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Palestine reach Asian Cup knockouts for first time

By AFP

January 23, 2024 11:18 PM


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Palestine reached the Asian Cup knockout rounds for the first time after beating Hong Kong 3-0 on Tuesday for their maiden win in the history of the competition.

They just missed out on second spot in Group C but advance as one of the four best third-placed teams, with Oday Dabbagh the hero for his two goals.

United Arab Emirates went through in second place despite losing 2-1 to group winners Iran.

The historic victory in Doha comes against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war in the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

"Thank you to the fans who are coming to support Palestine and the national team of Palestine. Thank you from our heart," captain Musab Al-Battat told beIN SPORTS after the game.

"We will do our best to put a smile for the people."

Palestinian players and staff have lost loved ones in the conflict and said before the tournament that they hoped to provide some comfort to those suffering back home.

A pre-match moment's silence was overrun by shouts of "Free Palestine".

No side had played more Asian Cup matches without a win than Hong Kong (12 games) or Palestine (eight), but victory would offer either side a chance of making the last 16.

In the 12th minute, Palestine scored their first goal on the way to breaking that duck.

Battat made an overlapping run from right-back and launched a cross into the box which Dabbagh headed into the net.

Hong Kong were dealt a blow when centre-back and match-day captain Vas Nunez sustained an arm injury and had to be replaced by Li Ngai-hoi.

But they started creating chances as the half wore on, Philip Chan and Everton Camargo blazing over.

Throughout the game the 6,568 people inside the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium were almost entirely supporting Palestine, like at most grounds during the team's campaign.

But a dense and boisterous red-clad bloc of Hong Kong fans provided an unending beat of encouragement for the 150th-ranked side from southern China.

Minutes into the second half Palestine doubled their lead, Battat again the provider from the right wing, this time Zeid Qunbar taking him up on a generous invitation to score.

Palestine got a third after the hour, Tamer Seyam's long-range effort hitting the bar and falling to Dabbagh, who tapped in his second of the match.

They were given a scare during the eighth minute of added time when referee Shaun Evans awarded Hong Kong a penalty after a VAR review for a handball by Battat.

But Everton's spot-kick thudded against the bar as Hong Kong headed home.


AFP


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