Heavily favored Palestine denied the CNMI Men's National Team from getting its elusive first goal in the Asian Football Confederation 2014 Challenge Cup Qualifiers after cruising to a 9-0 win last Monday night at the Dashrath Stadium in Kathmandu, Nepal.
KH Salem made life difficult for CNMI defenders, as the Palestine forward scored a hat-trick in the lopsided game. Fellow forwards Allaa Atiya and Abdulhamid Abuhabib added two goals apiece, while defender Haytham Theeb and another forward Iyad Gharqoud chipped in one for the No. 153 FIFA-ranked Palestine, which needs only a draw against host Nepal today to top Group D and clinch a spot to the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup, which will be held from March 8 to 23, 2014 in Maldives.
The CNMI, which also suffered a 0-6 shutout loss to Nepal, will close out its first AFC men's tournament against Bangladesh today at 2:0pm (6:05pm) Saipan time. Bangladesh, which fell to Palestine last Saturday, 0-1, bounced back in its second game, downing Nepal, 2-0.
Before the Nepal-Bangladesh clash, the CNMI-Palestine tiff was first played with Salem breaking the ice in the 7th minute. After the Al-Fursan's early goal, the Blue Ayuyus held their ground on defense for more than 10 minutes before Palestine got its second goal courtesy of Abuhabib shot in the 21st. Atiya made it a 3-0 count two minutes later and Palestine went into the dugout with a 4-0 halftime lead off Abuhabib's second goal in the 27th minute.
The European football-trained Palestine went on to get five more goals with Salem completing a hat-trick with his goal in the 76th and 82nd. Gharqoud and Theeb made it into the scoreboard in succession with their goals in the 67th and 68th minute, while Atiya earned his second one minute after the regulation.
Against Palestine, the CNMI used the same starters it used versus Nepal with goalkeeper Johann Noetzel and co-captains Trey Dunn and the injured Joe Miller leading the Blue Ayuyus. Also starting out for the Commonwealth were Nick Swaim, Lucas Knecht, Steve McKagan, Dan Westphal, Yuki Adachi, Peter Loken, Bo Barry, and Dae Won Jeon, while Jireh Yobech and Timothy Tawanpiy made their AFC debuts, as they came off the bench, along with Raphael Zapanta.
Meanwhile, CNMI supporters still went to Shirley's Coffee Shop in Susupe to watch the live streaming of the Blue Ayuyus and Al-Fursan match, but missed the action, as the connection from the provider was unavailable. No other details about the CNMI's game against Palestine was available, but feedback reaching Saipan showed the Blue Ayuyus stepping up on defense in the second half before allowing the Al-Fursan to score anew in the 67th minute.