10-man India goes down to Qatar

Goalkeeper Gurpreet Sandhu’s saves keep it from being a rout

A 10-man India defended creditably but still suffered a 1-0 defeat to Asian champion Qatar in their World Cup qualifying round match here on Thursday.

Abdel Aziz scored in the 33rd minute in a match completely dominated by the Qataris. The two sides had played out a goal-less draw in their first leg match here in September 2019.

Group topper Qatar, which is yet to lose a match, had waves of attacks with eight to nine players in the Indian half for most of the time. Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu had to pull off a series of saves to keep the margin of loss small.

India played with 10 men from the 17th minute onwards after defender Rahul Bheke was red carded after a second booking; the first yellow card came in the ninth minute.

Counter-attacks

India did have two good moves in the match from counter-attacks with Manvir Singh in the thick of things on both occasions.

India captain Sunil Chhetri, who returned to the team after recovering from COVID-19, was replaced by Udanta Singh at the start of the second half.

A win-less India remains in fourth spot in Group E with three points from six matches. India next plays Bangladesh on June 7.

Speaking after the match, Gurpreet said India must learn to capitalise on its chances.

“I think we were very unfortunate with the result. Everybody in the pitch gave their everything and that’s what we need. Very very unfortunate not to get something out of this game,” he said in a video shared by All India Football Federation (AIFF) on its Twitter handle.

“I think everyone is gutted because the way we played, we deserved something out of it. But things happen in football and we now move on to the next game.”

India may have suffered a bigger defeat had it not been for Sandhu, who pulled off as many as nine saves in the group E match.

Asked about his saves, Sandhu said: “I honestly didn’t (count the number of saves), but I think it was more than last time.”

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