World Cup hosts Qatar’s fears of an early tournament exit loomed large as they lost 3-1 to Senegal at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha.
Qatar, who lost their opening Group A game 2-0 to Ecuador on Sunday, went down fighting against the Africa Cup of Nations champions and Mohammed Muntari scored their first World Cup goal.
But Felix Sanchez’s side trailed to Boulaye Dia’s strike at half-time and faced an uphill struggle when former Bristol City striker Famara Diedhiou headed Senegal into a 2-0 lead early in the second period.
Qatar then showed spirit and raised their game, but after Muntari’s thumping header had given the home fans hope, Bamba Dieng swept home Senegal’s game-clinching third goal in the closing stages.
Senegal, who lost 2-0 to the Netherlands in their opening match, were first to threaten through Watford forward Ismaila Sarr before Qatar’s Akram Afif volleyed the hosts’ first chance high over the crossbar.
Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye flashed a low shot wide as Senegal began to dominate.
Qatar lifted the home support in the 34th minute when Afif burst into the box in a rare foray forward and the hosts were controversially denied a 34th-minute penalty when he went tumbling under Sarr’s clumsy challenge.
A defensive error then handed Senegal a 41st-minute lead. Qatar defender Boualem Khoukhi slipped when attempting to clear Diatta’s ball into the area and Dia pounced to fire low into the net.
Qatar made the worst possible start to the second half by conceding a second goal in the 48th minute.
Ismail Jakobs sent over an inswinging corner and Diedhiou easily escaped his marker to head home at the near post.
The hosts threw caution to the wind in an effort to haul themselves back into the match and Abdelkarim Hassan’s 30-yard shot flew narrowly wide.
Almoez Ali was denied by Senegal’s Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, who then made an even better save to keep out Ismaeel Mohammad’s effort following Hassan Al Haydos’ cross.
Qatar at last were giving their fans something to cheer and they set up a grandstand finish by scoring their first World Cup goal in the 78th minute.
Mohammad swung over an excellent cross and Muntari leapt highest to crash home a header, just four minutes after stepping off the bench.
But Qatari hopes of salvaging a point were dashed six minutes later by Senegal’s third goal.
Sheffield United midfielder Iliman Ndiaye, a second-half substitute, beat three defenders before pulling the ball back for Dieng and he swept home an emphatic finish.