World Cup hosts Qatar got off to a disappointing start to their campaign, with a 2-0 defeat to Ecuador putting them in a tough battle to break out of their group in their first-ever World Cup.
Qatar appeared to have conceded a goal within six minutes of kick-off in Sunday night’s match at al-Bayt Stadium. But Enner Valencia’s header from Ecuador, from a distant free kick from Pervis Estupinan just before the halfway line, was cut short by VAR moments later.
But it was only a temporary reprieve for Qatar, which played for Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, other Qatari royals and several foreign leaders in a crowd of 60,000.
Already after fifteen minutes of play, Valencia was knocked down in the penalty area by Qatari goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb and the referee pointed to the spot without hesitation. By firing in the penalty kick to the right of the keeper, Valencia became Ecuador’s all-time highest goalscorer.
Fifteen minutes later, Valencia found the net again – doubling Ecuador’s lead with a header from a cross from just outside the box on the right.
With half an hour passed, Qatar was trailing by two clean sheets and hadn’t even touched the ball in the Ecuadorian penalty area.
The hosts settled down as half-time approached, but managed to convert comfort into plenty of meaningful attacking play in the second half.
An effort from Muntari in the 86th minute almost set Al Bayt on fire when he received a long ball and tried to beat the keeper with a volley – but the ball went over the net.
More to follow.