Pune: India paid the price of wasting a crucial penalty as they could only manage a 1-1 draw against much-fancied Qatar thus crashing out of the Olympic football qualifiers on Thursday.
India went into the second leg of the Olympic qualifiers second round needing a 2-0 win to make it to the final round having lost 1-3 in Doha in an away match and Lalrindika Ralte's miss from the spot kick in the 19th minute proved costly for Desmond Bulpin's U-23 boys.
The home side went ahead in the 53rd minute with Qatar conceding an own goal and had it been 2-0 at that stage, India could have tried defending the scoreline. In the end, however, Qatar went through the final round on 4-2 aggregate.
Today, Qatar did not have the kind of upperhand they had enjoyed at home on June 19. This was mainly due to dealy in their arrival as they didn't get requisite clearance earlier to land their chartered flight at the Pune airport.
Qatar were slightly the better team in the first half but it was difficult to separate the two sides in the second session with India getting a few opportunities.
Despite failing to advance to the final round, Desmond Bulpin's boys will thus end their campaign with their heads held high.
Bulpin began with the same XI that played in Doha and the 5000-strong crowd at the Shiv Chhatrapati Stadium at Balewadi here were on their feet when India were awarded a penalty in the 19th minute after Jeje Lalpekhlua's shot was handled by Murad Naji.
However, Lalrindika's low left-footer was brilliantly saved by Qatar goalkeeper Al Sheeb to the stunned silence of the home fans.
Al Sheeb, however, turned villian in the 53rd minute when his costly mistake helped India gain lead. Khaled Muftah sent in a backpass from the right flank but Al sheeb let the innocous ball slip with Jibon Singh charging at him.
Sensing the chance of making it to the final round with another goal, India pressed hard and Jeje should have done the job for India in the 73rd minute but he disappointed the sizeable crowd.
Jeje, who had scored the lone goal for India in their 1-3 loss in the first leg, was all alone inside Qatar box but his feeble angular left-footer went straight to the goalkeeper.
As if India were penalised for Jeje's mistake, Qatar equalised in the next minute (74th) to seal their place in the final round.
Following a throw-in from the right flank, Fadhl Omar sent a perfect floater for Mohamed Salah Elnee on the left and the later, who was left free inside the box by Abhishek Das, sent the ball past goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani with a first time shot that crashed into the net.
Bulpin Singh brought in tall Manandeep Singh in place of striker C S Sabeeth in the 69th minute and Jagtar Singh for Abhishek Das in the 90th minute but those changes did not have much impact for the home side's cause.