Rapid Reaction: Palestine 1:1 Saudi Arabia (FIFA Arab Cup)

Starting XI (4-3-3): Amr Kaddoura, Mohammed Saleh, Yaser Hamed Mayor, Abdelatif Bahdari, Mohammed Khalil; Mohammed Rashid (Mohammed Darweesh), Mohammed Yamin (Odai Kharoub), Mahmoud Abu Warda; Layth Kharoub (Mahmoud Eid), Khaled Salem (Reebal Dahamshe), Tamer Seyam

Substitutions: 

46’ Odai Kharoub FOR Mohammed Yamin

61’ Mahmoud Eid FOR Khaled Salem

61’ Reebal Dahamshe FOR Layth Kharoub 

79’ Mohammed Darweesh FOR Mohammed Rashid

Goals: 

PALESTINE: Mohammed Rashid (45+)

SAUDI ARABIA: Abdullah Al-Hamdan (81)

Cautions: 

PALESTINE: Odai Kharoub 66’

SAUDI ARABIA: Saud Abdelhamid 58’

Recap: Following a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Morocco. Makram Dabboub changed his team’s shape and employed new personnel. Mohammed Saleh took up a new role as a right back in place of Abdelsalam Salama, Abuwarda came into midfield to provide attacking impetus, while there were straight swaps at left back and forward with Mohammed Khalil and Khaled Salem coming in for Ahmed Qatmish and Mahmoud Eid, respectively. 

Saudi Arabia also rang in the changes. Their most experienced player and goalscorer Firas Al-Buraikan recovered from a mysterious illness to take up his position at the tip of the spear in attack. The only three players to retain their position were captain Saud Abdelhamid, winger Ali Al-Mujarshi,  and centre back Waleed Al-Ahmed. 

Although the changes yielded better play. Palestine struggled to create clear cut chances at goal. Tamer Seyam entered the box with two mazy runs in the fourth and sixth minutes, respectively but his service could not find the feet of Palestine’s forward Khaled Salem. 

The match proceeded to settle into a pattern of sorts after that with Saudi Arabia’s possession game falling apart in the final third only for Palestine to counter and see their attack also fall apart in the final third. 

On three separate occasions Palestine failed to turn their set pieces into threatening attempts on goal. 

Palestine’s best chance at a breakthrough came from a familiar source. Tamer Seyam, deployed on the right as opposed to the left wing, lifted in a perfect cross to Khaled Salem who failed to connect. 

Just as it seemed that we would head into the dressing rooms at 0:0. Persib’s Mohammed Bassim Rashid stepped up with a glorious rocket from 35 yards out to give Palestine the lead. A contender for goal of the tournament, Rashid’s goal sent fans in the stadium into a state of absolute delirium. 

The second half started with substitutions for both sides. Odai Kharoub came on for Mohammed Yamin who had picked up a slight injury in the first half. Laurent Bondei, Saudi Arabia’s manager, made two changes. 

The intensity of the game was on display for everyone to see in the middle portion of the second half. That intensity grew larger as Saudi Arabia poured forward in search of an equalizer. 

That equalizer did come with ten minutes to go as substitute Abdulla Al-Hamdan made use of a rare counter opportunity. 

There were chances for both sides in a helter-skelter final ten minutes but Palestine were forced to settle for a draw. One that sets up a win or go home game against Jordan in three days. 

What I liked: Palestine showed a lot more fight and a lot more vigour. This was the type of reaction they were after. They will need a lot more of that fight in order to progress to the knockout round.

What I didn’t like: The decision to call up Khaled Salem to replace Musab Al-Battat was bizarre to say the least. The decision to start him yielded a furious reaction from fans on social media and it was justified. Khaled Salem was not as impressive as Fadi Zidan in the September friendlies. He proceeded to showcase his ineffective and immobile nature on the pitch today- offering very little in attack. 

Man of the Match: Tamer Seyam was magnificent but it has to go to Mohammed Bassim Rashid for that brilliant strike. A great way to open up your account at the international level. 

What it Means: Palestine will need to beat Jordan in order to advance. Since joining FIFA in 1998, Palestine has never been able to beat their rivals to the East. They did, however, beat Jordan 2-1 at the 1976 Arab Cup. 

What’s Next: Palestine will face off against Jordan on December 7th at the 974Stadium. Kickoff is set for 5 PM Jerusalem Time. 

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