Rapid Reaction: Palestine 1:4 Jordan (Pan Arab Games)

Highlights and full match footage available on Football Palestine’s YOUTUBE PAGE.

Palestine Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Saidawi (C), Abu Saleh, Harbi, Dheeb, Fares; Kawre’, Ismail; Zatara, Nu’man, Obeid; Salem.

Substitutions: Zatara <-> Amour (38′) // Salem <-> Alyan (56′) // Obeid <-> El-Khatib (74′)
Goals: Ashraf Nu’man (34′)
Recap: A strange game to say the least. Jordan probably deserved to win this game but the 4-1 scoreline flattered them. The opening stanza of the game saw Jordan have the lion’s share of possession but Palestine came close to scoring after Khaled Salem burst through the defence and latched on to Imad Zatara’s exquisite lob pass. Jordan’s goalkeeper, Lu’ay Amaireh did well to get a piece of the shot but Salem would knock the door again a minute later- this time missing the shot wide to the left. Hussam Abu Saleh also saw a long range effort beat an outstretched Amaireh only for it to hit the post.
Jordan entering their third year under the command of Adnan Hamed showed how comfortable they were imposing their style on a game. The Nashama weren’t carving chances from open play but their set pieces were well designed. The difference between the two sides in this area was stark- Palestine have been under Mahmoud’s command for a month and they still need to figure out how to mark on corners. They went with a zone scheme today but were far too lax in attacking the ball. Bani Khaled and Abdullah Deeb did not forgive their inexperience in making it 1-0 and 3-0, respectively. That said, Palestine had plenty to complain about on the second goal- Abu Saleh was adjudged to have fouled Ra’ed Nawateer. In reality, it was an innocuous incident- a result of their feet getting tangled up with both players attempting to track an aerial ball. The referee thought differently and gave Abu Saleh a yellow card for his troubles.
Despite the setbacks there were a lot of positives in an attacking first half and it seemed Palestine would have all to play for after Ashraf Nu’man first international goal (although it won’t count- more on that later) cut the lead to 3-1. Khaled Salem almost made it 3-2 with an effort that Amaireh was barely palmed away.
The quality of football deteriorated in the second half but Palestine were comfortable and seem to have settled after the chaotic first half. That would change when Abu Saleh picked up his second yellow for a particularly meaty challenge. Palestine’s troubles would continue when Ashraf Nu’man decided to get cute in his own box instead of booting the ball into the stands. Hamza Dardour took the ball off of him and gleefully put it past a helpless Abdullah Saidawi. It went from bad to worse when Amour was yellow carded for a non-existent tackle and then sent off for protesting his innocence.
What I liked: The team, playing with a makeshift back line showed a lot of heart and were well organized for the most part: 11 v. 11 in open play Palestine won 1-0. Khaled Salem gets better and better with every single cap and will push Alyan for a starting spot at the Challenge Cup. Despite the loss you get a sense that Mahmoud is building something.
What I didn’t like: Set piece marking was atrocious- cameras at halftime caught Saidawi at half time explaining to his teammates that they were allowing the Jordanians too much space. The refereeing left a lot to be desired but that is not an excuse to lose composure. Palestine has had trouble with this in the past- in almost every tournament they play they collect a slew of yellow cards. Mahmoud has to love the fire in some of his players but when it isn’t being channelled productively it will continue to hurt the team.
No Reservations: The media kept harping on how Jordan was fielding a reserve (radeef was the word they used repeatedly) side. To say that Jordan was using their ‘reserves’ is like saying the US played their reserves when they beat Egypt 3-0 in the 2009 Confederations Cup. A reserve team means you are fielding guys who have almost zero experience with the national team. If there was a reserve team out there today it was Palestinebut despite the absences of many a player who participated in World Cup Qualifying (Ramzi Saleh, Abdelatif Bahdari, Majed Abusidu, Omar Jarun, Roberto Bishara, Mohammed Samara, and Houssam Wadi).
Not Official: Jordan, afraid of dropping any points in the FIFA rankings petitioned to have this game not count. So for official purposes Jordan has not beaten Palestine since 2000. What’s funny is that if Iraq pick up wins at this tournament- Jordan’s grand plan to jump into the third pot for the final round of World Cup qualifying would blow up in their face.
Zatara Sub: Zatara was hauled off in the first half- a curious decision if the player wasn’t carrying an injury.
What’s Next: Palestine will face Libya (without Abu Saleh or Amour) on Wednesday 1630 GMT.