India displayed some resilient defending and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu impressed as India held reigning Asian champions Qatar to a 0-0 draw at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Group E of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 yesterday.
The result leaves Qatar – who defeated Afghanistan 6-0 on Matchday 1 – top of the group with four points, while India collect their first point, having lost 2-1 to Oman in the opening match.
In the absence of Akram Afif, Hassan al-Haydos was moved to fill his role on the left and the Qatar captain was the biggest threat to India early on. The Al Sadd player tested Sandhu with two efforts in the first 10 minutes, and the Indian goalkeeper made the save at his near post on both occasions.
Boualem Khoukhi had a golden chance to break the deadlock in the 26th minute when he found himself in plenty of space at the far post to receive Abdulaziz Hatem’s cross from the corner, but the midfielder failed to guide his header goalward.
Having scored in Qatar’s 6-0 win over Afghanistan on the opening matchday, 2018 AFC Player of the Year Abdelkarim Hassan tried his luck from long range in the last minute of the first half. His strike looked destined for the top corner, but Sandhu showed his quality and tipped it behind for a corner, keeping the match goalless at the break.
Play continued to flow in the same direction, with the 2019 AFC Asian Cup winners taking the game to their opponents. Bassam al-Rawi could not direct his header from Abdelaziz Hatem’s corner in the 54th minute, and al-Haydos rifled from an angled free-kick, but Sandhu was again alert to the threat and parried it away minutes later.
India had a rare opening in the 66th minute as a swift counter attack resulted in a corner which was crossed by Anirudh Thapa for Vinit Rai who took the ball on the half-volley but his left footed strike narrowly missed the target.
A combination of Sandhu’s heroism and Almoez Ali’s misfortune denied Qatar a late winner. Hassan drilled a shot from the left wing that was tipped away by the Indian goalkeeper, but only as far as Ali whose shot on the rebound cannoned off the crossbar.
Qatar coach Felix Sanchez rued the missed chances.
“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.
India coach Igor Stimac was happy with a 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,” said Stimac.
“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.
Meanwhile in Dushanbe, Farshad Noor’s first half strike proved to be enough for Afghanistan to claim a 1-0 win over Bangladesh in Group E,
The win was a perfect response from an Afghanistan side that had lost 6-0 to Qatar on matchday One.
Anoush Dastgir’s side kept Bangladesh pressed in defence and took the lead in the 27th minute with Omid Popalzay sending a cross into the box which Noor headed home to break the deadlock.
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