India gave title contenders Uzbekistan a mighty scare before going down fighting 2-3 in their opening match of the AFC U-16 Football Championship in Tehran on Sunday.
The Indians put on a spirited fight against the Central Asian country, who finished runners-up in the 2010 edition, coming back twice from a goal down before eventually conceded a late goal to lose the match.
Odilov Mukhiddin (eighth minute), Abdullaev Ibrokhim (53rd) and Abdiganiyev Ilhomjon (80th) scored for Uzbekistan while Uttam Rai struck twice in the 47th and 71st minutes.
Uzbekistan's second goal came from the spot kick as a mistimed tackle by Mohammed Sajid gave away the penalty to the Central Asians and Ibrokhim Abduallev converted it.
Rai's two perfectly taken headers raised hopes of at least a draw in the Group D match but the Uzbeks had the last laugh after second half substitute Abdiganiyev scored the decisive goal 10 minutes from time.
Uzbekistan, who defeated the Indians 9-0 in the qualifiers of this tournament, dictated the pace of the match in the beginning and were duly rewarded with the lead in the eighth minute. Forward Mukhiddin Odilov sneaked in to gather a pass from Izzatilla Abdullaev and rounded off Indian goalie Supratim Bhattacharjee who had a brilliant match under the bar.
The Indian defenders and Bhattacharjee combined to stop the Uzbeks add more goals in the first half. India made their occasional moves count and Rai scored a poacher's header off the freekick of Alen Deory to make it 1-1 two minutes into the second half.
India were unlucky as Sajid conceded a penalty and Abduallev sent Bhattacharjee the wrong way to regain the lead for the Uzbeks in the 53rd minute. Rai was again in action as amid the confusion amongst Indian defenders, he popped up the goal off a second half substitute Raja Rawat's cross to bring the match once again at level in the 71st minute.
With the Uzbeks staring at a draw, Ilhomjon turned the tide. He collected a brilliant cross from defender Islom Ismoilov and scored the decisive winner with just 10 minutes remaining.
India take on Syria while Uzbekistan face another group favourites China on Tuesday.