India produced yet another indifferent display, losing 1-0 to Oman to all but get eliminated from chances of further progress in 2022 World Cup qualification.
Oman's Muhsen Al Ghassani scored a first half goal, after having missed a penalty earlier in the match, to take three points and Oman into second position on 12 points in India's group, just behind Qatar, who have 13. India, with three points from five matches, are now mathematically out of running for topping Group E, and can only finish second at best, but that would require Oman to lose all three of their remaining games, and for India to win all of theirs.
Coach Igor Stimac made three changes from the team that drew 1-1 against Afghanistan, with Nishu Kumar, Manvir Singh and Farukh Choudhary making starts.
It was at right-back, where Rahul Bheke had a torrid game against Oman in the opening match of the qualifiers, where India had their first scare though, with Bheke clattering into an Oman attacker on five minutes, conceding a penalty. Al Ghassani blasted his shot over, but India could not translate that reprieve into anything constructive over the next 10 minutes.
Udanta Singh was brought down on a rare India break on 19 minutes, but the free-kick from Brandon Fernandes was not good enough to bother veteran goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi. In the 33rd minute, Mohsin Al Khaldi played in a defence-splitting pass, but Al Ghassani appeared to be close to an offside position when he squeezed in between Adil Khan and Bheke, and finished low to the right of Gurpreet Sandhu.
India had two players substituted in the first half due to injuries, with Adil and defensive midfielder Pronay Halder making way for Anas Edathodika and Vinit Rai, respectively. However, both men had earned yellow cards for reckless challenges before being subbed off.
India were positive in the early exchanges of the second half, but never got close enough to challenging Al Habsi's goal, barring a mistimed cross from Ashique that nearly snuck in over the Oman goalkeeper's left shoulder. India had a number of corners too, and one of Brandon's better deliveries fell to Anas at the far post, but he failed to make good enough contact to beat Al Habsi.
Sandhu made a fine one-handed save late in the game, when Al Mandhar Al Alawi played in Al Sulaiman Al Busaidi on the left, but his shot was palmed away to safety by the Indian goalkeeper.
On the night, India made a slight improvement in defence, but their lack of incisiveness up front stood out. They remain winless after five matches, and next host Qatar in March next year.
Here's how the game unfolded -- (If the blog does not load at the first instance, please click here) --