|Ahli Al-Khaleel captain Khaldoun Al-Halman lifts Palestine Cup|
For the first time in 15 years, Palestine has a champion that represents all professional clubs operating in the West Bank and Gaza. The match itself was touch and go and both legs only took place after delays and at the behest of FIFA, UEFA, and the AFC who intervened to stop Israel from preventing the freedom of movement of the players.
After a 0-0 draw in the first leg it seemed that Ittihad Shujaiyah had done enough to manage a positive result in their favor. Over the second half of that game, they were the better side as their West Bank counterparts struggled with the heat and conditions of the game.
For Ittihad Shujaiyah, the return fixture wasn’t an away game at all. Fans of rival Shabab Al-Khaleel flooded the Ali Bin Hussein Stadium in Hebron to cheer for the Gazans, preferring them to represent Palestine in Asian competition in 2016.
Wael Mresat’s first half goal gave Ahli a well-deserved advantage in the first half but a lack of clinical finishing left the door open for Shujaiyah. A perfectly good goal by Yassar Sabaheen was ruled out for offside early in the second half. The Gazan cup and league champions kept pushing and 20 minutes from time they were duly rewarded for their persistence with Ala’a Attieh scoring a critical away goal.
The fairy tale ending was not to be for Ittihad Shujaiyah. Deep into injury time Ahmed Maher’s curling free kick sent Ahli Al-Khaleel onto Asia. It was an especially dramatic finish especially considering that the man of the moment had refused to be subbed out a mere 10 minutes earlier.
Click here for the full replay of the Palestine Second Cup leg