Palestine Starting XI: Saleh (C); Abu Saleh, Harbi, Mahdi, Abujazr; Ismail, Samara, Wadi, Nu’man; Attal, Attieh
Goals: Houssam Wadi 59′ Ashraf Nu’man 90+4′
Substitutions: Attieh <-> Khader Youssef 77′ // Wadi <-> Abuhabib 85′ // Samara <-> Jamal 87′
Bookings: Ahmed Harbi 8′, Houssam Wadi 37′ (misses next match), Mohammed Samara 84′
Recap: A dominant display by Palestine clinched a semifinal berth and a semifinal date with holders Korea DPR. The scoreline doesn’t really reflect the dominance Palestine enjoyed in this match as Maldivian goalkeeper Imran Mohammed made six quality saves which kept the Maldives’s faint qualification hopes alive up until Ashraf Nu’man’s clinching goal in extra time. Mohammed made a fine double save in the first half stymying the best efforts of Houssam Wadi and Alaa Attieh. In the second half, he made one-on-one stops on Ashraf Nu’man and Mohammed Samara. His counterpart Ramzi Saleh, on the other hand, barely had a save to make- tipping a solitary shot over the bar in the second half. Defensively, Palestine were stout and even when the Red Snappers threw everything at Palestine they never looked under threat to relinquish their lead.
What I liked: Palestine could have panicked when things did not go their way but they remained calm and got the result. It was also nice to hear Jamal Mahmoud giving his players detailed instructions (courtesy of a good quality stream and a lack of fans) about where to go and who to look out for throughout the game. That sort of organization will be critical come Friday.
What I didn’t like: Palestine were a little slow when it came to releasing the ball on counterattacks which cost them opportunities to run at a defence in disarray. When Palestine did get into the box they held onto the ball for one touch too long- which played a part in Imran Mohammed’s fantastic game.
Thoughts on Maldives: Imran Mohammed kept Maldives in this tournament with a slew of saves against Nepal and came close to doing it again today. Ali Ashfaq was the brightest player for the Maldives but made very little use of the space ceded to him in the middle of the pitch with Murad Ismail deployed on the right wing. I would think that a man with 23 international goals to his name would be able to get a shot on goal when faced with the average Khaled Mahdi and a right-back masquerading as a centre back.
Man of the Match: Hard to pick out a single performance. Houssam Wadi did well but picked up a second yellow meaning he will not be available for the match against Korea DPR. So FP’s vote goes to Ashraf Nu’man who gave a very energetic performance over 90 minutes and was rewarded with his third (fourth if you count the game against Jordan in the Pan Arab Games) international goal in three months.
What’s Next: Holders DPR Korea await in the semifinals on Friday (Kickoff 1245 GMT). Palestine will play again on Monday in either the Third-place playoff or the Final.