Gurpreet Singh Sandhu stepped up in the absence of Sunil Chhetri for the Blue Tigers.
On a nervy night in Qatar, the Indian football team pulled off a surprising goalless draw against the mighty hosts. From the very first minute of the game, Qatar put tremendous pressure totalling a staggering 27 attempts, but the Indian defence was stubborn enough to hold them for the 90 minutes.
Let’s have a quick look at the talking points from the game:
5. Did complacency cost Qatar in the second half?
Finishing was the only aspect that the hosts lacked in the entirety of the match against India. It is simply unbelievable how the scoreline depicted 0-0 even after they had taken as many shots as they did.
With more than 60% possession, Qatar forced the Blue Tigers on the back foot for the majority of the first half and were expected to continue with the same beyond it. However, the pace of their play surprisingly went on declining, as the game progressed towards the hour mark.
It looked like the hosts showed complacency after a superb first half display and it definitely cost them the three points.
Watch: Qatar Vs India post-match analysis
4. Did Madibo deserve a red card for the challenge on Sahal?
The game saw some rather harsh decisions by the referee against India. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was shown a yellow card within the first half hour for time-wasting, while Rowllin Borges was also booked for a challenge near the box in the second half.
However, the referee went on to make another cruel decision against the Blue Tigers, allowing Assim Madibo to get away with just a yellow card after a nasty challenge on midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad, that abruptly ended an amazing counter-attacking move.
Sahal had superbly dribbled past the Qatari defence and had it not been for that sliding tackle from Madibo from behind, it could have been a huge chance for India, as the youngster almost saw himself one-on-one with the opposition goalkeeper.
Replays of the incident clearly showed that the referee should have brandished a straight red card for Madibo, but as it turned out, the midfielder got away with it big time.
3. Has Stimac finally found the best midfield combination?
As was expected before the game, Qatar were a notch higher in terms of quality as compared to India, but the latter were determined to bring out a positive result. The midfield trio of Rowllin Borges, Anirudh Thapa and Sahal Abdul Samad were all busy marking the Qatari attackers, intercepting their through-balls, while also maintaining a good shape. Thapa and Borges ensured the cleanest of passes, while taking minimal touches of the ball, something Stimac will be very proud of.
In the second half, Sahal, too, stood up dwindling in between the Qatari midfield to earn back the ball and trying to keep as much possession as he could. The trio maintained a great shape and were compact enough to stave off the relentless pressure piled on by Qatar, offering some relief to the defenders.
2. Have Qatar found themselves a new talisman in Al-Haydos?
Skipper Hassan Al-Haydos was at the peak of his form against the Blue Tigers, as he came inches close to scoring on several occasions. Perhaps the Al-Sadd stalwart enjoyed the advantage of playing on his home turf and was a constant threat from the left wing.
It was a rare bad game for striker Almoez Ali, but Al-Haydos showed a glimpse of his capabilities and proved that he could step up in tough times.
1. Is this the best defensive performance by the Blue Tigers under Stimac?
India are still settling to life under new head coach Igor Stimac, with the constant shuffling of players in the starting XI. Especially, in terms of the defence, the team have conceded a huge number of goals in various tournaments so far and Qatar was probably their toughest fixture yet.
A clean-sheet was the most unthinkable objective to achieve, but the team managed to pull it off. Interestingly, this makes India only the fourth team after Brazil, Colombia and Argentina to keep a clean-sheet against Qatar in 2019, which only proves how much the result means for the Blue Tigers.
In the end, it was a point earned after a tremendous effort by India and a major credit goes to the defence.