Rapid Reaction: Palestine 0:0 UAE (2018 World Cup Qualifying)
Palestine Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Toufic Ali; Alexis, Dheeb, Salah, Jaber; Imad Zatara, Darwish, Tamburrini, Ihbeisheh; Mar'aba; Jadue.
Cautions: Darwish 28', Ihbeisheh 43'
Substitutions: Jaka Ihbeisheh <-> Tamer Seyam 61' // Sameh Mar'aba <-> Mahmoud Eid 73' // Khader Yousef <-> Pablo Tamburrini 83' //->->->
Full Highlights and more after the jump...
Recap: Palestine earned a valuable point in a game that will be remembered more for the atmosphere than the action on the pitch.
Abdel Nasser Barakat- suspended for the match- set his men out to crowd space in the midfield with Jaka Ihbeisheh and Imad Zatara providing cover for the fullbacks. In the middle of the pitch Mohammed Darwish did an excellent job of bottling up Omar Abdelrahman who only managed to exhibit his skills in spurts.
The first half was tactical in every sense of the word- with Toufic Ali making the only save to deny the UAE from a set piece. Although both teams would try to make a go of it in the second half, a goal never seemed likely in this game.
Palestine's best chance came through Mahmoud Eid, who came on for Sameh Mar'aba with a little over a quarter of an hour to go in the match. His forceful run into the box was followed up with a feeble attempt at goal that did little to trouble Emirati netminder Ali Khoseif.
The UAE pushed the issue in the final 10 minutes and had should have gone ahead in the 81st minute- only for Ahmed Khalil to miss an open header four meters from goal.
In the end, Palestine did what they came to do- stifle the UAE's potent attack and get a valuable point to keep them in contention for another match day.
What I liked: Palestine's composure. There were some hiccups here and there but the team executed the game plan perfectly from a defensive standpoint. The mistakes that condemned Palestine to defeat in Saudi Arabia three months ago seem a distant memory now.
What I didn't like: At some point, Palestine will need to establish an identity going forward. This remains a work in progress and it shows against top tier Asian sides like the UAE.
Atmosphere: 15,000 fans turned out in force despite the fact that an unseasonal dust storm left the skies looking post-apocalyptic. Singing started well before the match and only continued in intensity, when the UAE had the ball fans whistled at a feverish rate.
Pitch: The UAE had a lot to say about the state of the pitch- with manager Mahdi Ali going so far as to say that it was not even FIFA certified. I remain unconvinced that the pitch somehow had a bearing on this match. The UAE were stopped quite effectively by Palestine and did very little to merit more than a point over the 90 minutes.
Man of the Match: Could go to any number of players for their defensive efforts but Mohammed Darwish- uncapped just three months ago- deserves special praise. His combative, all action style set the tone in midfield and meant that his centerbacks weren't resorting to last ditch tackles in order to contain the Emirati goal threat.
What's Next: Palestine will travel to Selangor, Malaysia to face Timor-Leste on October 10th. Three days later, they'll play host to Saudi Arabia in Al-Ram.