Defending champions India began their campaign in the Nehru Cup football tournament on a losing note, going down fighting to Lebanon by a solitary goal at the Ambedkar stadium in Delhi on Wednesday.
An early goal by Lebanon defender Ali Al Saadi proved decisive as the hosts, despite a good showing, went down.
India fell behind as early as the fourth minute when Ali Al Saadi found the net, his free-kick from just outside the penalty area going past a five-man wall and beating goalkeeper Subrata Paul.
Stunned by the reverse, the hosts, despite failing to hold possession, gradually settled down and got into a nice rhythm by the half-way mark and threatened the Lebanon defence repeatedly.
Surkumar Singh, Baichung Bhutia and Steven Dias worked tirelessly upfront but were unable to splinter through the tight Lebanon defence.
Five minutes before the breather, India came by their first clear chance thus far but N P Pradeep's header off a Dias free-kick went just inches off the post.
India maintained the pressure and two minutes later, Sushil Singh broke free, beat a defender and volleyed, only to find Lebanon keeper Nehanna put his dipping right-footer over the crossbar.
Sunil Chettri, who was included in the squad at the eleventh hour despite having not fully recoverd from an ankle injury, was introduced in the second half in place of Sushil Kumar and his presence lent more thrust to the Indian attack. But despite the ascendancy after the change of ends the equalizer failed to materialize.
Chhetri was well set-up by Surkumar in the 57th minute but his header went just over the bar.
In the 66th minute, India were denied who looked a legitimate penalty when Bhutia was brought down inside the box but to the surprise of the goodly crowd the captain was shown the yellow card for diving to the ground.
India plays Kyrgyzstan next 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, Baichung Bhutia (captain), 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 (captain).