Goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham blocked a late penalty as Qatar held Chile to a morale-boosting 2-2 draw in their last friendly before the FIFA World Cup in Vienna, on Tuesday.
Replacing Saad Al Sheeb, Barsham – one of the four changes Sanchez made to the side that started against Canada – blocked an 85th penalty kick by Alexis Sanchez, diving to his right, denying the Olympique de Marseille forward his second goal of the match and Chile their first victory in seven matches.
Coach Felix Sanchez will also be relieved to see his key players in Akram Afif and Hassan Al Haydos on the score sheet after the World Cup hosts were blanked by Canada 0-2 in Friday’s friendly.
It was a game of fluctuating fortunes, with Chile – seeking to end their six-match winless run – leading for long stretches in the first half. They were rewarded with a goal from Sanchez in the 37th minute after Afif lost possession near the box to Gabriel Suazo, whose return pass set up Sanchez for a right-footed shot from the left side of the box to the bottom right corner.
It was Chile’s first goal after they failed to score in their last six matches.
The Asian champions also created opportunities in the first half but lacked accuracy to find the opener, with Afif also missing the target on a free kick from just outside the box before the break.
The versatile Qatari star, however, came back strongly after half-time, firing an equaliser with a right-footed shot from the centre of the box in the 59th minute after a mistake by Chile’s defender.
Afif also initiated the attack that resulted in a brilliant strike by Al Haydos, who also started yesterday after being benched against Canada. The most capped Qatari player scored off a spectacular strike from outside the box, with the ball landing in the goal after hitting the bar in the 67th minute.
Arturo Vidal brought Chile back into the game in the 78th minute, scoring from close range off Ben Brereton’s assist.
Chile got a golden opportunity to end their winless streak after Homam Ahmed committed a foul against Víctor Mendez resulting in a penalty. But Barsham, who also starred in a penalty shootout during Qatar’s play-off win against Egypt at the FIFA Arab Cup last year, held his nerves to keep Sanchez’s hit out.
Despite a draw against a side 19 places above Qatar (48th) in the FIFA rankings, coach Sanchez still has to ponder a lot before his team opens their World Cup campaign against Ecuador on November 20. Al-Annabi requires improvement in all departments, which was evident in the last two friendlies, and the Spaniard must have that in mind as the team wraps up its training camp in Austria.
Qatar will now come home for a brief sojourn and will hold an open session on October 2 in Doha before returning to Spain for the final phase of preparations.
The World Cup hosts will also face the Netherlands and Senegal in their Group A matches.