Heartburn for India as Qatar snatch victory

India, who lost 0-2 to Kuwait in their opening match, produced an impressive show and took the lead in the 18th minute through Dharmaraj Ravanan. Sukhvinder Singh’s boys dictated terms on their fancied opponents in the first half but conceded two late goals to end the match empty handed. Striker Jaralla Ali struck in the 80th and 88th minutes to break the hearts of the Indians.

Both the goals came after first choice goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani had to be replaced by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu as the former suffered an injury in a collision with Qatari midfielder Saleh Mohamed during a scramble for the ball minutes after the resumption of second half. Not wanting to take any chances, Kattimani was taken to a local hospital for MRI scan and he was ruled out of any serious problems. Gurpreet was found out of position when Jaralla sent a looping header into the empty Indian goal for the equaliser.

Sukhvinder brought in Jagtar Singh in place of Balwant Singh in the 83rd minute but the striker failed to make an impression. Jaralla then wrapped up Qatar’s victory with a powerful left-footer from the edge of the box. The Indians then went all out for a desperate equaliser but to no avail. India will now have to beat Singapore in their last Group D game on Thursday if they want to make it to the knock-out stage of the under-23 competition. The top two teams from each of four groups and the four best third-placed teams will qualify for the Round of 16.

Despite the defeat, coach Sukhvinder Singh said he was happy with the performance. “We really played well today, much better than the Kuwait match. We created more chances and the way the boys played in the first half, it was a treat to watch,” Sukhvinder said. We also squandered two sitters; On the whole, I am pleased with performance,” he said.

“We are still not out of contention for a knock-out berth. We have to beat Singapore now,” he added. Asked about Kattimani’s injury, Sukhvinder said: “We have done an MRI scan on him and the team doctor said there is nothing serious. His neck and spine are safe.”

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