|Jaka got the party started early in Dura|
Palestine Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Toufic Ali; Musab Battat, Abdelatif Bahdari (c), Haitham Dheeb, Abdallah Jaber; Jaka Ihbeisheh, Pablo Tamburrini, Shadi Shaaban, Jonathan Cantillana; Ashraf Nu’man; Yashir Pinto
Substitutions: Shaaban <-> Ahmed Awad 51′ // Tamer Seyam <-> Ihbeisheh 62′ // Khader Yousef <-> Pablo Tamburrini 80′ ->->->
Goals: Jaka Ihbeisheh 2′, Jonathan Cantillana 18′ 66′, Yashir Pinto 32′ 39′, Ahmed Awad 77′, Abdelatif Bahdari 90′
Highlights and more after the jump…
Recap: All in all, this match was a walkover for Palestine, who were on the front foot from the first whistle. Jaka Ihbeisheh’s opportunistic interception and burst into the box opened the scoring in the second minute and there were more a bevy of opportunities between the first and second goal- a slick volley from Jonathan. The omnipresent Ihbeisheh popped up on the right flank repeatedly and would would set up debutant Yashir Pinto’s simple finish a ball across the face of goal.
Pinto Islame’s doubled his personal tally seven minutes later- latching on to Pablo Tamburrini’s long overhead pass and slotting home with a relatively easy finish.
The second half got underway with a surprise substitution. Ahmed Awad replaced fellow debutant Shadi Shaaban and played in a relatively deeper role than his natural position. Awad settled into the game well providing several key passes and eventually netting the sixth goal of the game. The captain- Abdelatif Bahdari scored in injury time off a corner to complete the demolition of a completely outmatched and overwhelmed Timor Leste side.
What I liked: The team went for the jugular from the first minute and did not stop attacking for the entire length of the game. In some quarters, observers were worried about whether or not the players would be up for the game having been eliminated from World Cup contention five days earlier. There was a laser focus on the task at hand, Palestine didn’t surrender a single shot- let a lone a shot on goal and most importantly they avoided unnecessary yellow cards meaning a full contingent of players will be available to Abdel Nasser Barakat come Asian Cup qualifiers.
What I didn’t like: The big talking point in the post match media conference was Ashraf Nu’man. In fact, he was a big talking point after the UAE game as well. Five days ago people thought he should have started- today most people thought he should have been yanked after 45 minutes. In essence, it’s hard to see where Ashraf Nu’man fits in this team. There is no doubt in his talent and ability as a player but sometimes he is too selfish and focuses on trickery rather than efficacy. A player of his quality should be able to find the back of the net at least once in qualifiers against the likes of Malaysia and Timor Leste.
Weather a factor: I asked Angissu Barbosa about the cold conditions in Hebron, fully expecting a canned response. I was surprised at the Timorese captain’s candid answer- a complete admission that his team could not warm up properly due to the cold.
Brazilians: Timorese coach Manuel da Costa Soares said an investigation into the matter was still ongoing and that his focus was to try and get Timorese players ready for the future. In many ways, the Timorese are also victims in this affair- these Brazilians players and their agents took advantage of a poor country to further their own interests. The fact that it wasn’t stamped out by the AFC from the get go speaks volumes about the organization’s lack of transparency and oversight.
Man of the Match: Jonathan Cantillana was given the award by the AFC. It’s hard to recognize one individual in such a complete team performance so we’ll go ahead and concur with the AFC- although they usually do a horrible job in picking out key performances.
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Dora Stadium verdict: The 6,300 that made their way to Dora were lively for the most part- unveiling impressive tifos and creating an ambience that belied their numbers. The stadium might be the biggest in Palestine (18-20K capacity) but the cavernous ground’s location does it no favors. It isn’t even easy to get to from Hebron (a 20 minute bus ride) and it takes two hours to get here from the northern cities in the West Bank. Given a less than ideal political climate the paltry attendance should come as no surprise. The fact that the game was effectively a dead rubber and the frigid weather didn’t help either. The AAU ground in Jenin (capacity: 5,000) was the original site and is ideal for these types of low-key encounters.
What’s Next: The AFC will conduct a draw on April 7th to determine the matchup for Round 2 of Asian Cup Qualifying (the bottom 12 teams in qualifying) . Courtesy of Palestine’s third place finish they are guaranteed a place in the final stage- six groups of four teams with the top two advancing to the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE.