Lebanon picked up their second straight win in the Bangabandhu SAFF Championship 2023 with a 4-1 demolition of Bhutan in Group B at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Sunday.
Lebanon came out all guns blazing and did all the damage in the first half, with four different scorers finding the net. Aleksandar Ilic's side are now on six points, followed by both Bangladesh and Maldives on three points. Bhutan, yet to open their account, are bottom of the table.
Ali Tneich’s long-range half-volley, which skimmed just over the crossbar inside 40 seconds, was an indication of how the night would pan out, with lots of shots peppered on the Bhutan goal.
They were deservedly up in the 11th minute when Ali Al Haj showed quick feet inside the box before squeezing a shot on goal, which was spilled by Bhutan goalkeeper Tshering Dendup and Mohamad Sadek tapped home the rebound.
Al Haj's dribbling prowess was on show again as he doubled Lebanon's lead in the 23rd minute after twisting and turning in the box before slotting it past Dendup from close range.
Lebanon got their third in the 35th minute when Khalil Bader saw Tneich's header blocked and was the quickest to pounce on the rebound and score.
Left-back Mahdi Zein also got in on the act and netted the fourth goal just before half-time, smashing in a loose ball after Sadek's shot was blocked.
Bhutan also did manage to work Lebanon goalkeeper Antoine Aldouaihy, who made decent saves to deny former Bengaluru FC player Chencho Gyeltshen and Dorji.
Lebanon eased their pressure considerably in the second half, which was more about Bhutan's attempts to find a consolation goal. Gyeltshen had a golden opportunity to reduce the arrears when he was tripped near the by-line by Lebanon captain Mouhammed Ali Dhaini but sent the resultant penalty wide of the right post.
The Bhutan legend did, however, redeem himself in the 79th minute, latching onto a pass from Dorji before finding the bottom corner with a thumping volley from the edge of the area to score Bhutan's first SAFF Championship goal since 2015.
Lebanon will next take on Maldives in their final group-stage game on June 28, where a draw will be enough to secure them pole position. Bhutan will be up against Bangladesh in the evening kick-off on Wednesday.