Rapid Reaction: Palestine 0:0 Turkmenistan (2012 Challenge Cup)
Attieh & Co. couldn't find the back of the net against Turkmenistan
Starting XI: Toufic Ali; Abu Saleh, Harbi, Mahdi, Abujazr; Samara, Khader Youssef, Ismail, Ashraf Nu'man; Attal, Attieh
Substitutions: Attieh <-> Abuhabib 61' // Ismail <-> Wadi 79' // Samara <-> Nu'man 83'
Bookings: Attieh 33', Attal 45'
Highlights to follow....
Recap: A pretty dull first half with no clear-cut chances for either side gave way to a more entertaining and open second half. Ahmed Harbi made his return from suspension with manager Jamal Mahmoud electing to use him as a centre back. The other surprise selection was the absence of captain Ramzi Saleh in goal. The Smouha 'keeper appeared to have injured himself whilst making a spectacular one-on-one save in the match against Nepal but saw that match through. Toufic Ali started in his place and gave a competent performance; he was helped by an improved defence which marked Turkmenistan's maestro Ruslan Mazingov tightly.
A penalty shout in the first half was waved away with Alaa Attieh receiving a yellow card for simulation. Just before the half Fahed Attal thought he had put Palestine ahead only to be called offsides- he too received a yellow card for kicking the ball after whistle had sounded.
Palestine picked up the tempo of the game in the second half. One ball was sent across the face of goal but no red shirts were there to meet it. Minutes later, Fahed Attal's cross was spilled by Alyhanov who with Alaa Attieh lurking nearby. Abdelhamid Abuhabib, on in the place of Attieh, forced Alyhanov into save only minutes after his introduction. 60 seconds later Ashraf Nu'man lovely chip earned Palestine a corner.
For their part, the Turkmen were far more positive in the second half as well. Toufic Ali did just enough to keep Ruslan Mazingov's shot out in the 70th minute. The lanky Tarji Wadi Al-Nes goalkeeper kept the score level late using his frame to deal with a dangerous looking free kick.
What I liked: I would not have thought the team could put together back-to-back clean sheets especially without the services of Ramzi Saleh in what was labelled their toughest group match. Positionally, the team was excellent- perhaps the most organized performance under Jamal Mahmoud.
What I didn't like: At some point Jamal Mahmoud will have to roll the dice- the double pivot of Khader Youssef and Murad Ismail doesn't provide a lot of attacking options and Mohammed Samara is out of place on the wing.
Jersey Watch: Palestine played in all red but at least these weren't the Peak kits. Numbering was in white so it was easy to identify players despite the grainy resolution on our monitors.
Man of the Match: Murad Ismail tasked with neutralizing the threat of Ruslan Mazingov, the Hilal Al-Quds player did not disappoint. His presence disrupted Turkmenistan's attack before they could even reach the final third. Avoided getting booked but drew plenty of fouls and a couple of yellow cards.
What's Next: Palestine faces Maldives in their final group match on Monday (March 12th) at 0915 GMT. A draw would clinch a spot in the semifinal but Palestine will be looking to win in order to avoid a potential early meeting with Korea DPR.