Wednesday, March 20

Battling India suffer late Qatar heartbreak


GUANGZHOU, China: Defending champions Qatar were given an almighty fright by India yesterday before scoring twice in the last 10 minutes to secure a 2-1 win in the Asian Games football tournament.

Thailand also stayed on course for the knockout rounds with a 1-1 draw against Oman, but coach Bryan Robson, the former England skipper, will be disappointed not to have clinched three points after their opponents played 70 minutes with 10 men.

Qatar, held 0-0 by Singapore in their first game, created the best of the first-half chances against India with defender Musa Mohamed failing to make a clean contact from just three yards out while Khalid Hassan blasted over the top.

The champions were made to pay for their wastefulness when India, who had been defeated 2-0 by Kuwait in their opener, snatched the lead in the 18th minute. Qatar failed to clear a corner and Ravanan Dharmaraj managed to bundle the ball past goalkeeper Sofyan Ahmed.

The Gulf side, coached by former Ajax and Porto boss Co Adriaanse, had the first opportunity of the second period with Saleh Mohamed again missing the target under pressure from goalkeeper Katima Laximikanth.

The Indian keeper was hurt in the challenge and was replaced by Gurpreet Sandhu.

India’s brittle defence remained under siege, but their resistance was finally broken 10 minutes from time when Ali Jaralla looped a header over the poorly-positioned Sandhu.

Jaralla then grabbed the winner two minutes from time with a left-foot shoot which found the corner of the net and left India with a second defeat in two matches.

“The boys did their best,” said India coach Sukhvinder Singh. “Qatar are a better side. We tried to minimise our mistakes but we had a problem with the defence.”

Adriaanse insisted that being defending champions poses no problems for his side.

“We are not facing Brazil or Germany,” he said.

Oman’s Amer Al Shatri gave Thailand, who had crushed Pakistan 6-0 in their opener, a fifth-minute lead when he scored an own goal.

But Moatasim Al Mukhaini levelled just before the break for his second goal of the tournament.

Oman held on for a point despite having skipper Mohammed Al Jaber sentoff in the 20th minute for a foul on Anawein Jujeen on the edge of the box.

In the day’s other early fixture, United Arab Emirates cruised past Bangladesh 3-0 with Abdalla Fawzi getting a brace and Ahmed Al Jenaiby scoring another in the second half. — AFP