Siliguri: Sunil Chhetri found the net once but Philip James Younghusband neutralised within a minute of the Indian football team captain's strike as Philippines held the hosts to a 1-1 draw in their international friendly here on Friday.
Chhetri gave India the lead in the 43rd minute. Following one of Mehtab Hossain's corner, he headed it in to bulge the net. The crowd went berserk at the the lush-green Kanchenjunga Stadium as Chhetri touched Bhaichung Bhutia as India's highest-ever goalscorer on 42 goals.
But Philippines pulled it back off the next attack, in the 44th minute, Younghusband clotting it past Karanjit Singh. The crowd went silent as both teams went into the interval 1-1.
It was India who had the better of exchanges in the first half after starting on a positive note.
Immediately after kick-off, they seized the momentum and pushed Philippines to their own area. There were quick one-twos and Robin Singh seemed to be omnipresent in the rival area. His physique helped him to shield it as India built around him.
Play was stretched to the wings and a flurry of attacks stayed even as Francis Fernandes and Clifford Miranda interchanged flanks.
Philippines slowly started to regroup and Bundesliga Club midfielder Markus Schrock who plays for Eintracht Frankfurt stayed the pivot. His class was unmistakable as he stayed the playmaker, feinting and essaying passes. In the 13th minute, his direct freekick hit the wall and bounced back.
But India were not to be subdued. In the 21st minute, Francis dummied past Christaens Jeffrey as he anticipated a Denzil Franco pass. But his cross narrowly missed an onrushing Robin Singh.
Five minutes later, Chhetri ran down the left flank, cut in, only for his powerful shot to be blocked by rival Goalkeeper Richard Muller. Francis Fernandes tried to blast in the rebound but it sailed over.
India earned their first corner in the 28th minute but Richard leaped high above all to collect Clifford's curler.
Off the counter-attack, Philippines got their best chance from nowhere. One of the routine clearances hit Arnab Mondal on his back and suddenly Phillip James Younghusband found himself all in the clear. But the Indian defence recovered.
Off the next counter, India should have taken the lead. The tireless Clifford ran down the left and though a diving Sunil did meet his cross, it missed by a whisker.
Post resumption, Philippines were off the blocks faster and had even a goal disallowed in the 67th minute for off-side. The understanding between the two central defenders Aiborlang, the 475th Footballer to play for India and Arnab Mondal, was laudable. Both were playing for the first-time ever in an international match.
India countered fast and Chhetri and Robin did interchange to keep the rivals guessing. But it was more confined to the midfield with none of the teams able to break free. Jeje missed the easiest chance of the day when, all in the clear, he headed over in injury time.
Prior to the kick-off, a minute's silence was observed to pay respect to all who died in Typhoon Haiyan in Philippines.
India next play Nepal in another international friendly in Siliguri on November 19.