Jordan 5 Palestine 1: Wilkins' men bounce back in style
Jordan thumped Palestine 5-1 in Melbourne on Friday to stay alive at the Asian Cup and end their neighbours' first appearance at the tournament in the group stages.
Both teams were seeking to bounce back from defeat in their opening matches of Group D and it was Ray Wilkins' side who responded in style at AAMI Park, with four-goal hero Hamza Al-Dardour and a Yousef Al Rawashdeh strike sealing all three points for the 2011 quarter-finalists.
While the result ultimately proved a formality, Jordan's preparations for the game could scarcely have been more chaotic.
Wilkins, who on Thursday forgot his tournament accreditation and was initially refused entry to his own pre-match press conference, left Ahmad Hayel out of the match-day squad after the key striker failed to provide a sample for a random drug test following the 1-0 loss to Iraq in Brisbane on Monday.
The 31-year-old Al-Arabi forward has been the centre of controversy in the days preceding the Palestine game, the Jordanian FA accusing the AFC of mistreating the allegedly dehydrated player during the doping control procedure.
They missed his presence up front in the opening stages of the contest, dominating possession but struggling to threaten meaningfully from a series of ineffective set-pieces.
As the favourites toiled, Palestine grew into the game and began to look an outfit much improved from the side thoroughly outclassed by Japan during a 4-0 loss in Newcastle.
Those promising signs counted for nothing though when they were caught out twice in the space of two minutes late in the first half.
N the 34th minute, Abdallah Deeb picked up the ball in a dangerous area just outside the Palestine penalty area and found Yousef out wide, who cut back in and curled a great finish beyond goalkeeper Ramzi Saleh.
Almost immediately after the restart, a clearance from the Jordan backline fell kindly for Abdallah, who raced toward the Palestine goal and dispatched a well-weighted pass to the back post, where Hamza slid in to force the ball home, colliding with the woodwork but making it 2-0 for his trouble.
Palestine's demise was confirmed in first-half stoppage time. A neat exchange of passes on the right flank released Odai Al Saify beyond the defence and into the penalty area, where he presented Hamza with a simple close-range finish to put his side 3-0 up at the break.
A quiet second half burst into life with 14 minutes remaining in the game, when Al Ramtha forward Hamza completed the first hat-trick of the 2015 tournament. Receiving the ball on the shoulder of the last Palestine defender, the 23-year-old to burst clear and slipped a good finish beyond Saleh.
Hamza was not finished there, finding space between the Palestine centre-backs to meet Oday Zahran's pinpoint cross with a nonchalant finish 80 minutes in.
In a frantic conclusion to an entertaining contest, there was at least the consolation of a first Asian Cup goal for AFC Challenge Cup winners Palestine, who netted with five minutes to go through Jaka Ihbeisheh, but it arrived far too late to save them from another comprehensive loss.
Jordan will now be gunning for a place in the quarter-finals when they face Japan at the same venue on Tuesday, while eliminated Palestine are set to play for pride against Iraq in Canberra.