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Beirut: Lebanon coach Miodrag Radulovic has called on the country’s football fans to throw their weight behind the national team as they stand on the cusp of qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup Finals for the first time since 2000.

Radulovic has overseen a remarkable turnaround for the Ciders since taking over in 2015 and the team are now on the verge of booking their place in the Finals in the United Arab Emirates after beating DPR Korea 5-0 thrashing in Beirut.

Lebanon lead Group B from Hong Kong by five points with 10 points from four games with the Koreans in third with two points and Malaysia propping up the group following their 2-0 loss at the hands of Kim Pan-gon’s team.

“I’m proud of the players for what they have shown during the match as they had a great performance,” said Radulovic. 

“I’m satisfied with the result and I hope that we can continue with such spirit in order to improve further in the FIFA ranking

“The qualifiers are still not over and our ambitions at the Asian Cup will be bigger and different. I hope that the Lebanese people will support the national team and believe in their talent.”

Lebanon previously qualified for the 2000 Finals when they hosted the event, only to be eliminated in the group stages.

The team had struggled until the qualifying round for the 2014 World Cup, with the Lebanese reaching the final phase for the first time.

However, they missed out on a place at the Asian Cup Finals in 2015 and striker Hassan Maatouk is confident he and his teammates are benefiting from the stability Radulovic has brought since.

“The win was very important and this big result was good for us,” he said. “We have been playing together for more than two years as a group and we have managed to show a good performance.

“We have nearly secured our qualification to the Asian Cup for the first time from the qualifiers. We shouldn’t stop here and we should improve a lot and play with bigger teams in order to develop.

“All the players were fighting and we played very well. We controlled the match and we have defeated one of the better teams in Asia, which is a good achievement for us.”

While Lebanon were taking a significant step towards boking their tickets for the UAE, Malaysia’s hopes slipped further away with a 2-0 loss against Hong Kong.

Captain Safiq Rahim was sent off before Jordi Tarres and Jaimes McKee scored the goals that gave Kim’s side the win to keep their chances of advancing on track.

Malaysia have yet to pick up a win since the appointment of head coach Nelo Vingada and the Portuguese knows their fortunes will have to change soon.

"We have to be realistic,” said the former FC Seoul and Saudi Arabia coach. “Qualification is not closed but it's difficult. To keep our hopes alive, today the minimum was a draw. 

“To lose the game, it means the situation is now harder than before.”

Photos: AFC