For young shot-stopper Laxmikant Kattimani, the 1-3 defeat against Qatar in the first-leg of the Olympic qualifier at the Al Sadd Stadium in Doha on Sunday was an eye-opener.
"They were really good, especially their captain (Hasan Al Haydos), but though we gave them a fight in the first half, we could not keep up the momentum in the second. It helped me gauge their abilities and the exposure was badly needed."
The 22-year-old custodian made an impressive stop from an Al Haydos 11th minute spot-kick, awarded after a poor challenge on Abdul Aziz Hatem by centre-back Arnab Mondal. "I felt great at that point and thought we had a realistic chance of drawing the game ahead but they outplayed us in the second half.”
Al Haydos's 54th minute strike, which made the scoreline 2-1, left the Dempo keeper bemused. “The ball changed direction and I was left rooted. How that happened I don't know," he said. Kattimani will the pivotal figure on the field come Thursday. "We have to keep possession and play our normal game. I need to keep my concentration," Kattimani said, adding that he had already shed the baggage of the first-leg loss. The under-23 side's goalkeepers' coach and former India captain, Tanumoy Basu, sympathised with the youngster. “His overall performance was good but I feel for him with regard to the second goal. The way the ball travelled would have had most of the experienced keepers beaten,” he said.
Basu also felt that India's midfield comprising Lalrindika Ralte, Jewel Raja Shaikh, Shilton D'Silva and Jibon Singh (all from the Indian Arrows), was under-par given that they have played together. “All four are very talented but against Qatar they just didn't do enough. If they can be composed in the second leg, India can very well win the return leg. It's all about the momentum.”