India suffered a lone goal defeat at the hands of Hongkong in an international friendly in Pune last night. The difference was a brilliant strike by Li Haiqiang for the East Asians. The match is part of India's preparations for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar in January next year.
It was a match of two halves. While the first session belonged to a strong India, the control of the match shifted to Hongkong after the breather. And once more the big worry for Bob Houghton will be the lack of goals by the striker and attacking players even after well chances created.
Bob Houghton was forced to field some of his fringe players due to injuries to Baichung Bhutia, N.P. Pradeep, Steven Dias and Mahesh Gawli. Compared to the Namibia game on September 15 there were only two changes, While Climax Lawrence replaced Pradeep, Nabi played in place of Mahesh as Anwar surprisingly took the field as he was expected to remain on the bench.
India looked good in the first session with Anthony Pereira playing a strong game on his usual right wing, numerous crosses coming in but the strikers unable to use them. At the back Gouramangi Singh was once more a dependable defender with Subrata Pal coming to his teams rescue a few times. After the break Hongkong was the stronger side and deservingly scored the winner through captain Li Haiqiang. India did try to get a late equaliser, but it was not to be.
Bob Houghton said at the post-match press conference that he was happy with the performance but not with the result. The lack of goals from the strikers in absence of Baichung Bhutia would be a growing worry, especially the lack of form of Sunil Chhetri from whom a lot is expected especially in the absence of Baichung.
India: 1-Subrata Pal; 17-Surkumar Singh, 19-Gouramangi Singh, 5-Anwar, 22-Syed Rahim Nabi; 28-Anthony Pereira, 30-Climax Lawrence (78' 8-Renedy Singh), 27-Mehrajuddin Wadoo (79' 6-Baldeep Singh), 25-Clifford Miranda (66' 23-Steven Dias); 9-Abhishek Yadav (66' 18-Sushil Kumar Singh), 11-Sunil Chhetri
Substitutes: 16-Arindam Bhattacharya, 2-Govin Singh, 12-Deepak Kumar Mondal
Hong Kong: 17-Tse Tak Him; 2-Lee Chi Ho, 3-Poon Yiu Cheuk, 5-Bai He, 8-Lee Hong Lim, 11-Li Haiqiang, 12-Lo Kwan Yee (61' 19-Chu Siu Kei), 15-Chan Wai Ho, 16-Leung Chun Pong (90' 14-Li Hang Hui), 18-Sham Kwak Fai (46' 4-Lee Wai Lun), 20-Ye Jia
Substitutes: 1-Li Hon Ho, 7-Sham Kwak Keung, 9-Lee Wai Lim, 13-Cheung Kin Fung
Referee: Pratap Singh (India)
Assistant Referees: Francisco Fernandes (India), Shaji Kurian (India)
Fourth Official: Arumugam Rowan (India)