Qatar, asserting dominance throughout the 90 minutes at the Kalinga Stadium, could have secured a more substantial victory if not for several missed opportunities.
The visiting team found the net through Moustafa Tarek Mashal (4th minute), Almeoz Ali (47th), and Yusuf Adurisag (86th).
Despite India’s efforts to draw inspiration from their memorable 0-0 draw against the same opponents four years ago, they struggled to create scoring chances. Although a couple of opportunities arose towards the end of the first half, they were squandered.
Igor Stimac‘s squad remains in contention to secure the second spot in Group A and qualify for the third round, following their earlier 1-0 victory over Kuwait in an away match on November 16.
The Indian defence was exposed quite early into the match as they conceded a goal in the fourth minute itself.
Off a corner, three Qatar players exchanged passes inside the Indian box but none of the home side defenders could touch the ball. Moustafa Tarek Mashal then sent a low right-footed shot which beat goalkeeper Amrinder Singh, who was fielded by Igor Stimac in place of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, all ends up.
Akram Afif missed three chances which allowed India to go into the breather just one goal down.
Afif failed to hit the target in the second minute with just the Indian goalkeeper in front of the post. He also failed to find the target in the 14th, 22nd and 26th minutes.
First goal scorer Mashal’s free header was saved by Amrinder.
Their backs to the wall, India tried to hit on the counter and they got two fine chances, and could have restored parity from the second one.
Then, Udanta Singh and Anirudh Thapa had a nice one-touch neat exchange of passes but Lalengmawia Ralte failed to direct his shot properly from the edge of the box.
Three minutes from the break, Thapa wasted an easier chance as he had only the Qatar goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham to beat after the ball landed on him following a defensive mistake. But Thapa somehow could only produce a weak low shot which missed the post by a wide margin.
If the fag end of the first half saw some fightback from India, Qatar nipped it in the bud by doubling the lead in the second minute of the second half (47th minute of the match) with their prolific striker Almeoz Ali finding the target.
Ali had scored four goals in Qatar’s 8-1 hammering of Afghanistan in their previous match.
Thapa was taken off in the 63rd minute and Sahal Abdul Samad came in his place. Just two minutes later, Suresh Singh found him inside the Qatar box with a brilliant delivery but Samad’s left-footed shot was wide of the far post.
Four minutes from regulation time, Qatar made it 3-0 (86th minute) with Yusuf Adurisag heading home after connecting a cross from Mohammed Albayati.
India next play their 2026 World Cup qualifiers match against Afghanistan at the neutral venue of Dushanbe, Tajikistan on March 21 next year.
(With PTI Inputs)