Team India, without the services of captain Sunil Chhetri, held Oman to a 1-1 draw in an international friendly football match at the Maktoom Bin Rashid Stadium in Dubai on March 25.

Coach Igor Stimac’s Blue Tigers scored in the second half through Manvir Singh after goalkeeper Amrinder Singh could not stop Zahir Al Aghbari’s strike in the 42nd minute of the match.

In the 55th minute, Ashutosh Mehta found Bipin Singh on the right edge of the box who then sent across a perfect cross to a vigilant Manvir Singh who made no mistake and headed it to restore parity.

In their first international match in over a year, the Indian coach handed debuts to 10 players. The Blue Tigers played an international match after 492 days and played against a team that were 23 places above them in the FIFA rankings. They missed the services of captain Sunil Chhetri who was diagnosed with COVID-19 before the squad for the friendlies was announced.

Speaking after the match, coach Stimac said that he was not particularly happy with the way his team played in the first half as he pointed out that the Indian players kept losing possession of the ball. But the Indian coach said that the players redeemed themselves in the second half to play some exciting football.

“We didn’t do two basic things which I had asked them to do. We didn’t put pressure on the players with the ball in our half and we didn’t stay too far from their players when they were creating on their build-up and that created a lot of problems. They were rising up in confidence, we were very low with confidence. I told them one thing: the result is something that I need to care about, not you. You need to come out and play without fear,” he said.

“In the second half, we showed that we have nothing to fear. Of course, these are better sides because when you get into the top 100, the difference of 25 to 30 spots is a big difference. There is still a big gap between UAE or Oman and us but that does not mean we cannot get the result. We can get the result. We showed it today also. We have another game and I need to give chance to the rest of the players,” the coach added.

The coach also heaped praise on the 10 players who made their debuts for the Blue Tigers.

India next face UAE in the second friendly game on March 29.

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