Tehran, Iran – Palestine’s Olymic team secured an important three points in their attempt to qualify for the AFC U23 Championship in Qatar next year and stay alive in Olympic qualifying. Al-Fida’i 2-0 win over Afghanistan opened Group C action on the Shahid Dastegerdi Stadiun in Tehran. Goals were scored by Mahmoud Abu Warda (7′) and Mahmoud Sheikhqasem (75′).
The result gave Palestine temporary control of the group but are now second, behind Iran, who dismantled Nepal 5-0 later in the day.
The team performed well against Afghanistan, in front of a partisan crowd of around 10,000 who were pulling for the Lions of Khorosan. The first half was marked by Palestine’s missed opportunities, they managed to repeatedly attack the Afghan goal after a buoyant start for the de facto home team.
Mahmoud Abu Warda opened the scoring in the seventh minute following a direct free kick placed to the left of the Afghan goalkeeper.
The same player nearly doubled the scoring minutes later meeting an inch perfect cross from Abdallah Jaber only to see the shot fizz past the near post.
Mohammad Asfour also got into the action as well taking advantage of some clever interplay from Mohammed Mara’aba and Fadi Zidan.
Striker Afghanistan Pervez Kazemi almost equalized 25 minutes through only for goalkeeper Rami Hamada to excellently parry the shot away.
10 minutes later Palestine had won a penalty through Abdallah Jaber who was brought down by Syed Mohammad in the box. The Afghan defender received a yellow for his troubles but goalkeeper Baktash Yehya saved Osama Al-Sabah’s penalty by diving to his right. .
In the 38th minute, Abdullah Jaber found Abu Warda again, only for the player to chip a powerful header over the crossbar.
Before the half, the two teams exchanged blows with Afghanistan forcing Rami Hamada into a save while Fadi Zidan responded with a set piece opportunity that flew over the crossbar by only the narrowest of margins.
Palestine entered the second half intending to attack further with a powerful shot from Musab al-Battat excellently saved by goalkeeper Yahya.
Fadi Zidan and Mohammed Mara’aba launched another attack in midfield that ended with Mara’aba firing over. Manager Abdel-Nasser Barakat, threw on Uday Kharoub in place of Osama Al-Sabah in the 55th minute.
Newcomer Mohammed Abo-Shark made his official debut for Palestine in the 63rd minute replace Fadi Zidan in the 63rd minute.
Palestine doubled their lead in the 75th minute through Sheikhqasem whose powerful shot deflected off a defender and past a helpless Yahya.
Palestine now face their Saudi counterparts on Wednesday at 10:30 GMT knowing full well that a similar result could boost their qualification chances.