Playing their first International match at home after the Nehru Cup, India suffered a 2-4 defeat against Palestine in a friendly football game at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Wednesday.
Clifford Miranda and Syed Rahim Nabi scored for India in the 17th and the 39th minute respectively while for Palestine, Ashraf Alfawaghra scored a hat-trick while Husam Abusalah scored the other goal.
Arata Izumi became the first Person of Indian origin (PIO) to play for India in the national football team in this match.
India were a far the better side in the first half and went into the interval enjoying a 2-1 lead but the brace scored by Palestine within three minutes after resumption never allowed the hosts to come back into the match.
In the first half, the hosts, cheered on by almost 40000 spectators, started on a positive note and were the better team.
The calm in defence, the composure in the midfield and the interchanging between the front two, Alwyn George and captain Sunil Chhetri upfront, rattled the strong Palestine side, which had fielded nine players who did duty for them in the West Asia Cup in December 2012.
Playing in only his second International match, Alwyn looked mature beyond his age. The Under-22 India player stayed away from his markers forcing the rival midfield to look a bit sloppy.
India surged into the lead in the 17th minute. Alwyn sneaked in between a couple of rival defenders but his left-footer was palmed away by goalkeeper Tawfiq Abuhammad only for Clifford Miranda to blast it in.
However, the lead lasted 13 minutes when much against the run of play Ashraf Alfawaghra volleyed in an Abdulhamid Abuhabib centre.
Nabi ensured the Mexican wave made a comeback, that too within nine minutes, when he leaped over all to head in Mehtab Hossain's corner.
India went into the interval with a 2-1 lead.
But it was a different story in the second half. Immediately after resumption, Palestine equalised to make it 2-2. Hasam Abusalah heading in a corner in the 46th minute which was the first attack of the second half. The very next minute, Palestine were 3-2 up, Ashraf converting from the spot.
Arata Izumi made his debut for India in the 63rd minute coming on for Lenny Rodrigues. But two minutes later, Palestine made it 4-2; Ashraf completing his hat-trick as he went past his marker and slotted it home.
India’s first chance in the second half came in the 73rd minute but a Jewel Raja volley from the top of the box narrowly missed the mark.
National Coach Wim Koevermans did bring in more substitutions in the second half including local lad CK Vineet but Palestine held onto the lead.
Earlier, the AIFF Player of the Year Award was handed over to Syed Rahim Nabi by Wim Koevermans prior to the kick-off. Nabi, who was voted as the best Indian Player for 2012 by all Coaches of I-League teams was handed over a silver plaque and a cheque of Rs. 2 lakh.