|Palestine’s Starting XI vs. Saudi Arabia.|
After securing a 2-0 win against Afghanistan in their AFC U23 Championship qualification opener, Palestine had an opportunity to go top of Group C with a draw or win over their Saudi counterparts.
For the majority of the action on Wednesday, it seemed that Al-Fida’i would be able to do just that. Abdel-Nasser Barakat reshuffled his lineup with Oday Kharoub and Hani Naboulse replacing Mohammed Asfour and Osama Al-Sabah.
The apparent aim of exploiting Saudi Arabia on the counter was implemented perfectly by the players. So much so that Saudi Arabia was forced into their first change just 34 minutes through, Abdel Majeed Al-Suwailam coming on for the overwhelmed Rayyan Al-Musa.
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The tactical switch helped settle Saudi Arabia in midfield, who were looking vulnerable despite their superior possession ratio.
Palestine attacked mainly through Taraji Wadi Al-Nes’s Fadi Zidan and Mahmoud Abu Warda. The former won a free kick for the latter in the 50th minute with the young Abu Warda smashing his effort off the crossbar.
As the game petered out it seemed that neither side was going to find a winner. Palestine did an excellent job of limiting space while allowing possession and when needed Rami Hammada and his backline proved more than capable at repelling any attack.
Palestine were cruelly denied a deserved point three minutes from the end of regulation. Rami Hamadeh’s intervention was wrongly adjudged to be a foul by Omani linesman Rashid Al-Ghaithi.
Saudi skipper Abdullah Madu stepped up to take the penalty and he calmly dispatched it to Hamadeh’s left.
The incident marks the third straight time Palestine has had a penalty awarded against them by an Arab Referee in a competitive fixture.
Palestine had two penalties awarded against them at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup. Qatari Abdulrahman Mohamad pointed to the spot after Shinji Kagawa went down in the box under minimal contact. Against Iraq, an even softer penalty was awarded (even Justin Meram- the player adjudged to have been fouled seemed embarrassed) by Emirati referee Mohammad Abdulla.