Rapid Reaction: Kyrgyzstan 1:0 Palestine (Friendly)

Palestine Starting XI: Rami Hamadi, Musab Al-Battat, Abdelatif Bahdari (C), Yaser Hamed Mayor, Mohammed Khalil, Mohammed Darweesh, Odai Kharoub, Sameh Maraaba, Mahmoud Eid, Mahmoud Abu Warda, Khaled Salem.

GOALS: Azim Azamov (KYR) | 25′

CAUTIONS: Sameh Maraaba 63′, Mohammed Darweesh 65′, Rami Hamadi 72′, Layth Kharoub 77′

Recap: For the third time in three years Palestine and Kyrgyzstan locked horns in a friendly preparatory match on the grounds of the Dolen Omurzakov Stadium in Bishkek. Much like every friendly played since 2018 Palestine found themselves trailing early going into the dressing rooms at half time down 1-0.

Palestine were not as confident or incisive as they were in June with the forward line failing to link up together properly for much of the first half. Kyrgyzstan opened the scoring in the 25th minute through defender Azim Azarov. The hosts had enjoyed much joy exploiting Palestine’s left wing and their goal came from that very source. Following a corner the ball was recycled down the left flank where Mohammed Khalil was badly beaten allowing for Alimardon Shukurov to send in a beautiful cross for the onrushing Azarov.

Palestine grew into the game following the equalizer with some positional adjustments. Mahmoud Abu Warda who was playing as the most advanced of three midfielders took up a more natural position on the right flank. Sameh Maraaba came inside to play in a central advanced role which allowed Palestine to gain a foothold down their right flank.

While Palestine did win a number of corners they were lacking the type of player who could sniff out of a chance or the quality of service that came to mark so many of their games in June.

Palestine did play better in the second half and thing improved considerably after the 65th minute withdrawals of Sameh Maraaba and Khaled Salem. Their replacements provided a spark and Palestine had several chances in the game’s final stanza.

Mahmoud Eid nearly chipped the goalkeeper from 45 yards out with 15 minutes left in the game only to see the effort narrowly go over the bar. While Kyrgyzstan dominated Palestine’s left back, Mohammed Khalil, for much of the game Palestine did the same to his counterpart on the Kyrgyz side.

In the end, Kyrgyzstan found a way to score from the chances they created while Palestine struggled with the absence of Oday Dabbagh and other natural goal scorers in the shape of Tamer Seyam, Saleh Chihadeh, and Mahmoud Wadi. The latter two were not even part of the squad today.

What I Liked: Palestine really went for it in the final twenty minutes there was fight and determination to grab an equalizer. It is never nice to lose but quality opposition is needed in order to put certain players to the test. Kyrgyzstan provided that test with a hostile crowd, unhelpful referee, and by matching Palestine’s fighting desire. A COVID-19 outbreak cost them dearly in a pivotal World Cup match but this is a team that is well worthy of their ranking as the 17th best team in Asia.

What I didn’t Like: There are three players that were absolutely awful today. Mohammed Khalil, Khaled Salem, and Sameh Maraaba. I can understand why the latter has been included but there has to be better candidates out there for the other two. Maraaba can at least point to the winning goal he scored against Kuwait and several games (albeit against weaker sides) where he made the difference. Khaled Salem provided nothing today; the attacking equivalent of a black hole. Sameh Maraaba was invisible on the wing and clearly visible in midfield because he kept losing possession. Layth Kharoub is ahead of him in the pecking order at the time of writing.

As for Khalil I feel he gets the nod only because he was a passenger in some very successful teams in June. Qatamish is less of a liability and if a reliable deputy for Abdallah Jaber (who should be back with the side ASAP) is needed then it’s best to look elsewhere.

Best Player: Palestine’s most consistent attacking threat had to play most the game out of position but in spite of that Mahmoud Eid did everything but score.

Depth needs work: Oday Dabbagh, Saleh Chihadeh, Abdallah Jaber, Mohammed Bassim, Yashir Islame, Jonathan, Mohamed Darwish, Yosuef Emghames, and possibly Fadi Zidan will not be able to participate in the Arab Cup in December. Dabboub needs to find solutions and those solutions might not even have made their debuts yet.

Shehab Qombor should be recalled as it was ridiculous he was suspended for being sick in the first place. Ittihad Khan Younis’s wunderkind Khaled Al-Nabris is another solution for the number nine position. Reebal Dahamshe is another interesting option. Those names should be in Qatar alongside Mahmoud Wadi. In defence there simply has to be someone better than Mohammed Khalil and in midfield there needs to be a Plan B when Nazmi Albadawi is not around.

What’s Next: Palestine will take on Bangladesh on Sunday, September 5th at 17:30 Jerusalem Time

Congratulations on reading until the end of the article! You’re probably a big fan of Palestinian Football and you probably want to be more involved- supporting Palestinian Football in anyway you can. If that is the case check out the Canaan FC Project