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Dura: Palestine strolled to a place in the AFC U-23 Championship Finals after beating Bangladesh 3-0 in their final Group E qualifying tie at Dura Stadium in West Bank on Sunday.

Palestine enjoyed a dream start when captain Mahmoud Abuwarda scored from a header after connecting to right-back Hazem Abuhammad's corner kick in the eighth minute.

Palestine kept the pressure on the Bangladesh defence and had a chance to double their lead but Yousef Alashhab's attempt was thwarted by Bangladesh goalkeeper Mohamed Nayeem in the 34th minute.

Two minutes later, Palestine finally succeeded in adding a second goal after Abuwarda received the ball from teammate Mahmoud Yousef, leaving him alone in front of the goalmouth. Abuwarda cooly chipped the ball over the Bangladesh goalkeeper.

Ten minutes into the second half, Bangladesh had their first scoring opportunity when striker Rubel Miya struck the ball from outside the penalty area but Palestine goalkeeper Naim Abuaker was equal to the effort.

A minute later, Palestine came close to adding a third when right-back Omar Alsharif passed to surging defender Abuhammad, whose attempt just missed the target.  

Palestine continued pressing and Man-of-the-Match Abuwarda completed his hat-trick in stoppage time after he pounced on a rebound from his earlier effort to find the back of the net. 

Ayman Sandouqa (Palestine Coach)

"I dedicate the qualification to the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship - China to the Palestinian people, especially as it's the first in the history of the Olympic team, in addition to leading Group E after competing with strong teams such as Jordan. I believe that the players worked hard during the qualifiers which resulted in this achievement. We are looking forward to maintaining such a good performance in the following games, and to fix several mistakes that we made in these matches. We will also put a plan to represent Palestinian football as best as we can in the Championship next year."

Andrew Ord (Bangladesh Coach)

"In this match, we played better than the last two games against Jordan and Tajikistan. We tried to create scoring chances but Palestine had possession of the ball. I think that the mistakes our defenders made led to us conceding many goals, especially against Jordan in the first match, but we stepped up our game in the following matches. I believe that we need hard work and a lot of effort in the next phase to have better results.


Dura: Jordan's hopes of qualifying for the AFC U-23 Championship Finals remain alive after they beat Tajikistan 2-0 in their final Group E qualifying tie at Dura Stadium in West Bank on Sunday.

Jordan finished their campaign second in the standings after Palestine beat Bangladesh 3-0 to seal top spot in the group.

The defeat was a blow for Tajikistan as they were the group leaders going into the match against Jordan.

Jordan began the match looking for an early goal through strikers Baha' Faisal and Mousa Mohammad and they nearly had a dream start when midfielder Suleiman Abu Zam played the ball to Mohammad who, however, failed to convert.  

The first real scoring opportunity for Tajikistan came in the 31st minute when right-back Chakalov Firdavs had a one-on-one situation with Jordan goalkeeper Mahmoud Raed, only for the Tajikistan player to shoot wide.

Jordan had the lion's share of possession in the first half but had to wait until after the restart to score their first goal.

Three minutes into the second half, Mohammad darted past three Tajikistan defenders before unleashing a powerful strike but failed to hit the target.

Jordan's efforts finally paid off in the 54th minute when Ahmed Mahmoud scored with Mohammad the creator.

Jordan doubled their lead in the 68th minute after substitute Mahmoud Musleh's cross found Faisal, who nodded it into the right corner of the Tajikistan goal.

Khakim Fuzaylov (Tajikistan Coach)

"We played well during the first half and we missed several chances. However, the players lost concentration in the second half and made many mistakes, especially in midfield and in defence and the cost was losing the match. The absence of some players was a factor in losing a qualifying spot."

Iain Brunskill (Jordan Coach)

"We didn't play very well even though we won the match, and I think we played better against Bangladesh and Palestine, despite losing the second match. We missed many scoring opportunities in the first half and couldn't score. But we fixed our mistakes in the second half and were able to score two important goals."

Photos: AFC