|Palestine have punched their ticket to UAE 2019|
Starting XI: Ghanem Mahajneh, Musab Al-Battat, Mohammed Abu Khamis, Abdelatif Bahdari, Abdallah Jaber; Jonathan Cantillana, Mohammed Darwish (Shadi Shaban), Mohammed Yameen, Tamer Seyam; Sameh Maraaba (Matias Jadue); Khaled Salem (Mohammed Natour)
Abdelatif Bahdari 4' 40' 44'
Abdallah Jaber 6'
Tamer Seyam 22'
Sameh Maraaba 29'
Khaled Salem 48'
Mohammed Natour 60'
Jonathan Cantillana 63' 72'
Substitutions: Natour <-> Salem 51'->, Shaban <-> Darwish 65', Jadue <-> Maraaba 72'->->
Highlights and More after the jump....
Recap: Al-Fida'i became the 13th team to punch its ticket to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup finals in UAE. After recording four wins from four games in the qualifying round, Barakat's side became the first team to joint the 12 teams that secured a place at the continental tournament by advancing to the final group stage of World Cup qualifying.
Palestine were dominant from the first minute. There were some concerns as to whether Palestine could record such a big victory with so many key elements ruled out by injury but that doubt was quickly put to rest. Palestine exploited Bhutan on multiple set pieces and used a considerable height difference to their advantage.
Bhutan manager Torsten Spittler even pointed this out in the post match press conference "You are dealing with mountain people, and mountain people are small" lamenting the fact that he could not simulate match conditions in training.
Bahdari's hattrick should not be considered a fluke but rather a byproduct of good coaching. Abdel Nasser Barakat instructed his captain to make the runs into the box and every corner and free kick was destined for the head of the big Gazan.
The rest of the players on the pitch had a desire to get on the score sheet which resulted in seven different goal scorers. The moment Abdallah Jaber's rocket hit the net in the sixth minute it was obvious the rout was on.
When all was said and done, Palestine had scored double digits for only the second time in its history. Recording its largest win under Abdel Nasser Barakat and its biggest winning margin in a competitive match.
What I liked: What's not to like? The mission was to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup and Palestine did that with aplomb. Credit must go to the coaching staff who barely put a foot wrong since taking over in April 2015. They nearly qualified by advancing to the final round of World Cup qualifying, but fell short by a single victory- foiled by the experience of the UAE and the improved form of Saudi Arabia.
Since the setback, the team took it upon itself to prove to the entire continent that Palestine was a team that belonged to be with Asia's big boys. Simply put, this is the best time to be a fan of this fantastic national team.
What I didn't like: There is really nothing to complain about. It would have been nice to set a record for biggest win in national team history, I suppose. 11-0 vs. Guam in 2006 remains the record for now.
Man of the Match: Abdelatif Bahdari- led by example in his best performance of 2017. Only four players in Palestine's history have more goals than the captain (Fahed Attal, Ashraf Nu'man, Ziyad Al-Kord, and Ahmad Maher) and only three players have more caps (Ramzi Saleh, Khader Yousef, and Saeb Jendeya). If he plays at the Asian Cup Finals he could become the oldest player to play for the national team. On current form, who would bet against more records falling?
Elsewhere in Asia:
Lebanon took a big step to sealing a spot at the Asian Cup. A dominating 5-0 win over the 2010 World Cup finalists DPR Korea makes them a near guarantee to qualify for the tournament for the first time in their history after hosting the showpiece event in 2000.
Fellow Group D rivals Oman followed Palestine into the finals by virtue of a 3-1 win over Maldives.
Jordan and Bahrain had a chance to punch their tickets but threw away points from winning positions. Jordan were made to settle for a 3-3 draw by Afghanistan, while Gary White continued his miracle working in Asia engineering a 2-1 upset of Bahrain in his first competitive match at the helm of Chinese Taipei.
In group A, India can clinch qualification with a draw against Macao tomorrow after group rivals Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar played an entertaining 2-2 draw.
There were also wins for Hong Kong (2-0 over Malaysia), Vietnam (5-0 over Cambodia), Turkmenistan (2-1 over Singapore), and Tajikistan (3-0 over Nepal).
Philippines scored a late goal to rescue a point in a 1-1 draw over Yemen in Qatar. Things remain wide open in Group F with Philippines top on eight points with Tajikistan and Yemen just two point behind the pace. Nepal is still alive- barely- on a single point.
What's Next: Palestine face Maldives at home on November 14th in Match Day 5 of Asian Cup qualifying.