Enner Valencia’s first-half brace fired Ecuador to a 2-0 opening victory over tournament hosts, Qatar at 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Valencia had a third minute opening goal cancelled out by VAR but rebounded to put Ecuador in front from a 16th minute penalty to become Ecuador’s top goalscorer in FIFA World Cup, having won the spot-kick himself due to a collision with Saad Al Sheeb.
The 33 year-old doubled his lead 15 minutes later as he headed in from close-range to double The Tricolors’ lead, although he did suffer a knock to his knee late in the first-half but played on until he was substituted in the 77th minute.
Ecuador eventually proceeded to settle for a 2-0 win to top Group A as Qatar sit rock-bottom, in a game where they became the first tournament host to lose their opening match.
In front of 67,372 fans, Ecuador made a bright start as Moises Caicedo drew a foul from Ró-Ró just inside Qatar’s half, from which Pervis Estupinan’s free-kick caused mayhem inside the box as Qatar goalkeeper – Al Sheeb made a sloppy save.
The ball quickly fell at the feet of Felix Torres who aeorbically volleyed it for Valencia to nod in, although the ex West Ham striker saw his third-minute goal chalked off due to Michael Estrada being marginally offside.
Ecuador continued to dominate Qatar who struggled to settle into their first-ever World Cup match and the South-American country’s dominance was rewarded, as Valencia drew a 15th minute foul from Al Sheeb and dispatched the consequential penalty into the bottom-right corner a minute later.
Al Sheeb then almost conceded a second goal in the 20th minute as Estupinan produced a short cross from the left to Estrada who headed just over, seconds prior to a collision with the Qatari goalkeeper although both were able to continue.
Al Sheeb’s defence of Qatar’s goal though was eventually breached 11 minutes later as Valencia grabbed his second goal from a close-range header, as he unmarked met Angelo Preciado’s cross from the right flank.
Ecuador thereafter was able to cruise to half-time with a comfortable lead despite a late injury-time scare, which came from Almoez Ali who headed wide from six yards out unmarked.
After the break, Qatar were unable to build upon their late first-half improvement as Ecuador quickly set about comfortably dictating the match, although Gonzalo Plata’s 53rd minute curled cross unluckily evaded two teammates inside the box.
Romario Ibarra two minutes later attempted to curl a calmly taken curled strike towards the right corner, only for Al Sheeb to crucially punch the shot away to safety.
Akram Afif and Mohammed Muntari went close for Qatar in the final 15 minutes but weren’t able to clinically convert their chances, which both flew just over the bar.
The tournament hosts though weren’t able to find that breakthrough goal as Ecuador comfortably cruised to victory to top Group A, ahead of Senegal’s meeting with Netherlands tomorrow (21 November).
Qatar will meet Senegal in their next Group A match at Al Thumama Stadium on Friday 25 November at 4pm AST (1pm UK Time).
Ecuador meanwhile will face Netherlands in their second Group A match on the same date in a 7pm AST (4pm UK Time) kick-off at Khalifa International Stadium.
Qatar: Saad Al Sheeb, Bassam Al-Rawi, Boualem Khhoukhi, Abdelkarim Hassan. Ró-Ró, Karim Boudiaf, Abdulaziz Hatem, Homam Ahmed, Hassan Al-Haydos (Waad 71′), Almoez Ali (Muntari 72′), Akram Afif
Substitutes: Mohammed Waad, Tarek Salman, Ahmed Alaaeldin, Ali Assadalla, Mohammed Muntari, Musab Kheder, Ismaeel Mohammad, Khalid Muneer, Salem Al-Hajri, Yousef Hassan, Meshaal Barsham, Assim Madibo, Naif Al-Hadhrami, Mostafa Meshaal, Jassem Gaber
Ecuador: Hernan Galindez, Angelo Preciado, Felix Torres, Piero Hincapié, Pervis Estupinan, Gonzalo Plata, Jhegson Mendez, Moises Caicedo (Franco 90′), Romario Ibarra (Sarmiento 68′), Enner Valencia (Cifuentes 77′), Michael Estrada (Rodriguez 90′)
Substitutes: Robert Arboleda, Jose Cifuentes, Diego Pacho, Carlos Gruezo, Ayrton Preciado, Moises Ramirez, Xavier Arreaga, Angel Mena, Jeremy Sarmiento, Diego Palacois, Alan Franco, Alexander Dominguez, Djorkaeff Reasco, Jackson Porozo, Kevin Rodriguez
Referee: Daniele Orsato (Italy)