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India robbed off win

Team’s hopes of advancing to the next stage were dashed by Qatar, which won 2-1, thanks to questionable refereeing

India robbed off win
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Lallianzuala Chhangte celebrates after scoring for India

CHENNAI: The protest of Indian players fell on deaf ears as referees Kim Woosung, Kang Dongho, and Cheon Jinhee of Korea Republic hit a new low in terms of refereeing at the highest stage. It was their amateur call that cost India its chances of making it to the third round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the first time in history.

The curtains have fallen on FIFA World Cup dreams once again for the Blue Tigers. There may be new faces, perhaps a new coach, when India vies for a berth in the grandest stage of them all the next time. However, Tuesday in Qatar brought heartbreak.

Everything was going well until Al-hashmi Mohialdin shamelessly pulled the ball into play, levelling the scores for Qatar, and signalling the downfall for India. Despite moments of brilliance, it wasn't enough, as the weight of being robbed undoubtedly struck a big blow in the minds of the Indian players. Ahmed Al Rawi sealed the win for Qatar. Qatar, despite not fielding any players from the squad that defeated India in November last year, immediately began posing questions to India's midfield from the early minutes of the game.

Brandon Fernandes found himself entangled in the midfield, but his appeal for a foul fell on deaf ears as Qatar managed its first sight of goal, only for some solid defending from Rahul Beke to clear the danger for a corner. Skipper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu had to remain vigilant as Ahmed Al Rawi made life difficult, yet India's defenders stood firm, with Mehtab Singh sacrificing his body to deny Al Rawi a scoring opportunity. Al Rawi attempted another attack from the right in the 17th minute, but he dragged his shot wide of Gurpreet's post. While India's midfield was trying to regroup, it was defenders Mehtab and Rahul who were doing the lion's share of the work.

India had its first chance at goal in the 20th minute through Jay Gupta, who was making his second appearance for the national team, but he was denied by goalkeeper Shehab Ellethy.

Moments later, Rahim Ali delivered a cross across the face of the goal, but there were no blue shirts to capitalise on it. Shortly after, Manvir Singh had a golden opportunity, but his shot failed to beat Ellethy, and Lallianzuala Chhangte couldn't convert the rebound. Chance after chance went begging.

Finally, Chhangte broke the deadlock for India. He found himself in the right place at the right time, his well-timed run allowing him to slot the ball past the onrushing Ellethy. It was India’s first open-play goal after 683 minutes.

Screen grab that shows that ball had clearly gone out of play before Mohialdin pulled it back

Jayantho Sengupta
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