A 10-man India defended creditably but suffered a 0-1 defeat to Asian champions Qatar in their 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifying round match in on Thursday.
Abdel Aziz scored in the 33rd minute in a match completely dominated by the Qataris. The two sides had played out a goal-less draw in their first leg match here in September 2019.
The result meant that India’s slim mathematical chances of qualifying from Group E were over. Earlier in the day, Afghanistan and Bangladesh played out a 1-1 draw.
Group E table
Group toppers Qatar, who are yet to lose a match, had waves of attacks with their eight to nine players in the Indian half for most of the time. Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu had to pull off a series of saves to keep the margin of loss to what it was.
India had to play with 10 men from the 17th minute onwards after defender Rahul Bheke was red carded after a second booking. He had earlier received a yellow card in the ninth minute. The second booking was for what the referee deemed to be a deliberate hand ball.
India did have two good moves in the match from counter attacks with Manvir Singh in the thick of things on both occasions.
Captain Sunil Chhetri, who returned to the team after recovering from Covid-19 infection, was replaced by Udanta Singh at the resumption of second half.
A winless India remained in fourth spot in Group E with three points from six matches. Igor Stimac’s men are two points behind Afghanistan (third with five points). India play Bangladesh on June 7 in their next match. Winning those matches would be essential in India’s bid to qualify for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
It was all Qatar from the very beginning as Felix Sanchez’s men put India under pressure in the first minute with Abdelkarim Hassan blasting his effort just wide from outside the box.
Hassan then had another chance in the fourth minute but his effort off Karim Boudiaf’s corner was saved by Gurpreet.
Qatar came close to scoring again in the 15th minute after Yusuf Abdurisag did well on the right to cut back in and relay the ball to Abdel Aziz Hatim, who however hit his volley over the bar.
Despite being a man down, India showed determination and continued to deny Qatar with Gurpreet foiling the West Asians’ attempts at goal.
Debutant Glan Martins was impressive, pulling the strings in mid-field alongside Bipin Singh Thounaojam and Suresh Singh Wangjam.
India had their first real look at the Qatari goal in the 29th minute when Ashique Kuruniyan managed to slip past his marker and essayed it behind the defensive line for an onrushing Manvir.
But a crucial defensive interception took the chance away as Qatar goalkeeper collected the ball.
Qatar scored the opening goal in the 33rd minute after Mohammed Muntari found space down the left before slipping the ball to Abdel Aziz Hatim, who converted off a rebound from his first attempt.
A counter-attack on the 42nd minute gave India a sniff of a chance. Chhetri, with all his experience, shielded Bassam Alrawi as he found Manvir, whose shot was, however, blocked by a Qatari defender.
Gurpreet continued to frustrate Qatar when he kept out Abdelkarim Hassan from close-range in the 47th minute and later Muntari’s snap-shot from inside the box in the 53rd minute.
Qatar had their best chance of the second half with four minutes of regulation time left on the clock, when substitute Abdullah Alahraq rifled a long-ranger onto the near post. However, the ball ricocheted off the post and went out of play.
Qatar had 66% possession as against 34% of India. But for Gurpreet’s heroics, India would have lost the match by a big margin. He pulled off as many as nine saves in the Group E match played at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium Thursday night.
In fact, Qatar had 29 shots on opposition goal as against India’s none.
(With PTI inputs)
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