Qatar suffered back to back losses in their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign when they went down 1-0 to Uzbekistan at the Al Sadd stadium yesterday. A late goal in the 85th minute from Egor Krimets gave the Uzbeks three valuable points and their second consecutive win to boost their hopes of making it to Russia.
The hosts were the dominant side and created quite a few chances as compared to the visitors. But Qatar will be left ruing several missed chances and that defensive lapse which allowed an unmarked Krimets to score the winner. That chance was the only real one that the Uzbeks had during the entire match.
Qatar coach Jose Daniel Carreno made four changes to the starting line-up that played against Iran. Chief among them saw regular goalkeeper Claude Amine being replaced by Oumar Barry. It was a mistake from Amine that led to the opening goal in the match against Iran. Amongst other changes defender Mohamed Musa, midfielder Ahmed Elsayed and forward Akram Afif were brought in to replace Pedro Correia, Luiz Junior and Ali Asadalla respectively.
Afif had not played in the previous match and his pace on the wings created the first chance for Qatar. The Sporting Gijon player ran down the left flank and crossed to Sebastian Soria in the middle but the tall striker’s flick hit the side netting.
In the 21st minute, it was Soria’s turn to become provider when he crossed into the centre but a perfectly-placed Mohamed Musa headed wide. This was a great chance for Qatar to take the lead.
After this chance neither side bothered the opponent’s goalkeeper and went into the break goalless.
The visitors started the second half well and were controlling the play in the early bits but nothing noteworthy came off it. Carreno then replaced Tabata with Ali Asadalla in the 62nd minute to shake things up. And things almost went Qatar’s way in the 66th minute when Boualem Khoukhi attempted a great bicycle kick inside the box only for the ball to rebound off the bar.
Qatar were constantly on the attack but their momentum was disrupted when their skipper Hassan al-Haydous suffered what looked like a hamstring injury and had to be substituted in the 71st minute.
Ismael Mohamed came on as a replacement. Injury forced another substitution when Abdelkareem Hassan had to be replaced by Pedro Miguel in the 80th minute.
Just five minutes later, Uzbekistan got a free-kick. It was a far way out but Alexander Geynrikh delivered a great ball that an unmarked Krimets was able to easily head in past Barry. The Qatar defence picked a very wrong time to commit this blunder and had to pay very dearly.
Despite desperately searching for an equaliser, the hosts were not able to create any chance worth mentioning in the remaining nine minutes of the match (four minutes of injury time).
This loss will be particularly painful because it was a match Qatar dominated and should have walked away at least with a draw. But coming away empty-handed will be a huge demoralizer.
Qatar still have eight matches left in this qualifying campaign but two consecutive losses means that they will need to do exceptionally well during the rest of the campaign. Their next match is an extremely tough away encounter against South Korea and Carreno’s boys will have to show lots of grit if they are to return with any points.
Qatar’s Akram Afif (L) and Ahmed Yasser (R) look dejected after the match against Uzbekistan held at the Al Sadd stadium yesterday. (Right) Uzbekistan defender Egor Krimets (left in the picture) celebrates after scoring yesterday. PICS: Anas Khalid