Defending champions Palestine made it to the final of Bangabandhu Gold Cup with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Seychelles in the first semifinal at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Forward Layth Kharoub scored the decisive goal in the 79th minute to help the defending champions to their second final in two appearances in this six-nation tournament.
Palestine, ranked 106th in FIFA, were expected to cruise against the 200th-ranked Seychelles, especially with the way they stormed into the semifinals by comfortably beating Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, but Seychelles showed character to give Palestine a run for their money before conceding an unfortunate goal in the second half.
Seychelles, who booked their semifinal berth by virtue of better goal difference, looked very disciplined and organised in defence, keeping Palestine forwards at bay. They also threatened by earning a few free-kicks around the danger zone.
It was Seychelles who came close to taking the lead in the seventh minute but a dipping free-kick from Karl Hall went inches over the crosspiece before Kharoub saw his shot well griped by Seychelles goalkeeper Ian Ah-Kong in the 40th minute.
After resumption, Palestine tried to break the resistance of Seychelles but Sameh Maraaba headed wide from a Redwan AbuKarash corner in the 77th minute before Kharoub broke the deadlock from a difficult angle.
Availing lob from Mahmoud Abuwarda, Kharoub darted into the box from the right side and shrugging off his marker, he put a cross for Khaled Salem but the cross went into the net after hitting the inside of the bar.
Palestine assistant coach Fahad Atel said that they won the match through a lucky strike as Seychelles resisted well throughout the match.
“We are happy to reach the final,” Atel said. “We knew the match would be tough because the players had four days’ rest which made them relaxed.”
“The boys played a very disciplined and organised game against Palestine but they conceded an unfortunate goal which I think nobody was coming. But it was a beautiful goal,” said Seychelles coach Ralph Jean Louis.