Kyrgyzstan survived a second-half onslaught with just 10 men to edge out defending AFC Challenge Cup champions India 2-1 in Wednesday’s tense Group B opener at Sugathadasa Stadium.
A true poachers goal from Kyrgyzstan striker Ildar Amirov opened the scoring after 15 minutes before his diminutive strike partner Anton Zemlianuhin doubled the lead before half-time.
Kyrgyzstan captain Aibek Bokoev was sent-off at the start of the second period and India took advantage through Denzil Franco’s penalty just before the hour mark.
But despite a prolonged period of pressure Sukhwinder Singh’s young side were unable to complete the comeback.
Following a frantic but unproductive start, Zemlianuhin stung the hands of goalkeeper Karanjit Singh with a snap shot from the edge of the area after eight minutes before India’s Jibon Khangembam tried his luck with a first time shot from distance five minutes later.
But the India goalkeeper was at fault for Kyrgyzstan’s opener as Singh failed to hold Sergey Kaleutin’s low shot from the edge of the area and Amirov pounced to fire into the unguarded net.
And Zemlianuhin doubled the lead after 32 minutes as defender Dharmaraj Ravanan allowed a hopeful ball forward to bounce and the striker nipped in to take the ball in his stride before calmly beating Singh from inside the area.
India were denied an instant response just two minutes later as previously untested Kyrgyzstan goalkeeper Vladislav Volkov managed to turn Joaquim Abranches’ low drive onto the post before Singh was at full stretch to tip Amirov’s dipping strike over the bar on the stroke of half-time.
Kyrgyzstan were reduced to 10 men just over a minute after the restart as Bokoev was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Baljit Sahni, the referee clearly indicating the use of an elbow as the reason for the dismissal.
India instantly stepped up the pressure and were handed a lifeline two minutes before the hour mark as Franco converted from the spot at the second time of asking following encroachment by his team-mates after defender Rustem Usanov was adjudged to have handled a bouncing ball inside the area.
Volkov turned a powerful rising shot from India captain Sushil Chongtham over the crossbar as India continued to press a tiring Kyrgyzstan before Abranches blazed over from a promising position inside the area with only the goalkeeper to beat five from the end.
Starting XI : 29-Karanjit Singh, 14-D Ravanan, 18-Denzil Franco ,4-Rowlison Rodrigues, 17-Robert Lalthlamuana, 11-Joaquim Abranches,13-Jibon Singh,23-Jewel Raja Shaikh, 30-Baljit Sahni ,9-Balwant Singh and 10-Sushil Kumar Singh (Capt) .
Substitutes:3-NirmalChetri,33-DebabrataRoy,21-LaxmikantKattimani,12-Jeje Lalpekhlua,16-Jagtar Singh, 19-Lalrindika Ralte 8-Th Noaba Singh Coach :SukhvinderSingh .
Not Playing :22- GurpreetSingh,5-RavinderSingh,24-Subhash Singh,31-Gurvinder Singh.