Rapid Reaction: Palestine 3:2 Jordan (2018 AFC U23 Championship qualification)

Starting XI: Abu Aker, Jehad, Zreiqi, Rashed, Al-Ashhab; Abu Shanab, Fannoun; Abu Warda (C), Abdallah, Dabagh; Yousef. 

Goals: Abdallah 38′ , Yousef 66′, Wridat 76′

Substituions: Wridat 54′, Qatmish 67′, Khalil 82′ 

Cautions: Abushanab 20′, Alashhab 22′, Abu Aker 90′

Highlights and more after the jump…

Recap: From the first 30 minutes of this encounter it seemed that proceedings would follow a predictable script. Jordan began the match with attacking intent and were well worth the two goals they had garnered.

If anything, Jordan deserved more from the opening stanza with Bahaa Faisal and Yazan Al-Arab running riot and causing all sorts of problems.

Then something weird happened. Palestine scored. Hazem Abdallah Abuhammad’s rasping free kick was surely meant to be a cross but it curled at the right moment past the keeper and into the net at the far post.

Not only did that goal settle Palestine’s nerves it also shifted momentum. The game went from being a lost cause to finely poised.

This writer hates cliche- but perhaps there’s some reason behind the idea that 2-0 is the hardest scoreline to defend.

In the second half, Jordan remained threatening but Palestine had stopped the bleeding with debutant Omar Jehad Al-Sharif growing into his own on the right flank and providing several overlapping runs.

In the 66th minute, Mahmoud Yousef was print free on the left flank. Alone, on the counter he drove at goal and with only the keeper to beat, smashed the ball into the roof of the net from a tight angle.

Palestine would find a winner 10 minutes later. Jordanian goalkeeper Rafat Al-Rabie’s weak punch falling to substitute Bahaa Wridat who made no mistake- firing Palestine ahead from inside the box.

The last quarter of an hour was frantic. Palestine had scored with the only real chances that had fallen to them but now needed to withhold the Jordanian onslaught.

They did just that, a whole lot of fight and grit mixed with luck and good timing puts Palestine on the brink of qualifying for their first ever youth tourbament.

What I liked: This game wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t a showcase of the stars of the future, it was a battle of wills. Palestine rolled with the punches and displayed the sort of spirit worthy of a side bearing the country’s name.

What I didn’t like: Fan attendance for the second straight game was poor. This will be attributed to protests and events in Jerusalem but in reality has very little to do with that. The PFA needs to do a better job engaging with fans and the media. It should also not build stadiums in tiny villages like Dura.

Man of the Match: Mahmoud Yousef got the nod from the AFC. Nobody really covered themselves in glory over the course of 90 minutes so we’ll give it to the Acre native.

Asian Roundup: 

What’s Next: Palestine round up group play on Sunday when they take on whipping boys Bangladesh. A win would guarantee Palestine advance as group winners. Palestine are in good position to qualify as one of the best runner ups should they finish in second. The disaster scenario to avoid is a loss vs Bangladesh coupled with a Jordanian victory or draw vs Tajikistan. 

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