Starting XI (4-4-2-): Toufic Ali (GK); Ahmad Salameh, Nadim Barghouthi, Mustafa Abu Kweik (c), Fayez Aslieh; Ali El-Khatib (Amjad Zidan), Ahmed Mearry, Thaer Qaraeen (Muath Mustafa), Hicham Ali; Abdelhamid Abu Habeeb, Khaled Jamal.
Recap: Palestine started brightly and came close in the opening quarter of the game through Khaled Jamal and Ali El-Khatib. The latter had a point blank header heroically saved by the Thai goal keeper after Abu Habeeb had set him up brilliantly. Thailand offered very little in the first half as their quality on the ball could not be translated into any sort of advantage. Just when it seemed that Palestine would be heading to the dressing room at 0-0, Khaled Jamal settled a long ball, dribbled straight at the Thai defence, and unleashed a shot. The deflection fell for Abdelhamid Abu Habeeb, who struck it on the volley and smashed it in the top corner.
Palestine came out in the second half buoyed by their goal and were soon playing with a numerical advantage when Theerathon was shown his second yellow by the Qatari ref. Despite repeated attacks in the second half and extra-time the team could not find a way past the Thai keeper. Khaled Jamal had two free headers and Ali El-Khatib’s decision making in the final third showed a greediness on his part.
In the penalty shootout, Al-Fursan showed no evidence of nerves with Nadim Barghouthi, Ahmed Mearry, Hicham Ali, Khaled Jamal, and Muath Mustafa. With the scores even at five a piece, Palestine sent Fayez Aslieh to the spot who saw his effort saved. The Thais could not capitalize and Palestine were handed a lifeline. Amjad Zidan’s miss on the 7th spot kick condemned Palestine to elimination with the last Thai player sneaking an effort past Toufic Ali.
What it Means: Palestine are eliminated from Olympic Qualifying.Their heroic performance on the night was viewed by AFC President Muhammad Bin Hamam who is the key man in deciding whether Palestine will be able to host all their home games. Most of the players on this squad will now be looking to break into the first team.
Positives: Palestine did not back down. The crowd got behind them and they really put Thailand on the back foot. The goal from Abu Habeeb was fantastic and he is one to watch for in the future. Khaled Jamal’s energetic performance deserved a goal, he held up play very well. Individually, you can’t really pick out a player who underachieved.
Negatives: A lack of finishing in the final third can always spell potential doom. But even the best players suffer from such spells, you can’t help but think that the team could have used Ashraf Nu’man and Eyad Abugharqud who are with the full national team. The biggest negative was the fact that a lot of the fans left the stadium, apparently unaware that there was an extra-time period to be played.
Star Player: Abu Habeeb is the real deal. Some of the commentators were complaining about his performance not being up to snuff. I think they’re suffering from serious myopia, you can’t expect Abu Habeeb to dominate an Olympic Qualifier the way he does a WBPL match.
What’s Next: Only a couple of players will be around by the time 2016 rolls around, most these players will be looking to break-in to the first team. Abu Habeeb, Hicham Ali, and Mustafa Abu Kweik seem ready to make that jump.