Underdogs’ show of strength
Doha, September 10
In what can be termed as the team’s most significant result in recent times, a resolute India held Asian champions Qatar to a goalless draw at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in their second Group E match of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Head Coach Igor Stimac made four changes to the starting line-up which started against Oman in the first match but the biggest setback was the absence of talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri, who wasn’t able to recover in time from a viral infection. He had to watch the game from the stands.
For the most part of the first half, the Indians were happy defending, preferring to play the waiting game and only counterattacking. And even as the Asian champions came out all guns blazing and created a host of opportunities in bid to get their noises ahead, captain Gurpreet Singh Sandhu stood tall in his goal defying and frustrating Qatar on many occasions.
Twice in the first 10 minutes, Sandhu denied his rival counterpart Hassan Al Heidos, thus growing in confidence. In fact, the entire defence weren’t willing to give away an inch. Sandhu made some scintillating saves, including one to deny Almoez Ali in the dying minutes of the first half, as both teams headed to the interval locked goalless.
On resumption, the Blue Tigers opened up waiting to catch Qatar on the back foot with their counterattacks. In the 51st minute, Udanta Singh received a pass from Sahal, outpaced Quatar’s Abdelkarim Hasan and tried to find Manvir Singh, but the move didn’t materialise as it was a bit too long for him.
Six minutes later, Sahal breached the host’s midfield once again but Assim Madibo’s harsh challenge on him ended up inviting a booking for the rival player.