Al Ram: Jordan got off to a winning start with a 2-0 win over hosts Palestine, while UAE and Bahrain went goalless as the WAFF U-18 Championship got underway at Faisal Al Husseini Stadium on Thursday.
The inaugural six-team tournament, which acts as a preparatory step for November’s AFC U-19 Championship 2020 Qualifiers, will decide the regional youth champions in the final next Friday.
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PALESTINE 0-2 JORDAN
Two first-half goals put Jordan in the box seat to advance from Group A, as Belal Al Laham’s side overcame tournament hosts Palestine 2-0 on the opening night.
Mohammad Al Qeisi and Laith Abu Rahal found the net for the visitors, who can now guarantee their progression to the semi-finals by avoiding defeat against Qatar on Sunday.
Having created nearly all of the early chances, Jordan went ahead in the 31st minute, with Al Qeisi latching onto Danial Afaneh’s long-range set-piece delivery to beat goalkeeper Malik Salama with a fine header.
Another set-piece, and another header, produced Jordan’s second goal eight minutes later. This time Faisal Abushanab was the provider, but the result was the same as Abu Rahal beat an out-of-position Salama at the back post to establish a handsome half-time lead.
Palestine carved out opportunities of their own after the break, but Jamal Hamed was one of few players to call goalkeeper Ahmad Juaidi into serious action as Jordan backed up their early attacking output with a well-deserved clean sheet.
With a first up defeat now in the books, Palestine have a four-day break ahead of their final group stage fixture against Qatar, one they will likely need to win if they are the feature in the semi-finals.
UAE 0-0 BAHRAIN
Earlier, Group B action began with a goalless stalemate between United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
The Emiratis edged the scoring chances in both quality and quantity, but neither side were able to break through for a decisive goal in a result which keeps both sides’ semi-final chances alive.
UAE’s Rashed Suroor got a free-kick on target early, and Abelaziz Al Blooshi nearly gave them the lead in stunning style when his corner kick was cleared off the goal-line after 20 minutes, but there were relatively few highlights in a lacklustre first half.
The second period produced more action, with Abdulla Al Menhali drawing a strong save from Bahrain goalkeeper Salman Alisa within a minute of the restart, before a clipped Abdulrahman Mohamed effort from a corner kick was denied by the woodwork at the other end four minutes later.
But despite further opportunities at either end, the teams couldn’t be separated, leaving it all to play for in the group’s two remaining fixtures, starting with Iraq v UAE on Saturday.
Saturday’s fixtures (all times local): Qatar v Jordan (16:00), Iraq v UAE (19:00).
Photos: Palestine Football Association