Palestine fought off a determined assault by Bahrain in the last, pulsating 10 minutes to triumph 2-1 in a friendly match at the Muharraq Stadium last night.
Trailing 2-0 as the clock started ticking down to full-time, Bahrain finally managed to go up on the scoreboard in the 80th minute when captain Sayed Dhiya Saeed kept his cool in a scrum inside the Palestine box and deftly sent the ball whizzing past a couple of defenders into the left side of the goal.
But they were still down 2-1 and desperately needed to find the equaliser from somewhere.
They almost got it two minutes later when Komail Alaswad found himself perched on the right corner of the box with a perfect angle to get his right-footed shot past Palestine captain and goalkeeper Rami Hamada into the net.
But his full-blooded kick sent the ball soaring over the crossbar.
After the Palestinians managed to wrestle the ball away from the home team for a couple of wayward shots at the Bahrain goal, the kingdom’s men found themselves in possession again and the nimble Ali Madan sent the ball arrowing straight towards the Palestinian goal above head-height from 15 yards away.
But Hamada stretched his right hand out and deflected it over.
With less than a minute left till the regulation 90 minutes, the Bahrainis refused to give up and, as the game ticked into five minutes of injury time, their consistent attacks on the Palestinian goal almost bore fruit in the 92nd minute.
But Sayed Hashim Issa’s header, after the ball deflected off Hamada from a sliding kick by Mahdi Humaidan, went wide of an unguarded goal with a Palestinian defender helping it on its way at the last second, just to make sure.
Earlier, the first half was a mostly uneventful affair until the 40th minute when Bahrain were awarded a penalty because of a blatant foul.
The seasoned Mahdi Abduljabbar stepped up to take the kick but, to the horror of the few dozen, die-hard Bahrain supporters in the stands, the ball was parried by Hamada diving to his right.
Palestine sought to take advantage of that lucky escape and their moment arrived six minutes into the second half when Michel Milad headed a corner kick past Bahrain goalkeeper Ammar Mohammed Abbas.
Nine minutes later, the visitors experienced the best of Middle Eastern hospitality when Islam Batran, standing by himself on the far end of the Bahrain box, saw a corner kick from the left by teammate Jonathan Zorrilla come soaring over the melee in front of the goal.
Batran, still not accosted by any of the home team’s players, curled the ball towards the goal and watched in surprise as it bounced between his teammates and the Bahraini players and went past a startled Abbas into the goal.
Now with a firm grip on the match, Palestine tried to concentrate on ball possession and, for a few minutes, that tactic worked until the Bahraini players suddenly seemed to find their rhythm and nearly managed to pull off a draw in the dying moments.
Bahrain will play Syria in another friendly game on Tuesday.