Rapid Reaction: Kuwait 2:1 Palestine (Friendly)

Game-changer: Ashraf Nu’man

Palestine Starting XI (4-4-2): Ramzi Saleh (C); Husam Abu Saleh, Haitham Dheeb, Khaled Mahdi, Moussa Abu Jazar; Suleiman Obeid, Khader Yousef, Murad Ismail, Imad Zatara; Ashraf Nu’man, Eyad Abugharqud. 

Goals: Ashraf Nu’man 34′

Recap: A game startlingly similar to the WAFF Championship opener played three months ago. Kuwait took the lead in the opening moments. It is perhaps no surprise then that Kuwait exploited Palestine’s weakness- the left flank- directly following the kickoff. A pinpoint, unchallenged cross was served into Al-Bariki who put it past Ramzi Saleh with ease.

Palestine settled into a rhythm- winning plenty of corner kicks- but need Ramzi Saleh to step up with two saves in the 15th and 19th minute, denying Youssef Nasser and Bader Al-Mutawa respectively.

Palestine thought they had the equalizer in the 24th minute through Eyad Abugharqud but the forward was whistled for a foul and the goal was ruled out. Ten minutes later, Ashraf Nu’man equalized with a shot from outside the box that caught Kuwaiti ‘keeper Nawaf Al-Khaldi by surprise.

Palestine thought they were headed to the dressing rooms with a credible draw only for the Kuwaiti referee to controversially hand Kuwait a penalty after Ramzi Saleh and Youssef Nasser had collided in the box.

The second half saw a shift in the proceedings with Palestine clearly dominating and coming close to pulling level once again. Jamal Mahmoud and Goran Tufegdzic made a slew of changes, which gave the game a quintessential meaningless friendly feel to it.

A goal line clearance in the 65th minute denied Ashraf Nu’man his brace; moments later, Khader Yousef saw his powerful shot ping off the crossbar.

In the end, Palestine leave Kuwait yet again feeling a little hard done by a 2-1 result.

What I liked: In the face of adversity, Palestine fought on. It didn’t matter that the team hardly had a full training session together. Nor did it matter that Alexis, Bahdari, Mustafá, Attieh, and Wadi had to withdraw for various reasons. The team went about its business and probably should have earned at least a draw.

What I didn’t like: An early goal conceded (yet again) and an inability to convert on set pieces (Palestine had more than 10 corners) are the weaknesses of this team. These problems need to be ironed  out before the Challenge Cup in 12 months time.

Ashraf Nu’man: The boy from Bethlehem is up to third in Palestine’s all-time top scorer’s list after notching his eighth international goal. Only Ziyad Al-Kord (10) and Fahed Attal (14) have scored more. If he keeps up this form he could own the record by the time 2013 comes to a close.

What’s Next: Palestine travels to Malaysia to take on the Tigers in Shah Alam. The match is set for March 26th, 1245 GMT. This is the third meeting between the sides (1-0-1) who last met during 2002 FIFA World Cup qualification. 

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