Rapid Reaction: UAE 2:0 Palestine (2018 World Cup Qualifier)

Haitham Dheeb contests Ahmed Khalil for the ball

Palestine Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Toufic Ali, Alexis Norambuena, Haitham Dheeb, Abelatif Bahdari, Abdallah Jaber; Jonathan Cantillana, Mohammed Darwish, Pablo Bravo, Tamer Seyam; Sameh Mar’aba, Ashraf Nu’man.

Subs: Ashraf Nu’man <-> Jonathan Cantillana 54′ // Jaka Ihbeisheh <-> Ahmad Abu Nahyeh 67′ // Shadi Shaaban <-> Sameh Mar’aba 80′

Cards: Alexis Norambuena 5′, Mohammed Darwish 18′ 68′, Tamer Seyam 61′ Abdelatif Bahdari 66′, Pablo Tamburrini’

Ejections: Mohammed Darwish

More after the jump…



Recap: Palestine started the stronger of two sides with their high energy pressing unsettled the hosts on more than one occasion. Tamer Seyam’s rasping shot stung Nasr’s palms but in the end the effort was dealth with. Palestine would also earn the first booking of the evening with Alexis Norambuena making his way into Ben Williams’s book only four minutes in. Darwish joined with one third of the encounter in the books. With a sizable Palestinian contingent of 2000 fans it seemed the Cinderella story had it’s perfect setting. Until…the UAE took their only chance with aplomb. 

A poor headed clearance from Bahdari allowed the UAE to sneak in behind the defence. The interplay and artistry that Mahdi Ali’s sides had become known for made an appearance and and the ensuing shot from Ismail Al-Hammadi was unstoppable. The half ended 1-0 with the UAE’s only shot on target being the go-ahead goal.

Palestine came out with more energy in the second half and Ashraf Nu’man was thrown on to try and rescue the encounter. He replaced Jonathan who had been involved in one of Palestine’s best chances on the night- with his shot going wide. 

It seemed that there might be an equalizer in the mix and then a final push for a winner. Until… Ben Williams happened.

A hand ball on Abdallah Jaber was by all measures a very harsh call. Harsher even was the fact that the linesman- who was closest to the action- didn’t flag for it. An ensuing penalty put the tie to rest and another controversial call- Mohammed Darwish went to ground but didn’t touch Omar Abdulrahman. His plea fell on deaf ears as he was shown his second yellow.

Palestine continued to show great resiliency down a man and Jaka Ihbeisheh was especially lively in his 30 minute cameo. His activity down the left flank became the main threat for PAlestine and he combined with Ashraf Nu’man with great effect.

There would be further controversy in the 66th minute when a ball was handled inadvertently by an Emirati in their own box. Abdelatif Bahdari’s appeals to Ben Williams earned him a yellow card but this moment was a microcosm of Ben Williams’s refereeing he is consistently inconsistent. 

In the end, Palestine needed a slice of luck to pull off the upset today. They can be proud of their performance in qualifying and in particular this game- which had it’s fair share of positives despite the less than stellar result. 

What I liked: Great fan support. Palestinians in the UAE answered the call and the were absolutely fantastic today. We are slowly gaining a reputation as a team with fans everywhere and that is really great to see. This wasn’t the case when we started this site eight years ago.

What I didn’t like: Security took away Algerian flags which I find perplexing and disgusting. Also the internet connection in the Media Tribune was really bad. I had planned to do more in terms of coverage and I couldn’t even get tweets out. Finally, Ben Williams cannot be one of Asia’s best…. Refereeing in Asia isn’t great but this guy is horrible.

FACTS: The UAE had a moment of brilliance that was the difference in this game (that and Ben Williams). If you disagree with that analysis look at the stats.

What’s Next: Palestine’s World Cup is over. It was a good run and I think Asia will step away with more respect for us given what our young squad was able to do against established Asian heavyweights. We have cleansed our reputations of the Asian Cup Debacle. 

South Korea, Qatar, Thailand, Saudi Arabia are on their way to the final round to be joined by eight more sides to be decided on Tuesday. 

Speaking of Tuesday, the national team still have the small mater of a game against Timor Leste on the 29th but the thinking will surely shift to Asian Cup qualifying.

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