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Qatar held to goalless draw as India grab a memorable point

Qatar held to goalless draw as 
India grab a memorable point

Ayeni Olusegun
Doha
Asian champions Qatar were held to a frustrating draw against India in their Group E FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 joint qualifiers at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on Tuesday. The result was Qatar’s first draw against an Asian team in 2019.
In front of over 12,000 fans – with more outside the stadium – India put up a spirited defensive performance and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu kept the Blue Tigers qualification campaign on track despite they missing captain Sunil Chetri, who was down with flu.
Al Sadd winger Akram Afif was conspicuously left out of the team. Against Afghanistan, Afif was substituted in the 65th minute and he was visibly upset with Sanchez’s decision last Thursday.
“Akram is important for us, but I think Haydos played well where Akram played. I’m sure Afif will help us in the next games. He was not ready for the game and the best decision was for him to miss it. But we are sure he’ll help us. There’s no problem with him or any player in the team,” Sanchez told reporters after the match.
Qatar started off on the attack and captain Hassan al Haydos tested Sandhu but he parried out for a cornerkick.
India had lost their opener at home to Oman, and their inexperience showed as Qatar continued to pile the pressure as Abdulaziz Hatem sent a curling effort just wide off the mark.
Haydos again tested the goalie but his goal-bound effort was tipped over for a corner kick. The captain keptprodding but this time his effort went narrowly wide, almost catching Sandhu out of position.
Qatar again had a glorious chance to open scoring in the 25th minute but Boualem Khoukhi could only manage to direct his header wide with the goal at his mercy from Haydos’s cross.
It was all Qatar as India struggled to keep the ball and Bassam al Rawi sent a long range strike just past the scrambling Singh in goal.
With more possession, the chances kept coming for the host. Midfield dynamo Assem Madebo released Abdelkarim Hassan down the left. The Al Sadd star unleashed a vicious strike but Singh was able to punch out for another corner kick.
At the stroke of half time, Haydos should have done better when Sandhu punched out Almoez Ali’s strike onto the path of the Qatari captain who placed his effort wide.
The hosts began the second half where they left off, but India created their first notable chance six minutes in, drawing cheers from thousands of Indians in the Stadium.
The pacey Udanta Singh was released down the right but his cross across goal failed to find a blue jersey.
Despite Qatar’s possession India proved a handful especially on the counter. Singh’s pace down the right created openings for the Blue Tigers but they lacked the cutting edge in the final third.
“Today, we played a tough game. It wasn’t our day, we weren’t accurate enough to finish our chances. We are disappointed with the draw and not the effort. We have players with great quality but the Indian goalkeeper didn’t let us get the points. This is a long journey and we will definitely keep playing and training to qualify,” Sanchez said.
As Qatar struggled to convert their chances, Sanchez brought on Al Gharafa striker Ahmed Alaaeldin. The substitute had a chance immediately but headed way over the bar.
India sniffed an opening on the break but Udanta’s shot didn’t trouble Saad al Sheeb, who was more of a spectator for the entire 90 minutes.
Qatar came closest to scoring five minutes before time when Hassan’s left footed shot was parried onto the path of substitute Ismaeel Mohammed. The Al Duhail man however saw his shot from close range come off the crossbar as India held on for a famous point.
“I feel great! But as a coach, I don’t have time to celebrate just like when we lost a few days ago, I didn’t have time to think about it. I’m happy to get one point against the Asian champions and these are the points that prove to be important.
“Congratulations to both teams because I think the crowd enjoyed the game. Qatar maybe deserved more from the match due to the chances they created but we did have a few of our own and with experience we can do better. All credit to my players and I’m really proud of them. However, I’ll like to tell them to be calm as we have more game to come,” India coach Igor Stimac said.
In the other group game, Afghanistan pipped Bangladesh by a lone goal for their first points. Qatar top the group with four points from two games while Oman sit in second place.
Qatar will face Bangladesh next on October 10 with India hosting their South Asian neighbours five days later.Group E Points TallyTeam P W D L GF GA GD Pts
Qatar 2 1 1 0 6 0 6 4
Oman 1 1 0 0 2 1 1 3
Afghanistan 2 1 0 1 1 6 -5 3
India 2 0 1 1 1 2 -1 1
Bangladesh 1 0 0 1 0 1 -1 0

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