The game started brightly for India when Clifford Miranda smashed the ball into the back of the net in the 17th minute to give his side the lead. The lively Ashraf Nu’man though equalized in the 30th minute before Syed Rahim Nabi headed India ahead yet again in the 39th minute, a lead which India conserved going into the break. However the home side lost the plot altogether in the second half as they let in three goals, with Ashraf Nu'man scoring twice and Hussam Abusalah being on the scoresheet to complete the rout.
Wim Koevermans decided to hand Sandip Nandy, Denzil Franco and Alwyn George a start as he made three changes from the team that started against Singapore with Subrata Paul, Nirmal Chettri and Sanju Pradhan, who wasn’t part of the 23-member squad any ways.
Jamal Mahmoud started with Hussam Abu Saleh in place of Imad Zatara out due to illness. Abdelhamid Abuhabib played in the hole behind Eyad Abugharqoud alone upfront with Abdel-Latif Bahdari returning to the squad after a gap of 18 months, to captain the side.
The game started at frantic pace with Francis Fernandes and Syed Rahim Nabi making runs down the flanks to find Sunil Chhetri who was heavily marked by the opposition defenders, namely Khaled Mahdi and Abdel-Latif Bahdari
The first attempt of the match fell for the visitors when Ashraf Nu’man did the spadework on the left to set up Eyad Abugharqoud in the center, just outside the box, who shot wide in the 10th minute.
India took the lead in the 17th minute when Alwyn George picked a loose in the middle third to make a scintillating run before unleashing a left-footed shot which was blocked by Abdel-Latif Bahdari with Clifford Miranda picking up the pieces to score off the rebound with powerful shot.
India had a chance in the 34th minute when a quick interchange between Mehtab and Nabi ended in Chhetri’s shot coming off the Palestine defence.
Miranda and Nabi were threatening down the left flank while Mehtab and Lenny Rodrigues kept the ball ticking.
At the half-hour mark, Raed Fares beat Nabi on the right flank to drill in a pinpoint cross for Ashraf Nu’man Alfawaghra who volleyed the ball home which gave Nandy no chance to make a save whatsoever. Denzil Franco was the guilty party on this occasion alongside Nabi for failing to track the run of Nu’man.
Six minutes before the end of the half, a Mehtab Hussain corner-kick saw Nabi out jump Ma'aly Kaware to head home and hand India an advantage going into the break.
Could India have fared better against Palestine?
Just two minutes into the second half and the Palestinians found the equalizer through Hussam Abu Saleh after he was picked out by Abdelhamid Abuhabib and the right winger saw his shot find the back of the net.
India’s defense was in sixes and sevens and the midfield was lethargic. The ball was pumped towards Chhetri every time an opponent ran towards them.
Hussam Abu Saleh was pulled down by Nabi and referee A. Rowan had no option but to point to the spot from which Ashraf Nu’man Alfawaghra made no mistake in slotting home with Sandip Nandy being wrong footed.
History was made in the 64th minute when Arata Izumi came on for Lenny Rodrigues as he made his much anticipated debut and thus becoming the first Player of Indian Origin (PIO) to don the national jersey.
Ashraf Nu'man Alfawaghra completed his hat-trick after the hour mark as he snatched the ball away from Nabi to dribble past Gouramangi to beat Nandy at near post to make it 4-2.
The philosophy of the Indian coach of quick 'pass-and-move' football went up in the air as they hardly managed to keep the ball in the first place and when they did, it was only when the opponents never charged at them.
Koevermans, in his desperation, made four changes thereafter with the likes of Jewel Raja, Joaquim Abranches, Manadeep Singh and CK Vineeth however that failed to change the course of the game.
In the 75th minute, from a Clifford Miranda corner-kick which was cleared away by the Al-Fursan defense reached only as far as Jewel Raja whose shot went inches wide.
India did have a late chance as Khaled Mahdi, who was given the ball by goalkeeper Mohammed Shbair, was caught unaware of substitute Jewel Raja’s charge before he hacked it clear.
It was certainly an embarassing loss for the Blue Tigers with the players being relieved to hear the final whistle against a Palestine side, who had just two of their senior professional players in their squad. India need to pick themselves up and introspect as to what went wrong in a game they were expected to win.
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