x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Iran and Lebanon to go ahead with Asian Cup qualifier behind closed doors in Beirut tonight

Despite today's bombing of the Iranian embassy in the city, the sides will move forward with the match in front of an empty stadium.

Despite deadly bomb blasts outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut this morning that left 25 dead and over 150 injured, Lebanon remain set to face Iran in their scheduled Asian Cup qualifier tonight at 7.30. The teams have announced the match will be closed to the public due to security concerns, but broadcast live on MBC and Al Jazeera.

Team managers had an emergency meeting late this morning at a hotel in Beirut’s southern suburbs near the blast site, where the teams were staying, to discuss whether or not to have the match today. The official decision was that the match will continue.

“We have a match, but no one can enter. No fans,” Lebanese midfielder Hassan Hammoud said.

“This is not a good match to play here today. A Lebanon-versus-Iran match should be played outside Lebanon for security purposes,” said a Lebanese player who wished to remain anonymous. “For us in Lebanon, this situation is normal, but for the Iranians, it is not. This game should not be played today.”

Iran lead Group B with 10 points from four matches.

Lebanon are in third place with five point, behind Kuwait with six and ahead of Thailand, who have yet to register a point. Iran will secure qualification with a win or draw against Lebanon, or if Thailand defeat Kuwait today.

If Lebanon win, they can secure third in the group and will maintain a chance of finishing in the top two.

*Sabah Haider is a freelance filmmaker and journalist based in Lebanon