DOHA (AFP) – Qatar won their fifth straight 2018 World Cup qualifier on Tuesday with an unconvincing but ultimately resounding 4-0 win against Maldives in Doha.
The final scoreline somewhat flattered the 2022 World Cup hosts who took almost 70 minutes to ensure they maintained their perfect start to qualifying for the finals in Russia in three years time.
Regardless of the performance, however, the victory maintained Qatar s five point cushion at the top of AFC Group C, following Hong Kong s narrow win in Bhutan earlier.
And it means they now require just two more victories at most to automatically progress from the group into the next round of qualification.
It was Qatar s second home victory in less than a week, after beating rivals China 1-0 in the same Al Sadd stadium 1-0 on October 8.
Prior to the match, Qatar s coach Jose Daniel Carreno had warned his team would struggle to match the performance from that game and his prediction proved right.
The Qataris seemed lethargic at the start and provided little goal threat until the 20th minute when Karim Bouadiaf went close after the Maldives keeper Mohamed Imran was stranded out of goal after misjudging a through ball.
The breakthrough came eight minutes later, when Qatar fashioned a fine move to leave midfielder Boualem Khouki free in the penalty area and he cooly finished.
It was to be their only goal of the first half.
Although the result was never really in doubt after that, Qatar were unable to shake off their opponents, who lived up to coach Ricki Herbert s pre-match pledge not to just sit back and defend.
It was not until the 68th minute however that Qatar finally secured the three points, when Mohammed Kasola powered in a cross at the far post to the relief of many in the 4,006 crowd.
Two minutes later it was 3-0, when Boualem added his second from a corner.
The goal provided a curious incident when in their celebrations, Qatari fans threw ticker tape onto the pitch, causing the Maldives players to complain and the ref to order four cleaners with bin bags onto the pitch to tidy up the mess.
A goal in the 90th minute from full back Mohamed Musa rounded off the evening for Qatar but was a little harsh on the Maldives.