Down to 10 men, India showed character to prevail 1-0 over Pakistan in the first friendly football match, the goal coming off the boot of Robin Singh who was sent off midway into the second half, making it a bitter-sweet day for the local striker in Bangalore on Sunday.
In the first of the two friendly matches, which is also Pakistan's maiden appearance in a bilateral series in India, the visitors were laid low after Robin and captain Sunil Chhetri combined to put India in lead in the 44th-minute.
Captain Sunil Chhetri, who plays his club football for Bengaluru FC, tapped it in after Robin's flick off a Lalrindika Ralte corner hit the post. The match commissioner strangely awarded the goal to Robin Singh, though.
Robin was given marching orders in the 69th minute for receiving his second yellow card of the match. Thereafter, India played with 10 men against a strong Pakistan, a fact which national coach Wim Koevermans stressed post-match, that he was "keen to see how the boys responded".
The goal came at the stroke of interval. Even as everyone was expecting the whistle for the break, India earned another of their many corners of the day. Ralte, who along with Pronoy Halder had played a stellar role for India in the AFC U-22 AFC Qualifiers in Muscat in 2012, and were displaying glimpses of their 'telepathy' on the field, curled in his corner at the first post which was met by Robin Singh. Robin timed his spotjump to perfection and his flick evaded all but hit the bar.
An agile Chhetri poached on the rebound and gleefully converted from close. Earlier, Pakistan were faster off the blocks, but India slowed it down, seized the initiative, kept the ball to themselves and slowly pushed the visitors onto the backfoot.
The confidence was visible and a series of raids even paved the way for some more goals only for the rival defence to recover in time.
The best chance in the first half came in the 29th minute but Pakistan goalkeeper Saqib Hanif stood in between. The triangle of Chhetri, Robin and Ralte almost put India ahead. Robin received it from Chhetri inside the box and sent it for Ralte, but the latter's placement was palmed away by an acrobatic Hanif.