Ahly al-Khalil Hebron defender takes the ball up the field at Hussein Stadium yesterday at the Palestine Cup final in Hebron..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestine Cup was finally decided on Tuesday afternoon following a long season for both the West Bank and Gaza regional leagues, and a delay to the second leg of the final.
Hebron-based team Ahly al-Khalil defended its title with a 2-1 aggregate victory over Shabab Khan Yunis following a 1-1 draw in Hebron.
Ahly al-Khalil won the first leg in Gaza 1-0 last week.
The second leg was postponed by three days after six players from Khan Yunis were initially not permitted to cross to the West Bank.
Following Palestinian protests to FIFA, the players entered through the Erez checkpoint on Monday.
The first half of the match witnessed a number of shots on goal from both teams, although Ahly consistently kept Shabab Khan Yunis on the defensive. Nevertheless, thanks to some diving saves by the Shabab Khan Yunis keeper, Haitham Fatiha, the scoreboard stayed blank going into the second half.
Ahly continued to pressure Khan Yunis in the second half, making attacks and advances on the Gazan team’s defense, managing to put the ball in the back of the net twice. But, both times, the referee ruled the goal was scored from an offside position.
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In the 80th minute, Ahly made a run down the left side and, with a series of sharp passes, maneuvered around the Khan Yunis defenders, allowing striker Khaldoun Helman to slam the ball into the net.
Helman then streaked across the field, tearing off his shirt in celebration to the cheers of the home crowd in the stands of Hussein Stadium.
But far from growing flustered, Khan Yunis showed signs of resilience and smacked a succession of shots at the Ahly keeper, finally scoring a goal on a free kick by Azam Shakshak.
Ahly shut Khan Yunis down for the final minutes, pounding the ball up the field with resounding clearances and thudding headers, keeping the match tied at one a piece.
When the referee blew his whistle, the Ahly players celebrated and their fans rushed the field as fireworks shot off into the sky.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post
after the match, Ahly midfielder Muhammed Abu Dahoud said, “This means a lot to us, we are all in great joy.”
Despite Khan Yunis’ loss, the ’keeper Fatiha remained positive and told the Post, “The performance of both teams was excellent, but the team that won was in the hand of God.”
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