India begin AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers with win over Oman

Rahim Ali and Vikram Pratap Singh scored the goals for the Indian football team in its 2-1 win over Oman.

By Naveen Peter
Picture by All India Football Federation

India began their AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers with a 2-1 win over Oman at the Fujairah Stadium in UAE on Sunday.

Rahim Ali (7th minute) and Vikram Pratap Singh (38th minute) scored the goals for India in the first half. Meanwhile, Waleed Salim Al-Musalmi scored Oman’s only goal in the 89th minute.

The win takes India to the top of Group E in the qualifiers. With the group winner and the four best second-placed teams making the AFC U-23 Asain Cup 2022, the win could prove to be crucial in a group that features UAE and Kyrgyzstan.

Coming into the AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers, head coach Igor Stimac had subdued expectations from the Indian football team. But a surprising lead at the start put India in good stead.

A silly error by the Omani defence on India’s Vikram Pratap Singh Singh inside their penalty area saw India earn a penalty. Rahim Ali stepped up to the task and handed his side the lead.

The early goal rattled the Omani youngsters, but they regrouped soon after and took the attack to the Indians at will.

Forward Abdullah Mohammed Al-Balushi troubled India as he stayed on the defenders’ shoulders and used his pace to run behind them into empty spaces. Arshad Said Al-Alawi and Fahad Masaaod Hajri, meanwhile, combined well on the right to create a few goal-scoring chances. 

The Indian defence, however, stood up to the challenge throwing their bodies on the line to thwart the Omani attack while goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh was at his best and India held on to the lead.

The frustration resulted in Oman committing errors at the back. This helped the Indian football team break through the Omani lines.

One such move saw Aakash Mishra find Rahim Ali outside the Omani penalty area. Rahim Ali did well to control the ball and feed his strike partner Vikram Pratap Singh with a well-weighed through ball that the 19-year-old Vikram blasted into the Omani goal for his side’s second goal.

In the second half, though Oman came hard at the Indians, the Blue Colts kept their opponents at bay. And by the time Waleed Salim Al-Musalmi found the back of the Indian net from an Abdullah Mohammed Al-Balushi cross, it was too late as India walked away with three points from the match.

India will face hosts UAE in their next AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers on Wednesday while Oman will be up against Kyrgyzstan on the same day.

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