India suffered a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Curacao in their King's Cup semi-final encounter in coach Igor Stimac's first game in charge.
Goals from Luis Bonevacia, Elson Oohoi and Leandro Bacuna sealed the win for Curacao, with Sunil Chhetri scoring from the penalty spot for India. All the goals came in an action-packed first half.
Stimac sent his team out in an attacking formation, with Sandesh Jhingan partnering debutant Rahul Bheke in defence, while Sahal Abdul Samad and Brandon Fernandes were also handed their first caps for the national team.
The first half was marred by defensive errors for the Indian team as they lost their shape on a couple of occasions, which led to the Curacao attacking with intent.
The Blue Tigers had their first sight of goal when Brandon's lovely pass was brought down very well by Sahal, but Chhangte couldn't reach his cut back in time and the chance went abegging.
Soon after, Curacao took the lead through Bonevacia as he raced onto a cross from Magno Nepomuceno and hooked the ball home past Gurpreet. They doubled the lead after three minutes as Oohoi broke the offside trap and dribbled past Sandhu to knock it into an empty net.
FULL TIME! The referee brings an end to the match, as Curacao progress to the Final of the #KingsCup 👑🏆!— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) June 5, 2019
It was a game of ✌halves, but India turned up the head 🔥🔥 after the change of ends! 👏👏👏
🇨🇼 3⃣-1⃣ 🇮🇳#CUWIND #BackTheBlue #BlueTigers #IndianFootball #Sunil108 pic.twitter.com/HiliRx5ylD
India then shifted to a three-man defence and controlled the game a bit more. They were awarded a penalty after the referee adjudged a tackle on Sahal to be high and Chhetri made no mistake from the spot.
Three minutes later, Cardiff City man Leandro Bacuna showed his class as he rifled a shot home from just inside the box to make it 3-1.
The second half saw the Blue Tigers come out with purpose as debutants Amarjit Singh and Raynier Fernandes were brought on. They helped add composure and control as Stimac's side went about looking to try and reduce the margin.
The Indians created a couple of chances, but Sahal could only hit the side netting while Chhetri after being set up brilliantly by Kotal, saw his header come back off the post. Jhingan had a great chance but forced a wonderful save from Room as the whistle for full-time blew.
India will now face the loser of the match between Thailand and Vietnam and play for the third/ fourth place match on Saturday.