New Delhi:India coach Bob Houghton on Wednesday blamed the bad ground conditions for his side's 0-1 lose to Lebanon in the Nehru Cup opener and said it would be tough for the home team to qualify for the final.
"The goal by Lebanon from a set piece early in the match was a set back for us. We dominated the last 20 minutes of the first half and the second session. But it was always going to be difficult to score in that surface," Houghton said.
"The grass was very tall and the pitch was very slow. It is difficult in that pitch to score. It has to be done from set pieces, long ranges or penalty which we nearly got," he said.
Houghton, who inspected the pitch at the Ambedkar stadium on Tuesday said he thought the grass would be cut down for Wednesday's match but the organisers didn't.
"I thought the grass would be cut down a bit for today's match but it wasn't. I hope it is done by tomorrow. It was so difficult to play in the surface today," he said.
"Lebanon played sensibly and after scoring the goal they brought the ball at their back and didn't push ahead much. I am disappointed for the boys. My boys must be disappointed that they didn't get anything from this match," he added.
Houghton said that it would be a tough task for India to make it to the final after today's lose and they will have to win the next three matches.
"The best thing would be to win the next three matches but I think seven points -- from two wins and a draw -- could also be enough. You never know anything can happen in football," Houghton said.
Analysing the game further, Houghton said, "We were dominating most part of the match but we could not produce the final pass or the finishing touch."
The Englishman, however, praised young Sushil Kumar Singh and Anthony Pereira and said the former was not taken off in the second session to be replaced by Sunil Chettri due to his poor performance.
"Sushil played well. He nearly scored twice, first with a header and the second attempt was tipped over by Lebanese goal keeper. Our strategy was to play Sushil in the first half and bring in Chettri in the second as the latter will not be able to play full 90 minutes after recovering from injury," Houghton said.
Lebanon coach Emile Rustom also agreed that the grass at Ambedkar stadium was taller than expected and it was difficult for his players too.
"When we saw the surface today, we knew that it would be difficult to play. Even my players had difficulties because of the tall grass," Rustom said.