The gulf in the class was there for everyone to see, but 10-man India produced a valiant effort in their 0-1 defeat against Asian heavyweights Qatar. The defeat in their Group E, joint qualifying match for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup tournaments left India in fourth place, just above Bangladesh, who earlier played out a draw with Afghanistan. Qatar, still undefeated in the campaign, sit pretty at the top with six wins from seven outings. They have 19 points. Oman are second with 12 points from five matches (four wins and a defeat). Afghans are third with five points from six matches (1 win, 2 draws and 3 defeats). India have three points (3 draws, 3 defeats), while Bangladesh have two points (2 draws, 4 defeats).
India lost Rahul Bheke early as the 17th minute after getting a second yellow. And it proved all the difference, one would say in hindsight, after the manner in which Igor Stimac's men fought against all the odds. And the hero, sure, was Gurpreet Singh Sandhu under the bar. He was as busy as any goalie can be But the all-important strike came in the 34th minute with Hatim Abdelaziz scoring a scrappy goal after yet another move from relentless Abdelkarim Hassan. As the match progressed Stimac even got the chance to let out his frustration at Chinese referee Ma Ning. India next play Bangladesh on Monday (June 7), then Afghanistan on June 15 at the same venue. Catch highlights here:
12:25 PM IST: RESULT! Qatar beat 10-man India by one goal.
Second-half: India 0-1 Qatar
90+4' - And that's all for tonight.
90+3' - Golden chance the double the lead for Qatar, but Almoez Ali misses from just outside the box.
90+1' - Free kick for Qatar inside the attacking third.
89' - SUB! Busy man Hassan Abdelkarim comes off. Homam Ahmed in.
88' - Another Qatari attempt and another Gurpreet save. Bassam Hisham Al Rawi sets up Al Ahrak, only to see the Indian goalie at the work.
86' - Qatar win another corner, this time conceded by Akash Mishra.
84' - Sahal Abdul Samad on for Ashique Kuruniyan and Liston Colaco on for Suresh Wangjam.
83' - Suresh Wangjam concede a corner. Moments ago, Hassan Abdelkarim tried a left-footed attempt from just outside the box.
79' - YELLOW! Almoez Ali gets a booking. Also, Ismaeel Mohammad on for Yusuf Abdurisag.
77' - Referee asking Ashique Kuruniyan to calm down after showing his studs while in a challenge.
76' - Igor Stimac faces off with the referee, again.
75' - Changes for India. Akash Mishra on for Bipin Thounaojam. And all the action happening inside India's defensive half. Of course, there are occasional long balls for Udanta Kumam to chase down.
Moments ago, Manvir Singh got another chance to break through the Qatari defence with a through ball. But, again. Half-backed!
71' - Al Ahraq brings down Suresh Wangjam. Free kick to India.
68' - SUB! Lalengmawia (Apuia) on for Glan Martins. Moments ago, Hasan Al Haydos braved some nasty tackles, including one from Martins.
66' - A sliding block. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu sure producing a man-of-the-match performance. Abdelkarim Hassan is not happy. SO many chances, but none materialising.
65' - First SUB for Qatar. Al Ahraq on for Mohammed Muntari.
64' - Another brilliant block from Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. From close range, Hasan Al Haydos lines up from the left flank, but the Indian custodian shows his class again.
63' - A tired-looking Hatim Abdelaziz goes for a long ranger, a dipping one. But it misses the target. Gurpreet makes sure to cover his angle and dives to his right.
58' - Almoez Ali gets a sight on the goal after yet another move created by Abdelkarim Hassan. But a tame one, and missing the target too. Meanwhile, Ashique Kuruniyan is struggling. Hamstrung.
55' - Sandesh Jhingan gives away a corner. Desperate measures. Hasan Al Haydos's delivery fails to reach the intended target and also offside for the Qatar skipper, from the following play. India, then take some time to launch their attack.
53' - Verbal warning to Glan Martins for a late tackle on Abdelkarim Hassan. He's everywhere.
52' - Abdelkarim Hassan sets up Hatim Abdelaziz, and the latter latches for a turning shot. Gurpreet palms away the ball. Close call.
50' - Another long ranger, and this time, a right footer from Abdelkarim Hassan. Who else?
India just had 32 per cent possession in the first half.
48' - Abdelkarim Hassan continues with his long ranger. A diving Gurpreet covers his angle and no harm. then another chance for Abdelkarim, whose shot gets blocked by an onrushing Indian goalie.
46' - Qatar win a throw-in right away after the restart.
11:33 PM IST: Players are back for the second half. Udanta Kumam replaces skipper Sunil Chhetri.
10:21 PM: Indian support staff having a tough time controlling Igor Stimac. Words exchange between India head coach and match officials.
First-half: India 0-1 Qatar
45+1' - And that's it, for the half!
45' - India so far concede 16 attempts, their most in the first half. Felix Sanchez is busy, egging his players as Qatar once again probe the Indian defence. Another chance and Gurpreet's flailing leg blocks Abdelkarim Hassan's attempt.
44' - Manvir and Chhetri link up brilliantly, then the former presents himself with a shooting chance. Qatar defenders alert.
43' - For the third or fourth time, Qatar goalie Saas Al Sheed gets to touch the ball. Despite the disadvantages, India are doing well. A gleeful Abdelkarim Hassan tries another long ranger. But like the previous ones, fails to hit the target.
40' - Crazy run from Ashique Kuruniyan. After winning a tight ball inside the defending half, he goes past four Qatar players only to run in a defensive maze.
38' - Glan Martins concedes possession just outside the D, and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu once again tested. Udanta is warming up.
34' - GOAL! Then, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is beaten. A little interplay inside the box, and then Hatim Abdelaziz gets a scrambling effort. And the ball sneaks in.
32' - Sandesh is fuming. Referee goes for a corner. India think otherwise after Sandesh steals the ball from Yusuf Abdurisag near the byline. Nothing from the set-piece.
29' - BIG CHANCE! Debutant Glan Martins brilliant in his defensive work to deny Qatar space inside the box. And what a chance for India. On the counter, Manvir Singh almost found the net. A long ball, and he was one on one against Qatar goalie after Ashique Kuruniyan releases a brilliant pass. A block, then a rebound. What a move.
27' - Flurry of long rangers from Qatar. Latest from Hisham Al Rawi. But it was going for the moon.
26' - Then, a corner for Qatar. First of the match. Hatim Abdelaziz sends in a brilliant ball, then Abdelkarim Hassan climbs tall for a header. But it sails over the bar.
Rahul Bheke's red card was the first for India under Igor Stimac.
24' - One-way traffic in Doha tonight. India, man down, are trying their best to block every Qatari move. Sandesh once again clears a dangerous ball.
21' - Muhammed Ashique Kuruniyan, prominently visible with his face mask, wins the ball back from Yusuf Abdurisag inside India third.
18' - RED CARD! Rahul Bheke! Already booked, and he tries to block a ball with his arm. Foolish move!
14' - Hatim Abdelaziz is making a mockery of Indian defence.
12' - Almoez Ali brings down Pritam Kotal inside the Indian half. India, however, fail to make the most out of the free kick, and lose possession.
10' - Free kick near the far corner for Qatar. India summon Sandhesh again, who clears the ball from the goal-mouth.
9' - YELLOW! Another brilliant move from Qatar. Hatim Abdelaziz's final attempt lacks power. Then, Rahul Bheke gets a booking for a late tackle on Hasan al Haydos.
7' - First foray for India after that kick-off long ball inside Qatar half. A good run from Bipin on the right, but his delivery for Chhetri fails to make an impression.
6' - And a penalty call, but the referee has mercy on Sandesh. The Indian defender brings down Abdelkarim Hassan inside the box.
4' - And soon, the free-flowing Qatari game. Followed by a teasing cross from the left flank. And in space of seconds, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has been tested twice. The second one, a low drive towards the left upright.
1' - Kick off! An early long ball to let Sunil Chhetri have a look at Qatar's goal.
10:29 PM IST: India are in their traditional blues, while Qatar are in whites. This is India's home game, courtesy COVID-19.
10:26: National anthems coming up! First, India.
10:25 PM IST: Players and match officials coming out for the match. Tonight's match will be conducted by Chinese referee, Ma Ning.
10:20 PM IST: By the way, Qatar have qualified for the World Cup as hosts. The second-placed team will play the third round and Asian Cup. Third-placed team will play Asian Cup qualifying third round.
10:13 PM IST: Here is Qatar XI -
Saas Al Sheed, Abdelkarim Hassan, Musab Kheder, Bassam Hisham Al Rawi, Karim Boudiaf,Hatim Abdelaziz, Hasan Al Haydos (c), Boualem Khoukhi, Almoez Ali, Yusuf Abdurisag, Mohammed Muntari
10:00 PM IST: In another Group E match which concluded a while ago, Bangladesh and Afghanistan played out a 1-1 draw. As things stand now, India are fourth in the five-team group with three points from five matches (3 draws and 2 defeats). Qatar are at the top, with 16 points from six matches (5 wins and a draw).
9:45 PM IST: India announced their line-up -
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Starting XI: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Rahul Bheke, Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Subhashish Bose, Ashique Kuruniyan, Glan Martins, Suresh Wangjam, Sunil Chhetri (c), Bipin Thounaojam, Manvir Singh
Subs: Narender, Adil, Sahal, Brandon, Dheeraj Moirangthem, Pronay, Udanta Kumam, Lalengmawia (Apuia), Liston, Ishan, Akash, Amrinder.
9:41 PM IST: This is the third meeting between the two sides. In the first meeting in World Cup Qualifiers. In the first meeting, Qatar humbled India 6-0 in 1996. Then, there was a 0-0 draw in 2019.