India suffered an embarrassing 2-1 defeat to tiny pacific island side Guam, ranked 33 places below them in the FIFA rankings, in their 2018 football World Cup qualifying group match here on Tuesday.
Sunil Chhetri managed a consolation goal in the last minute of the game after Brandon McDonald put the hosts ahead in the 38th minute and Travis Nicklaw doubled the advantage in the 62nd minute at the GFA National Training Center.
This was only their second World Cup qualifying win, the result coming less than a week after their upset 1-0 verdict over Turkmenistan in Group D.
Guam went ahead after 38 minutes when McDonald headed in Ryan Guy's long throw-in and Nicklaw extended the lead 24 minutes later when he received a long pass from his elder brother Shawn and fired home on the turn.
Ace India striker Chhetri, who was leading the side today, got his name on the score sheet one more time for the national side, but his effort in the dying moment was not enough, as Guam moved to the top of Group D with six points from two games.
While Guam recorded their second win as many games in their qualifying campaign, 141-ranked India suffered their second straight defeat, the first being the 1-2 defeat to Oman at home last week.
The latest reverse puts India's chances of a third-placed finish in the 2018 World Cup qualifying in jeopardy, which in turn could affect the country's prospect of earning a direct entry into the 2019 Asian Cup.
With Oman, who beat India 2-1 last week, not in action on Tuesday and Iran playing their first group game in Turkmenistan, Guam are assured of remaining at the top of their group in the second round of Asian qualifying until the next round of games in September.
Guam, a United States island territory in the Western Pacific with a population of less than 200,000, are competing in the World Cup qualifiers for the first time since 2000 when they were beaten 19-0 by Iran and 16-0 by Tajikistan.
A total of 15 matches are being played throughout Asia today that serve as qualifiers for both the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
India coach Stephen Constantine did not make any changes to the side that played in the previous game, while Guam's line-up saw young Nicklaw being incorporated into the set-up in place of Ian Mariano.
Turning out against a side that included a couple of players with MLS experience in the US, India skipper Chhetri had a personal milestone to savour, reaching his 50th international goal by heading in a cross from the right.
Former captain Bhaichung Bhutia stays at the second spot with 42 goals in 107 matches while IM Vijayan has 40 from 79 games. This was Chhetri's 87th match.
The feat, however, came for a losing cause. Even double substitutions by Constantine in the 46th minute and the other in the 65th minute, couldn't change the fortunes.
The second half saw Constantine make two changes as Sehnaj
Singh was replaced by Dhanpal Ganesh while Cavin Lobo was brought in place of Eugeneson.
Apart from Chhetri's header, substitute Jeje Lalpakhlua's free header in the 88th minute, which went straight to rival goalkeeper Douglas Herrick, was another of India's best chance.
The match started on a bad note for India as Eugeneson Lyngdoh was booked for a silly foul on Jason Cunliffe, the Guamanian skipper, as early as the seventh minute. It was the hosts who were enjoying more ball possession and seemed to be on the lookout for goals.
With the hosts opting to attack, the warning signs were ominous for the Indian team.
"We are disappointed. Today the difference was very much visible between a group of players who have the best football education and the rest. 75 percent of the players who represented Guam have been born and brought up in the US and that made a huge difference," Constantine said at the post-match press conference.
Constantine's counterpart Gary White sounded happy with the six points on board.
"From the very outset, we knew that this would be a difficult place for anybody to come. It was a tough and competitive game and it feels nice to be at the top of the Group. This is not the same Guam who used to play some 15-16 years back."