FIFA World Cup qualifiers : India hold Asian Champions for a draw
by Shubham Sharma
Doha: Indian national football team held Qatar for 0-0 draw in the away fixture of the 2022 FIFA World Cup (Qatar) and 2023 AFC Asian Cup (China) qualifiers here at the Jassim Bin Hamad stadium on Tuesday.
A reselient India survived waves of onslaughts from 'The Maroons' to hold the reigning Asian champion to a goalless draw and steal a surprising one point. India came into the match without talismanic skipper Sunil Chhetri who has been suffering from fever — a major disadvantage for the side who started their campaign with a dismal result at home.
Indian custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu,wore the captain’s armband, and to the delight of the fans, turned out to be the star as he manoeuvred Indian defense. It was certainly one of the best results for the Blue Tigers of late.
India came into this match after suffering a heartbreak at home courtesy a 2-1 loss to Oman in its campaign opener on September 5 in Guwahati and now the team has earned first point in two matches. Meanwhile, Qatar has four after its 6-0 win over Afghanistan in its first match at home.
India is next set to play Bangladesh on October 15 in Kolkata. It was a completely one-sided affair with hosts doing all the attack and the Indians doing all the defense in their half for most part of the game.
Qatar, one of the top sides of Asia, ranking 62nd in the FIFA World Rankings, had more than two dozen attempts on goal of which at least a dozen were on target. India, 103 in the current rankings, had a striking contrast stat, having just two shots on the goal in the entire match.
The pacy Qatari attackers stood no chance against the Blue Tigers thanks to the defense which maintained its shape throughout. In the first half, Indians sat deep and defended its own half giving the freedom to the home side to have at least half a dozen on-target attempts and seven corners in the first half, none of which however led to a breakthrough. India didn't have any of these chances though.
Gurpreet had a busy day under the bars as he thwarted off the wave of attacks from the hosts. Qatari skipper Hassan Al-Haydos had two shots early into the match but Sandhu was sharp, making a brilliant finger-tip save in the 20th minute.
India had a scare when Mandar Rao Desai in the 14th minute mispassed just outside the penalty box, which fell for Abdul Aziz Hatem, but his curling strike flew just above the crossbar. A free header off an unmarked Boualem Khoukhi in the 26th minute was also off the target as India escaped safely in the first half.
The second half saw India upping the ante and attempting more at the opposition goal than the first half but still could not get a clear cut try at the goal. Sahal Abdul Samad was excellent in the center as he got the better of his opponents on certain moments and sent fine passes to the irks of Udanta Singh in the forward region.
India got its first corner in the 66th minute which Thapa delivered a long to which Sahal attempted a left-footed half volley from just outside the box as it flew inches away from the right post. India kept its cool in the rest of the second half to take away one point against the toughest opponents of their group.
Coming into the game Igor Stimac made four changes to his side from the 11 that started against Oman in the first game as an injured Ashique Kuruniyan was replaced by Nikhil Poojary took his place. Brandon Fernandes and Subhasish Bose were replaced by Sahal Samad and Mandar Rao Desai respectively.
Qatar head coach Felix Sanchez meanwhile, made two changes as injured Akdam Afif and Karim Boudiaf were replaced by Bassam Hisham and Abdul Aziz Hatem in the starting eleven.