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West Bank: Palestine cruised to an 8-1 win that keeps Abdel Nasser Barakat’s side three points clear of Oman at the top of Group D in qualifying for the Finals of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 in the United Arab Emirates.

Sameh Maraaba scored four and Mahmoud Yousef claimed a brace as Palestine picked up a fifth win in a row to hold on to top spot having already booked their place in the Finals for the second tournament in a row.

It took the Palestinians just six minutes to take the lead when Yousef headed home a cross from Jonathan Zorrilla and, 10 minutes later, the home side had doubled their advantage when Maldives goalkeeper Mohamed Faisal spilled the ball into his own net after Zorrilla’s corner.

Maraaba claimed his first of the game on the half hour mark when he fired home from outside the area to give goalkeeper Faisal little chance while a Palestinian corner three minutes later resulted in Yousef claiming his second and his side’s fourth.

After being overrun in the first half, it came as a surprise when the Maldives reduced the deficit seven minutes into the second half as Hassan Naiz tapped in from close range following a low cross from the left by Ahmed Rizuvan.

But normal service was resumed less than a minute later when Maraaba scored his second following a through ball from Zorrilla and, just a minute later, Maraaba completed his hat-trick with a header.

The Palestinians refused to let up and, in the 56th minute, they were on the scoresheet again, with Zorrilla capping an impressive individual performance by smashing the ball into the bottom corner of the Maldives goal.

And in the 59th minute Palestine scored for the eighth and final time, with Maraaba netting his fourth with a volley after Faisal blocked Zorrilla’s free-kick and the striker had the time and space to volley home.

Photos: AFC

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