Rapid Reaction- Palestine 2:2 Saudi Arabia (Arab Nations Cup)

Palestine Starting XI: Saleh (C); Abu Saleh, Jarun, Wadi, Alexis; Kahder Youssef, Ismail; Zatara, Abujazr, Amour; Attal

Cautions: Ismail Amour, Omar Jarun 

Goals: Abu Saleh (PK) 45′, Amour 72′

Substitutions: Nu’man <-> Abujazr //Samara <-> Zatara //  Sweirki <-> Alexis

Recap: A highly entertaining game from a partisna point of view Palestine went toe-to-toe with a (former) perennial World Cup finalist and even dominated long stretches of the match. Palestine will be disappointed at having conceded so early but the fight back was truly commendable. Palestine won the first five corners of the game and dictated the tempo.

Saudi Arabia’s goal was fortuitous to say the least and perhaps Abujazr, one of the players at fault, shouldn’t have been on the pitch after suffering what seemed to be a nasty head injury. Abujazr’s eventual withdrawal from the game allowed Nu’man to give what is surely his best performance in a national team shirt to date. His mazy run at the end of the first half confounded the Saudi captain- and World Cup veteran- Abdulatif Ghannam who clattered into him and gave up a penalty. Abu Saleh made no mistake from the spot- blasting it with power into the middle of the net.

Palestine clearly had the momentum in the second half and Nu’man was once again the protagonist as his lofted ball allowed Ismail Amour to beat the Saudi offsides trap and slot home the second goal. The Saudis, clearly frustrated and embarrassed proceeded to foul and dive relentlessly.

Khaled Al-Zeele’i fouled and then proceeded to stomp on Alexis Norambuena while he was down- it was an action that would have produced a red card if the ref had seen it. It was a flashpoint that proved to be the game’s turning point, five minutes later the Saudis countered with pace and although Ramzi Saleh made a great save but Al-Zeele’i popped up to stroke home the rebound.

There was to be no famous win in Ta’if tonight nor will there be a semifinal berth for Palestine but tonight’s performance is showing that Palestine are a lot more than just plucky underdogs.

Man of the Match: Ashraf Nu’man was excellent today won a penalty and set up Amour for the second goal. The tournament organizers agreed as well and Nu’man will be leaving Saudi Arabia with a Samsung Galaxy SIII mobile phone.

What I liked: Palestine were composed in possession and patient for the most part and matched the Saudis at every turn. Saudi Arabia pride themselves as being the best in the Arab World and one of the best in Asia but they were no better than Palestine tonight- and were lucky to escape with a draw.

What I didn’t like: What this team needs is more experience. I thought the defending was too complacent on the first goal and the second goal would have never happened had possession not clumsily been given up in midfield.

What Next: Challenge Cup Qualifying gets underway in March but it’s absolutely critical that Palestine organize friendlies on FIFA dates. The PFA have done a good job of giving Mahmoud games to work with the team but more kinks need to be worked out and it wouldn’t hurt if a couple of new players were called in to camp.