Qatar’s World Cup campaign was left in a shambles after they went down to Iran by a solitary goal in their crucial Asian qualifier in Doha yesterday.
A cool Mehdi Taremi finish in the 51st minute after breaking clear of the Qatar defence was the difference between the two sides and leaves Iran four points clear at the top of Group A with just four games to play.
The win helped Iran almost wrap up their spot at Russia 2018 following a match that never rose to the expected heights with both teams failing to provide the fireworks at the Al Sadd Sports Club.
Iran are still unbeaten in six matches and their defence-oriented game paid off once again yesterday as Qatar’s South American mainstays Sebastian Soria and Rodrigo Tabata failed to make much of an impression in front of a decent crowd.
For Qatar, the defeat, after other results yesterday, means they are now bottom of the group, with just four points from six games, four of which they lost.
The 2022 World Cup hosts had made it very clear their desire to reach Russia and had even replaced the national team coach following a poor start in the latest round of qualifiers.
Taremi’s goal came during a tight, sometimes bad-tempered encounter with neither team carving many clear-cut chances.
The ill-feeling carried on after the match with the coaching staff of both sides coming together and arguing on the touchline as the Iranian players celebrated their victory.
Iran’s coach Carlos Queiroz then blew a kiss and waved to home supporters as he was booed off by some Qatari fans. The bad-tempered end came after a match which had long threatened to remain goalless.
Early on Ansarifard and FC Rostov’s Sarda Azmoun tested out Saad al-Sheeb in Qatar’s goal, but no team really looked like breaking the deadlock. The match soon settled into a cagey battle with both teams unwilling to take many risks, aware of what was at stake. The home side pressed early in the second half, but after being picked off by Taremi, rarely threatened a goal, though had a strong shout for a penalty in the 68th minute when young star Akram Afif appeared to be tripped in the penalty area.
It was Iran who went closest to scoring again and should have doubled the lead when skipper Safi was clean through on goal but shot tamely.
A crowd of more than 10,000 watched on, including former Barcelona star, Xavi Hernandez who now plays in Qatar.
Iran now play China at home on March 28, with Qatar playing the same day in Uzbekistan.
© Gulf Times Newspaper 2019