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 Pradhan’s aerial cross narrowly evaded Chhetri.
Indeed, while much was expected of the striker, who recently signed for Portuguese top side Sporting Lisbon’s B team, he clearly wasn’t 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 wouldn’t have been much hope lost by the Indians. After all it was not the first time Wim Koeverman’s 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