KATHMANDU, March 12: Palestine advanced into the semifinal of the AFC Challenge Cup on Monday with an easy win over the Maldives in the last league the match, played at Halchowk grounds. Palestine defeated the Maldives 2-0 with a goal each from Husam Wadi and Ashraf Alfawaghra in the second half.
With the exit of the Maldives, all teams from the South Asian region are out of the tournament.
At the post match conference, the Maldives´ coach said that South Asian countries are used to the standards of play of their own region only. “We cannot compete with teams having physically strong players with good speed. Nepal has developed a new style of playing which may guide them for a good position in future.”
Palestine had to wait for 59 minutes to take the lead. Wadi headed the ball provided by Mohammed Mohammed from a distance of 30 yards and scored. In the stoppage-time, a powerful strike from Alfawaghra kissed the net and fixed Palestine´s place in the semifinals as Group A runner-up.
The Maldives started well in the first half but failed to convert its chances into goals. In the fourth minute Umarey´s curling free kick sailed above the bar. Palestine then took charge of the game and started to attack the Maldives post. In the 19th minute Alaa Atya´s powerful strike from the six-yard box deflected onto the leg of Maldivian custodian Imma and hit the pole.
Another powerful shot, by Fahed Attal from the area, was saved by the Maldives goalie in the 33rd minute. Palestine keeper Ramzi Saleh with difficulty saved a curling shot from Umarey in the 68th minute. This was the last remarkable goal attempt by the Maldives.
Palestine missed two one-versus-one chances with a two-minute gap. In the 87th minute Ashraf Alfawaghra shot wide of the post while Mohammed´s shot was saved beautifully by the Maldives keeper in the 89th minute.
The Palestine coach said that they are happy to be in the semifinal and praised the Maldives game. “This is the biggest achievement of Palestine football as we have not reached this far in any tournament. We had started the professional league just two years ago.”
The Maldives coach said he was happy with the performance of his players despite the loss. “Our players were tired as they had played three matches in five days and key player Ashfaq was not ready for the match, with injury.”