AL KHOR, QATAR – NOVEMBER 20: Enner Valencia of Ecuador scores his team’s second goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group A match between Qatar and Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar. (Photo by Mohamed Farag/Getty Images)
Qatar became the first home team to lose their World Cup opener as Ecuador cruised to a 2-0 victory over the hosts, with Enner Valencia scoring twice in the tournament’s opening event on Sunday.
SUMMARY | Qatar 0-2 Ecuador
Asian champions Qatar enjoyed the support of the 67,000 spectators at Al Bayt Stadium but were unable to follow up a dazzling opening ceremony with a spectacular performance.
Ecuador thought they were off to a dream start when Valencia headed in in the third minute, only to have the goal ruled out by VAR for offside in the build-up.
It was only a brief respite for Qatar, as Valencia put the South American team ahead from the penalty spot on 16 minutes before doubling their tally just after the half-hour mark.
Qatar improved in the second half, but by the end of the 90 minutes the murmur of the opening ceremony was a distant memory.
“Our nerves betrayed us, we started very badly,” said Qatar’s coach, Félix Sánchez. “We couldn’t chain four passes in a row.”
Qatar will likely have to avoid defeat in their second Group A match against Senegal on Friday just to avoid the ignominy of becoming only the second host, after South Africa in 2010, to be knocked out in the first round.
Hopes were high among the crowd that Qatar could get off to a winning start, but the shortcomings of the World Cup debutants were mercilessly exposed by an impressive Ecuador.
“It was a day we all dream of,” said Ecuadorian left-back Pervis Estupinan. “We are all very proud. We all know what an incredible captain we have with Enner Valencia.”
Qatar failed to even get a shot on goal in the game, with spectators leaving the stands well before the final whistle.
– VAR – The South Americans had the ball in the net after three minutes when captain Valencia headed on goal after a misguided header from Félix Torres.
VAR officials detected Michael Estrada being offside in preparation after Torres challenged Qatari goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb for the ball.
Ecuador completely dominated in the early exchanges and were awarded a penalty after Al Sheeb brought down Valencia as they passed on goal.
The former West Ham striker coolly sent Al Sheeb the wrong way from the spot, hitting the ball into the bottom corner.
Ecuador did not have to wait long to double their advantage. After a run by Moises Caicedo, right-back Angelo Preciado finished off a cross that Valencia headed home.
Even the small section of remarkably enthusiastic Qatari fans behind the goal, arriving later than most of the crowd and wearing matching jerseys, fell briefly silent.
Almoez Ali, the hero of Qatar’s 2019 Asian Cup triumph, should have pulled the gap at the stroke of halftime, but could only deflect a free header from eight yards.
Ecuador allowed Qatar more of the ball after the break, but still looked like the more dangerous side, with Romario Ibarra provoking a save from Al Sheeb.
Valencia limped off in the 77th minute after being on the wrong end of a series of heavy challenges.
“I hope to be ready (for Friday’s game against the Netherlands),” the striker said after suffering knocks to his knee and ankle.
When the official attendance of around 67,000 was read out on the tannoy, the stadium was barely half full.