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West Bank: Coach Abdel Nasser Barakat hailed a job well done as Palestine maintained a 100 percent record in the final round of qualifying for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup with an 8-1 win over the Maldives on Tuesday.

Palestine’s place at a second consecutive Finals had already been secured before the penultimate Group D meeting at Arab American University Stadium, but that did not stop the home side easing to a fifth win of the campaign.

And with also already qualified Oman beating Bhutan 4-2 in Thimphu, Palestine maintained their three-point lead at the top of the table with just one game remaining in March next year.

“All the players gave their best, and although there were some mistakes, we had a good performance in general and I want to thank the players once again for all the effort they showed in the match,” said Barakat.

“We studied the strengths and weaknesses of our opponents and we created a good plan for the match. We were hoping to score more, but despite the big result, the Maldives are a good side and they showed a good performance as well.”

Palestine now need to avoid defeat in Oman in March to secure top spot in Group D, having earned their AFC Asian Cup debut in 2015 after winning the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup.

“The goal of the match was to use several players and we wanted to have a big result to reduce the goal difference with Oman,” added Barakat.

“I want to thank the players and the fans who supported us and we managed to get this big result.”

Pim Verbeek’s Oman set up that top of the table decider next year after claiming their fourth win in five games against Bhutan, although the visitors were made to work hard at Changlimithang Stadium as the home side scored their first two goals in final round.

Oman now need to win by two clear goals on home soil next year having lost 2-1 in Palestine earlier in the campaign.

“It was a difficult game for us with the altitude factor and the cold. I asked my players to be patient and work towards the goal,” said Verbeek, who saw his side beat Bhutan 14-0 at home at the start of the campaign. “We didn’t want to rush to score, we took our time.

“Bhutan is a completely different team at home and they defended very well. Two goals against the best goal keeper in Middle East is a huge achievement and I think Bhutan has a bright future.”

The defeat was Bhutan’s fifth in as many games, but the first time they had found the net with Karma Shedrup Tshering and Chencho Gyeltshen beating Ali Al Habsi in the second half.

“It was a great performance from my boys, one of the best so far in the tournament,” said Bhutan coach Pema Dorji.

“We had our game plan set and we wanted to defend for the first 20 minutes so that they will get tired, and after that we wanted to attack.

“It worked, but we couldn’t keep them from scoring as they are on different level.”

Photos: AFC

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