Rapid Reaction: Oman 2:1 Palestine (2012 WAFF Championship)

Imad Zatara pulls one back in spectacular style. 

Palestine Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Toufic Ali; Fares, Mustafa, Mahdi, Norambuena; Kawre’, Khader Yousef; Abu Saleh, Abuhabib, Zatara; Abugharqud

Goals: Imad Zatara 40′

Substitutions: Abu Saleh <-> Ashraf Nu’man 56′ // Norambuena <-> Abu Jazar 68′ // Mustafá <-> Jarun 73′ 

Cautions: Ma’ly Kawre 74′ Khader Yousef 75′

Recap: A defensive error in the opening minutes of condemned Palestine to having to chase the game from the get-go. A long range lateral pass by Raed Fares Khaled Mahdi to Alexis Norambuena near midfield was intercepted by Yaqoub Al-Qasimi who ran towards the goal uncontested to slot home the opener.

Palestine kept possession better than the Omani won numerous free kicks and corners but could not find a goal and Oman would go on to double their lead in the first half with only their second shot of the game. A speedy Omani winger caught up with the ball on the right flank, saved it from going over the line, and cut it back for Qassim Said to finish low to Toufic Ali’s left.

Palestine’s persistence would soon be rewarded- Imad Zatara scored a great goal just as the halftime whistle was nearing. Once again, the team proved that even in dire circumstances it does not accept defeat.

The team would press and push for an equalizer that never came especially once it learned that Lebanon had overturned a 1-0 deficit in the other Group A game. The banged up Ashraf Nu’man would come closest, picking up a clearance from Toufic Ali jigging past three defenders only to put his shot just wide of the post.

Al-Fursan had 13 shots in this game compared to Oman’s five but the Red Warriors were economical. There first two ended up in the net and their last two hit the crossbar it’s a side that counters with speed and is more comfortable in handling a possession based side than say, Kuwait or Jordan. That was on full display in their World Cup qualifier against Japan when the Omanis nearly recorded a historic draw. In the end, despite some impressive play the injuries and absences proved a bridge to far for the national team- but they sure did make it fun along the way.

What I liked: Over the entire tournament, the build up play for Palestine has been fantastic. Team spirit and morale is indestructible and you get the feeling that we could be on the brink of something truly special.

What I didn’t like: The way Palestine fell behind so early was disappointing and it was a gift that handed the Omanis confidence and belief. A team like Oman thrives on protecting leads and it was always going to be hard to get back in the game after that.

History was made: This was still the best WAFF Championship ever for Palestine. In terms of goals scored, goal differential, and wins. What might not show up on the stat sheet, however, is how slick Palestine looked at times. Now if only we could get a striker to finish off all those crosses, corners, and free kicks we’d be in business.

Man of the Match: Imad Zatara, the unsung hero in the game against Lebanon came up with the goods today. Got the goal and ran his socks off.

What’s Next: Unconfirmed reports say Palestine will face India in a FIFA friendly on February 6th, 2013 ahead of 2014 Challenge Cup qualifying in March.

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