|A win papered over many cracks in Barakat’s Starting XI|
On Tuesday, the national team accomplished their mission of registering another three points on the road in a far flung Asian nation. While most fans expected more goals- a lot more- the result keeps Palestine atop of Group D and one result away from becoming the first team to qualify (from teams in this qualifying round) for the Asian Cup finals in 2019.
A first half that saw plenty of pressure but no end result will leave Abdel Nasser Barakat with a lot to mull over. The tactician intimated as much in the post match press conference crediting the Bhutanese for making life difficult for his side.
Haitham Dheeb (6.5): A near flawless night for the man from Majd Al-Krum blighted only by the fact that he gave up the foul that lead to the free kick goal. Could have opened the scoring six minutes in- but powered his header wide of Ali Al-Habsi’s goal. (ACQ Average: 6.75)
Abdelatif Bahdari (6): The captain showed his age tonight, was solid in the air but had a few nervy moments- an attempt to clear the ball with a back heel could have caused problems. (ACQ Average: 6.25)
Fadi Salbees (6): Got forward on more than one occasion but not with the same vigor as regular starter Abdallah Jaber. That said, Salbees has proven in very limited game time to be a solid alternative- providing vital cover in case of injury or suspension. (ACQ Average: N/A)
Mohammed Darwish (7.5): A man of the match performance. Darwish assisted on both goals and was key in breaking up Bhutan’s play in the middle of the pitch. If he could add a long range pile driving shot to his game he would be an unstoppable force in the middle of the pitch. (ACQ Average: 6.83)
Mohammed Yameen (6.5): Was recognized as the best player by the AFC but did not do much going forward. His play in the middle of the pitch was measured and confident. (ACQ Average: 5.67)
Jaka Ihbeisheh (6): The best attacking midfielder on the night. Could have opened the scoring five minutes into the game had Sameh Maraba passed him the ball on the right wing. The Solvenian born winger was unlucky to be taken off after 56 minutes- dazzled with a 90 meter run to set up a counter- but lady luck deserted him with the finish. (ACQ Average: N/A)
Tamer Seyam (5): The Hilal Al-Quds man is capable of better but seemed preoccupied with trying to dribble the entire Bhutanese defence. (ACQ Average: 5.33)
Sameh Maraaba (4.5): Invisible. Did not provide a link between the midfield and Yashir Pinto. Did not manage a single shot on goal (ACQ Average: 5.83)
Yashir Pinto Islame (7): Was active in the first half and could have opened the scoring if not for some wayward finishing. Scored a crucial game winner early in the second half to calm nerves. (ACQ Average: 7)
Khaled Salem (5): Provided energy, but no hold up play. Put his best effort wide of the post with the Bhutanese keeper at his mercy(N/A)
Ahmed Maher Wridat (5.5): Made some good runs in the middle of the park but struggled to link up with Seyam and Maraba (N/A)
Abdel Nasser Barakat (5): Mission accomplished through three games but Palestine were made to sweat tonight against a team they were better than in every conceivable way. Barakat has given a very long leash to Tamer Seyam, who, through three games has not replicated his WBPL performances or his form against Malaysia in the last round. Similarly, Sameh Maraba has been favored in all three games against the likes of Ahmad Maher- who rescued the team in Malé.
The only player providing some structure in attack was Jaka Ihbeisheh- he also had created and nearly finished the best chance of the game before Yashir’s opener. Once he exited the attacking midfield became an amalgamation of three individuals trying to do everything by themselves.
Put simply, the tactician’s substitutions in the last two games did not serve to strengthen the team. After falling out with Ahmed Abu Nahyeh (his gestures after scoring against Maldives seem to intimate that he thinks he should be starting) he has not found a striker to effectively spell Yashir Pinto Islame. Against Oman, he played Ahmed Maher out of position and the team had no outlet to hold the ball up. Today, he bizarrely favored Khaled Salem over Matías Jadue and the hold up play disappeared yet again.
A team that can call upon the services of Jadue, Eid, Awad, and Abu Nahyeh should not have to rely on Khaled Salem. The Khaled Salem project seems to make a comeback every two years but the man is 28 years old- he isn’t raw anymore- he is what he is.
Some difficult decisions need to be made in the next 18 months. Players cannot expect to hold onto their starting positions if they don’t play well- the onus is on the coach to find the right role for each player. Right now, two of his favorites are simply not preforming.