Asian champions Qatar were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw to India on Tuesday evening, in a contest which will be remembered for the feverish away support and the performances of Blue Tigers keeper Gurpreet Sandhu.
The Asian Champions set the pattern of play early on, as Hassan Haydoos saw a rasping shot batted away by Sandhu.
The Blue Tigers suffered heartbreak in their opening game conceding two late goals to lose to Oman, and coach Igor Štimac set up to frustrate Qatar.
Al Annabi continued to push, with Abdulaziz Hatam thumping two shots from range in the space of six minutes, which were pushed away by Sandhu, much to the joy of the thousands of Indian fans who were eventually let into the Jassim bin Hamed as the first half progressed.
India remained resolute with Qatar missing further chances to open the scoring Boulam Koukhi should have fired Qatar into the lead, missing a point-blank header at the far post whilst a pot shot from distance from Bassam Al Rawi flew well wide.
The away side had limited opportunities, although you wouldn’t have known it with the boisterous Indian fans. Utada Kumam broke forward and the rowdy Indian fans rose in expectation only to be dashed as Pedro cleared the ball away.
Gurpreet Singh continued to impress as the first half came to a close, pulling off two further saves to deny Abdulkarim Hassan and Hassan Haydoos with two intuitive stops. Both stops were greeted by the Indian fans who by now took up the vast majority of the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium. The Blue Lions captain was set for another busy second half.
Qatar seemed to lack any ingenuity in the final third and just didn’t have the quality to crack the Indian backline as the second half progressed. Felix Sanchez cut a frustraited figure as Al Annabi pressed and harried India.
Central defender Sadesh was dispossed by Hassan Haydoos, yet Qatar spurned their opportunity with the defender eventually recovering to block the shot from the Al Sadd winger. India eventually found space to exploit with Udanta Kumam the main beneficiary on the right-wing. A surging run from the midfielder and a stabbed shot was greeted with chances of 'India in Qatar' by the partizan away crowd.
Qatar pushed on diligently and spurned two late chances to take the lead as substitute Ahmed Alaaedin knocked a header over which really should have been on target. Whilst Bassam Al Bassam Al Rawi’s lacklustre shot wide summed up the Asian champions night.
As for India, they greeted the full-time whistle with joy, after holding on and frustrating the Asian Champions it was a moment to savour for the Blue Tigers who duly celebrated with their fans with a thunderclap.
Fans filed out of the stadium and into the sticky Doha night, one quote from an Indian fan outside out the stadium seems apt, to sum up, this stuttering performance from Qatar.
“It seems like Qatar were more afraid of the Indian fans than the Indian national team.”