Tajikistan bounced back from their opening game defeat with a comprehensive 3-1 win over hosts Sri Lanka, who have now lost both their matches.
The Central Asians scored twice in the first half and were cruising in the second period until the Lankans pulled one back. But another Tajikistan goal in injury time sealed all three points for the 2006 winners.
Tajikistan made a very good start and nearly took the lead after five minutes when a powerful shot from midfielder Khurshed Makhmudov brought out the best from Sri Lanka keeper Asanka Viraj, who showed excellent reflexes to tip it over the bar.
The Centrals Asians were dominating the game and their pressure earned them a penalty in the 13th minute when Makhmudov was brought down in the box.
Ibragim Rabimov stepped up to take the spot-kick and coolly converted it to give his side a deserved lead.
Tajikistan continued to have the better of the play and doubled their advantage through Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev who completed a brilliant solo run from the left flank with a fine left footed finish past a helpless Viraj.
The Lankans looked out of ideas and were happy to go into the halftime break only two goals behind.
After the interval, the hosts did improve their display with midfielder Chathura Gunaratne testing Tajikistan custodian Alisher Tuychiev.
But Tajikistan should have been three up nine minutes into the second period when Numondzhon Khakimov brilliantly setup Yusuf Rabiev but the tournament’s all time top scorer uncharacteristically failed to hit the target.
As the second half progressed Tajikistan started to tire a bit and were not creating too many chances but at the same time they didn’t look troubled defensively.
But the game came alive 12 minutes from time when substitute Philip Dalpethado got on the end of a through pass from skipper Rohana Thilaka and found the back of the net with a very good finish.
The goal gave Sri Lanka a new life as they threatened to get the equalizer with Alisher Tuychiev having to make a couple of saves to keep Tajikistan’s lead intact.
However Fatkhuloev bagged the third in injury time with an excellent goal from the edge of the box to finally kill the game off.
This result puts Tajikistan back in contention for a last four place while two defeats in two games leaves Sri Lanka on the brink of elimination.
Goalscorers: Khurshed Makhmudov pen (Tajikistan) 13’, Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev (Tajikistan) 32’, 90+2’, Philip Dalpethado (Sri Lanka) 78’