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India stuns Oman with 2-1 triumph in AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers opener in Dubai

Dubai : India stunned Oman with 2-1 triumph in their opening fixture of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup 2022 Qualifiers at the Fujairah Stadium in Dubai, UAE.

Frontliner Rahim Ali (6′) converted an early penalty, before Vikram

Partap Singh (37′) doubled the lead to earn a

crucial victory on Sunday night. Waleed Salim scored a consolation

goal for much higher rank Oman in added time

but the three points headed India’s way.

Igor Stimac, after the recent success in the SAFF Championship in

Maldives, got into the act quickly in pursuit of

qualification to the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2022 for the first

time ever since the inception of the tournament in 2013.

He started with experienced Dheeraj Singh under the woodwork and two

full-backs in the form of Asish Rai and Akash Mishra to support the

attacking moves. Deepak Tangri and Narender Gahlot were put in at the

heart of the defence. India’s U-17 FIFA World Cupper duo Jeakson Singh

and Suresh Wangjam (captain) manned the middle of the park, while

Rahul KP and Vikram Partap Singh were deployed at the flanks. Rahim

Ali and Aniket Jadhav were at the attacking third.

Before the opponents could settle in, Igor Stimac’s boys started

hurling attacks from both wings and in the fifth minute, Vikram earned

a penalty that Rahim Ali calmly converted. Omani goalkeeper Ibrahim

Yousuf had guessed the right way, but Rahim’s spot-kick was placed

perfectly, as the ball went past the upright and nestled into the

side-netting.

Six minutes later, Akash floated in a delicious cross from the left

but the goalkeeper leapt above Aniket to grab it without any fuss.

Vikram and Rahul, with their lightning speed, kept the Omani midfield

on their toes throughout, something that helped them punch through for

the second goal in the 37th minute.

Akash took on his own to penetrate the midfield and passed it onto an

onrushing Rahim Ali, who rounded off his marker and pushed the ball

onto an unmarked Vikram towards his right. The youngster made no

mistake to slot it home past an onrushing keeper. That goal gave India

the clear upper hand, as the two teams trudged back into the tunnel at

half-time.

After the resumption, India could have made it three through Aniket

Jadhav, but he was ruled offside. Rahul KP made one of his signature

darting runs, as he cut in from the left, jinked past a defender, and

unleashed a shot on goal, which was saved. Aniket was lurking nearby

and tried to pounce on the rebound, but was flagged offside.

Two minutes to the hour-mark, Asish Rai made a crucial block to deny

Fahad Masaao, thus maintaining India’s two-goal advantage.

Stimac made a few changes towards the end of the game and the boys

responded in a similar manner to hold their fortress against Oman.

Bryce Miranda, who was thrown into the fray on 71 minutes, almost

scored his first goal in the 80th. Having played a brilliant one-two

with Rahim Ali, he snuck into the Oman penalty box from the left

corner but eventually miscued his effort.

In the final minute of the regulation time, Omani substitute Waleed

Salim tucked in a cross from Abdullah Mohammed Al Balushi to halve the

gap, but the Indian defenders clung onto their lead towards the final

whistle to leave the pitch with all three points.

Oman moved to 78th in Fifa ranking for September, while India slipped

two places to 107th in the FIFA rankings in the latest update that was

announced on Thursday.

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