India 1 (Sunil Chhetri 24th minute) lost to Oman 2 (Al-Mandhar Al Alawi 82nd, 90th)
Oman made a late comeback to defeat India 2-1 in the opening Group E match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup Joint-Qualifiers at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati, on Thursday.
The Blue Tigers’ talismanic skipper Sunil Chhetri opened the scoring, but Oman made their comeback in the last 10 minutes, when Al-Mandhar Al Alawi struck a brace to win the match for the away side.
India got the early start that they were looking for, with Ashique Kuruniyan running his legs off in the attacking midfield position.
The hosts had their first real chance around the quarter-hour mark, when Thapa intercepted a ball in the middle of the park, played it to Chhetri, who put Udanta through. The winger jinked past an Oman defender and rattled the cross-bar.
Soon after, Ashique was played into the box has he took the ball away from the rushing keeper Faiyz Al Rusheidi. However, 22-year-old was in too tight an angle to score.
The early pressure by the Blue Tigers soon paid the dividends, as Ashique was brought down on the left flank by Abdulaziz Al Gheilani, who went into the books for the mis-timed tackle.
It was a combination of Brandon Fernandes and Sunil Chhetri from the resulting free-kick, as they worked-out a set-piece straight from the training ground. Brandon drilled it in hard and low for Chhetri, who lost his marker and planted the sweetest of left-footers into the bottom corner, sending the partisan crowd of 22,798 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati into ecstacy.
With a couple of minutes left for the half-time whistle, Oman captain Ahmed Al Mahaijri had the golden opportunity to put the away side level. A cross played from the right flank found Mahaijri on the other end of it, as the Oman captain went in with a powerful header. However, India custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu put in a strong hand to parry it away from point-blank range; Mahaijri failed to hit the target from the rebound.
Igor Stimac’s boys applied a much more cautious approach after the change of ends, and the equaliser nearly came from the most unlikeliest of sources -- a miscued clearance by Anirudh Thapa. However, Gurpreet was on hand again, to tip it over the bar. The 27-year-old custodian bailed India out again a few minutes later, when he calmly collected a precise free-header by Abdulaziz Al Maqbali.
On the hour-mark, Stimac decided to add some pace to the wings, as he brought on Lallianzuala Chhangte in place of Brandon Fernandes. While Oman attempted to get the equaliser, Sunil Chhetri tried to use Chhangte's pace as he played the youngster through on the counter. However, he scuffed his eventual shot.
Oman left it late, but they came back in the last 10 minutes, when Al-Mandhar Al Alawi scored two to win it for Oman. For their first goal, Al-Mandhar was played into the India box via a lofted through ball, as the attacker dinked it over Gurpreet to equalise.
The 24-year-old struck the winner on last minute of regulation time, as he cut in from the left and rifled his shot into the back of the net.
India Starting XI: Gurpreet Singh; Rahul Bheke, Sandesh Jhingan, Adil Khan, Subhasish Bose; Anirudh Thapa, Rowllin Borges, Brandon Fernandes; Ashique Kuruniyan, Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh.
Maiden win for Mongolia as Malaysia fight back to take points
Mongolia secured a surprise 1-0 win over Myanmar while Malaysia twice came from behind to beat Indonesia 3-2 in stoppage time as the second round of Asia's qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup finals kicked off on Thursday.
Aramaa Dulguun scored with a well-taken strike to earn Mongolia a win in their first-ever appearance at this stage of World Cup qualifying.
Yet the most dramatic action came in Jakarta's Gelora Bung Karno Stadium where Indonesia took an early lead against bitter regional rivals Malaysia when Beto slipped the ball under goalkeeper Farizal Marlias 12 minutes into the game.
Ghana-born midfielder Mohamadou Sumareh levelled shortly before the break with his first involvement after coming off the bench, only for Beto to restore Indonesia's lead two minutes later with a fine strike from outside the area.
Syafiq Ahmad restored parity midway through the half with a deft header and the game looked to be heading for a draw until Sumareh found the roof of the net from six yards out seven minutes into stoppage time.
The result means Malaysia lead the early standings in Group G, ahead of Thailand and Vietnam, who played out a goalless draw in Pathum Thani.
Jordan took all three points from their Group B encounter away against Chinese Taipei, with Baha Faisal and Ahmed Samir giving Vital Bourkelmans' side a two-goal lead at halftime before Wen Chih-hao claimed a late consolation.
"I was coming to Taipei to take the three points and we did it," said Bourkelmans.
"Also the performance in the first half was clear and if it had been 3-0 or 4-0 nobody can talk."
Jordan are joined at the top of Group B by Kuwait, who hammered Nepal 7-0.
Syria came from a goal behind to thrash the Philippines 5-2 in Group A while the Maldives also picked up three points with a 1-0 win away against Guam.
In Group C, Hong Kong were held to a 1-1 draw in Cambodia and Iraq scored a late equaliser through Mohanad Ali to draw 1-1 with Bahrain.
World Cup hosts and reigning Asian champions Qatar eased to a 6-0 win over Afghanistan in Group E while Oman secured a 2-1 win over India.
Mongolia are joined in pole position in Group F by Tajikistan, who beat Central Asian neighbours Kyrgyzstan 1-0 in Dushanbe courtesy of a goal from Alisher Dzhalilov.
Palestine pulled off an upset with a 2-0 win over heavily fancied Uzbekistan in Group D, while Singapore drew 2-2 with Yemen.
North Korea made a winning start in Group H with former Asian Young Player of the Year Jong Il Gwan scoring both goals in a 2-0 win over Lebanon as Turkmenistan picked up a 2-0 victory over Sri Lanka.