Gurpreet earns India pride, point
A gritty India survived waves of attacks from Qatar, to hold the reigning Asian champions to a goalless tie and earn an unexpected point from their away match of the Fifa World Cup qualifier in Doha on Tuesday.
Despite playing without their talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri, who was laid low by fever, the young Indians denied Qatar a goal. Having won the Asian Cup title in January, Qatar were undoubtedly the favourites going into the match and had more than one dozen shots on target.
“Dear India, THAT is my team and THOSE are my boys! Cannot describe how proud I am at this moment. Not a big result for the table, but in terms of a fight, as big as it can get. Huge credit to the coaching staff and the dressing room,” Chhetri tweeted after the match.
On Tuesday, the man who made the difference for India in Doha was goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Gurpreet, 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.
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 last Thursday at home 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 at home.
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 Calcutta.
The match saw Qatar mostly dominating the attack, with India defending 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, 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.
Gurpreet 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 Gurpreet was up to the task, including a brilliant finger-tip save in the 20th minute.
The second half saw India opening up a bit and they were seeing more of the opposition goal than the first half but still could not get a clear goal-bound shot.