Palestine 1-0 Bangladesh - Challenge Cup Qualifiers Matchday 1
Palestine Starting XI: Toufic Ali; Raed Fares, Haitham Deeb, Khaled Mahdi, Mousa Abujazr; Murad Ismail, Mahmoud Sheikh Qasem, Suleiman Obeid (C), Husam Abu Saleh, Abdelhamid Abuhabeeb; Eyad Abu Gharqoud
Subs: Wadi <-> Sheikh Qasem (39') // Asselah <-> Ismail (74') // Barakat <-> Abuhabeeb (76')->->->
Bookings: Sheikh Qasem, Wadi, Fares (yellow)
Goal(s): Haitham Deeb (77')
The first half was marked by a cautious approach from both sides - though Palestine was the more dangerous with chances coming through Husam Abu Saleh and Murad Ismail who were denied by Bangladesh keeper Sahidul Alam. Abugharqoud went down in the box but the Malaysian referee decided it was not a penalty.
Bangladesh had a scoring chance when Khaled Mahdi's misplaced pass was picked up by Rana who lobbed it across the face of goal. Jamal Mahmoud made his first sub of the game replacing 'Al-Koori' with the veteran Husam Wadi. Abuhabeeb and Abugharqoud tried to find solutions in the Bangladesh box but the first half ended goalless.
Mahmoud's boys came back from the dressing room looking for a goal but were continuously denied by Bangladesh's Sahidul Alam. Palestine continued to win freekicks and corners while Bangladesh played on the counter-attack. Mahmoud put some fresh legs in the midfield, replacing Abuhabeeb with Barakat and Ismail with Aseelah. Shortly after, Palestine's efforts were rewarded. Husam Abu Saleh crossed the ball in to find captain Obeid who headed it across goal. A goalmouth melee ensued and Haitham Deeb made the most out of a deflection to slot it in. De Kruif made two substitutions to try to get Bangladesh back in the game but Palestine protected the lead.
In the post-match conference, De Kruif lamented his team's loss of concentration in the last half hour. Mahmoud was not happy with his players - saying that they did not play well and that it was luck that decided the match.Keeping in mind that Palestine travelled more, missed key players and have always had dodgy first matches under Mahmoud, I have to say I am impressed with Bangladesh - they are no pushovers and I fancy their chances against Nepal.
In the group's other match, Nepal thrashed the Northern Mariana Islands 6-0.
Matchday two sees Nepal take on Bangladesh while Palestine face the NMI. While the three points are all but guaranteed against the Islanders, Palestine will have to aim to surpass Nepal's 6-0 margin in order to go into the last matchday with less pressure. Coincidentally, Palestine's biggest ever win was 11-0 against NMI neighbours Guam. Since the NMIFA is not a full FIFA member, this will not be considered a full international.