Nu’man hat-trick sinks India

Action from the India-Palestine international friendly at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Wednesday. India lost 2-4.	—

Action from the India-Palestine international friendly at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Wednesday. India lost 2-4. —

Ashraf Nu’man scored a hat-trick as India’s dreams of advancing the Fifa rankings took a hit with Palestine registering a 4-2 victory in the international friendly at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Wednesday.

It was a night of self-realisation for the Blue Tigers, who have been keen to challenge higher ranked opponents in the footballing world under coach Wim Koevermans but were yet again left high and dry.
The visitors, despite fielding an inexperienced side, packed a surprise in winger Nu’man who made promising runs right through the match. The fire in him to drive forward was the significant difference between the two sides.
Nu’man turned conviction into belief with a blistering volley in the 29th minute cancelling out Clifford Miranda’s opener, a blast from 25 yards in the 11th minute.
As the Palestinians celebrated their first strike not a soul in the 20,000-plus gathering would have guessed the anti-climax to come. Though the visitors had made a cautious start with India pushing men forward as both full-backs Denzil Franco and Syed Rahim Nabi probed upfront, their real fury was concealed, perhaps a habit of counter-attack developed from years of conflict.
Nabi put India ahead (2-1) in the first half but turned from hero to villain later, resulting in Palestine’s final two strikes.
Nabi’s untimely tackle on Hussam Abu Saleh in the 51st minute brought Palestine from a goal down into a 3-2 lead. While Koevermans had his side unchanged Jamal Mahmoud reworked his tactics at half time.
Nu’man, the winger, was transformed into a striker role in the second half and his magic move got the hat-trick.
He dribbled past a hapless Indian defense to score his third in the 66th minute after having struck his second from a penalty in the 51st minute.
While most Indian attackers, apart from the experienced Clifford Miranda, failed to make an impact, the Palestinians had a game-changer in Abu Saleh, the Hilal Al-Quds wing-back, who brought the visitors level, for a second time in the match, in the 47th minute.
“I was pleased with the first half performance, but we need to work on maintaining discipline for 90 mins,” Koevermans said.

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