Oman coach Koeman pleased with comeback win

 The north-eastern Indian city of Guwahati usually experiences rainy weather during this season. At times, spells of rains makes the city sweaty and sultry. And on Thursday, Oman was made to sweat for victory by a gritty India in a Group E match of the Asian Qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar and AFC Asian Cup China 2023.

A 2-1 result was enough for the Oman coach from the Netherlands, Erwin Koeman, to put up a smile and say 'very pleased with the result' but the experienced coach admitted that the Red Warriors were far from their best in the first-half.

Oman trailed by a first-half goal, scored by Indian captain Sunil Chhetri at the Indira Gandhi International Stadium. However, a stirring second-half fightback from Oman saw its young striker Al Monther al Alawi score two goals (82nd and 90th minutes) for a crucial away win.

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Erwin Koeman

In his exclusive remarks to Muscat Daily on Saturday, a day after the team returned home aboard a Royal Air Force Oman flight, Koeman said, “I’m very pleased with the result under difficult circumstances.  With the domestic league yet to start for us as well our opponents, it was a disadvantage for both the teams.”

The 57 year old Dutchman added, “Despite the lack of our preparations, we focused a lot on the physical aspect. Our camp in Germany helped as our boys could fight till the end. Our players had a better fitness level and it showed in the second-half.

“We made many mistakes in the first-half. This being the opening match of the qualifiers, our players also took time to settle down.

“Moreover it was very hot and sultry out there on Thursday. However, we fixed our mistakes in the second  period. Al Monther scored two fantastic goals. We fought till the final whistle and deserved to win. An away victory is always a double delight."

Oman will next host Afghanistan in its second Group E match on October 10.

Prior to that it will play Lebanon in an international friendly in Muscat on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan lost 0-6 to Asian Cup champion and 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar in another group match on Thursday.

Koeman also appreciated the hosts' first-half performance. "I have to be honest, India played a good first-half and deserved the lead. In the second-half, the game changed. We were aggressive and created chances.”

India is ranked 103rd while Oman's FIFA ranking is 87th but Koeman said, “In football, any team can beat any team on a given day and the rankings don’t matter.”

India's coach Igor Stimac felt the hosts deserved more from the match.

Speaking after the match in Guwahati, the Croatian said, “I think we deserved more, at least a point for the first-half. We created many chances and  could have killed the game in the first-half.”

Despite the defeat, Stimac said that there were positives to build on. “We have seen what the boys can do against a strong side like Oman. They showed quality and experience. They (Oman) were little bit lucky. Our  boys gave everything.”

Oman delegation returned to a warm welcome on Friday and were received at the airport by Said Othman al Balushi, the CEO and general secretary of Oman Football Association, and other officials.

(With inputs from the-afc.com)

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