Asian Cup 2019: Palestine attack Jordan in waves

Asian Cup 2019: Palestine attack Jordan in waves
Syria drops out of the tournament, and Palestine are left clinging on, waiting on today's results.
3 min read
16 Jan, 2019
Palestine have been left waiting on other results after drawing with Jordan [Getty]
As the Asian Cup's group stage wraps up, the eleventh day of the tournament created a crucial scene with matches between Jordan and Palestine, and Australia and Syria.

Palestine's match against Jordan was the probably the biggest and most important in the history of Palestinian football. Abu Dhabi's Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium enjoyed a terrific atmosphere, unlike the rest of the tournament or even elsewhere in a city that seems determined to stick to its indifferent stance over Asian football's top competition.

The stands filled with around 8,000 fans, with a family atmosphere. The crowds cheered for both teams' players alike, under the slogan "two countries, one people" - while many in the stands wore red and white or black and white keffiyehs. 

The first half saw a pacy show from both teams, as Jordan managed to test goalkeeper Rami Hamadeh twice. Palestine stood well on the pitch, with right-back Musab Battat coming close, but not threatening Amer Shafi's goal. 

In the parallel match, Syria and Australia were battling each other for second place in their group. Australia's forward Awer Mabil scored a classic goal in the 41st minute, but Omar Khribin drew level for Syria two minutes later with a deflection inside the box. At halftime, Syria was third in the group, Palestine last.

The second half was a completely different story. Palestine attacked and were dangerous, while Jordan just tried desperately to hold on to the ball. At the same time, Australia scored again and took a 2-1 advantage over the Syrians through a goal by Chris Ikonomidis.

Palestine was attacking in waves, but strange changes by coach Nourredine Ould Ali failed to upgrade the team's play. Mahmoud Wadi, the Palestinian striker, almost scored with an impressive scissor-kick, but Shafi stopped it well. 

In the other match, Syrian superstar Omar al-Somah scored to make it 2-2, ten minutes from the final whistle.

Back in Abu Dhabi, Palestine tried again and again, winning corner after corner, and the whole stadium was behind them. But despite all the chances, they couldn't find the net. 

The match ended in a 0-0 draw, but just as it looked Syria would finish third, there was a final piece of drama: Australia's Tommy Rogic scored their third goal, after an assist by Ikonomidis. The Socceroos won 3-2, pushing Syria down to the bottom of Group B, with Palestine climbing a spot to third place. The Syrians summed up a horrific tournament they would rather forget. 

The Palestinians now hope that at least two of the next games finish in a draw, to put them through as best-placed third team:

Kyrgyzstan vs Philippines, Vietnam vs Yemen, Lebanon vs North Korea, and Oman vs Turkmenistan. 

A lot has been said about Ould Ali, the Algerian coach of Palestine's national team. Maybe with a different cast of coaches, Palestine could have finished this game neatly, without praying to the god of third places.

Mahmoud Wadi shared his feelings after the match: "Of course this is so frustrating," he told The New Arab.

"We were that close. My chance there was almost a goal. It's hard because we received such remarkable support from our fans. Really, they have given us the strength to go out there and fight. Now we will wait, but thanks God for everything and for these fans. They mean the world for us."

Uri Levy 
runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here.