Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rapid Reaction: Palestine 1:1 Libya (Pan Arab Games)

Starting XI (4-4-2): Saidawi ©, Harbi, Dheeb, Al-Masri, Fares, Zatara, Khader Yousef, Ismail, Nu’man; Salem, Alyan

Substitutions: El-Khatib <-> Nu’man // Abugharqud <-> Salem // Fares <-> Obeid

Goals: Zatara 88'

What it means: Palestine still have a chance to progress to the semifinal round. Jordan’s 0-0 draw with Sudan complicates matters for all in the group. Palestine will need to win by two goals and have other results in the group go their way if they are to progress.

Recap: A much more composed and professional display from Jamal Mahmoud’s men earned them a 1-1 draw against a side ranked 102 places above them. Palestine’s game against Jordan was marked by a lack of discipline and hot headedness. The refereeing in the last game left a lot to be desired but the mark of a good team is one that stays calm and overcomes hardship- Al-Fursan did that today. The first half saw Palestine create a fair share of chances the best was an interchange between Alyan and Zatara that saw the latter flash his shot wide. Alyan also went close but fired his shot straight at the Libyan keeper. Libya would go up a goal five minutes before the break-Khaled Salem lost the ball in the opposing box resulting in a swift counter. Palestine’s defence cut out the immediate danger but Ihaab Boussefi was free on the edge of the box. His shot was well placed, hitting the inside of the post en route to goal. Palestine started the second half by pressing aggressively in search of an equalizer. The approach worked as Ahmed Alwani clattered into Khaled Salem to prevent him from clean through on goal. The referee sent Alwani off and Palestine made the most of their one-man advantage- completely dominating proceedings in the second half. As the seconds ticked away though, it seemed that Libya would improbably hold on. Haitham Dheeb's powerful header somehow stayed out of goal and substitute Ali El-Khatib had a shot blocked off the line. It was not to be. Zatara- who had been excellent throughout- latched on to a ball in the box and expertly placed it behind Samir Aboud.

What I liked: The team's resilience is a reminder as to why Palestine is nicknamed Al-Fedai'e (The Fighters). Things went very wrong tonight but they managed to rebound and get themselves a draw. After a very temperamental performance against Jordan- Palestine went the entire match without collecting a single booking (ed. There was a scuffle between Zatara and Saad- Zatara may have been carded for that it was hard to tell) despite the constant diving and baiting of the Libyan players.

What I didn't like: Palestine need to be more clinical in their finishing. They had more chances tonight and could have won the game. A special mention has to go to those ugly Peak jersey Red with yellow and green trim. It looks like something a waiter would wear in an Asian-themed restaurant. From a functional point of view the solid black numbering makes it very hard to identify the players.

Atef Abu Bilal: He's been the forgotten man under Jamal Mahmoud despite good form with his club side Shabab Al-Dhahrieh. If I were to venture a guess it might have something to do with him shirking defensive responsibilities.

Qualification Scenarios:

1. Jordan 4 points, 4-1 // 2. Sudan 4 points 1-0 // 3. Libya 1 point 1-2 // 4. Palestine 1 point 2-5

Palestine must win by at least 2 goals and hope Jordan wins or draws against Libya. Palestine could progress with Libya winning but would need to make up their -3 goal differential.

What's Next: Palestine face Sudan on Saturday, December 17 at the Al-Rayyan Stadium (remember that place?). Kickoff is at 1430 GMT.