Palestine wins as Asian WCup qualifiers start
Tursunzade, Tajikistan: Palestine beat Afghanistan 2-0 while the Philippines snatched an away draw at Sri Lanka as Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup got underway on Wednesday.
There were victories for Cambodia, Nepal and Mongolia in other first-leg games as Asia`s smaller football nations kicked off the worldwide qualifying odyssey, three years out from the World Cup finals in Brazil.
Palestine`s football team normally attracts its share of sympathy for the security and logistical difficulties it faces, but came up against an opponent with even more severe problems in Afghanistan.
Wednesday`s game was nominally the home leg for the Afghans but had to be played in Tajikistan due to the security situation in Afghanistan.
Murad Alyan opened the scoring for Palestine in the 28th minute and Ismail Alamour got the second in the closing stages of the second half.
Palestine will host the second leg on Sunday, with the aim of progressing to a second-round meeting with Thailand. Palestine played Thailand in Olympic qualifying earlier this year, with Thailand winning in a penalty shootout after two legs but subsequently being disqualified for fielding an ineligible player.
The Philippines will also be confident of reaching the second round after a 1-1 draw in Sri Lanka.
Chathura Gunarathna beat Fulham reserve goalkeeper Neil Etheridge to put Sri Lanka ahead in the 43rd minute, but substitute Nate Burkey brought the Philippines level in the 50th minute.
The result left the Philippines well placed to progress to a second-round match against Kuwait.
Cambodia recovered from conceding an early goal to win 4-2 at home against neighboring Laos.
Laos took a ninth-minute lead through teenage midfielder Manolom Phomsouvanh but that advantage was overturned in a hectic period that saw four goals scored between the 51st and 67th minutes.
Khuon Laboravy equalized for Cambodia and substitute Samel Nasa put the hosts ahead. Phomsouvanh got his second to equalize for Laos, but striker Kouch Sokumpheak put Cambodia back in front soon after.
Nasa got his second in the 88th minute to provide a handy two-goal buffer for Cambodia before Sunday`s return leg. The winner will play China in the second qualifying round.
Ten-man Nepal struggled past lowly-ranked East Timor 2-1, with the winner to face Jordan in round two.
The Nepal team coached by former Tottenham, Rangers and Chelsea defender Graham Roberts went down to ten men when Bharat Khawas received two yellow cards inside the first ten minutes of the second half.
Anil Gurung had put Nepal in front in the 14th minute but East Timor — which is the lowest-ranked team in Asian qualifying at 202 in the world — surprisingly drew level through Juvito da Silva in the 47th minute.
The experienced Ju Manu Rai restored Nepal`s lead in the 71st.
Mongolia won 1-0 at home against Myanmar, leaving both teams with hope of progressing to face Oman.
Tsend-Ayush Khurelbataar scored the sole goal in the 48th minute