Rapid Reaction: Palestine 1:0 Lebanon (2012 WAFF Championship)

Palestine celebrate their first ever victory at a WAFF Championship

Palestine Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Shbair (C); Fares, Mustafá, Mahdi, Norambuena; Sheikhqasem, Khader Yousef; Abu Jazar, Nu’man, Zatara; Abugharqud 


Goals: Abugharqud 74′

Cautions: Sheikhqasem 68′ Norambuena 88′ (time wasting)

Substitutions: Abu Saleh <-> Abu Jazar 58′ // Al-Koori <-> Kawre’ 69′ // Abugharqud <-> Jarun 80′

Recap: Jamal Mahmoud went the tactical approach and made five changes to the team that faced Kuwait. Rolling the dice, he went with Shbair over Toufic Ali- who had been his favored number two goalkeeper- in goal. The Shabab Al-Khaleel shot stopper earned his 15th cap as captain of the side. In front of him, Mahdi was partnered with Mustafá to give the back line more speed while Norambuena slotted in at the left. The surprises were further up the pitch- Abuhabib was dropped in favor of the speedier Abugharqud who was deployed as a lone striker. Seeking to eliminate Lebanon’s threat on the wings Mahmoud called upon Abu Jazar to marshall the area in front of Norambuena and Zatara was asked to do the same on the opposite flank. Nu’man roamed the space on the right hand side of the pitch, probing the Lebanese defense for weaknesses.

Tactically, everything went to plan for Palestine in the first half. Palestine had more of the ball and held it in Lebanon’s attacking third for long spells. Palestine earned a whopping eight corners in the opening 45 minutes and the only time Lebanon influenced the game was when Hassan Chiato ran past a stumbling Raed Fares. Unfortunately for the Al-Ahed player his shot hit the post and Palestine were able to dodge a bullet.

Palestine will be frustrated by their inability to finish the game off with the sheer number of chances they had. That said, they made life very difficult for Lebanon- whose players racked up yellow cards in search for a way back into the game. Abu Saleh’s entry into the game provided more creativity in the attacking third and although set piece opportunities continued to be wasted, Palestine found a way to score.

The goal came from a brilliant lobbed pass into space which Eyad Abugharqud finished with aplomb after leaving a Lebanese defender in his dust. The striker was played in by Alexis Norambuena whose support in attack and excellent decision making in defence made him the best player on the pitch.

After the goal, Mahmoud took off Abugharqud (who had been kneed in the chest by Walid Ismail three minutes before scoring) and put on Omar Jarun to shut up shop. Palestine should have been 2-0 up in injury time only for Imad Zatara (who must have run 15K during the 90 minutes) to flail at the ball from eight yards out. Shbair and the defence were called upon to protect the result and after five minutes of injury time Palestine had their historic result.

What I liked: This game was a tactical master class by Jamal Mahmoud. Theo Bücker’s side were kept in this game thanks to the saves of Abbas Hassan but his best players did not show up today. Roda Antar was anonymous for long spells and his deep sense of frustration got him sent off during the dying  embers of the game.

What I didn’t like: Set piece delivery was slightly better today but still far from perfect. Palestine won 10 corners by my count and only threatened on two of them: Abugharqud’s header in the first half which was blocked on the line and his second half effort which he somehow headed across the face of goal instead of into it.

Korean Ref: Ko Hyung-Jin was awesome! Every call this guy made was spot on, he controlled the players and allowed the game to flow. Seeing Palestine only commit five fouls the entire game really sheds light on how horrible the refereeing was in the first game.

Man of the Match: Officially the powers that be gave to Ashraf Nu’man, who had a fine game but the best player out there tonight was Alexis Norambuena. His assist for the goal was world class and he didn’t put a foot wrong for 90 minutes.

What’s Next: Palestine face Oman on Friday (December 14th) at 14:25 GMT. With all the teams even on three points, semifinal qualification scenarios could get interesting. Palestine will be advised to keep it simple- win and you’re in.