India lost 1-2 to Kyrgyzstan
The Indian football team's 13-match unbeaten run ended as it lost 1-2 to an attacking Kyrgyzstan in an inconsequential final group game of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying campaign, in Bishkek, on Tuesday.
Anton Zemlianukhin opened the scoring for the hosts as early as the second minute and Mirlan Murzaev doubled the lead with his 72-nd minute strike.
Jeje Lalpekhlua pulled one back for the visiting side by finding the back of the net in the 88th minute.
India, who have already secured qualification to next year's continental showpiece, felt the absence of their key players, especially Sunil Chhetri.
Playing in place of Chhetri, striker Balwant Singh was denied a goal twice in the space of 11 minutes.
Rowlin Borges' free-kick came off the crossbar and fell to the Mumbai City striker who tapped it into the net but the flag had already been raised for offside. Then, he raced past his marker into the free space behind the home defence and slotted past Matiash but the referee had by then blown his whistle for a foul, much to Balwant's dismay.
Kyrgyzstan were on the offensive from the word go as they looked for scoring opportunities and pressed India hard. The margin of defeat could have been bigger, had it not been for India captain Gurpreet Singh Sandhu's showings at the post.
Kyrgyzstan succeeded right at the start of the game as Zemlianukhin struck, much to the delight of the home crowd.
The home team threatened to top the group but Jeje's consolation goal ensured India finished the group qualifying engagements at the top with 13 points. That was, however not good enough to end on level terms in the game.
India make five changes from the 2-2 draw against Myanmar in Goa in November last year.
Chhetri was suspended for the game with double booking, paving the way for Balwant's inclusion.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Germanpreet Singh were out injured, and in came Mohammed Rafique and Rowllin Borges.
Lalruatthara was handed his debut in place of Pritam Kotal, while Narayan Das came in for Jerry Lalrinzuala.
AIFF chief rubbishes revolt rumours under Constantine
All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel brushed aside reports that a few senior players were at loggerheads with national team coach Stephen Constantine.
Patel was asked if he would step in to find a solution to the reported problems between the coach and players.
The AIFF boss had earlier acted upon complaints by the India U-17 team against former coach Nicolai Adam before Portuguese Luis Norton de Matos was appointed.
"What you are talking, is very hypothetical. Until and unless I hear something, I cannot go by some murmur in the media. I have to be told concretely by somebody that there is a problem. If the problem is not conveyed to us in the right way, I am not going to go on a fish-hunting expedition," Patel said.
Adam was removed as head coach of the India U-17 team with less than a year to go for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
Recalling that episode, Patel said, "The U-17 situation was completely extraordinary. The entire team spoke in one voice. I cannot, as AIFF President, be a spectator. I cannot have an unhappy team playing a competition which was extremely important for the county."
On the sidelines of an event, Patel added, "There was no interference. It was only at their request that we stepped in. When they spoke in unison in one voice, we had to listen. They sought an appointment and since we had very less time, we had to take an extraordinary step. That situation rested there."