Lebanese keeper Ziad Al Samad doing well to stop Soria’s long range effort. The resulting corner saw another attempt from Soria, and Yousef Ahmed followed it up but his effort hit the post.
“The Cedars” were unlucky not to go upfront in the 28th minute, when Abbas Atwi broke into the box and sent a low drive that hit the post; Maatouk followed it up with a close range shot that was blocked by Mohamed Kasoula.
After the break, the home side started strongly but failed to test the Qassim Burhan, their best effort came in the 48th minute when Ghaddar headed from close range just over the bar.
|Soria Saved The Day|
Yousef Ahmed picked up an injury in the final ten minutes after he appeared to be fouled by Lebanon’s Yousef Mohamed inside the box, but no penalty was given and he was replaced by Talal Al Bloushi.
Lebanon had the chance to spoil the day for the Qataris in injury time, but Yousef Mohamed failed to hit the target from inside the 6-yard-box to waste his team’s best chance.
So, a great defensive display, three points in the bank, an away win and leading the group alongside Iran, Al Annabi could have never asked for a better start. But still a lot of work must be done if they want to be in Brazil, seven matches to play including two difficult away encounters against Iran and South Korea.
The key to the qualification will be winning the four matches at home, twelve points that will be more than enough to make their first ever appearance in football’s biggest show on earth.
Their next match will be on Friday against South Korea at Al Sadd Stadium, a full stadium is expected against the Asian giants and with their poor away record in the previous round of qualifiers, everything is possible.
Lebanon: Ziad Al Samad - Ramez Dayoub (79' Nader Matar), Yousef Mohamed, Walid Ismael, Bilal Najarin - Abbas Atwi, Hussein Dakik (86' Hassan Chaito), Haytham Faour - Ahmed Zriek, Hassan Maatouk, Mohamed Ghaddar (86' Hassan Al Mohamed). Coach: Theo Bucker (Germany)
Qatar: Qasim Burhan - Mohamed Kasoula, Mesaad Al Hamad, Ibrahim Majid, Khaled Moftah - Lawrence Quaye, Wisam Riziq, Adel Lami (77' Younis Ali) - Yousef Ahmed (83' Talal Al Baloushi), Khalfan Ibrahim (90+3' Marcone), Sebastian Soria. Coach: Paulo Autuori (Brazil)
Nawaf Shukralla (Bahrain)
Lebanon: Dayoub 74' – Chaito 90'
Qatar: Soria 12' – Majid 90+1' – Khalfan 90+1'