Palestine Starting XI: Rami Hamadi, Musab Al-Battat, Yaser Hamed, Abdelatif Bahdari (C), Mohammed Khalil; Mohammed Rashid (Mohammed Darweesh 73′), Mohammed Yameen (Odai Kharoub 80′); Mahmoud Abu Warda (Badr Moussa 80′), Layth Kharoub (Khaled Salem 67′), Tamer Seyam (Mohamed Darwish 80′); Oday Dabbagh
Goals: Tamer Seyam (PK) 20′ 30′, Oday Dabbagh 23′, Yaser Hamed 84′
Cautions: Musab Al-Battat 26′ Mahmoud Abu Warda 48′
Recap: A change will do you good. The biggest change this evening was on the bench with Noureddine Ould Ali’s three year reign coming to an overdue end in April. Makram Dabboub was a familiar face- an assistant to Ould Ali, Abdel Nasser Barakat, Jamal Mahmoud, and Mokhtar Al-Tlili over a ten year period but his approach was completely different.
Palestine pressed and pressed. We had seen Ould Ali do this for the first five minutes in more than one match only to immediately to send the troops into retreat and play in a style that can best be described as bunker-ball.
This time it was different. Palestine were not rewarded early on for the pressing and it took more than a quarter of an hour for the opener to come. Oday Dabbagh had been a thorn in the side of the Singaporean defence and he was once again front and center. Mohammed Yameen waited and picked his former Hilal Al-Quds teammate with a brilliant pass that led to Irfan Fandi bringing down Dabbagh as he was about to pull the trigger.
Tamer Seyam stepped up to take the penalty kick and just squeezed it beneath the body of a diving Izwan Mahbud. Minutes later it was Oday Dabbagh’s turn to get on the score sheet sweeping a cross from the left flank into the back of the net. It was a shot that Izwan should have saved and it was a little cruel on the Singaporean goalkeeper who had come close to denying Seyam from the spot.
Speaking of Seyam, he would redeem his first effort with a thunderous penalty. Irfan Fandi was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box whilst trying to clear a corner and it was the Jerusalemite who insisted he take his second penalty of the game- waving away captain Abdelatif Bahdari.
The Dabbagh-Seyam connection nearly struck again before the half hour mark. A streaking Dabbagh cut into the box and had an opportunity to score himself but he slopped the ball to Seyam. The former HUSA Agadir midfielder scuffed his effort- missing a chance for his first national team hattrick.
Palestine’s relentless press did not slow down after the water break and Abdelatif Bahdari nearly made it 4-0 only for Izwan to kick save it off the Singaporean goal line.
Palestine’s proactive approach helped cover the glaring weakness at left back as Singapore barely had the ball in Palestine’s half.
Makram Dabboub did not do anything too revolutionary in setting up Palestine he put an end to some bad experiments such as playing Musab Al-Battat in midfield but continued with others- such as turning to Khaled Salem in the second half.
The biggest surprise was seeing Mahmoud Abu Warda being used in midfield in a shape that was more akin to a 4-3-3 than to a 4-2-3-1 that we had grown accustomed to seeing under Noureddine Ould Ali.
The old habit of sitting on your substitutes was also present in the game. Dabboub had five substitutes to give his team a boost in the second half. The wise move might have been to use one at halftime to keep the pressure on or to get Mohammed Saleh game time in a game that was done or dusted. Instead it took 67 minutes to see any movement on the bench and that was to get Khaled Salem on the pitch.
When the cavalry did arrive with ten minutes to go they made an instant impact. Badr Moussa raced down the pitch and stung Izwan’s palms with a good shot that led to a corner. That corner was taken by former Hannover 96 midfielder Mohamed Darwish which found the head of Abdelatif Bahdari and then was punched home by Yaser Hamed Mayor for his third international goal and his second against Singapore.
Palestine had a couple of more chances to extend their lead before the final whistle sounded. When the Emirati referee did blow for full-time there was a mixture of joy and relief on the faces of the players. The nightmare run of five qualifiers without a win was over as was the streak of three competitive losses on the trot.
What I liked: The team was set up with a clear game plan. Singapore was to be put under pressure until they cracked. The Lions did not make any mistakes early on but Palestine persisted and then the flood gates opened as a direct result of the pressure they had to deal with. Palestine should always play like this as they have the personnel to do it. There was also a good mix of passing- when balls were played over the top they were not played aimlessly and when Palestine kept it on the ground they also were able to create good phases of attacking play.
What I didn’t like: In another show of unspeakable incompetence, Abdelatif Bahdari was hauled off the pitch during the second half to change his uniform because he was wearing #12 instead of #15. The fourth official pointed it out and the captain had to strip down on the sidelines.
Uniform Watch: Palestine did not have that horrible number plating that has become ubiquitous no matter the provider. Instead the plain red t-shirts provided by Joma were paired with black numbers which made it impossible to identify the players from a distance.
Man of the Match: Oday Dabbagh. Won a penalty, scored a goal, and was the source of countless attacks. The Jerusalemite is Palestine’s best player at the moment and has a presence that belie his youth. Dabbagh also has a knack of being able to block the clearances of defenders which he did on more than one occasion tonight.
What’s Next: Palestine face Yemen in their final qualifier on June 15th at 9 PM local time.