QATAR finally came into life and defeated Syria 1-0 for their first win in the final round of 2018 World Cup Asian Zone qualification on Tuesday to keep their faint hopes of booking a berth at the Russia tournament alive.
Hassan Al Haidous made the difference in the Group A match at the Al Sadd Stadium when he won a penalty after Mouaiad Al Ajjan brought him down in the area. The Al Sadd forward converted it himself in the 35th minute.
Qatar moved up to fifth place with three points, behind Syria, who have four.
Qatar’s next match is on November 15, against China, who slipped to the bottom of the table after losing 0-2 to Uzbekistan in Tashkent.
Jorge Fossati’s men could have won by a bigger margin, but Sebastian Soria missed two sitters trying to chip goalkeeper Ibrahim Mala while Al Haidous too had a similar attempt blocked.
Qatar controlled the game almost fully in the second half, but the visitors upped the pressure towards the end and goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb had to make an exceptional save to deny Osama Omari’s stunning free-kick.
Fossati had said before the match that he was not overly worried about a defeat. But he seemed to be eyeing a win from the word go. The Uruguayan opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation instead of his preferred 5-2-2-1 and made three changes to the eleven that started against South Korea.
While Rodrigo Tabata and Ahmed Maksoud were replaced with Ali Asad and Akram Afif, Ibrahim Majed started in place of Abdulkarim Hassan in defence.
Syria were expected to play on counter-attack, but they were better in passing at the start and confident while going forward. They also enjoyed more amount of possession.
However, there were not many clear chances before the penalty, which changed the complexion of the game.
Qatar looked a far better side after the breather and they turned in their best performance in the following 35 minutes. Ali Asad set up forwards a couple of times following his impressive runs only to see them being wasted. Akram too played Soria with a through pass after moving along the middle, but the Al Rayyan forward messed it up.
Fossati strengthened the defence by reverting to a five-man defensive line and bringing on Maksoud in sweeper’s role. And they walked away with a deserving win.