Holders India paid the price for their defending lapse, goalkeeping error and profligacy by their strikers as they went down 1-2 to a 10-man Kyrgyzstan in their opening match of the AFC Challenge Cup football tournament in Colombo on Wednesday.
The under-23 Indian boys let in two goals before the breather, mainly due to their own errors and then missed quite a good number of chances in the second half, which they dominated in their Group B, match at Sugathadasa Stadium here.
India felt the absence of SAFF Cup hero, goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya, as custodian Karanjit Singh failed to hold Kyrgyz midfielder Sergey Kaleutin's low shot from the edge of the box and striker Ildar Amirov fired into the unguarded net in the 15th minute.
Kyrgyzstan striker Zemlianuhin Anton doubled the lead in the 33rd minute as he capitalised on a defensive lapse by the Indians.
Dharmaraj Ravanan unnecessarily had tried for an off-side trap and allowed the Kyrgyz striker to surge ahead without challenge before he calmly beat Karanjit.
Kyrgyzstan were reduced to 10 men a minute after the restart as Bahraini referee Nawaf Shukralla awarded a direct red card to midfielder and captain Aibek Bokoev for elbowing Baljit Sahni.
India reduced the margin in the 59th minute with Denzil Franco converting from the spot after Kyrgyz defender Rustem Usanov handled a bouncing ball inside the box. The first half was evenly contested but it was Kyrgyzstan who ran away with two goals before the breather.
In the eighth minute, striker Zemlianuhin stung the hands of Indian goalkeeper Karanjit with a snap shot from the edge of the box.
India responded five minutes later with left winger Jibon Khangembam trying his luck with a long ranger which missed the target narrowly.
Karanjit then failed to hold a Sergey Kaleutin low shot and Amirov pounced on it and found the net.
In the 33rd minute, Indian defender Dharmaraj Ravanan thought Zemlianuhin was off-side but the Kyrgyzstan striker calmly beat Karanjit for the second goal.
Kyrgyzstan survived a second-half onslaught with just 10 men and goalkeeper Volkov turned a powerful rising shot from Indian captain Sushil Singh over the crossbar.
Abranches then missed two sitters just before the final whistle. In the 85th minute, he failed to score when he had only the Kyrgyzstan goalkeeper to beat.
In the last minute, his free header off a Jeje Lalpekhlua corner sailed inches above the crossbar.
Despite the loss, Indian coach Sukhvinder Singh was happy that his side was the better side throughout the match.
"We gifted the second goal and dominated the whole of second half. We got many chances in the second half and we could have won had we scored from those," he said later.
"Overall, I am not that disappointed as my boys played well. We would have wanted a win in the first match but still we can bounce back," he added.