Sahal’s late strike keeps India’s Asian Cup hopes on track

HONG KONG :Sahal Samad’s injury-time strike earned India a dramatic 2-1 victory over Afghanistan in Kolkata on Saturday that keeps the country’s hopes of qualifying for next year’s Asian Cup finals alive.

Sunil Chhetri looked to have secured Igor Stimac’s side a second straight win after they beat Cambodia on Wednesday with an 86th-minute free kick, only for Zubayr Amiri’s header two minutes later to pull the Afghans level.

But Sahal’s strike into the bottom corner in the 92nd minute swung the result in India’s favour and ensures they remain level on six points at the top of Group D with Hong Kong.

Jorn Andersen’s outfit cruised to a 3-0 win over Cambodia earlier in the day with goals from Matt Orr, Sun Ming-him and Philip Chan that kept Hong Kong on track for a first Asian Cup appearance since 1968.

Hong Kong face India on Tuesday at the Salt Lake Stadium and a draw should be enough to take both nations through to the finals.

Only the winners of the six qualifying groups will advance automatically and they will be joined by the five runners-up with the best records.

Palestine claimed their second win in a row in Group B with a 5-0 thrashing of Yemen in Ulaanbaatar to lead the standings by two points from the Philippines, who needed an injury time goal from Gerrit Holtmann on his debut to hand Mongolia a 1-0 defeat.

AS Roma striker Eldor Shomurodov hit a hat-trick in Uzbekistan’s 4-0 win over the Maldives that leaves the Central Asians on top of Group C with six points.

The Uzbeks lead Thailand on goal difference ahead of the their meeting on Tuesday following a 2-0 win for the Thais over Sri Lanka.

In Group E, Bahrain came from a goal behind to defeat Malaysia 2-1 in Kuala Lumpur, with Abdulla Yusuf Helal’s 81st-minute penalty securing the points for the Gulf side.

The Bahrainis top the group with six points, three ahead of both Malaysia and Turkmenistan, who handed Bangladesh a 2-1 defeat.

Kyrgyzstan’s Viktor Maier scored both goals in their 2-0 win over Myanmar in Group F to allow them to pull level on six points with Tajikistan.

The Tajiks had a 53rd-minute goal from Shervoni Mabatshoev to thank for their win over the Southeast Asians to stand on the cusp of qualification for the finals.

In the later Group A matches in Kuwait City, Jordan stayed top with a 1-0 win over Indonesia, while two goals from veteran Kuwaiti striker Yousef Nasser helped the hub hosts to a 4-1 victory over Nepal.

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