Oman overcome spirited India with two late goals

A spirited performance by India came undone in the final minutes as Oman scored two late goals to subject the Blue Tigers to a painful 1-2 defeat in the first match of their FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers campaign at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Thursday. A first-half Sunil Chhetri goal kept India in the lead till the 82nd minute, but two goals in eight minutes by Al Mandhar Al Alawi tipped the scale in the visiting team’s favour in the final stages.

  • Udanta Singh hit the crossbar on the 15-minute mark.
  • Sunil Chhetri put India in front on the 24th minute.
  • Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made some good saves to help the Blue Tigers protect their advantage.
  • Al Mandhar scored on the 82nd minute and then again on the 90th minute to give Oman a dramatic victory.

India head coach opted to start with a back four with Sandesh Jhingan and Adil Khan at its heart flanked by Subhasish Bose and Rahul Bheke. Brandon Fernandes, Anirudh Thapa and Rowllin Borges constituted the midfield while Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh and Ashique Kuruniyan made up the front three. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was trusted with the goalkeeping duties. Sahal Abdul Samad, Anas Edathodika and Narender Gahlot were the notable names on the Blue Tigers bench.

Both teams made busy starts, moving the ball around quickly. Ashique and Udanta's pace down the two flanks created all sorts of trouble for Erwin Koeman's team early on as India created some dangerous chances. Rowllin and Thapa's sharp tackling and passing from the middle of the park was another positive for the hosts early on.

The first big chance of the match, however, fell Oman's way on the ninth minute. Abdulaziz Al Maqbali latched onto Ali Al Busaidi's lofted pass from the left and fired in a volley from a tight angle. The Oman no. 9's effort was on target but too close to Gurpreet to worry him too much.

On the 15-minute mark, the Blue Tigers came close. Taking advantage of a loose clearance by Oman goalkeeper Faiyz Al Rusheidi, Chhetri played in Udanta into the box. The speedster used his quick feet to create space for a shot. The final effort had Faiyz beat but unfortunately came out after hitting the underside of the crossbar. Shortly after, Jhingan headed one just over the woodwork post having a free run to meet Thapa's corner.

India continued to probe at the Oman defence, with Udanta and Ashique creating havoc with their directness and bag of tricks. The pressure finally paid off on the 24th minute. Ashique won a free-kick on the left flank after being brought down by Abdulaziz Al Gheilani. Brandon placed the ball and put in a low pass for Chhetri, who weaved his run to evade his man and fired inside the bottom corner with impeccable placement to give India a well-deserved 1-0 lead.

The goal injected a lot more urgency into the Omani team as they tried to rally and erase the deficit. The Indian team, however, kept their shape well to deny the visitors’ forward advances. With the half-time drawing close, Oman created a big chance to draw level. Ahmed Al Mahaijri ghosted in between Jhingan and Bheke to get his head to a pin-point delivery from Raed Saleh. The Oman captain connected sweetly but was left in disbelief as Gurpreet got a fist to his header almost from point blank range. India went into the break with a 1-0 advantage.

It was an entertaining start to the second half with both sides showing offensive intent. Gurpreet had to get involved a couple of times in the first 10 minutes after the restart, first stopping a wayward block attempt by Thapa from creeping in and then holding onto Maqbali’s header from close range.

With the visitors slowly growing into the match, the Blue Tigers tried to keep things compact at the back and protect their lead. Lallianzuala Chhangte was introduced in place of Brandon on the hour mark to inject some fresh legs into the frame. As the visitors upped the ante, some last-ditch defending aided by Gurpreet kept the scoreline intact, frustrating Oman time and again.

All the good work, however, came undone on the 82nd minute as Al-Mandhar Al Alawi Rabia ran onto a long ball and chipped it over an onrushing Gurpreet to level up the score. The Blue Tigers could have restored their advantage seconds later, but Chhangte, even at full stretch, was inches away from getting a telling connection to substitute Manvir Singh’s low cross inside the box.

The last few minutes saw some end to end football, with both teams going all out for the winner. On the 90th minute, Al-Mandhar struck again. He cut in from the left and beat Gurpreet with a stunning shot to make it 1-2 in the visitors’ favour.

Watch the match highlights here:

What’s Next?

The Blue Tigers will face off against Qatar on September 10.

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