India held superior-ranked Oman to a goalless draw in their friendly fixture at the Baniyas Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. The match is part of the Indian team’s preparation for the forthcoming AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 and was played behind closed doors.
The result will give the Indians some much-needed confidence ahead of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 as the side suffered 1-2 and 0-3 losses to Oman the last two times they clashed in the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifiers.
The Blue Tigers had their first opportunity of the game in the 17th minute when skipper Sunil Chhetri won the ball at the edge of the box and unleashed a fine volley but he couldn't find the target.
Meanwhile, the Indian defenders had a task on their hands and took the challenge head-on. Central defenders Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika kept the attacks on check, with Subhasish Bose and Pritam Kotal combining well on the flanks.
Amrinder Singh, who started ahead of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, pulled off a terrific save to deny Oman from surging into the lead in the 28th minute.
Halicharan Narzary and Udanta Singh tried to play wide and feed Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua but struggled to get past the sturdy Omani defenders. The scoreline remained unchanged at the interval.
Changing over, India coach Stephen Constantine brought in Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Germanpreet Singh and Balwant Singh in place of Amrinder, Pronay Halder and Jeje respectively.
Within six minutes of his introduction, Gurpreet produced a stunning save to deny Oman for a corner, which was eventually headed out by Jhingan.
At the stroke of the hour-mark, India had its best chance of the evening when Udanta made a surging run and crossed into the box but an onrushing Balwant failed to connect. Off the rebound, Halicharan fired it from the edge of the box, but failed to trouble the the rival goalkeeper.
Ashique Kuruniyan, who replaced Halicharan, outpaced his marker on the left wing to put a long ball for Balwant in the 77th minute. Balwant payed it to Udanta but the latter failed to convert. Ashique made a fine run the next minute and found Balwant but the striker’s header landed on the roof of the net.
Neither team managed to find the back of the net and had to be content with the draw.
India begins its AFC Asian Cup 2019 campaign against Thailand on January 6, while Oman will face Uzbekistan on January 9 in its first game.
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