E Valenica: Photo: twitter/fifa
Qatar: Ecuador striker Enner Valencia (16'minutes pen, 31'minutes) scored twice in the first half to beat Qatar 2-0 in the opening fixture of the 2022 World Cup on Sunday. The South Americans outclassed the host nation and exploited their weakness in the middle to create several opportunities to open up the play. This is the first time in history that a host nation failed to win its opening fixture.
Qatar started shakily as the experienced Ecuador side looked to punish the host country with long balls. Much to everyone's surprise, Enner Valencia’s scored the opening goal in the 3rd minute. But the goal was disallowed for offside after Video Assistant Referee(VAR) take a look at the goal and found Valencia was offside. Fortunately for Valencia, he doesn't need to wait much to find the opener for his country.
An unnecessary foul inside the box inside the box gifted a perfect opportunity for Ecuador to find its opening goal in the 16th minute. Valencia, who took the penalty, fooled Qatar keeper Al Sheeb, who dived to his right, and the ball went into the bottom-right corner.
Qatar's lack of quality in the middle was pretty evident from the start, as they were barely able to move the ball forward. Ecuador finds the second goal of the night after Enner Valencia found himself in the most promising position inside the box to glance a header into the back of the net in the 31st minute. Perciado, at the right flank, sent a ball crossing into the box, and Valencia heads it with perfection into the back of the net.
Valencia, the man of the match, showed signs of injury after an unnecessary foul by Karim Boudiaf in the first half. Fortunately, the star striker recovered well in the next minutes.
In the final minutes of the first half, Qatar missed a golden opportunity to score one back, with Almoez Ali failing to guide Hassan Al-Haydos's cross from the right flank to the back of the net. Despite Ecuador dominating the game, both teams hold almost similar possession. But, it was the experienced South Americans who break the deadlock in the first half and silenced Qatari fans in the Al Bayt Stadium.
In the second half, Qatar's effort to build the game from the defence failed to materialise as they lost possession in the middle to Ecuador. The South Americans' continued to dominate both wings, especially with Valencia, Michael Estrada, and Angelo Preciado, looking to find another goal in the early minutes of the second half.
However, Qatar came back to life in the 60th minute and almost came close to scoring from a glancing header. They continued to hold possession but failed to break the defensive back four of Ecuador. Qatar keeper Saad Al Sheeb had a busy night compared to his counterpart, with Ecuador managing 3 shots out of a possible 4 on target. Meanwhile, Qatar only had one shot on target.
At the same time, Angelo Preciado limped off the pitch in the 61st minute which was a great blow for Ecuador in the coming matches. The second half was promising for Qatar, yet not enough to beat a resilient Ecuador. The host team had a golden opportunity to find one goal back in the 86th minute through Mohammed Muntari. However, Muntari sent the ball wide of the crossbar.