At the end of 90 minutes at the Jassim Bin Hammad Stadium in Doha on Tuesday, the stats read 27-2 (shots) and 15-1 (corners) in favour of Qatar against India. However, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, captaining India in the absence of the indisposed Sunil Chhetri, led their effort with a sterling performance between the posts, especially pulling his weight in a cracking first-half performance that kept the Asian champions at bay.
With their first point of Group E, India have also reignited their hopes of aiming for a top-two finish in the World Cup and Asian Cup qualification, which had suffered a dent after a 2-1 defeat at home to Oman.
Qatar played practically the entire first half in the Indian side of the pitch, as India's four changes to the Oman game -- Sahal Abdul Samad, Nikhil Poojari, Mandar Rao Dessai and Manvir Singh -- all spent large parts of it parked inside their half and looking to keep out the attacking players from the opposition.
Gurpreet effected an early save off centre-back Tarek Salman's low shot, getting his body perfectly behind the line of the ball, before denying Qatar captain Hassan Al-Haydos twice within three minutes from shots taken from a sharp angle from the left of the attacking third. The second, which was low down to the near post for Gurpreet, was a particularly sharp reflex-action save.
Al-Haydos would be denied again on 20 minutes, as a long-range dipping shot was tipped over by Gurpreet, when he found himself backtracking after having advanced to cut off any potential cross. As the half ended, Gurpreet would be called upon to effect three more saves -- perhaps the best was a one-handed effort to deny a gunshot-like attempt with minimal backlift from left-back Abdelkarim Hassan.
After the restart, India played a more composed brand of football, with Thapa and Sahal using Udanta on the right and Manvir down the middle as channels to release incisive passes and the two of them making purposeful runs into spaces left vacant because of Qatar's tendency to throw players forward.
In the 82nd minute, Manvir picked out Udanta on the right, and he worked a delightful one-two with Thapa before curling a left-footer beyond goalkeeper Saad Al-Sheeb, but unable to make it dip enough to hit the target. Late in the game, India had a scare when a low shot from Abdelkarim was saved by Gurpreet, but Almoez Ali, the top-scorer for Qatar at the AFC Asian Cup with nine goals, pinged his shot into the post.
India had almost seen the game home, and with a couple of late flourishes from defence, they could celebrate a famous point in one of their toughest matches on the road to World Cup qualification.
Read below to find a blow-by-blow account of how the match unfolded.
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