Palestine Starting XI (4-4-2): Ramzi Saleh (C); Abu Saleh, Wadi, Mahdi, Abujazr; Mohammed Samara, Khader Youssef, Murad Ismail, Ashraf Nu’man; Attal, Attieh.
Goals: Attieh 3′, Attal 64′ (Highlights to follow)
Substitutes: Attieh <-> Abuhabib 71′ // Attal <-> Salameh 85′
Bookings: Houssam Wadi 73′
Recap: Not a pretty performance but a very effective one. The Dasrath Stadium was a cauldron of red with an estimated 20,000 residents of Kathmandu resident on hand to cheer on the Gorkhalis. The first kick of the ball was a cleverly designed ploy meant to catch a makeshift defence off-guard. The surprise attack didn’t work but elicited cries of joy from the crowd. Palestine response was a swift one- barely three minutes into the game Murad Ismail’s rasping shot was saved by an outstretched Chemzong. Fahed Attal’s awareness kept the ball in play and his short cross was bundled into an open net by Alaa Attieh- the man who gave up $5,000 in wages to play at this tournament.
Palestine’s continued possession frustrated Nepal and their fans with the Dasrath falling deathly quiet during this spell. Despite their obvious superiority, Palestine failed at carving out a real chance with players rushing to shoot or play a low percentage pass in the final third. Nepal found a way back into the match and could have leveled the game at one apiece when Sagar Thapa found the space behind Hussam Abu Saleh. Ramzi Saleh, rushing out of goal, covered his angle really well forcing Thapa to go to the far post and the ensuing shot pinged off the post.
Nepal would continue with their reliance on crossing throughout the first half. Despite their diminutive size, the Gorkhalis’ crosses were deadly accurate. Saleh was constantly called on to pluck the ball out of the air and made a key save just before halftime off Anil Gurung.
Palestine would continue to cede control of the match to the Nepalis leaning on their captain, defence, and organization to keep the Nepalis at bay. Palestine would get the clinching goal through Fahed Attal who showed good awareness in pouncing on a defensive mistake scoring his first goal for Palestine in 71 months. His 13th goal means put him a brace away from tying Ziyad Al-Kord for the all-time lead.
With 30 minutes left on the clock Palestine resumed normal service- sapping up all of Nepal’s energy and launching counters on through Abuhabib and Ashraf Nu’man.
Ramzi Saleh capped the performance with an excellent one-on-one save to give Palestine the win and a clean sheet on his 67th international appearance.
What I didn’t like: This was perhaps Palestine’s least convincing win under Jamal Mahmoud. Nepal was given control of the game and the decision making in the final third was rash and too hurried. Given that Palestine run themselves ragged this lethargic performance might protect the team against fatigue in the latter stages of the Challenge Cup (should they advance).
What I liked: Two opportunistic goals. A win. Fahed Attal breaks his duck and Ramzi Saleh gets a shutout and a win in his return to the national team.
Jersey Watch: The kits were provided by Uhlsport. All white with red trim- a hackneyed combination in the Middle East but at last it was a respectable looking get-up. The flag on the left side of the shirt was a nice touch. Unlike the monstrosities provided by Peak these jerseys actually had the PFA logo on them.
Man of the Match: Ramzi Saleh. Only had two saves to make but they came at critical junctures which could have allowed the Nepalis a way back into the game. Jamal Mahmoud rolled the dice with a defensive scheme knowing that Saleh could organize a makeshift back line.
What’s Next: Palestine faces Turkmenistan on March 12th at 9:15 GMT