Mumbai: India came back from a goal down to edge past Mauritius 2-1 in their first game of the Tri-Nation football tournament here at the Mumbai Football Arena on Saturday.
Jean Mervyn Jocelyn (15th) gave the visitors a shock lead before Robin Singh (37th) restored parity and substitute Balwant Singh (62nd) scored the winner.
India, without skipper Sunil Chhetri, nippy wideman Udanta Singh and first choice goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu among a few Bengaluru FC players who would miss the tournament due to their AFC Cup commitments, started on a dismal note.
In the 15th minute, Mauritius, 63 places below 97th-ranked India in the FIFA ranking, got ahead. Jocelyn made the most of a deflection off centre-back Anas Edathodika to get on the scoresheet after veteran goalkeeper Subrata Paul failed to gauge the trajectory of the ball. Jocelyn was lucky in the first place as the ball bounced off full-back Narayan Das to fall sweetly for him.
Minutes after the opening goal, India missed a chance to draw level. Eugeneson Lyngdoh passed to Jeje Lalpekhlua with the latter heading the ball down for Holicharan Narzary who failed to make the most of it.
India were down by a goal for 22 minutes before Robin equalised courtesy a sublime through ball from Rowlin Borges. Robin brushed aside his marker Louis Dorza to find the back of the net with his left foot. At halftime, both teams went for a breather at 1-1.
India chief coach Stephen Constantine made three changes at half-time, bringing in Nikhil Poojary, who made his senior team debut in place of Jackichand Singh while Amrinder Singh replaced Paul under the bar and Balwant came in place of goalscorer Robin.
India took the lead two minutes into the hour mark as Balwant got the better of his rival keeper to slot home his first goal for the country after Lyngdoh started the buildup with Jeje providing the assist for Balwant.
Another debutant, Manvir Singh almost made it 3-1 for India with an excellent effort in the dying minutes of the match.
India will take on St Kitts & Nevis next on August 24 while Mauritius and St Kitts & Nevis will cross swords on August 22.