Gutsy Qatar rally for stunning draw against Paraguay
RIO DE JANEIRO: Asian Cup champions Qatar on Sunday produced two classy goals in the second half to share points against former champions Paraguay on their Copa America debut.
Coached by Felix Sanchez, Qatar conceded an early goal when Oscar Cardozo converted a penalty in the fourth minute. Paraguay, two-time champions of the world’s oldest tournament, added their second when Derliz Gonzalez found the net in the 56th minute.
However, Qatar’s young brigade regrouped quickly and produced a stunning turnaround when Asian Cup star Almoez Ali scored the first goal for Al Annabi in the 68th minute. After striker Ali’s goal, team-mate Bualem Khoukhi produced the equaliser in the 77th minute as Qatar stunned the crowd at the Maracana Stadium.
Winner of the Asian Cup in February, Qatar arrived in Brazil a little over two weeks to be part of the 12-team event as a guest side. Despite conceding two goals, Qatar fought back in admirable fashion to script a creditable draw in their Group B clash.
Qatar, who will take on Columbia on June 19, started sluggishly when Cardozo went to the left of goal-keeper Saad Al Sheeb. In the 11th minute, Qatar’s midfielder Asim Madibo was shown a yellow card by the referee and soon after skipper Hassan Al Haydos missed a scoring chance from close range.
In the 26th minute, Qatar’s Tarek Salman was shown the yellow card for a reckless tackle. Five minutes from the first-half whistle, midfielder Hernan Perez of Paraguay was also shown the yellow card.
Soon after the resumption of play, Paraguay doubled their lead through Gonzalez on an assist from team-mate M Almiron.
A minute after the hour-mark, Qatar’s Asian Player of the Year Abdulkarim Hassan was shown a yellow card by the referee. Seven minutes later, Al Duhail striker and star forward Ali curled in a stunning shot from just outside the Paraguay box to score his side’s first goal.
Three minutes later, goal here Khaouki was shown the yellow card but he composed himself a few minutes later to score Qatar’s second goal. In the 80th minute, Paraguay defender Fabian Balbuena was also shown a yellow card.
Qatar played fierce football in an attempt to score the third goal but both sides walked off the Maracana Stadium with a 2-2 draw.
Al Annabi was also in lead in the match stats, enjoying 57 percent of the ball possession. They also had more corners (4-2) against Paraguay. Qatar’s four players were shown the yellow card whereas Paraguay was shown two yellows.
Qatar’s last Group B clash will be against former World Cup champions Argentina on June 23.