Muscat, November 19
The Indian football team was virtually knocked out of the 2022 World Cup qualifying round after losing 0-1 to Oman. Mohsin Al Ghassani scored the all-important goal in the 33rd minute at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex Stadium as Oman beat India for the second time in the campaign. Oman had defeated India 2-1 in the first leg in September in Guwahati.
With a nine-point gap with the second-placed team (Oman) in the group table, India are almost out of reckoning for a third round berth. They have only three more matches — maximum nine points — left to play in the second round of the qualifiers. Even the runners-up team is not guaranteed an automatic spot for the third round of the qualifiers. India are, however, in the hunt for a third round berth for the 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers.
India coach Igor Stimac made three changes to his side that drew Afghanistan 1-1 in Dushanbe on November 14 with Manvir Singh, Farukh Choudhary and Nishu Kumar coming in for Pritam Kotal, Mandar Rao Desai and Sahal Abdul Samad. India were lucky not to have conceded a goal in the seventh minute when Ghassani shot over the bar from the penalty spot. Ghassani earned the spot kick after a clumsy challenge inside the Indian box by Rahul Bheke who was beaten on pace by the Oman striker. Ghassani later made amends for his mistake as he fired home in the 33rd minute past Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu after a defence-splitting through pass by Mohsin Johar Al Khaldi. Oman had more of the ball-possession in the first half but had few clear chances.
India had a few raids at the opposition goal but could not pose any threat to the Oman goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi. India made three substitutions in the first half with Vinit Rai coming in for Pranoy Halder, who was booked in the 26th minute, while an injury to central defender Adil Khan led to Anas Edathodika taking his place. India played better in the second half with a lot of ball-possession and attack at the opposition citadel but a clear chance eluded them. Oman nearly doubled their lead in the 64th minute but goalkeeper Sandhu dived full length to his left to block an Al Khaldi free kick.
All of India's last three matches will be played next year — against Qatar (at home on March 26), Bangladesh (away, June 4) and Afghanistan (at home, June 9). — PTI
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