Palestine's Olympic team forced to settle for 2-2 draw in ISG opener


Palestine Starting XI: Ghanem Mahajneh (C), Ahmed Al-Sayed, Mohammed Saleh, Yazan Owaiwi, Yousef Al-Ashhab; Mahmoud Abu Warda, Mohammed Yameen, Mohammed Darwish, Oday Dabbagh (Namir Agha 90'); Islam Batran (Bahaa Wridat 83') , Hamada Maraaba (Mohammed Obeid 67').

Goals: Dabbagh 5', 54'

Cautions: Mohammed Yameen 30', Mohammed Darwish 90'

Highlights and More after the jump





Palestine opened group play of 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games today with a 2-2 draw against Oman.

Al-Fida'i started out the better of the two teams and scored after just five minutes of play after Oday Dabbagh connected settled and scored defence splitting cross from Mahmoud Abu Warda.

Palestine dominated proceedings in the first half and could have added to their tally going close several times but lacking the incisiveness to finish off attacking moves. Often times, Sandouqa's men rushed in shooting instead of adopting a more patient approach.

Oman would improve drastically in the second half, finding an equalizer just moments after the restart but it didn't take long for Palestine to respond. Abu Warda and Dabbagh connected again- this time the youngest player on the pitch didn't need an extra touch to bring the looping ball under his control. Instead, the Hilal Al-Quds starlet elected to power it home and send the small but boisterous contingent of Palestine supporters into raptures.

On seventy minutes Islam Batran scuffed his shot with only Bilal Al-Balushi to beat in the 70th minute. Moments later, substitute Mohammed Obeid blazed a good effort just over the bar. As the game wore on it felt that Palestine would be made to pay for their missed chances.

Dabbagh taking instructions midgame
That moment arrived in the 85th minute. To compound matters two of the more experienced players in the pitch were guilty of repeating the same error that led to the first goal. A good amount of ball watching slipped Marwan Awlad in on his first strike and this time failure to hold a line or press the ball carrier allowed Awlad to notch a brace of his own.

In the post match press conference, former national team player Ayman Sandouqa summed the game's events quite nicely:

It was a very interesting match, but I feel like we deserved a better result," he said.

"Having said that, I am content with the performance and result overall. We showed our best in the first half and played well and we still capitalized on our best chances to score."

Palestine will be emboldned that their best players on the day, Abu Warda and Oday Dabagh, will be eligible to compete in July's AFC U23 Championship qualifiers. On the other hand, the poor performances of their centre backs will be a cause of concern to Abdel Nasser Barakat whose top four choices- Abdelatif Bahdari, Haitham Dheeb, Tamer Salah, and Alaa Abu Saleh are all over the age of 30. 

The promising Alaa Haboos- who at 20 led his Lebanese side Eslah el-Burj to promotion this season- could not travel due to problems with documentation. His future participation with Palestine remains under a cloud of doubt.

Palestine were also without the services of Mahmoud Wadi. The former Ahli Al-Khaleel striker is Palestine's leading scorer in Asian club competition but has been unable to leave the Gaza Strip for the past nine months as the result of the Israeli blockade.

Palestine will next face Algeria on Thursday. Les Verts won 2-1 at the death against Turkey after being awarded a penalty.