The journey for India at the AFC U-22 Qualifiers came to an anti-climactic end yesterday as the Indians were ousted by a clinical Oman side at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat. The Omanis scored four goals after the lemon break to dash all the Indian hopes of qualification for the main event. Hamood Saleh, Faed Ibrahim, Saleh Hadid and Mubarak Humaid got on the scoresheet for the Reds as Indians couldn’t capitalize on a lion’s share of ball possession. Here is the starting eleven for this all important match in Muscat yesterday:
India starting eleven: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (Captain); Vishal Kumar, Prathamesh Maulinkar, Souvik Ghosh, Pritam Kotal; Milan Singh, Romeo Fernandes , Pranay Halder , Alwyn George, Lalrindika Ralte, Manandeep Sing
As expected, some of the changes were incorporated from the side which started against Turkmenistan couple of days ago. Dempo lad Prathamesh replaced Deepak Devrani at the centre of defense, alongside Souvik Ghosh to counter the physical side of the game, especially during the set pieces. Pritam Kotal replaced Narayan Das and Pranay Halder started instead of Tirthankar Sarkar, both of whom were suspended for this match. East Bengal goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu led the side.
First half started with India soaking in initial pressure and trying to have more possession. India was not giving away the ball cheaply as the players played short passes between midfield and defense to open up opponent defence. Key highlight for Indians in the first half was when Ralte’s free kick was punched away by Mazin Masud in the twenty first minute for a corner. Manandeep Singh fluffed two chances in front of the goal, being denied by a diving Mazin both the cases. The Middle East side wanted to stifle the flank movement of Indians and enforced double marking on Alwyn George as soon as the Palian Arrows lad broke free in their half. India went into the second half with a decent first half performance as they had seen more of the ball, but could not make much of it.
The hosts came out with more intention after the lemon break, as this time they thwarted the Indian side with quick movements of their own. Indians were not allowed to settle and conceded the opening goal just nine minutes into the second half. Abdillah Saleh ran free from the defense and sent across a perfectly weighted ball for Hamood Saleh to tap in. Minutes after Jeje was introduced in place of Romeo Fernandes to give teeth to the attack, Omanis doubled their advantage as Faed Ibrahim got the better of Souvik Ghosh and Pritam to unleash a low right footed shot past Gurpreet.
Manandeep Singh again came close as his header off a Ralte cross missed the cross bar by a whisker. India started to throw more men forward, therefore becoming more prone to counter attacks. Abhishek Das was bought on to accomplish the same from the left flank. One such counter attack saw Pranay Halder bring down Badar Nasib to give away a spok kick. Gurpreet Singh saved the initial attempt but the rebound was slotted home by Saleh Hadid to shatter any minute hopes left for the Blue Cubs. In the dying minutes, Jeje’s shot forced another save from Mazin. The resulting corner led to another counter attack which eventually led to the fourth goal. It ended Oman 4-0 India as the referee blew full time whistle and to the delight of the spectators inside the stadium.
”In this group I have witnesses a talented generation of players who needed some guidance to believe they can do more and bring to the fore their footballing qualities which have always been there. Importantly, there is an eagerness to learn and a winning mentality and that’s needed for future development.” – Arthur Papas
India ended the group at fourth place after five rounds of matches against teams which were all ranked higher in FIFA rankings. In the end it was heartbreak for Indian football faithful, as the Indians fell short despite showcasing some of the best performances by an Indian team overseas. Arthur Papas and his lads are a proud pack, and as the whole nation glues their eyes on all these young stars, Papas would hope that the lads continue from where they left and make the most of the winning mentality and eagerness to fight.
Turkmenistan 1-4 Lebanon
UAE 0-0 Iraq