Playing their first international friendly after a long gap,India failed to make the most of their opportunities,going down 2-0 to Singapore in Singapore on Tuesday.
Playing in front of a 3000 strong crowd,with plenty of Indian support,the visitors started strongly but conceded two goals minutes on either side of the half time mark to cede the advantage.
Pressing hard for an early goal,India switched flanks to good effect but were denied by a resolute defence. Captain Sunil Chhetri,Clifford Miranda and Sanju Pradhan combined well to set up some promising moves but there was no clear opening.
The first chance came in the ninth minute. Mehtab Hossain broke into the Singapore box but rival defender Harris Harun recovered in time to block his cross. The very next minute,Miranda latched on to a defensive lapse but Harun again managed to clear his cross at the last minute to prevent Chhetri from pulling the trigger.
Much against the run of play,it was Singapore who surged to the lead going into half time after a 43rd minute strike by Khairul Amri.
Making the most of a botched clearance down the right,Amri entered the box and casually shot past an advancing Subrata Pal. Almost immediately,India had another chance but Pradhans aerial cross narrowly evaded Chhetri.
Indeed,while much was expected of the striker,who recently signed for Portuguese top side Sporting Lisbons B team,he clearly wasnt at his best,as he appeared to be carrying a slight niggle.
Still in the hunt
Despite being a goal down when the half time whistle was sounded,there wouldnt have been much hope lost by the Indians. After all it was not the first time Wim Koevermans side had trailed in a match before coming back to win. They had done the same in the Nehru Cup final against a second string Cameroon side just a month back.
But if the first strike was a setback,the second by Fazrul Amri just minutes after resumption of play,in the 49th minute,would prove decisive.
In his desperation to make things happen,Koevermans made all six permitted substitutions. Chhetri was replaced by Robin Singh and Jewel Raja came on for Pradhan in the 62nd minute. Three minutes later Gurwinder Singh replaced Raju Gaikwad.
These moves almost worked when Robin got a shot on goal,but his left footer from the top of the box went hard but straight to the Singapore keeper Izwan Mahbud.
As the minutes ticked by,Koevermans brought on Anthony Pereira in the 77th minute in place of Miranda and three minutes later,made a double substitution Joaquim Abranches replacing Mehtab Hossain and Denzil Franco coming in place of Syed Rahim Nabi in the 80th minute.
The move earned more thrust in the attack and but again the chances created went abegging Francis Fernandes corner kick again went straight to Mahbud.
Time runs out
The defeat,Koevermans second in a row with his new side,also meant that India,currently languishing at 168 on the world rankings,will have to wait for another FIFA matchday friendly in their quest to improve their rankings.