Ratings: Gurpreet 10/10 as Stimac masterminds a point
An inspired display from goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu helped India earn a famous draw against reigning Asian Cup champions Qatar in their second group game of the World Cup qualifiers in Doha on Tuesday. India, who were without an unwell Sunil Chhetri, went in as massive underdogs against the hosts. While Qatar's profligacy in front of goal was a big factor, India's grit and teamwork while defending was just as impressive. After a disappointing loss against Oman in the opening game, the draw against the group's best team will serve as a big boost to India, while also keeping their hopes of finishing in the top two alive. Here are the player ratings.
Report: India hold firm for famous draw
With no Chhetri to inspire them up front, it was the last line of defence that stepped up. Gurpreet was simply sensational, but India's midfielders and forwards -- who spent most of the game defending and tracking back -- put in a proper shift as well. It was always expected to be an overwhelming challenge for India's back four against their much-fancied opponents, and they all needed extra bodies in the box to defend against the constant onslaught. They were better organised in the second half, conserving their energy instead of pressing high and timing their counters well.
Few would have expected India to come away from Qatar with a respectable scoreline, let alone a draw, so there shouldn't be any complaints. Even so, the sheer number of chances the hosts created and the amount of free space offered to them in front of the box should be a big concern. India had quite a few chances to counterattack as well, especially in the second half, but against this kind of opposition, when the chances are few, they need to show a bit more composure.
Manager rating out of 10
9 -- It was Stimac's biggest and the most difficult game in charge of India so far and he has come away with one of their greatest results in recent times. The unavailability of Chhetri, and also Ashique Kuruniyan, who impressed against Oman, made the task much tougher, but he got his team selection right. He was helped by an outstanding performance from his goalkeeper, but he deserves credit for India's tight and much improved display, particularly in the second half.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, 10 -- His best save came just before half time, as he dived right to save a fierce shot from Abdelkarim Hassan, but it was just one of countless others. The stand-in captain was in beast-mode on one of his busiest and toughest nights in an India shirt. While many of the saves were straightforward, all contributed towards frustrating the hosts, and earning India a miraculous, memorable point.
DF Rahul Bheke, 6 -- Had a nightmarish start against Hassan Al-Haydos in the first half with the Qatar skipper constantly coming inside and getting shots away. Was much tidier once Udanta dropped back to help out. Could have been tighter with his marking to reduce the number of crosses coming in from the left, but held his own against arguably the opposition's best player.
DF Sandesh Jhingan, 6 -- A horrendous error early in the second half almost provided Qatar the opener, but instantly made up for it with a heroic last-ditch tackle. In general, he was sitting way too deep, which allowed Qatar free movement at the edge of the box and numerous chances to take shots from long range. Was typically no-nonsense, however, while dealing with aerial threats.
DF Adil Khan, 7 -- Stepped up big time after a forgettable outing against Oman. Was mostly error-free, but just like Jhingan, guilty of sitting too deep and relying on last-second blocks.
DF Mandar Rao Desai, 6 -- Looked uncomfortable against the electric Yusuf Abdurisag from very early on. Was fortunate to get away with a howler inside first 15 minutes, giving the ball straight to Abdelaziz Hatem, whose curling effort went just over. Just like the other full back Bheke, looked much better once Nikhil Poojari dropped back to defend alongside him. Guilty of conceding possession cheaply on a number of occasions.
MF Anirudh Thapa, 7 -- Didn't have the same freedom as the last game with Qatar monopolising possession, but adapted well. Spent most of the game chasing down, but delivered some decent balls on the handful of set-pieces and on rare counters.
MF Sahal Abdul Samad, 7 -- With Qatar quick to close him down and with India's forwards a bit laboured on the counter, didn't have the kind of impact we've gotten used to with him. Had a much better second half however as India adopted smarter tactics, and started timing their counters better. Needs to work on releasing the ball sooner against high-pressing opponents.
MF Rowlin Borges, 7 -- Typically dogged in midfield. Added a much needed presence in front of the defence and often managed to break up play. A couple of silly fouls in dangerous areas, though, could have been costly if Qatar's finishing was better.
FW Udanta Singh, 8 -- Created India's best chance late in the second half with some tenacious play on the wing and nearly grabbed a winner with a curling effort with his left foot. Kept running till the dying minutes, even though he had put in a proper shift defensively. Retrieved the ball in his own half on countless occasions and tried to start attacks. India's biggest threat on the night.
FW Manvir Singh, 5 -- Had massive shoes to fill and struggled as a largely isolated striker. His hold-up play could have been much better. Improved quite a bit in second half.
FW Nikhil Poojari, 6 -- Got a surprise start due to Ashique Kuruniyan's lack of fitness and looked a little short on confidence. Had a few, largely unsuccessful, forays forward early on. Spent most of his time assisting Mandar in defence, putting in a decent shift.
MF Brandon Fernandes, 4 -- Came on for Nikhil Poojari in the 68th minute, barely had any touches.
MF, Vinit Rai, N/A -- . Came on for Sahal in the 75th minute to add some much needed energy in midfield. Spent most of the time trying to close the opposition down.
FW , Narender Gahlot N/A -- Came on for Thapa in the dying minutes as an additional body in defence.