Oman fight past gritty India

Qasim Said, Al Hosni strike as visitors post 2-1 win in opening Group D match

Oman fight past gritty India
India began their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign on a losing note as they went down to Oman in their Group D opener 1-2 at the Sree Kanteerava stadium here on Thursday evening.

Led by strikes from Qasim Said in the 20th second and Imad Al-Hosni (40th minute), the visitors claimed three points from the tie, while Sunil Chhetri’s stunner in the 26th minute was the only saving grace for the Indians.

In front of a crowd of 19,000, India, fielding four debutants, did make an impact but an early defensive lapse pegged them back badly and it was hard to recover from that blow. India did level things with that Chhetri strike but Oman were in the lead again through a penalty and then played well within themselves to subdue the home challenge.

Pitted against a formidable opponent, the Stephen Constantine side knew that they would have to withstand waves of attacks if they had to get something out of the game. And things were no different on the field. But none would have thought that the hosts would be on the back foot from the very first minute.

Even before the fans could settle into their seats, Said had his name on the scoring chart as he wrong-footed Indian goalkeeper Subrata Pal to find the bottom left corner to give his side the lead.

Stunned by the opener, the Indians tried to crawl back their way into the game as Robin and Chhetri were kept busy with long balls down the flanks. But they couldn’t pose any danger with the Omani defence of Mohammed Al-Musalami and Abdul Al-Mukhani thwarting all their attempts with ease.

The Indians, however, continued to attack in phases and could have levelled scores in the 20th minute but skipper Arnab Mondal missed an open header from an Eugeneson Lyngdoh corner.

The Indians eventually equalised, and it was once again the reliable Chhetri who came to their rescue. The Bengaluru FC striker, who had a dismal time in the I-League, answered his critics in style as he powered in a sizzling left-foot curler from the corner of the 18-yard box on the right.

However, the joy lasted for just four minutes as Al-Hosni scored from the spot after defender Dhanachandra Singh — one of four Indian debutants along with Lalchhuanmawia, Sehnaj Singh and Rino Anto —  brought down Eid Al-Maqbali inside the penalty area with a silly challenge leaving the referee Ko Hyung Jin no choice but to point to the spot.

The second half saw the Indians come out with renewed spirits, attacking through long balls and swift passes. And in the 68th minute, they thought they had scored the equaliser when Robin Singh tapped in a C K Vineeth pass. But the assistant referee’s flag was up for offside. Oman then controlled the pace of play to emerge winners.

Guam notch shock win

Tiny Guam beat Turkmenistan 1-0 to record their first ever World Cup qualifying win on Thursday. The island nation in the North Pacific Ocean were gifted the only goal on the artificial turf at the National Training Centre after Serdar Annaorazov turned into his own net in the 14th minute.

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