India vs Qatar
A muscular Qatari attack got the better of India in Doha on Thursday, with the hosts coming up 1-0. The 10-man Indian side’s defence was left scurrying around the goal at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium for much of the match that saw Qatar dominate right from kickoff to the final whistle.
India received a setback in the 17th minute when R. Bheke was sent off after a second yellow card following the first one in the ninth minute of the match. Qatari players had most of the possession right from the beginning with the ball staying largely in the Indian half.
Indian defenders put up a spirited defence fending off multiple attacks in the first half, with Felix Sanchez’s men showing excellent midfield coordination leading up to several shots at the goal.
Trying to find a chink in the Indian defence, Qatar’s strikers tasted success when A. Hatim netted home in the 34th minute. The ball sailed past Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh following a quick scrum of defenders and attackers quite close to the goal.
Indian fans, largely quiet ahead of the goal by Qatar, tried to boost their team’s morale by drumming it up, literally. As a downbeat India tried to wrestle past the Qatari side, with their charges being scuttled midway, the thumping of drums echoed in the stadium with fans screaming “India, India.” Qatari fans looked largely subdued in the stands. At half time, Igor Stimac’s side looked down but not out as Indian fans hoped for a second-half wonder. “I think India will be able to get even with Qatar and hopefully win, which will be miraculous,” said Namrata Gupta while watching the match on television with her husband and sons in Doha. The four-member Indian family decided to skip their Thursday evening outing to watch the match that thousands in the largest expat group in Qatar were looking forward to.
Indian hopes were dashed in the second half as the south Asian side tried to push back the Qatari attacks, often in a clumsy way. Once in a while, the Indian side tried to build up an attack, which was rendered useless due to lack of accurate passing and coordination. Sarfaraz, who hails from the Indian city of Hyderabad, found the team’s game frail. “I never expected India to play so meekly,” he said.
With extremely low ball possession and inaccurate passing, the Indian attack withered away as the game inched closer to the final whistle. Stimac was seen protesting to the referee, who seemed in no mood to swallow his words and shot back, putting the Indian coach on the defensive.
Qatar lost some other chances to increase their lead closer to the final moments with a shot rifling over the cross bar in the 81st minute and another one bouncing off the post in the 85th.
Many fans who turned up outside the stadium in the hope of buying tickets to watch the match had to return disappointed. Authorities had mandated online booking of tickets days in advance only to those who had taken the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days ahead of the date of the match. “There are no tickets being sold from the counters and the booking process was explained online. You can only buy tickets a few days in advance online because of the epidemic,” said a volunteer near the ticketing window as a few Indian fans milled around. “I had hoped of beginning my weekend by watching my first football match in Qatar in a stadium, but now I will rush home and watch it on television,” said Rafiq from the south Indian state of Kerala.
He will have to wait until India plays Bangladesh at the same venue on June 7.