Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rapid Reaction: Palestine 1:3 Bahrain (Pan Arab Games Semifinal)

Palestine Starting XI: Saidawi (c), Abu Saleh, Al-Masri, Dheeb, Fares; Ismail, Kahder Youssef; Amour, El-Khatib, Zatara; Nu'man.

Subs: Al-Masri <-> Harbi / Zatara <-> Abu Bilal / Amour <-> Salem

Goals: Ashraf Nu'man 40' (p.)

What it Means: Palestine will have to settle for the bronze medal game. They will face the loser of the Kuwait-Jordan semifinal on Thursday (Al-Jazeera/Al-Kass 16.30 GMT).


Recap: Jamal Mahmoud opted to field Ashraf Nu'man as a lone striker with Murad Alyan and Eyad Abugharqud out with injury. Bahrain were gifted the lead in the fifth minute when Mohammad AlAlawi was left unmarked on a free kick. The next 35 minutes were a cagey affair- Palestine managed to get balls into Bahrain's box but they were left wanting. The game was turned on its head when Nu'man won a penalty- he duly converted to even the score at one all. A defensive mix-up was capitalized on by Salman Isa at the other end. Arriving late in the box, Isa latched on to the ball and sent it blazing past Saidawi's near post.

It was clear that Palestine was suffering from an inability to keep the Bahraini defence honest. Nu'man who put in an admirable work shift is simply not a striker and a lack of options on the bench meant that Jamal Mahmoud opted to make no changes at half-time. Palestine's task was made harder when Bahrain's Ringo was awarded a phantom goal. His shot had hit the post and ricocheted across the line but not over it. Saidawi collected and was shocked when he saw the Sudanese lineman's signal. Replays convincingly show that the ball never crossed the line and that the lineman wasn't even in a position to make a call. Palestine's ensuing changes saw them make a push but without a true goal poacher (Khaled Salem missed a wide open header) the 3-1 scoreline proved to be a bridge too far.

What I liked: The players battled hard and once the kinks are worked out (set piece marking and defensive positioning) this is going to be a good team. I am genuinely excited to see how the team looks with the likes of Ramzi Saleh, Omar Jarun, Abdelatif Bahdari, Roberto Bishara, and Mohammed Samara in the side.

What I didn't like: Palestine got off to an awful start and gifted Bahrain a goal off set pieces. They did not pick up the run of Salman Isa on the second goal and Saidawi got beat on his near post- an unforgivable error at this level. Khaled Salem might not have the pedigree required to preform at this stage just yet. He is really talented- big, fast, strong but lacks a true finishers touch as evidenced by his Pan Arab Games campaign and the fact that he only has 1 WBPL goal to his name this season. Fahed Attal and Ahmed Keshkesh can stake a claim in the Challenge Cup squad if Salem or Abugharqud don't start scoring.

What I really didn't like: The refereeing in Asia is consistently bad but to award a phantom goal is unacceptable. The penalty call might have been questionable but at least there was contact- something that could make a case for a foul. Ringo's shot, seen in real time didn't look like a goal, the replays proved it and also showed the Sudanese lineman was not in position to make the call.

What's Next: Palestine faces the loser of the Kuwait-Jordan semifinal on Thursday (Al-Jazeera/ Al-Kass 16.30 GMT)