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    Bhutia scores but India lose to underrated Hong Kong

    Hong Kong: India let in an injury time goal to go down 1-2 against Hong Kong in their international friendly at the Hong Kong Stadium here today.

    In a closely fought match, both the sides could not score in the first half but produced three goals in the last 20 minutes.

    India were the better side in the first session which saw most of the play in Hong Kong half. But the home side came back strongly in the second half to take the lead and then sneaked in a last gasp goal to emerge victorious.

    Mid-fielder Yiu Chung Au Yeung opened scoring for Hong Kong in the 70th minute before India captain Baichung Bhutia made it 1-1 10 minutes later. But it was the home team which had the last laugh with defender Ng Wai Chiu finding the target in the 94th minute to seal the victory.

    The result is a disappointment for India considering that Hong Kong are 10 places below them at 152 and Bob Houghton's team has already made it to the 2011 Asian Cup after winning the AFC Challenge Cup in August last.

    This is the first international match for India after winning the AFC Challenge Cup and they began the year with a loss to a lower-ranked team. The two sides had drawn 2-2 when they met for a friendly in February 2006.

    India started off on an aggressive note and with some good moves kept the opponents' defence at the backfoot. They, however, failed to convert the chances that came their way in the first session.

    As the match progressed, Hong Kong started making moves from the flanks but an alert India custodian Subrata Paul denied them from scoring in the first half.

    After the barren first half, Hong Kong started with more attacks on the Indian citadel and Paul was kept busy. The home team, cheered by around a thousand supporters, drew the first blood in the 70th minute with midfielder Au Yeung Yiu Chung finding the back of the net with a powerful 25-yard free kick.

    But India fought back well and earned the equaliser 10 minutes later through Baichung. Mahesh Gawli, who replaced Deepak Kumar Mondal in the 57th minute, sent a cross to Climax Lawrence on top of the box. Lawrence left it for Baichung to turn in at the net near the far post.

    After the Indian equaliser, the match was meandering towards a draw and four minutes were added as injury time. In the last minute of the added time, Hong Kong defender Ng Wai Chui scored the winner with a powerful shot from the top of the six yard box to the huge disappointment of the Indians.

    India coach Bob Houghton put up a brave face and said his players could have won the match had they cashed in on the scoring chances that came their way.

    "It never looked like we were going to lose the match but the last minute goal was something that changed it. It was a very useful game and the boys played well. If we could have capitalised on the chances then we should have certainly won the game," Houghton said later.

    "It was a balanced match though they (Hong Kong) managed to score in the last minute. We were one down but came back strongly and overall it was decent performance by the boys," official AIFF website quoted Houghton as saying.

    India started with Gouramangi Singh, Anwar Ali, Samir Naik and Deepak Mondal at the back. Climax Lawrence, NP Pradeep, Steven Dias and Anthony Pereira manned the midfield while Baichung and Sunil Chhetri were at the upfront.

    After a barren first half, Houghton substituted Deepak Mondal and Pradeep by Mahesh Gawli and Rakesh Masih respectively in the 57th minute. But that did not bear any fruit and instead Hong Kong surged ahead.

    In the 88th minute, Chhetri was replaced by Abhishek Yadav. Senior player Renedy Singh, who was recovering from an injury, did not play today.