A quick-fire late brace from Al-Mandhar saw the Indian national football team go down to Oman in their World Cup qualifier's opening game in Guwahati after the legendary Sunil Chhetri had handed them the lead in the first half.
The Indian team was left to rue their missed chances in the first half after a spirited second half performance from the visitors inflicted a harsh defeat on the hosts.
Both teams began the game under new managers with Igor Stimac leading the Indian side and Dutchman Erwin Koeman stewarding the Oman team.
India started with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in goal, Rahul Bheke, Subhasish Bose, Sandesh Jhingan and Adil Khan in defence.
Anirudh Thapa, Rowllin Borges and Brandon Fernandes took up central midfield spots with Udanta Singh and Ashique Kuruniyan on the wings. Captain Sunil Chhetri led the attack for the Blue Tigers.
India started the game in incredible fashion and should have been ahead in the 15th minute after Udanta rattled the cross-bar from a shot that frankly, would have end in goal if it were someone else taking it.
The Blue Tigers gained confidence from Oman sitting back in their own half and the hosts increased the intensity of their attacks as the game progressed. Their aggressive attitude towards the game paid off soon as skipper Chhetri put India in front.
Ashique Kuruniyan was brought down unfairly on the left edge of the penalty box and Brandon pulled back the resulting free-kick towards an unmarked Chhetri who found the back of the net as Oman were left questioning their defensive shape.
HT: A delightful @chetrisunil11 goal in the 24th-minute puts India ahead at the end of the first half.— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) September 5, 2019
🇮🇳 1-0 🇴🇲#INDOMA ⚔ #BackTheBlue 💙 #IndianFootball ⚽ #BlueTigers 🐯 #WCQ 🌏🏆 pic.twitter.com/AmVTkfb5Fj
The hosts should have been atleast two goals up in the first half if not for their missed chances. Oman came back stronger and with intent in the second half and as the match crossed the hour mark, India went back into their defensive shell that fans always wanted them to come out of during Stephen Constantine's era and this could be something that Stimac will need to address the team about goal forward.
Oman equalised in the 82nd minute as Al Mandhar found the back of the net. He followed a long ball and received it inside the box after cutting in diagonally from the left. He then flicked the ball past Gurpreet Sandhu to kick-start a comeback.
Al Mandhar completed a brace and made sure Oman picked up full points from the away match in the 90th minute. The winger received the ball and entered the box from the left, dribbled past Sandesh Jhingan and found the back of the net with curling shot into the top right corner of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu's net as India was left wondering yet again about what could have been if they'd have stayed a little more alert in crucial moments early on the match, especially with regards to their missed chances.
FT: Despite leading for most of the match courtesy of @chetrisunil11's 24th-minute strike, a late brace by Al-Mandhar hands India a defeat in their opening match of the #WCQ.— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) September 5, 2019
🇮🇳 1-2 🇴🇲#INDOMA ⚔ #BackTheBlue 💙 #IndianFootball ⚽ #BlueTigers 🐯 pic.twitter.com/JR0n4D6aUJ