Rapid Reaction: Iraq 2:0 Palestine (2015 Asian Cup)

Palestine Starting XI: Toufic Ali, Harbi, Salem, Bahdari, Jaber; Salhi, Khader Yousef; Amour, Nu’man, Maher; Eid.

Substitutions: Jaka Ihbeisheh <--> Ismail Amour 67′ // Abdelhamid Abuhabib <--> Mahmoud Eid 79′
Cautions: Hesham Salhi 21′ , Ahmed Harbi 58′ 
Recap: Ahmed El Hassan made a whole host of changes to his side with the stated aim of getting more players a chance to play at the Asian Cup. Ramzi Saleh and Husam Abu Saleh were dropped due to injury. The later of whom underwent a surgical procedure to treat s yet unknown ailment.
Toufic Ali got the start in goal and there were Asian Cup debuts for Ahmed Maher and Khaled Salem. The most shocking decision was Khaled Salem starting as a CB despite being listed as a forward with the national team.Despite the inclusion of an out and out striker Palestine were rarely able to create chances. That said, they had the best chance of the first half- stand in captain Abdellatif Bahdari’s header off a corner was scrambled to safety. 
Iraq, for their part, struggled to break down Palestine’s defence and Toufic Ali proved to be a safe pair of hands in goal coming up with saves when called upon.
Palestine and Iraq headed to the dressing room locked at 0-0 with fans wishing this composed performance had made an appearance four days earlier in Melbourne.Iraq would find a breakthrough, much to the delight of the large Iraqi contingent that had fallen silent, three minutes into the half. Younes Mahmoud- the wily Desert Fox latched on to a corner leaving Toufic Ali with no chance.
Moments later Ashraf Nu’man picked the pocket of Salim Shaker just outside the Iraqi box only to see his shot brilliantly stopped by Jalal Hasan.Palestine would grow in confidence during the second half backed by a sensational penalty save from Toufic Ali. 
The penalty call marked the second time a questionable penalty was called against Palestine at the Asian Cup. Even Justin Meram seemed embarrassed to see the referee point to the spot.
Palestine put Iraq under sustained pressure following the incident and silenced the partisan crowd in Canberra. That said, there were too few ideas in the attacking third, perhaps an indication of neglect by a manager who struggled to pick effective lineups throughout the tournament.In the end, the equalizer never came. Ahmed Yassin put the encounter beyond doubt with an insurance goal to set up a date with Iran in the quarterfinals.
What I liked: The team put a negative result behind them and showed that they were not out of place at this level. After the game, the players marched over to the supporters and thanked them with many jerseys making their way into the crowd.
What I didn’t like: In transitioning from Jamal Mahmoud to Ahmad El Hassan this team lost its brashness. Did we lose to other West Asian opponents under Jamal Mahmoud? Yes, but we never went into the game in a bunker-and-pray mindset.Questionable Subs: Ismail Amour had a slight groin injury yet he got the start over Jaka Ihbeisheh who was Palestine’s best player over 90 minutes against Jordan. Khaled Salem was used as a defender despite being listed in the squad as a forward highlighting the lack of depth at the position. He played well enough to have fans asking why he wasn’t deployed against Jordan.
Man of the Match: Toufic Ali. The backup goalkeeper put in a solid performance and saved a penalty. If he can improve his consistency he could lay claim to the number one spot in the next cycle.
What’s Next: Palestine will fly back home departing from Sydney to Dubai before the contingent each goes its own way.Ahmad El Hassan will most likely return to his role as PFA Technical Director. In the press conference he clarified his position to Football Palestine, stating “I don’t have a contract with the PFA to tender my resignation I am the Technical Director of the PFA and will return to that post.”World Cup qualifying starts in June with a draw to determine the groups slated for April. Palestine will hope that they can remain in Pot 2 (currently ranked 14th in Asia). In their favor is the fact that Korea DPR and Kuwait, ranked below them, also failed to pick up points at the Asian Cup.

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