Lebanon beats South Korea in WCup qualifying
Lebanon pulled off an astonishing 2-1 win over South Korea in the Asian qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Beirut on Tuesday to stay firmly on course for a place in the final round.
Ali Al-Saadi gave Lebanon a shock 1-0 lead in the fifth minute but then canceled out his earlier effort by conceding a penalty, converted by South Korea's Koo Ja Cheol in the 20th. Abbas Atwi restored Lebanon's lead from the penalty spot at the half-hour mark and his side held on to seal a priceless victory.
Group B leader South Korea has 10 points, the same as Lebanon, which trails on goal difference after five games. Third-place Kuwait has eight points, while United Arab Emirates has zero.
An away victory against the UAE in the final round of matches on Feb. 29 will guarantee Lebanon a place among the 10 sides in Asia's fourth round of qualifiers. Those 10 are divided into two groups of five teams, with the top two from each group qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Lebanon made an ideal start when Roda Antar mis-hit a free kick from the edge of the penalty area and the ball fell to Al-Saadi who fired in from close range.
Lebanon looked comfortable with its lead until a piece of overzealous defending from Al-Saadi gave South Korea a penalty that Koo comfortably slotted away.
The home side's disappointment was short-lived, though, with Mahmoud el Ali being brought down in the area on 30 minutes and Atwi driving home the spot-kick.
Lebanon's German coach Theo Bucker said the victory showed the strength of Lebanese football.
''First of all, this victory is for the Lebanese people,'' he said. ''We had belief in our team. Our football was much better than anyone believed until a couple of days ago. Lots of people were laughing about me here and in Germany.
''I know Arab football, Asian football, European football, and our football, tactically and technically, is as good as anywhere else.''
South Korea coach Cho Kwang-Rae blamed the defeat on a lack of top players and the pitch.
''First of all, I was very worried about the condition of the pitch,'' he said. ''The pitch was quite poor and our play was influenced by the poor pitch. I would also like to mention the refereeing. I saw some points of improvement in general. Still, my players did their best in these tough conditions.''
Cho also cited the absence of Arsenal forward Park Chu-Young, along with those unavailable due to injury and suspension, but remained confident his side would progress in qualifying.
''The main reason that we lost is that I lost some key players .... I don't think this was my strongest team,'' Cho said.