It was an incredibly high-stakes match for Lebanon. They still had an outside shot at qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. If Lebanon could beat Syria, they would be tied on points with the United Arab Emirates for third place in their AFC third-round qualification group.
Unfortunately, the ‘Cedars’ would also need a stroke of good luck. To qualify for the play-offs, Lebanon needed UAE to lose both of their remaining qualification games by a combined deficit of six goals. This, plus a victory over Syria, could put Lebanon in touching distance of their first World Cup appearance.
Syria, meanwhile, sat bottom of the group. They had endured a rough round three campaign, conceding a group-leading 15 goals. As a result, they had nothing to lose in their fixture against Lebanon.
Lebanon vs Syria
From the kick-off, the pressure of the occasion weighed heavily on the Lebanon players. They were immediately on the back foot, as Syria took the lead through Alaa Al Dali after just 14 minutes.
Despite holding the majority of possession, Lebanon inflicted their own damage by giving away a penalty in the 38th minute. Mardik Mardikian fired home the spot-kick in a dream scenario for the visitors.
Syria’s unbelievable first half ended with a goal from Mohammad Al-Marmour; the bottom of the group side went in at half-time 3-0 up.
The shock deficit for the home team effectively ended any chance that Lebanon had of qualifying for the World Cup. As full time beckoned, the Cedars still couldn’t find a way back into the game.
The fans expressed their anger in the closing stages of the game.
‘Riots’ at World Cup qualifier
With their World Cup dreams in tatters, fans in the stadium started fighting and causing a disturbance. Reports suggest that the crowd threw rocks and other projectiles at Syrian players and fellow spectators.
beIN Sports labelled the ugly scenes ‘a riot’. The incident shocked match officials. They were forced to suspend the game due to the fracas, removing the players from the pitch.
There were conflicting reports on whether the game was finished or abandoned with the timer on around 80 minutes. Initial reports suggested a postponement of the game. However, this has later been clarified.
Match updates from ESPN and Sofascore show activity past the 78-minute mark – the point where match officials to the players off the pitch. Syria made two substitutions, with Lebanon making one of their own.
Others on Twitter said that the sides came back out to complete the game once the atmosphere in the stadium had calmed down. The Daily Express reports that 43 minutes of added time was played once the teams returned – yet the game still finished 3-0.
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