A brilliant performance from goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and some stout defending helped India take a point from Asian champions Qatar in the FIFA World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup 2023 qualifying campaign at the Al Sadd Stadium yesterday.
With the goalless draw, coach Igor Stimac’s side opened their points tally having lost 2-1 to Oman, while Qatar took their points tally to four points, having picked up full points in their emphatic 6-0 win over Afghanistan five days back.
Bangladesh is the other team in the group and will play India on October 15 in Kolkata. The Asian champions were dominant with the ball throughout yesterday’s match.
Qatar had 27 shots in comparison to just two from India but Sandhu led from behind and made massive saves to help India to maintain a clean slate till the end.
Sandhu looked dejected and had tears in his eyes at the end of the match after helping India walk away with a point.
India’s cause was helped by the crossbar and a couple of missed headers by the Qataris which did not produce any goal in the full time play.
In the end, India was happy with the fact that they were been able to hold Qatar goalless and Sandhu had a big role to play in this. He made some crucial saves to keep India in the game.
However, the Indian defence kept its shape well and for the most part denied Qatar any chance to take a shot from close. Qatar mostly had to go for strikes from far off.
Chants of India reverberated in the stadium, coach Stimac was running around celebrating with his players and then the Indian players did the Icelandic clap celebration with the fans and it was easily one of India’s best results away from home.
India took the field without their experienced striker Sunil Chhetri, who was down with fever, as the visitors made four changes in the starting line-up from the last match against Oman.
Qatar were dominant in the first half. They have had most of the ball and all the big chances while India have not even had a shot at the Qatari goal in the first half.
Towards the end, Qatar were incisive and created a number of chances but were unable to bury them.
In the second half, Qatar continued to attack but the Indians kept them at bay. However, the Indian defense and keeper which stood up to the test for most part of the match almost caved in.
India came close to scoring in the 82nd minute, the only time they made deep inroads in the rival defense. A move between AnirudhThapa and Udanta Singh, saw the last named shot going inches over the crossbar.
With five minutes to go, Hassan Al Haydos shot saw Sandhu get his hands and the rebound shot saw Almoez Ali attempt hitting the crossbar.
That was one of the few moments Sandhu was beaten. In the first half he made many saves but in the 25th minute India defense almost caved in as Haydos curling corner towards the far post saw an unmarked Boualem Khoukhi heading it wide much to the relief of the Indian supporters.
Earlier, in the first half, Sandhu kept out tries from Almoez, Al Haydos, while Abdulaziz Hatim shot over the bar in the 13th minute after a defensive lapse. Qatar will meet Bangladesh in an away match on October 10.