Enner Valencia scored twice as Ecuador defeated Qatar 2-0 in the tournament's opening match on Sunday at the Al Bayt Stadium. After having an early header disallowed by VAR, Valencia gave Ecuador a merited lead from the penalty spot after 16 minutes.
Shortly after the half-hour mark, Valencia followed up his effort from 12 yards with an incredible header. The Asian nation of Qatar, which was competing in a World Cup match for the first time, had brief spurts of offensive play, but the Group A match in Al Khor saw the hosts of the tournament lose their first game for the first time.
It didn't take long for the controversies and talking points from the tournament's preparation in Qatar to spill over onto the field. Enner Valencia appeared to give Ecuador the lead with a close-range header in the third minute but VAR determined that there had been an offside in the setup, confusing fans and spectators.
Despite the fact that Michael Estrada's shin had been offside before the ball was scissor-kicked into Valencia's path, Fifa discovered ten minutes later, Ecuador was still able to take the lead by the 16th minute.
Saad Al Sheeb, the goalkeeper for Qatar, made the choice that resulted in the chain of events up to the goal's disallowance, then he made another hasty decision that resulted in him tripping Valencia as he tried to pass the ball past him.
Al Sheeb was given a warning for his misdeeds, and Valencia rose to his feet to confidently take the penalty, passing the ball into the bottom corner as Al Sheeb dove the other way.
Despite a frenetic first half of play that saw three yellow cards, Ecuador was in control, and Valencia extended his team's lead soon after.
The Fenerbahce player was able to score from 12 yards with a precise header into the bottom corner of Al Sheeb's goal after receiving a wonderful cross from the right from Angelo Preciado.
Qatar had a chance to lessen the score in the last seconds of the extra five minutes, but Almoez Ali misdirected a free header.
After Qatar had missed that chance, Ecuador was able to maintain control following the restart without particularly posing a danger to score a third goal.
While Qatar's second chance of the game came in the 63rd minute when Ro-Ro powered a header wide of the goal after meeting a diagonal ball, Romario Ibarra saw a curling effort palmed away by Al Sheeb.
After suffering what appeared to be a knee injury in the first half, Valencia was forced to shuffle off with 15 minutes remaining, dealing Ecuador a blow. Valencia had scored twice.
To their credit, Qatar played much better than they did in the first half, and Mohammed Muntari managed to cling onto a ball over the top and send an effort past Hernan Galindez's crossbar.
However, it was a rare instance of inspiration for one of the competition's underdogs, who are already fighting a losing struggle to escape being ousted before the knockout rounds.
Senegal, the defending winner of the Africa Cup of Nations, will play against three-time World Cup runners-up Netherlands in the other Group A opening match on Monday.
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