Qatar's FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaign hit a snag when they were held 1-1 by neighbours Bahrain in their Group A clash on Wednesday.
Qatar, who made other teams in Asia sit up and take notice during their 3-0 demolition of Uzbekistan last Saturday, failed to take advantage of several chances, including a penalty, to allow the Bahrainis take a valuable point from their away match.
Sebastien Soria put Qatar ahead as early as the fifth minute after receiving a long pass from deep, but the Uruguay-born striker, who has shouldered most of Qatar's burden in the forwardline throughout the qualifying phases, failed to put away a penalty later in the first half.
Soria himself had won the penalty for Qatar when he was brought down by Abdulla Ismail in the 36th minute, but the 23-year-old striker couldn't beat Bahraini goalkeeper Sayed Mohammed, who blocked the ball easily to his right. Bahrain were dealt a huge blow when Abdulla Marzooqi was sent off in the first session with his second yellow card of the match, but Qatar failed to make the most of their numerical advantage.
In fact it was Bahrain who raised the bar in the second half, attacking desperately and threatening to score any moment. And the visitors sure enough found the equaliser when Abdulla Baba Fatadi slotted the ball home from the top of the penalty area after receiving a pass from Jaycee John.
The Nigerian-born John came close to scoring himself a few minutes later, but his shot narrowly sailed over the post. Qatar pressed hard for the winner, but the Bahrainis crowded them out towards the final stages of the match to secure their first point from two matches.
"We should have won the match with a little bit of luck on our side," Qatar coach Jorge Fossati said. "As I've said before our aim was to win all our home matches, but with today's draw that's no longer a possibility," he added.
Bahrain coach Milan Macala said his team had performed well under the circumstances. "We were down to 10 men in the first half with Marzooki receiving his second yellow card and considering the fact that we equalised and got a draw is quite creditable," said the Czech veteran. "Qatar put us under a lot of pressure, especially in the first half but we hung on and overall I am satisfied with what we have achieved."
In the group's other match earlier in Tashkent, Australia defeated Uzbekistan 1-0. The two top teams from each group automatically qualify for the FIFA World Cup finals in 2010. The third-placed side will clash with its corresponding team in Group B and the winner of that match will take on OFC champions New Zealand in the final play-off for a possible fifth spot for Asia at the finals.