Blue Tigers hold Oman to a goalless draw

Blue Tigers hold Oman to a goalless draw

The Blue Tigers hold Oman to a goalless draw put in an impressive display in the international friendly played behind closed doors at Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

The result will prove to be a huge confidence booster for Sunil Chhetri and Co. going into next month’s AFC Asian Cup, considering Oman are ranked 15 places above India in the current FIFA Rankings.

  • India head coach Stephen Constantine started the match with Amrinder Singh in goal but brought on Gurpreet Singh Sandhu for the second-half.
  • Ashique Kuruniyan gave a good account of himself after coming on as a second-half substitute.
  • India created a host of chances, particularly in the second-half, but couldn’t find the goal.

Constantine fielded a strong starting XI, with the only big surprise coming in the goalkeeper selection. Regular starter Gurpreet Singh Sandhu gave way to Amrinder Singh.

The Mumbai City FC custodian had a busy start to the match as the Blue Tigers’ defence was put under pressure early on by a strong Oman attack. Amrinder pulled off a good save on the seventh minute to keep the scores level at 0-0. Amrinder’s Mumbai teammate Subhasish Bose, too, put in a crucial intervention to preserve the scoreline just minutes later.

A big positive for India in the match was the link-up between the front two – Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua. Jeje, in particular, has struggled for form of late and a revival of his telepathic understanding with Chhetri will be a huge plus for Constantine going into the AFC Asian Cup in January.

As the match progressed, the Blue Tigers settled into the match and a positive foray presented Chhetri with a shooting opportunity from outside the box. His shot, however, sailed over the bar.

India slowly grew into the match and started to put substantial pressure on the Oman defence after the 30-minute mark. The Blue Tigers came close after Anas Edathodika’s hopeful free-kick from the deep almost found his Kerala Blasters FC teammate Sandesh Jhingan in a dangerous area, but the Omani defenders recovered in time to clear the danger. India ended the first-half strongly as the teams entered the break with the score tied at 0-0.

Constantine brought on Gurpreet in place of Amrinder at half-time and the Bengaluru FC player’s night started almost on a similar note to Amrinder’s. He was called into action minutes after his introduction and passed the test in spectacular fashion.

From the Blue Tigers’ end, Udanta Singh used his pace to good effect to trouble the Oman backline and came close to setting up Chhetri just around the hour mark. But Oman custodian Al Rusheidi managed to reach the ball before the Indian striker could connect.

Constantine made a host of changes before the 70-minute mark, bringing on Ashique Kuruniyan in place of Halicharan Narzary, Salam Ranjan Singh in place of Anas. Rowllin Borges, who has been impressive for NorthEast United FC this season, replaced Anirudh Thapa as Constantine opted to give the dynamic midfielder some game time before the AFC Asian Cup.

Ashique’s pace and direct style was on full display on the night as the winger turned out to be a nightmare to deal with for the Omani full backs. The FC Pune City FC youngster was the architect of a golden opportunity for the Blue Tigers. He fed Balwant Singh with a cross, who in turn, laid it off for Udanta.

The Bengaluru youngster’s effort was just inches away from breaking the deadlock. Ashique was at the thick of things yet again just minutes later when he set Balwant up for a header at goal. The attempt ended up on the roof of the net.

The Oman team laid seize on the Indian penalty box in search of a winner late in the match, but some good defending along with Gurpreet’s assured presence thwarted their attempts. The match ended 0-0.

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