Palestine Starting XI: Saleh (c); Abu Saleh, Wadi, Jarun, Alexis; Kettlun, Ismail; Nu’man, Samara Zatara; Attal
Cautions: Jarun, Abu Jazr, Ismail
Substitutions: Kettlun <-> Khader Youssef // Samara <-> Amour // Ismail <-> Abu Jazr
Recap: A fairly even if bland game between two sides with a lot of time on their hands having being dumped out of World Cup qualifying so early. Kuwait were probably worth their first half lead but only just. Both goals showed that Jamal Mahmoud made an error in his team selection- favoring Houssam Wadi over the inexperienced Abdesallam Sweirki. On the first goal- Wadi was caught too far up the pitch and allowed a Kuwaiti forward to ghost in behind him. While Palestine was chasing the game- Kuwait scored the clinching goal with Wadi guilty of keeping the forward onside.
It is important to point out that this loss can’t be blamed solely on one player or one incident. Mahmoud has done a lot with this team in the past seven months but you can tell that he is still tinkering with the right combination of players. Playing Roberto Kettlun as a pivote was the wrong move not because the newly signed Hilal Al-Quds player shirks his defensive duties but because his teammates cannot be counted on to retain possession as well against a top 15 side in Asia.
Many an attacking player was anonymous today for Palestine and that really hurt their chances. Fahed Attal and Imad Zatara squandered really good scoring opportunities in the second half and did little else to positively effect the game.
Amour’s inclusion in the second half gave Palestine pace and added verve but with Kuwait sitting deep and defending in two banks of four it was really hard to carve out opportunities.
What I liked: It wasn’t a horrible performance. Palestine are still better in possession and stronger in defence than they ever were under Bezaz. I thought Mahmoud’s halftime changes showed that he knew what the problem was and how to address it.
What I didn’t like: Team selection was wrong but a lot of that has to do with Abdelatif Bahdari being held at ransom by his club. The choice came down to playing Wadi- once a CB earlier in his career or Sweikri. Wadi was favored and it didn’t pan out. The decision making from Samara was baffling at times- he needs to release the ball in order to make this team more dangerous.
Man of the Match: I don’t like to give out awards after a loss but Alexis Norambuena was excellent today- very sound in his positioning and did get forward to good effect. He’s the first choice left back Palestine has been looking for.
I would not be in favor of benching Wadi outright- I think he has a role to play as one the pivotes in the team. He’s very energetic and has a good long-range shot on him but he is quite obviously not a CB. Kettlun (or Abuhabib) should be played further up the pitch perhaps in place of Samara his passing should help synchronize the attack and make Palestine more threatening on the break. Amour should get the start without question.
The big question mark is Fahed Attal- I don’t think he’s a bad player but he is clearly not suited for this formation. But with Khaldoun Al-Halman the only other out-and-out striker on the bench Mahmoud has little choice but to start him. Going forward, Mahmoud needs to take a look at the forwards based in Lebanon- Ibrhaim Swidan with his aerial ability and hold up play could be a good fit.
What’s Next: Palestine faces Saudi Arabia on Thursday June 28th needing a 4-goal win to advance.