DOHA: Host nation Qatar are perilously close to crashing out of the World Cup after they slumped to a 3-1 defeat by Senegal at the Al Thumama Stadium on Friday, despite Mohammed Muntari netting a first-ever World Cup finals goal for the Qataris.
The Senegal fans brought colour and noise with rhythmic drumming throughout, while the home supporters turned out in maroon shirts, with many of the men opting for the traditional Middle Eastern thobe, a pristine white ankle-length tunic.
Qatar’s opening-night nerves were nowhere to be seen as they quickly got to grips with Senegal and should have had a penalty when Ismaila Sarr bundled over Akram Afif, but Spanish referee Antonio Mateu waved away their pleas and VAR did not intervene.
With Qatar defending well, it was going to take either a moment of magic or a catastrophic mistake for Senegal to break the deadlock, and unfortunately for Qatar defender Boualem Khoukhi it turned out to be the latter.
His attempt to clear a routine low pass into the box by Krepin Diatta went disastrously wrong as he went to ground without making proper contact with the ball.
Khoukhi’s fluffed effort allowed Dia to pounce, and the 26-year-old striker needed no second invitation to rattle the ball in at the near post to give Senegal the lead.
With the Qatari crowd thinned out somewhat at the start of the second half, Famara Diedhou doubled Senegal’s advantage with a brilliant glancing header from an Ismail Jakobs corner in the 48th minute.
The missing home fans were soon back in their seats and rewarded with some superb attacking play as the hosts registered their first efforts on target in the tournament, with Ismael Mohamad forcing a superb reflex save from Edouard Mendy.
Muntari reduced the deficit in the 78th with a bullet header from Mohamad’s cross but Senegal were unruffled as they continued to out-muscle their opponents in midfield.
Six minutes after Muntari’s goal, Bamba Dieng swept home a pass form fellow substitute Iliman Ndiaye for his side’s third to consign Qatar to the bottom of Group A with no points, while their group rivals all have three.
Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2022
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