Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rapid Reaction: Bahrain 0 : 1 Palestine (Friendly)

Palestine pulled off a somewhat surprising result in Manama, defeating home side Bahrain in a preparatory friendly for the Pan Arab Games next week.

Jamal Mahmoud started the match with a 4-4-2, instead of the usual 4-5-1 deployed by Palestine, as he put on both strikers Khaled Salem and Eyad Abu Gharqud. The first half was dominated by the Bahraini side as Palestine played out of form. With a little luck and a lot of effort by Abdulla Saidawi (even saved a penalty), the half ended scoreless.

After testing out the two young strikers, Mahmoud elected to keep Khaled Salem in and switch to an attacking 4-5-1, with a midfield spearheaded by Suleiman Obeid, Ismail Amour and Ali Khatib, after Ashraf No'man and Abu Gharqud were pulled out.

The formation change had a profound effect on the flow of the match as Palestine controlled the ball more and started to look dangerous. Khaled Salem was a menace in the air, beating the Bahraini defenders repeatedly, reaching the net in what was judged to be an offside.

In the 66th minute, former Hilal AlQuds star and current free agent, Ali Khatib created a goal out of nothing with a curving shot from 30 yards out that left the Bahraini goalkeeper with no chance.

Bahrain pushed for the equalizer and came very close a few times but ultimately the defense cut out the threats before they materialized. For the last 15 minutes of the game Palestine was playing without a striker as Khaled Salem was substituted for Khader Yousef to bolster the midfield. Of note is Husam Abu Saleh who played an excellent game on the wing, effectively acting as a fourth attacking midfielder at times. It should come as no surprise he was so well positioned, who knows him better than Jamal Mahmoud?

This was a very different Palestine to the one that faced Afghanistan and Thailand in the summer. They were able to hold on to the lead and control the game.

[Edit]: I couldn't identify the player at the time but now I know it was Zatara - put in some nice crosses from the left