Doha: India held on to their early lead to beat a higher-ranked Qatar in an international football friendly at the Al Sadd Stadium in Doha Sunday night.
It was a different script at the same stadium, which looks similar to the Old Trafford, where 29 days go the under-23 India team failed to take advantage of their early lead and lost the away leg of the pre-Olympic qualifier against Qatar, 2006 Asian Games champions.
But Sunday, the senior India team consolidated on their early lead to beat Qatar 2-1 in the friendly, which is a preparation match for India’s first round World Cup qualifiers against the UAE.
Sunil Chhetri put India in the lead in the 16th minute when he converted from the spot. The penalty was awarded after Debabrata Roy was pulled down in the box.
Sushil Singh doubled the lead in the 73rd minute with a powerful shot from inside the box. Baljit paved it for Sushil off a Khabra cross for him to bulge the net. Ibrahim Khalfan reduced the margin for Qatar a minute later.
India coach Armando Colaco, who brought in 10 changes in the second half, wasn’t willing to go overboard despite the victory.
“We are improving day by day. That’s important. The boys showed they are adopting fast to the new style,” he said. “The game is all about ball possession and once we have the ball, we shouldn’t give it away easily,” he added.
“The World Cup Qualifier against UAE is our acid test. It’s a tough mountain to climb. Hence, we needed to get the combination right.”
Armando’s tactical acumen outwitted Qatar’s Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac, who coached Ghana in the World Cup in South Africa.
India take on the UAE in the first-leg of the World Cup Qualifiers July 23, Qatar also face Vietnam at home on the same day. India will host the UAE July 28 in New Delhi for the home leg.
“We needed to execute our plans on the field. As a coach it gives me satisfaction that the boys have responded well. But there’s a lot still to be achieved,” Armando insisted.
Knowing their penchant for counter attacks, the Indians did not allow the rival medios to stitch their quick interchanging in the midfield.