Doha: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu played the match of his life in goal as India held Asian champions Qatar to a famous 0-0 draw to earn their first point in a Group E second round World Cup qualifying match here on Tuesday.
Without the services of talisman Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet led the Indian team who are 41 rungs below Qatar in the FIFA rankings. Qatar are ranked 62nd in the world to India’s 103.
The Bengaluru FC custodian, who was recently awarded the Arjuna award, made a string of saves to keep the hosts at bay for the entire duration of the match.
Qatar had 27 shots on target and yet failed to beat Gurpreet in India’s goal as the team, under Croatian coach Igor Stimac, celebrated the draw like a victory at the final whistle with Spain and former FC Barcelona great Xavi Hernandez in attendance.
It was all about Qatar as far as goalscoring opportunities were concerned as Ismaeel Mohammad rattled the woodwork on the rebound in the 85th minute. But luck favoured India and Gurpreet who pulled off some astonishing saves either side of half time.
Sahal Samad and Udanta Singh had two gilt-edged chances to score for the away side in the second period but both missed by a whisker as the Indian supporters at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium egged the team on raucously.
India did not miss Chhetri up front as all the action was in their half.
Gurpreet was a rock as he made innumerable saves to keep the likes of Abdelkarim Hassan, Abdul Aziz Hatem and Almoez Ali at bay.
India narrowly lost to Oman 2-1 in their qualifying opener in Guwahati last week.