India holds Oman 1-1 in first international game after COVID lockdown

A Manvir Singh header cancelled out Chinglensana Singh's own goal as India came from behind to draw 1-1 against Oman in the United Arab Emirates.

Manvir Singh celebrates his goal for India against Oman with his teammates in Dubai on Thursday.   -  AIFF Media

The Indian football team made a fine comeback in the second half to hold a dominant Oman side 1-1 in its first international match in more than a year in Dubai on Thursday.

India conceded a goal in the 42nd minute when Chinglensana Singh's attempted clearance went into his own net. Manvir Singh then scored the equaliser in the 55th minute to help India pull off a rare draw against Oman in its first international outing after the COVID-19 lockdown.

India head coach Igor Stimac handed debuts to 10 players, including the substitutes. The first half was all about Oman attacking in waves with India not able to manage a single shot on target.

MATCH BLOG | India vs Oman highlights: Manvir goal helps Stimac's side play out 1-1 draw

Oman, which has won both the matches against India in the 2022 World Cup's qualifying phase, played a high defensive line with more men in attack. India was content defending its citadel with a majority of players in their own half and just one man upfront at most times.

The Indians lost possession too easily on most occasions as Oman did not let them hold on to the ball for long. However, Oman squandered a penalty in the 27th minute after Rowlin Borges committed a foul on Abdul Aziz Al Gheilani inside the box. Aziz himself took the spot-kick but shot straight at Amrinder Singh.

But Oman was able to find the back of the net in the first half. Al Aghbari got the ball on the left wing and sent a low cross on the face of the goal. Amrinder could not collect the ball cleanly and it hit Chinglensana and went past the goal line.

Stimac made two changes at the start of the second session with Lalengmawia and Raynier Fernandes replacing Jeakson Singh and Rowllin, respectively.

India dished out a much improved show in the second half, holding the ball a lot more than the first 45 minutes and playing an attacking game.

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The team equalised five minutes before the hour mark when Bipin Singh sent in a delicious cross from the right flank which was headed home by Manvir.

Oman, ranked 81st as compared to India's 104th on the FIFA charts, then pressed hard for the winning goal but Amrinder was impressive behind the sticks as he made two fine saves in the 63rd and 65th minutes.

"I was worried after the first 45 minutes because we couldn't find a way to hold the ball. We couldn't find players (with passes) except Suresh Singh (Wangjam), who was the youngest and tried to take responsibility, pass the ball and do what we had been working on in training," Stimac said after the match.

"At half time, I told the team that we didn't put pressure on the Oman players with the ball in our half and we stayed too far from their players when they were building up. I asked the players to go out and express themselves, but to do it as a unit," India's manager added.

"The second half showed that there is nothing to fear about. Of course, these are better sides and there is a difference of 25-30 spots in the rankings, which is a big gap. But, it doesn't mean we can't get the result and we showed it today."

India plays its second international friendly against the UAE in the same stadium on Monday. These friendiles are a part of the preparations for the joint qualifying round matches of the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup to be played in June.

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