New Delhi:Defending champions India conceded an early goal and then failed to convert the chances that came their way to go down 0-1 against Lebanon in the opening match of the Nehru Cup football tournament here on Wednesday.
It was a disappointing start for India, who were looking for their second consecutive title after 2007, as they were done in by a fifth minute strike by Lebanon defender Ali Al Saad who drilled in a powerful free kick into Indian goal from near the 'D'circle.
India thus failed to take revenge on their opponents who had won once and drawn another in their last two meetings, in the World Cup qualifiers in 2007.
Playing their first international match since January 14, the home team dominated for most part of the match except for the first 15 minutes in front of a large home crowd who filled more than half of Ambedkar Stadium under floodlights.
Lebanon, who were playing without their four regular national players, got their first opportunity as early as in the fourth minute, from a move initiated by striker Mahmoud El Ali.
El Ali's strike partner Mohammad Ghaddar collected the ball and sent a low cross from the right only to find Ali Hamam's left footer blocked by an Indian defender in front of goal.
Next minute, central defender Ali Al Saad fired home from just near the 'D' which gave the Indian goalkeeper Subrata Paul no chance. Anwar had brought down a Lebanon player to concede the free kick.
India came close to scoring three minutes later but NS Manju's cross from the left just missed the outstretched legs of captain Bhaichung Bhutia.
After the goal advantage, Lebanon tried to slow down the game but India did not give them respite and kept the ball in the opposition half.
At the half-hour mark, India were denied an equaliser by Lebanon defender Ali Hamam who cleared a Sushil Kumar powerful header off a Dias corner near the goalpost.
Four minutes before half time, India got another chance but NP Pradeep's header from a Steven Dias free kick missed the target by inches.
Just at the stroke of half time Sushil's shot from top of box was tipped off by an alert Lebanon goalkeeper Lary Mehanna.
India coach Bob Houghton surprised everybody by bringing in Sunil Chhetri, who was doubtful for the tournament due to an ankle injury, in place of Sushil Singh.
Chhetri made some dangerous moves combining with Bhutia but failed to find the equaliser. Surkumar set up a nice floater in the 57th minute for Chhetri but the India striker headed over the bar.
In the 66th minute, Bhutia was down inside the box and claimed a penalty but instead the India captain was shown the yellow card by the referee apparently for falling down himself.
India pressed for the equaliser with incessant attacks but failed to hit the Lebanses net much to the disappointment of Indian fans.
India play Kyrgyzstan in their second round-robin match on August 22.
India: Subrata Paul, Gouramangi Singh, Anwar Mehrajuddin (Wadoo, 79th), Surkumar Singh, NS Manju (Mahesh Gawli, 57th), Climax Lawrence, NP Pradeep, Anthony Pereira, Steven Dias, Bhaichung Bhutia (C), Sushil Kumar Singh (Sunil Chhetri, 46th).
Lebanon: Lary Mehanna, Al Ali Saad, Ali El Atat, Hassan Maatouk, Mohammad Kohrani, Ali Yaakoub, Mahmoud El Ali (Hussein Dakik), Hamze Abboud (Mohammad Younes, 66th), Ali Hamam, Mohammad Ghaddar, Bilal El Najjarine (C).