MUSCAT- Oman went down to hosts Kyrgyz Republic 1-0 in the Preliminary Joint Qualification - Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 in Bishkek on Tuesday.
It was a shock result for Branko Ivankovic's Red Warriors who had begun their campaign with a dominating 3-0 win over Chinese Taipei in Group D.
Stefan Tarkovic’s team were the better side at the Dolen Omurzakov Stadium and deserved their first three points in Group D, showing great character to bounce back from the disappointment of losing 4-3 to Malaysia in their opening game.
Kyrgyz Republic looked to seize the early initiative as Gulzhigit Alykulov went on a forceful run through the middle only to see his long-range effort go wide in the ninth minute.
Alykulov continued to be a threat with his silky dribbling, going down in the box in the 21st minute from a Ahmed Al Khamisi challenge but the referee was not convinced.
The home side went ahead four minutes into the second half, Alimardon Shukurov's free-kick wasn't properly cleared by the Oman defence and the ball fell kindly for Odilzhon Abdurakhmanov to strike into the bottom corner, sending the crowd into raptures.
Oman gradually found their way into the game, creating their first shooting opportunity in the 32nd minute when Abdullah Fawaz's cross found Zahir Al Aghbari but the latter's volley sailed well over the bar.
Oman tried to provide an immediate response, Al Aghbari setting up Ghanim Al Habashi inside the box only for the shot to be blocked by an alert Kyrgyz defence in the 56th minute.
Ivankovic's side went even closer nine minutes later when Mohsen Al Ghassani chested the ball and looked to shoot only for Kyrgyz custodian Erzhan Tokotaeve to bravely close him down with Issam Al Subhi firing the rebound wide.
The Omanis pushed until the final whistle in search of the equaliser, however, Kyrgyz Republic displayed resolute defending as they held on to secure a hard-fought win.
Kyrgyz Republic will meet Chinese Taipei when the qualifiers resume in March, 2024 while Oman will face Malaysia.