DOHA: It was difficult to keep the counts on the number of saves that Indian captain and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made in their goalless draw against the reigning Asian champions Qatar at the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup joint qualification round two match here on Tuesday night.
Gurpreet, who became the first Indian to play in a UEFA Europa League match for Norwegian club Stabæk against Connah’s Quay Nomads in 2016, was rock solid as he denied the likes of Hassan Al Haidous, Almoez Ali and others to take a crack at the goal. In fact, his confidence at the goal dented Qatar’s hope of a win against the 101st ranked side.
Qatar had 12 shots at the goal in the first half, and also got six easy scoring chances but those were nipped in the bud by the 27-year-old. In the second-half also, Gurpreet frustrated the Qatari forwards with his smart blocking and punching.
“We’re proud of the boys. We’ve got an incredible support away from home. I think the fans’ support has helped us a lot. Everyone played their hearts out and gave everything. That’s why we can return with a smile,” said Gurpreet.
In their previous four matches, Qatar had beaten India thrice and drew once.
“That’s my team and those are my boys. Cannot describe how proud I am at this moment. Not a big result for the table, but in terms of a fight, as big as it can get. Huge credit to the coaching staff and the dressing room,” tweeted India’s talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri who, however, couldn’t take the field due to fever.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts still lead Group E with four points with Oman on second. Afghanistan, who were thrashed 6-0 by Qatar last Thursday, picked up an important 1-0 win over Bangladesh.
Qatar travel to Bangladesh next month for their away match on October 10 while India hosts Bangladesh five days later at home.