A gritty India survived waves of attacks from Qatar to hold the reigning Asian champions to a goalless draw to steal an unexpected point from their away match of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers here on Tuesday.
Despite playing without their talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri who was laid low by fever, the young Indians denied Qatar, who won the Asian Cup title in January, any goal despite the home side having more than one dozen shots on target.
Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who also wore the captain’s armband, was the star of the visiting side as he single-handedly stopped the Qataris from scoring any goal in the Group E match which will be remembered for long by the Indians.
It was, no doubt, one of the best results by India in recent times.
India, who had suffered a heartbreaking 1-2 loss to Oman in their opening match on September 5 in Guwahati, now have one point from two matches while Qatar have four points as they had beaten Afghanistan 6-0 in their first match here.
The two sides had played just one official senior match before Tuesday and Qatar had won 6-0 in September 2007 in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.
India next play Bangladesh on October 15 in Kolkata.
It was a completely one-sided match with Qatar doing all the attack and the Indians defending in their half for most part of the match.
Qatar, ranked 62nd in the world, had more than two dozen
shots on Indian goal out of which at least a dozen were on target. India, 103
in the latest FIFA rankings, on the other hand, had just two shots on the
opposition goal in the entire match.
To the credit of the Indians, they defended brilliantly, maintained their shape throughout and did not give space to the speedy Qatari attackers.
In the first half, India expectedly sat deep and defended
their citadel. The home side had at
least half a dozen
on-target shots and seven corners in the first half while India did not have any.
Sandhu was a busy man as he was called into action several times but he remained unbeaten.
Qatar captain Hassan Al-Haydos had two shots early into the match but Sandhu was upto the task, including the brilliant finger-tip save in the 20th minute.
A mispass from Mandar Rao Desai in the 14th minute just outside the penalty box fell for Abdul Aziz Hatem, but his curling strike flew just above the crossbar.