A gritty India survived waves of attacks from Qatar to hold the reigning Asian champions to a goal-less 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 Qatari’s 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.
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.
Igor Stimac made four changes to his side from the eleven that started in their 1-2 defeat against Oman. Chhetri was left out as he was suffering from fever. Ashique Kuruniyan has a slight niggle and therefore Nikhil Poojary took his place. Brandon Fernandes and Subhasish Bose were replaced by Sahal Samad and Mandar Rao Desai.