Qatar became the first home team to lose their World Cup opener with a 2-0 win over hosts Ecuador as Enner Valencia scored twice in the tournament’s curtain raiser on Sunday.
Asian champions Qatar were backed by the majority of the crowd at the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium but were unable to follow up a glittering opening ceremony with a statement.
For Ecuador, they got off to a dream start when Valencia silenced the home fans in the header after the goal was ruled offside by VAR.
Valencia broke the deadlock in the 16th minute with a penalty, and doubled their lead after half an hour.
Felix Sanchez’s Qatar will likely need a positive result in their second Group A match against Senegal on Friday to avoid the ignominy of becoming only the second host after South Africa in 2010 to be dumped out in the first round.
Expectations were high that Qatar could pull off a victory, but the shortcomings of the World Cup debutants were mercilessly exposed by an impressive Ecuador.
Qatar did not take a single shot in the game, and the spectators left the stands long before the final whistle.
In the tournament’s 92-year history, the first countries have won 16 and drawn six of their opening matches.
– Early intervention by VAR –
The South Americans had the ball in the net three minutes after captain Valencia nodded home Felix Torres’ header.
Michael Estrada was ruled offside by VAR officials in the warm-up after Torres tackled the ball on Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb.
However, Ecuador dominated the opening exchanges, and Valencia were awarded a penalty after Al Sheeb scored.
The former West Ham striker coolly sent Al Sheeb the wrong way and slotted the ball into the bottom corner for his 36th goal.
Ecuador didn’t have to wait long to double their lead, after a great run from Moises Caicedo, right-back Angelo Preciado’s cross was met by a Valencia header.
Even the small section of enthusiastic Qatari fans stationed behind the gate, arriving together after the majority of the crowd and wearing matching shirts, was briefly silenced.
Almoez Ali, the hero of Qatar’s 2019 Asian Cup success, should have pulled one back on the stroke of half-time, but only steered a free header wide from eight yards.
Ecuador gave Qatar more of the ball after the break, but they were still more dangerous, Romario Ibarra leading to a dive for Al Sheeb.
Valencia conceded in the 77th minute after being on the wrong end of a heavy challenge, although that would have taken some of the shine off a famous night in Ecuador.
By the time the official attendance of 67,372 was read over the tannoy, the stadium was half full.