India’s World Cup hopes were dealt a huge blow as they winless streak continued on Tuesday after the suffered a 0-1 defeat to Oman in Muscat on Tuesday.
Muhsen Saleh Al Ghassani’s first-half strike proved to be the difference between the two sides as Oman picked up their fourth win of the campaign.
India coach Igor Stimac made three changes to his starting eleven bringing in Manvir Singh, Nishu Kumar and Farukh Choudhary for Sahal Abdul Samad, Mandar Rao Dessai and Pritam Kotal.
Oman had the chance to take the lead early on after Rahul Bheke conceded a soft penalty in the box, bringing down Muhsen Saleh Al Ghassani. However, the striker fired his shot over the crossbar as India got out of jail.
The best chance for India arrived in the 20th minute after Udanta Singh won a foul around 30 yards away from the box. Brandon Fernandes floated a cross for Sunil Chhetri in the box, whose cutback was intercepted by Oman goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi.
Stimac was forced to make two changes due to injuries around the half hour mark as Pranoy Halder and Adil Khan were replaced by Vinit Rai and Anas Edathodika.
India had a few promising chances inside the first half an hour but it was Oman who opened the scoring. Al Khaldi won the ball after mistimed tackle from Rai and played a defense-splitting pass to Al Ghassani, who poked it past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to put the home side ahead.
India returned back from the back with renewed sense of urgency as Oman were content to sit back and defend their lead. India dominated more of the possession but struggled to find a way past the Omani defence that stood firm.
The visitors suffered another injury blow as Bheke was replaced by defender Sarthak Golui.
With 10 minutes to go on the clock, Erwin Koeman’s side had the opportunity to put the game to bed after Al Busaidi was denied by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. Al Mandhar Al Alawi made his way into the box after winning the ball from the left before finding teammate Busaidi, whose effort was palmed away by the India glovesman.
India showed intent in search for an equaliser and continued to threaten, mostly through set pieces but Oman never allowed them to get into dangerous positions. Despite seeing more of the ball, they failed to create clear-cut chances from open play with Samad, Anirudh Thapa and Lallianzuala Chhangte being unused substitutes.
India continue to stay fourth in Group E with three points from five games, seven points behind second-placed Oman in the group and are virtually of the race in qualifying to the next round. They face Qatar at home next in March.