|Captain. Centurion. Legend.|
Palestine Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Ramzy Saleh (C); Al-Battat, Jarun, Dheeb, Fares; Abu Saleh, Murad Ismail, Abu Jazr, Ahmed Maher; Musa; Musalmeh
Substitutions: Abuhabib <-> Ahmed Maher 46' // Bahdari <-> Murad Ismail 61' // Seyam <-> Musalmeh 85'->->->
Cautions: Al-Battat 20', Ahmed Maher 35', Abu Saleh 50', Raed Fares 72'
Full Match info after jump.....
Recap: Jamal Mahmoud reshuffled his deck once again in order to give injured players a rest ahead of what will be a truly challenging semifinal test. Ashraf Nu'man, Tamer Seyam, and Abdullah Jaber were withheld due to the threat of yellow card accumulation but Dheeb and Musa Abu Jazar started and went the full 90 minutes. All in all, eight changes were made to the side that faced Myanmar with only Al-Batat, Abu Jazar, and newly minted centurion Ramzy Saleh retaining their places.
Palestine started competently enough but there was an air of conservatism in their approach with the fullbacks neglecting to make overlapping runs. Maldives threatened from two free kicks that were dealt with by Ramzi Saleh and the game then settled into a familiar pattern: Palestine would build an attack get restless, play a low a percentage ball and Maldives would attack the wings with great speed.
As the game wore on, Palestine dropped deeper and deeper and even played five in the back for the last thirty minutes of the game. A goal by the Maldives would have made things interesting but despite the liveliness of Ali Ashfaq it didn't look like anything was going to get past the heart of Palestine's defence.
What I liked: Palestine got the result and managed to rest key starters ahead of Tuesday's semifinal match. Qualifying tournaments aren't pretty but you need to be able to grind out results in hostile territory under adverse conditions. Keep in mind that World Cup finalists Iran only beat the Maldives 1-0 when they travelled here in 2011.
What I didn't like: I respect the approach to this game but it was too negative from the outset. At some point there should have been a concerted effort to help Rami Musallmeh in attack. That poor kid got no service.
Man of the Match: According to the PFA, this was Ramzy Saleh's 100th appearance. He capped it off with his third consecutive clean sheet. His denial of Ashfaq's one real chance was made to look routine. A Challenge Cup title next week would be a fitting way to celebrate such an impressive milestone.
Maldives Synopsis: Getting better with every game but they were rarely pressured in this game. Afghanistan- their likely semifinal opponents- will be tough to deal with but both sides are familiar with each other courtesy of their SAFF Championship battles.
What's Next: Palestine will be playing in the early game (1130 GMT) kickoff with a place in the title match on the line. Their opponents will most likely be the winner of the Philippines-Turkmenistan match with Philippines needing only a draw to advance.