From Gurpreet's heroics to Udanta's pace - Talking points from the Qatar vs India clash

From Gurpreet Singh Sandhu's 11 saves to Udanta Singh's fiery runs on the right wing, here are the five main talking points from the Qatar vs India 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier clash.

Indian football team captain Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made a remarkable 11 saves to power his side to a goalless draw against Qatar on Tuesday.   -  Reuters

The Indian football team put up a commendable display to hold Asian champion Qatar to a goalless draw at Doha's Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier game.

Igor Stimac's Blue Tigers became the first Asian nation to register a clean sheet against Qatar this year.

RELATED| Gurpreet heroics help Blue Tigers to goalless draw against Qatar

It was a game of multiple missed chances, terrific saves and some resolute defending. Here, we discuss the main talking points from the clash.

1) Gurpreet Singh Sandhu - The Great Wall of India

Gurpreet was handed the captain's armband in Sunil Chhetri's absence and he stepped up to lead the charge from the back. Using his towering frame, Gurpreet was at his absolute best and saved a barrage of shots. He was pressed into action early on when he made a fine save to deny his Qatari counterpart Hasan Al-Haydos. He was also forced to make a phenomenal single-handed save to stop Abdelkarim Hassan's screamer from 30 yards out.

 

The 27-year-old made another superb reflex save in the dying moments of the first half to deny Qatar's top striker Almoez Ali and remained solid between the sticks to ensure India walked away with a point.

2) Udanta Singh's mercurial runs on the right - Safe to call him The Flash?

Time and again Udanta Singh has shown why he's one of the best wingers the country has seen in recent times and his performance on Tuesday was a testament to that. Despite playing as a right-winger, Udanta doubled up as a forward at times and used his mercurial pace to get two 1v1 chances with the Qatar custodian. He was marked by the burly Abdelkarim, but the latter was no match for Udanta's fiery pace.

3) Offside and missed chances galore - 27 shots but no goals to show

Qatar had a staggering 27 shots and 15 corners, but could not find the back of the net on a single occasion. Let that sink in. From captain Al Haydos to the charismatic Almoez to Abdelkarim to Boualem Khoukhi, the Qataris gave it their all but simply could not get on the scoresheet.

RELATED| Superman goalie Gurpreet 'saves' the day

A host of fine chances were cut short owing to offsides, while some chances were simply wasted. One of the best chances came in the dying seconds of the first half when Abdelaziz Hatem squared the ball across the face of goal and two Qatari forwards - Yusuf Abdurisag and Almoez - had the goal at their mercy but could not get a touch. That miss pretty much summed up Qatar's fate in the evening.

4) Attacking intent from Stimac's young side - Never say die attitude

The odds favoured Qatar from the beginning, the side came into the tie on the back of a 6-0 thumping of Afghanistan and hadn't lost a single game at home this year. The Indian camp was still reeling from the 2-1 loss to Oman and the spirits were further dampened when Chhetri was forced to miss the clash due to fever.

 

One would have expected Stimac's Blue Tigers to play an all-out defensive game, but that was not quite the case. The young attacking line of Udanta, Anirudh Thapa, Manvir Singh, and Sahal Abdul Samad did not shy from bombing forward when they got the chance. While they did struggle to trouble the 'keeper - India had all of two shots - the attacking intent created a strong impact. It showed that the Indians were no pushovers.

5) The pony-tailed pillars stand strong - Sandesh Jhingan and Adil Khan remain resolute

Sandesh and Adil have been India's defensive mainstays since Stimac's arrival in May. The two have put up a string of decent performances. The duo defended fearlessly, threw their bodies on the line, to help Gurpreet keep a  clean-sheet. Forming a formidable partnership with Nikhil Poojary, Sandesh and the latter kept Almoez quiet for most parts of the game. So much so that Almoez - who made history by becoming the highest goalscorer at the Asian Cup - cut a sorry figure and was barely able to make an impact.

The stopper backs also ensured that their communication with Gurpreet was on point. Having done their homework that the Qatar side generally attacked via crosses from the left, the defenders positioned themselves perfectly and ensured there was no confusion with Gurpreet.

6) Manvir gets stuck in

It’s never easy to fill the shoes of India’s talismanic striker Chhetri, and certainly not in a match away to the Asian champion, Qatar. Manvir Singh had the task of leading the line in Chhetri’s absence. His selection wouldn’t have inspired much confidence considering he had played all of 330 minutes in last season of the Indian Super League at FC Goa and a few substitute appearances in the Super Cup.

On Tuesday night, his role was to hold up the ball and bring the likes of Udanta, Sahal and Thapa into attack. The 23-year-old struggled to fulfil the task in the opening 45 minutes, often being wrestled off the ball by Qatar’s center-backs.

In the second half, however, he gave himself a good account by outmuscling his marker and holding the ball up for Sahal and Thapa to effect play in attack. Despite the work-man like shift, India still requires a number nine, who could ease the burden off Chhetri, who is approaching his twilight years.

Perhaps, Manvir can take some confidence from this game heading into the Bangladesh qualifier (October 15) and the new ISL season, where he will need to stake his claim as a goal-scoring forward.

7) ‘Keep the ball’

A gutted Chhetri reflected on what could have been in India’s late 1-2 defeat to Oman in Guwahati. “I think we didn’t keep the ball in the second half. It's not easy if we keep giving the ball to a team like Oman,” he had said.

Something which worked in India’s favour on Tuesday against Qatar was how the side managed to hold on to and not clear it away under pressure. Sahal was instrumental in India’s improved second-half display with his dribbles from midfield and in the process putting Qatar’s backline under pressure.

Thapa, Rowllin Borges and Udanta all did their part in retaining possession which they struggled to do against Oman four nights ago. The back four, too, didn’t take the easy out in hoofing the ball away from defence but trusted their ability in playing out from the back.  

  Dugout videos