Much like most of their recent performances, it was a tale of two halves as India followed a brilliant, attacking first-half display with a passive approach in the second, meaning Oman came back from a goal down to win 2-1 in Guwahati in the opening game of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Sunil Chhetri gave India the lead from a brilliantly worked set piece early on as India dominated early proceedings. But Oman came back strongly in the second period, with Al Mandhar scoring two late goals to grab the win.
A few eyebrows were raised at the Indian team sheet with Igor Stimac opting to keep Sahal Abdul Samad on the bench, but his gameplan seemed spot on at least in the first half. India can take lots of positives from their first half performance, especially their build-up play going forward.
Perhaps it was the fatigue setting in, but India looked out of steam in the second half. They were mostly content sitting back, looking to hit Oman on the counter. The midfield didn't look sharp and the quality of distribution dipped massively. The strategy played into Oman's hands as Adil Khan and Sandesh Jhingan were both often caught out of position and were bailed out by the goalkeeper on multiple occasions. It only seemed a matter of time before the visitors were rewarded for their sustained pressure.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- While he deserves credit for India's inspired first-half display, questions must be raised about Stimac's tactics in the second. It's a trap India seem to be falling into way too many times -- sitting back after taking the lead, conceding the momentum and letting the opposition back into a tie they could easily have won. Are Adil Khan and Sandesh Jhingan India's best defensive duo? Could he have brought on Sahal -- his best creative player -- a little early on?
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, 7 -- Had a near-perfect game until the 80th minute, making a string of brilliant saves to deny Oman an equaliser (and often bailing out his defenders). The best of the lot came just before half-time, when he blocked a header from point-blank range. In the second half, he tipped over Anirudh Thapa's attempted clearance to save India's blushes. Perhaps he could have come off the line sooner during Oman's first goal, but couldn't do anything with the second, which was a sublime finish. If not for him, it could have been a much worse scoreline.
DF Rahul Bheke, 6 -- Was careless in possession at times and also a bit reckless with his tackling. Was outrun by Al-Mandhar in the build up to Oman's first goal, and could have tracked back better.
DF Sandesh Jhingan, 6 -- Should have scored from a free header from a corner early on. Was typically physical and mostly comfortable dealing with aerial threats, but was often caught out of position. A last-ditch tackle to deny Al-Ghafri late on almost looked to have earned India a point, but Oman had a little too much firepower.
DF Adil Khan, 3 -- Showed some characteristic lack of positioning and sloppiness on a number of occasions. Oman could have taken the lead much earlier had it not been for Gurpreet covering up for him. Questionable decision-making and lack of understanding with Jhingan made him the weakest link in India's defence, even when they were dominating.
DF Subhasish Bose, 4 -- Started some promising attacks from the left with some nice link-up play with with Ashique Kuruniyan. Was defensively sound for the most part, but needlessly conceded possession at times trying a few too many dribbles in dangerous positions. Also gave away some silly fouls late on.
MF Anirudh Thapa, 7 -- Dominated the midfield alongside Brandon and Borges throughout the first half. Played some gorgeous balls, especially to release Ashique and was at the centre of India's build-up play. Looked visibly out of pace in the second half and conceded possession cheaply a couple of times.
MF Brandon Fernandes, 8 -- Was combative, yet tidy in midfield. Most of India's best moves in the first half went through him. Worked tirelessly to retrieve and distribute the ball. Played some brilliant crossfield balls, and provided the assist for Chhetri's opener with a clever free-kick. Looked exhausted after a proper shift and was rightly taken off near the hour mark.
MF Rowlin Borges, 7 -- Dropped deep to start India's attacking moves, and had decent distribution for the most part. As fatigue kicked in, his sharpness dropped and passing got a little wayward.
FW Udanta Singh, 6 -- Had a glorious chance to put India ahead early on but could only hit the bar. Was typically industrious on the right wing. His first touch often let him down, but managed to drag defenders wide with his movement and pace.
FW Sunil Chhetri, 8 -- Was his usual clinical self throughout the first half and put India ahead with the first genuine chance from a brilliantly worked set-play. Had a chance to play a better through ball on a couple of occasions in the second half but the lack of sharpness from other forwards was just as much to blame.
FW Ashique Kuruniyan, 7 -- Was a constant menace in the first half on the left wing and played in some superb balls early on. Like most of his teammates, looked way too tired in the second half, which was mostly spent tracking back.
MF Sahal Abdul Samad, N/A -- Came on in the dying seconds, didn't even get a touch of the ball.
FW Lallianzuala Chhangte, 4 -- Came on for Brandon. Had a couple of decent chances to extend India's lead, but lacked composure.
FW Manvir Singh, N/A -- Came on for Ashique late on. Barely had a touch.