Qatar hit back to snatch a point

Rio de Janeiro: Boualem Khoukhi scored 13 minutes from time as Asian champions Qatar hit back from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw with Paraguay at the Copa America on Sunday.

An Oscar Cardozo penalty and a stunning Derlis Gonzalez strike gave the South Americans a 2-0 lead in Rio de Janeiro but goals from Almoez Ali and Khoukhi in the final quarter snatched a share of the Group B spoils for the tournament debutants.

"It's a fair result, we deserved the point we gained," said Qatar's Spanish coach Felix Sanchez. He praised his players for "keeping the faith and showing the desire to go after the game, that was the most positive thing for us."

It left the sides two points behind Group B leaders Colombia, who opened their account with a 2-0 win over Lionel Messi's Argentina on Saturday. "We were unable to manage our advantage and we leave with a bitter taste," admitted Gonzalez.

Tournament invitees Qatar made a disastrous start with a defensive mix up in the first minute causing panic in their own area. The Asian champions survived but Paraguay kept the pressure on and a couple of minutes later had won a penalty for handball after a Bruno Valdez header struck Portuguese-born full-back Pedro Miguel's arm. Cardozo hammered the resulting spot kick straight down the middle of the goal to give Paraguay a fourth-minute lead.

Qatar should have equalised on 16 minutes but incredibly two players missed an open goal. Left-back Hassan Abdelkarim flashed an inviting center across the six yard box where Sudanese-born Ali and Hasan Khalid Al Haydos both somehow contrived to completely miss the ball from just a couple of yards out.

Qatar, the next World Cup hosts in 2022, were neat and tidy in possession but initially lacked the cutting edge and ruthlessness that Paraguay showed.

The South Americans threatened to double their lead but Fabian Balbuena headed over and Hernan Perez forced a smart save from goalkeeper Saad Al-Sheeb.

(To view our epaper please click here. For all the latest News, Mumbai, Entertainment, Cricket, Business and Featured News updates, visit Free Press Journal. Also, follow us on Twitter and Instagram and do like our Facebook page for continuous updates on the go)

Free Press Journal

www.freepressjournal.in