Oman 1-0 India: 3 Reasons why the Blue Tigers went down in Muscat
India went down to their fourth straight competitive loss against Oman to stay win-less in Group E of the Second Round of the AFC 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Muhsen Al-Ghassani's 34th-minute goal condemned the Blue Tigers to their second loss of the campaign and put Igor Stimac's side mathematically out of contention for a spot in the third round of the qualifiers.
Stimac made three changes from the side that drew 1-1 against Afghanistan in Dushanbe with Nishu Kumar, Manvir Singh and Farukh Chaudhary replacing Pritam Kotal, Sahal Abdul Samad and Mandar Rao Dessai.
From the first minute, Oman were comfortable in possession and even missed an early penalty. But Mushen Al-Ghassani made amends for his gaffe from the spot with a neat finish, although there were suggestions that he was offside before receiving the pass from Mohsin Al-Khaldi.
We take a look at three reasons why India lost the game.
#3 Where was the offensive plan?
Throughout his tenure as India manager, Stephen Constantine was ridiculed for the way his side resorted to route-one football at the first attempt, without even making an attempt to play through midfield.
Eleven games into his tenure and a lot of tall talk later, there isn't seemingly much that Stimac has changed. Yes, India keep more possession. But all the possession is between the centre-backs and the central midfielders, who keep the ball for a spell and then decide to hoof it long.
Manvir had a torrid night, with nothing sticking. Farukh worked hard, but his quality deserted him in the face of some robust Omani defending. Udanta Singh seemed to be the outlet for India but even he was isolated on the right wing and, despite a few decent runs, he could not provide an end-product.
Now, a lot has been said about Sunil Chhetri and his inability to finish off chances recently, but what is beyond question is that he's still India's best creative force and the best goalscorer.
So, why then does a manager's gameplan seemingly revolve around entirely bypassing his strengths?
Despite the passing talent of Brandon Fernandes and Vinit Rai, there was not one pass played through the lines into the spaces that Chhetri loves, in between the midfield and the defence. The result was that the skipper had to come too deep to pick up possession and that resulted in there being no one in the final third to make the killer pass or take a snapshot at goal.
India ended the game with no shots. Yes, let that sink in. One isn't talking shots on target. India did not have a single shot. The only two times Ali Al-Habsi was troubled in the Oman goal was when Chhetri cut back from a Brandon free-kick and from a deflected Ashique Kuruniyan cross, both of which he dealt with comfortably.
That means that in ten games now, under Stimac, India have scored only four goals from open play, with six coming directly off set-pieces. Off the four scored in open play, too, Anirudh Thapa's goal against Thailand in the King's Cup was in the second phase of play after a set-piece.
It's all well and good to have a prowess in scoring from set-pieces, but India seem bereft of ideas from open play. And, that is sure to cause more than a furrowed brow or two.