Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bahdari shines as Hajer secures Pro League survival

Bahdari (#12) scoring the winner against Najran

The biggest news eight months ago was Abelatif Bahdari's move to the Saudi Pro League- making him the first Palestinian player since Ziyad Al-Kord to grace the pitches of the Kingdom. Speculation centered on whether or not the Gazan would be up to snuff in a league that featured many of Asia's and the Arab World's top talents.

Bahdari's Saudi adventure was preceded by a successful two-year stint at Jordanian giants Wehdat. The hulking defender made his presence felt in Amman; leading the Jordanian club to the first ever domestic sweep of the SuperCup, FA Shield, FA Cup, and Premier League in his second season. 

How has Bahdari's first season in Saudi Arabia gone? Hajer status as minnows meant that Bahdari was never going to lift a trophy this year. The main objective for the club was to avoid relegation- top-flight status for a second straight year was clinched after a 1-1 draw with fellow relegation battlers Qadsiya. Bahdari played a big part in the lead-up to the deciding game- scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Najran the week before. The win broke Hajer's two and a half month drought without a win (their last win vs. Al-Ansaar also came courtesy of a Bahdari goal). 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Half of Asia shutout of 2015 Asian Cup Qualifying

The Asian Football Confederation always finds a way to keep things interesting; whether it be corruption,  dodgy referees, or general obtuse thinking there is seldom ever a dull moment. 

Newcomers to Asian Football might have wondered why the AFC would grant the winners of the biennial Challenge Cup direct entry to the Asian Cup. The initial claim was that this was to help develop the standard of football amongst the continent's weaker teams. But with 22 nations not allowed to take part in 2015 AFC Asian Cup qualifying- that claim seems dubious. 

With the opaque guidelines surrounding 2011 AFC Asian Cup qualifying participation it was hoped that qualifying for the 2015 edition would be open to all who wished to take part. The AFC had set aside two dates in September for preliminary qualifying but has scrapped them. According to Edgar over at Football Rankings, that date was set aside for a Hong Kong-Lebanon playoff in the event DPR Korea chose to participate in qualifying.