INDIA 0-1 HONG KONG
Scorer – Li Haiqiang (76′)
Team India suffered another home defeat against Hong Kong in the international friendly match played here at Pune’s Balewadi Complex this evening. The solitary goal of the match was scored by Hong Kong captain Li Haiqiang in the 76th minute.
Bob Houghton missed the services of some important players due to injury and that forced him to field a relatively inexperienced starting XI. In the absence of Mahesh Gawli, Rahim Nabi got the nod ahead of N.S. Manju to start as the left back. Unavailability of regular central midfielder N.P. Pradeep was a big blow and Mehrajuddin Wadoo shared the responsibility with captain of the day Climax Lawrence. Clifford Miranda and Anthony Pereira featured in the wings for the home team. As expected, Sunil Chhetri and Abhishek Yadav were leading the forward line.
Hong Kong coach Tsang Wai Chung also deployed a 4-4-1-1 formation, with skipper Li Haiqiang playing as an attacking midfielder, behind the lone striker. Star striker Chun Sui Kei was left out on the substitute bench as the Hong Kong coach decided to give youngster Ye Jia some valuable international exposure.
Hong Kong started the match brightly and created a wave of attacks with in the first 10 minutes. However it was Team India that got the first real goal scoring opportunity of the match in the sixth minute. Sunil Chhetri stepped up to take the free kick just outside the Hong Kong box, but his shot went well wide and over the goal post. At the other end, Li Haiqiang and Kwan Yee combined well to create a nice opportunity, but Gourmangi Singh was alert and intercepted brilliantly to deny the Hong Kong skipper a clear shot at the goal.
India then started to see more ball possession and in the sixteenth minute Abhishek Yadav made a good run down the right wing to find Sunil Chhetri outside the Hong Kong box. Sunil laid the ball for Anthony Pereira who unleashed a powerful volley straight to the Hong Kong goalkeeper Tak Him Tse and thus the chance to go one up was wasted. Midway through the first half, Clifford Miranda got an opportunity to punish the visitors for a casual clearance, but he took one touch too many and the centre-back Lee Chu Ho was spot on with a late tackle.
By that time, Indian midfielders had started controlling the midfield play and were dominating the proceedings. Around the half hour mark, Rahim Nabi made a daunting run through the left wing before cutting in to find Mehrajuddin unmarked on the edge of the box, but the East Bengal midfielder’s precise placement was parried away by the Hong Kong ‘keeper for a corner. A couple of minutes later, Anthony tried his luck from long range, but the shot lacked power to trouble the visiting custodian.
A few minutes before the half time whistle, Hong Kong set up a nice attack against the run of play. But, the ever reliable Indian ‘keeper rushed off his line to intercept Li Haiqiang’s defense splitting through ball for Lee Hong Lim. India went for the lemon break looking the more likely of the two sides to break the deadlock in the second half.
In the second half, Hong Kong came out with a determined mindset and kept on threatening the Indian defense time and again. Five minutes into the second half, Subrata made a good safe off a Ye Jia strike from close range. Three minutes later Abhishek Yadav combined well with Sunil Chhetri and opened the goal mouth, but Sunil made a mess of the ball and Hong Kong defense recovered well to avert the danger.
Just after the hour mark, India got a great opportunity to go ahead as Climax Lawrence pounced on a defensive error by Hong Kong, but the midfielder’s shot got deflected off defender Leung Cun Pong and resulted in another corner for the home team.
Hong Kong coach made his intentions clear when he introduced star striker Chun Sui Kei for an off-colour Yee Lo. The move paid off immediately as the striker played a nice one-two with the skipper Haiqiang and the latter’s perfect placement from 18 yards out found the back of net after exposing a helpless Subrata Pal.
In search of the equalizer, Houghton made double substitution – Shushill Kumar Singh came in for Abhishek Yadav while Steven Dias replaced Clifford Miranda. But by that time Hong Kong midfielders were dominating the midfield battle and India failed to produce even a single goal scoring opportunity. This prompted Houghton to change the central midfield combo of Climax-Mehraj and Renedy-Baldeep pair took the field to shoulder the midfield duty.
Even though India created a couple of half chances a few minutes before the final whistle, Hong Kong defended resolutely for the remaining duration of the game to emerge as the deserved winner.
Team India next faces Yemen on the same ground after a three day gap and Bob Houghton’s men will have to make drastic improvements to pose any threat against a much stronger opposition.
Indian Line-up: Subrata Paul, Surkumar Singh, Anwar, Gouramangi Singh, Syed Rahim Nabi, Clifford Miranda (Dias), Mehrajuddin Wadoo (Baldeep), Climax Lawrence (Renedy), Anthony Pereira, Abhishek Yadav (Sushil), Sunil Chhetri.
Hong Kong Line-up: Tse Tak Him, Lee Chi Ho, Poon Yiu Cheuk, Bai He, Lee Hong Lim (Lee Wai Lim), Li Haiqiang, Lo Kwan Yee (Sui Kei), Chan Wai Ho, Leung Chun Pong, Sham Kwak Fai (Lun Lee), Ye Jia