Qatar survived some anxious moments to beat India 3-1 in the Pre-Olympic Qualifier at the Al Sadd Stadium in Doha.
The band of the local Doha crowd which had taken over the Al Sadd more than an hour prior to the kick-off went off all of a sudden in the 7th minute. Despite the floodlights glowing, there seemed darkness all around; or rather disbelief. India took the lead.
What was supposed to be a harmless throw-in down the left, stung Qatar. The power and the velocity of Raju Gaikwad’s long throw left the Qatar defence guessing; and off the melle, Jeje Lalpeklua tapped home.
The NRIs went berserk; the locals looked up to the giant screen only to see the Indian boys celebrating.
Three minutes later, goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani saved a penalty – Qatar’s Captain and best player Hasan al Haidos failing to beat Kattimani from the spot after he was brought down on the edge of the box. An upset stayed on the cards.
But Qatar pulled it back – Al Khalfan slotting it home after he anticipated a through pass that split second ahead of an advancing Kattimani.
The Indians were pushed to defence for the rest of the first half. Haydos, desperate to make amends for his missed penalty was omnipresent but the Indians held fort as the score read 1-1 at the interval.
Changing over, Haidos was eventually rewarded after he ran diagonally anf finished it off with a long-ranger which beat a diving Kattimani in the 54th minute to make it 2-1 for Qatar.
The flurry of attacks resulted in the third goal for Qatar in the 68th minute – substitute Mohamed El Neel tapping it in from close.
The Indians pressed hard for the second away-goal but Jeje and Sabeeth didn’t get much support from an off-colour Lalrindika and Jewel Raja.
The second-leg is slated for Pune’s Balewadi Sports Complex on June 23.
Qatar u23 3-1 India U23
0-1 Jeje Lalpekhlua (7′), 1-1 Al Khanfan (14′), 2-1 Hasan Al Haidos (54′), 3-1 El Neel (68′)
1-Laxmikant Kattimani; 2-Abhishek Das, 3-Arnab Mondal, 4-Raju Eknath Gaikwad [C], 5-Gurjinder Kumar; 6-Lalrindika Ralte, 8-Jewel Raja Sheikh, 7-Shilton Sydney D’Silva (73′ Zakir Mundampara), 9-Kh. Jibon Singh; 10-Jeje Lalpekhlua, 11-C.S. Sabeeth
(AIFF Match Report & Picture)