World Cup hosts Qatar have had a disappointing start to their campaign, with a 2-0 defeat to Ecuador leaving them facing an uphill struggle to make it out of their group in their first-ever World Cup.
It looked like Qatar had conceded a goal within six minutes of kick-off in the match on Sunday evening at Al Bayt Stadium. But a header from Ecuador’s Enner Valencia, from a long-distance free-kick attempt from Pervis Estupinan close to the halfway line, was struck off by the video assistant referee (VAR) moments later.
But it was only a temporary reprieve for Qatar, playing in front of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, other Qatari royals, and several foreign leaders in a crowd of 60,000.
After just 15 minutes of play, Valencia was brought down in the box by Qatari goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb and the referee pointed to the spot without hesitation. Slotting in the penalty to the right of the keeper, Valencia became Ecuador’s all-time highest World Cup goal scorer.
Fifteen minutes later, Valencia again found the net – doubling Ecuador’s advantage with a header from a cross from just outside the box on the right.
With half an hour gone, Qatar were two-nil down, and had not even had a touch of the ball in the Ecuadorian box.
The hosts settled as half-time approached, but could manage to convert comfort into much meaningful attacking play in the second half.
An 86th-minute effort from Mohammed Muntari almost set Al Bayt alight when he received a long ball and tried to beat the keeper with a volley, only to have the ball landed on top of the netting.
More to follow.