Qualification for a major tournament in Asia follows a simple formula. Win at home, draw on the road. Had Palestine been able to do that in the Second Round, a haul of 16 points would have seen them punch their ticket to UAE 2019 and continue the fight for World Cup qualification.
Haitham Dheeb (7): Dealt with what was thrown at him and was constantly looking to start attacks with his positive passing. Maldives didn’t have a serious attempt on Rami Hamadi’s goal for the entire game and did not enter the box with possession of the ball.
Abdelatif Bahdari (6.5): Some sloppiness from the captain on the night, particularly his passing out of the back.
Abdallah Jaber (6): Picked up a soft yellow card but was solid enough otherwise. Failed to provide much going forward; many of his crosses were wayward. Not a good game by his lofty standards.
Mohammed Yameen (5): Cast as the most advanced player in a three man midfield Yameen found it difficult to operate in the spaces provided him. Subbed off at the hour mark.
Mohamed Darwish (6): Steady performance on the combative midfielder’s 10th cap. Broke up play and wisely fouled in order to disrupt Maldives from gaining any sort of attacking momentum.
Shadi Shaban (5.5): A mixed bag. Several good passes going forward but was guilty of vacating the space behind him a little too recklessly.
Joanthan Cantillana (6.5): Should have capped off the night with at least a goal but finished with an assist on the final goal of the night. Popped up in good positions throughout the night.
Tamer Seyam (6): Two assists on the night rescued a rather indifferent performance; did very little to take the game to the opponent.
Yashir Pinto Islame (6): Created some good chances with his hold up play. Isolated in a formation that did not suit his skill set.
Ahmad Maher Wridat (9): Singlehandedly changed the complexion of the game with his first touches. Scored twice inside five minutes and also created several good chances for his teammates.
Alexis Norambuena (5): Came on in the final twenty minutes of the game. Deployed as a right midfielder and contributed very little of note.
Ahmad Abu Nahyeh (8): Hard to grade a performance that lasted all of five minutes. Did what was asked of him. Ran past a tired and ragged defence to make it 3-0 on the night for Palestine
Abdel Nasser Barakat (5): Coming into this game, Barakat had some big decisions to make in four key positions: goalkeeper, right back, central midfield, and forward. His choice of Rami Hamadi in goal was His midfield choices failed to provide any sort of attacking onus. Mus’ab Battat was a liability at right back and Tamer Seyam failed to replicate his club form.
Barakat’s substitutions changed what was a dour game on the verge of unnecessarily complicating Palestine’s qualification chances. That said, his original mistakes cannot be overlooked and going forward these errors cannot be repeated. It makes very little sense for Palestine to deploy a formation featuring Yameen, Darwish, and Shaban for the other five remaining qualifiers. Moreover, as Ahmad Maher showed it is important for in form players to be picked and played.
It seems that the Palestine manager is keen to field a team that is cohesive and will more often than not pick players who have been in camp longer. This sends the wrong message to players, discouraging them from making the jump to a foreign league. Islam Batran’s exclusion from the latest squad was a strange decision given the fact that Pablo Tamburrini and Alexis Norambuena were included despite not playing competitive football since December.
From a philosophical standpoint, Palestine must be set up to attack. The players are simply not cut out to play conservatively and the majority of mistakes in the game came from individuals forcing a ball forward in a formation not designed to suit their strengths. Balance is important and the defensive solidity Barakat has brought to the side is not to be dismissed but the confidence and talent in the side must be harnessed in a more attacking mindset.