Bishkek: The Indian football team's 13-match unbeaten run ended as it lost 1-2 to an attacking Kyrgyzstan in an inconsequential final group game of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying campaign.
Anton Zemlianukhin opened the scoring for the hosts as early as the second minute and Mirlan Murzaev doubled the lead with his 72-nd minute strike. Jeje Lalpekhlua pulled one back for the visiting side by finding the back of the net in the 88th minute.
India, who have already secured qualification to next year's continental showpiece, felt the absence of their key players, especially Sunil Chhetri. Playing in place of Chhetri, striker Balwant Singh was denied a goal twice in the space of 11 minutes.
Rowlin Borges' free-kick came off the crossbar and fell to the Mumbai City striker who tapped it into the net but the flag had already been raised for offside. Then, he raced past his marker into the free space behind the home defence and slotted past Matiash but the referee had by then blown his whistle for a foul, much to Balwant's dismay.
Kyrgyzstan were on the offensive from the word go as they looked for scoring opportunities and pressed India hard. The margin of defeat could have been bigger, had it not been for India captain Gurpreet Singh Sandhu's showings at the post.
Kyrgyzstan succeeded right at the start of the game as Zemlianukhin struck, much to the delight of the home crowd. The home team threatened to top the group but Jeje's consolation goal ensured India finished the group qualifying engagements at the top with 13 points. That was, however not good enough to end on level terms in the game.
India make five changes from the 2-2 draw against Myanmar in Goa in November last year. Chhetri was suspended for the game with double booking, paving the way for Balwant's inclusion.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Germanpreet Singh were out injured, and in came Mohammed Rafique and Rowllin Borges.
Lalruatthara was handed his debut in place of Pritam Kotal, while Narayan Das came in for Jerry Lalrinzuala.