2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: India hold Qatar to 0-0 draw, Match Report
On Tuesday, India held Qatar to a goalless draw in their own backyard, all credit to one man who had the armband in the absence of Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
On Tuesday, the Indian football team scripted a historic, monumental result as they held reigning AFC Asian Cup champions Qatar to a goalless draw in their own backyard — all credit to one man who had the armband in the absence of Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. In the process, the Blue Tigers claimed their first point in Round 2 of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
The Bengaluru FC shot-stopper produced a breathtaking performance, making as many as 11 saves in the match. Qatar had 27 shots on target through the 90 minutes and yet they failed to find a way past. At the end of the match, the white section of the crowd (the home fans) had been stunned.
The odds were stacked up against India. Prior to this, Qatar had won each of their eight games on Asian soil in 2019. The only time that India and Qatar had faced off before was 23 years back in another FIFA World Cup Qualifier Round 1 at the Khalifa bin Hamad Stadium in Doha. India, then coached by Rustam Akromov, were handed a humiliating 6-0 defeat with Mohamed Salem Al Enazi scoring a brace for the home team.
On top of that, even before the match had kicked off, India were dealt a huge blow as both Chhetri and Ashique Kuruniyan were forced to sit out. Igor Stimac made four changes to his side from the previous game against Oman. Nikhil Poojary, Sahal Samad and Mandar Rao Desai and Manvir Singh were included in the starting XI.
On the other hand, Qatar head coach Felix Sanchez made just two alterations to the line-up which decimated Afghanistan 6-0 on Saturday. Akram Afif and Karim Boudiaf were forced out due to injuries and were subsequently replaced by Bassam Hisham and Abdul Aziz Hatem.
The hosts, of course, started the match on the front foot, creating early inroads through India's defence. India's back four — Rahul Bheke, Sandesh Jhingan, Adil Khan, Mandar Rao — put on a gritty display and Qatar failed to find a way to break the deadlock. They did come agonisingly close to score on a couple of occasions. However, Gurpreet stood strong time and again and kept the Maroons at bay.
It was as early as the 13th minute that Qatar came close to scoring for the first time when Abdulaziz intercepted a pass at the edge of the box from Mandar and attempted a shot at goal. However, his attempt went high and wide. They got two more relatively easy chances in the 20th and 21st minute, but both times Gurpreet was there to make the saves.
Just before half time, Qatar were gifted two of the easiest chances of the game. But once again Gurpeet's brilliance stopped them from scoring.
India definitely tried to do more in Qatar's half in the first 10 minutes of the second half and it became more of an open game. Sahal was brilliant in midfield for the Blue Tigers, acting as the link between defence and attack. In fact, almost all of India's attacks after the halftime break came through the Kerala Blasters man.
The youngster was well complemented by Anirudh Thapa and Rowllin Borges as they stood firmly in front of the defence line and thwarted Qatar's attacks down the middle. So much so, the home team — who, on their part, were guilty of being wasteful in the attacking third — were forced to the wider areas.
The first major opportunity for Stimac's men came in the 52nd minute when Udanta received a through ball from Sahal down the right and made his way into the penalty box but he was stopped. Sahal, then, almost scored a screamer in the 66th minute when he met Thapa's delivery from a corner with a vicious left-footed volley. The effort, though, went inches wide off the goal.
Udanta created another brilliant chance late in the game in the 82nd minute. Playing a nice one-two with Thapa, the winger tried to curl the ball in towards the far post but it just didn't dip enough and sailed over the crossbar.