The Indian Under-23 national team was beaten 3-1 by Qatar in a 2012 London Olympics - Asian Round 2 qualifier at the Al-Sadd Stadium in Doha. After a strong first session in which India held Qatar to a one-all draw they just couldn't sustain their game with Qatar getting stronger to score two goals in the second half to seal the first-leg tie.
Only 3,518 spectators had come to the Al-Sadd Stadium, but they were treated to some exiting opening minutes with action at both ends. To the surprise of the local fans India looked the more dangerous of the two sides especially through the long throw-in's from captain Raju Eknath Gaekwad. In the seventh minute one such throw-in reached Jeje Lalpekhlua and C.S. Sabeeth in the box, and while the Qatari defenders were trying to get the ball away Jeje banged the ball in for the lead with all the Indians at the ground celebrating.
But only three minutes later Qatar earned a penalty when Abdulaziz Hatem was brought down inside the area by defender Arnab Mondal, but if it was a penalty can be debated. Captain Hassan Al Haidous went up to take the penalty but his weak shot was cleared by India keeper Laxmikant Kattimani. It seemed things were going India's way early on. But Qatar didn't look shocked as they pressed on and got the equalised through Al Khalfan in the 14th minute, who reached a perfect through ball, beat keeper Kattimani and nicely pushed in.
After the first quarter the Qataris had more of the ball, but India did look dangerous on counter attacks with especially Jeje a constant worry for the Qatari defence whenever the ball came through. It was one-all at the break after a first session which was played at a high pace in hot conditions in Doha.
After the break things didn't look good for India as they didn't pressure against the ball, allowed the Qataris to combine and the attack looked toothless with no balls reaching the strikers as often the long ball was used as the midfield and defence got less time to combine and clear the ball from danger.
Right from the restart Qatar put pressure on the Indian defence and it was a lovely strike from Hassan Al Haidous in the 54th minute which gave Qatar the lead beating the outstretched arms of Kattimani. India somehow didn't look like a side which could get back into the game and Qatar sealed the game in the 69th minute through a strike from substitute Mohammed Saleh El Neel, who scored from close-range as India once more couldn't clear the ball.
India did try and get a second, but their efforts didn't even reach the target, Raju's throw-in's weren't a threat either towards the end as the Qatari goalkeeper Abdulla Al Sheeb had adjusted to the danger. Kattimani made a late save in injury time to deflect the ball onto the crossbar to deny Qatar a fourth. It ended 3-1 in favour of Qatar.
The second-leg will be played in Pune on Thursday, June 23. India need at least a 2-0 win to advance to the next round and hopefully the monsoon conditions in Pune will be helpful against the Qataris.
Qatar U23 3-1 (1-1) INDIA U23 - Goals: 0-1 Jeje Lalpekhlua (7'), 1-1 Ahmed Al Khalfan (14'), 2-1 Hassan Al Haidous (54'), 3-1 Mohammed Saleh El Neel (68').
INDIA: 1-Laxmikant Kattimani; 2-Abhishek Das, 4-Raju Eknath Gaekwad [C], 3-Arnab Mondal, 5-Gurjinder Kumar; 6-Lalrindika Ralte, 8-Jewel Raja Sheikh, 7-Shilton D'Silva (74' 15-Zakir Mundampara), 9-Kh. Jibon Singh; 10-Jeje Lalpekhlua, 11-C.S. Sabeeth
Substitutes: 18-Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, 12-Deepak Devrani, 13-Shahbas Shaleel, 14-Anthony Barbosa, 16-Snehashis Chakroborty, 17-Manandeep Singh