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Hebron: Coach Abdel Nasser Barakat has spoken of his pride after Palestine became the first nation to book their place at the Finals of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup through the final round of qualifying.

A 10-0 win over Bhutan coupled with Oman’s 3-1 win over Maldives ensured neither the Bhutanese or Darren Stewart’s side can finish ahead of the Palestinians in Group D as they secured their second consecutive appearance at the AFC Asian Cup finals.

“I’m extremely happy to lead the national team to the Asian Cup,” said Barakat. “We gave all what we can in order to make the Palestinians happy and that is why we played with all our best against Bhutan and controlled the match right from the start.”

The Palestinians made a lightning start to proceedings and were 2-0 up inside the first five minutes thanks to goals from Abdallatif Al Bahdari and Abdallah Jaber, with Al Bahdari going on to score a hat-trick by the conclusion of the 90 minutes.

“Scoring two goals in the first five minutes made the match very easy for us and gave the players the necessary trust in order to have a good performance in front of our fans who supported us,” said Barakat.

“We treat each match separately and we played with a different performance in the previous match. We had to adapt in the match against Bhutan because everything is different, while today we had to put a good performance.”

The loss was the second by a big margin for Bhutan, who lost their opening game of the campaign 16-0 against Oman and the Himalayan team have found the step up in class daunting at times.

Coach Torsten Spittler, who guided the landlocked nation into the final round of qualifying for the first time in the country’s history, was quick to highlight the physical differences between the two sets of players that made life difficult for his team.

“There is a big difference in the level between us and Palestine who managed to qualify to the Asian Cup,” said the German.

“The defeat against Palestine was expected because of the big differences.

“Our players are short physically and they were not able to stop the opponents who are tall and managed to score most of their goals tonight from high ball situations.”

Oman’s win over the Maldives in Male secured at least a second-placed finish for Pim Verbeek’s team to seal a second straight appearance at the Finals and a fourth in the last five competitions.

Verbeek will be making his second appearance at the competition as a head coach having taken Korea Republic to the semi-finals when the Finals were played in South East Asia in 2007.

Photos: AFC

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