Despite a spirited first-half performance, India fell to hosts China 1-5 in their opening group game at the 2022 Asian Games on Tuesday at the Huanglong Sports Centre Stadium, in Hangzhou.

Rahul KP scored India’s only goal in injury time of the first half.

China began the game at a frenetic pace, buoyed by strong home support. It was early in the first half when they conjured their first chance, Tao Qianglong crossing from the left only for Xu Haoyang to put his header wide.

China repeatedly targeted the Indian right through the early exchanges, Tao running riot, and with ease. In the 13th minute, Tan Long was played through by Dai Weijun, a brilliant through ball undoing the Indian defence. Long shot at goal from close range but a snap reflex by Gurmeet saw the attempt saved. In the end it didn’t matter, the linesman had ruled it offside.

India, though, had started growing into the game, led by captain Sunil Chhetri, who dropped back repeatedly to pick the ball and hold possession. A minute later India had a first attempt at goal, via Chhetri. A misjudged run by Sumit Rathi saw the ball ricochet into space on China’s left. Chhetri picked it up and drove at a back-pedalling China defence before letting fly from 35 yards, going over the goal.

Minutes later though, the hosts had the lead. First, another cross from the left saw Tao volley at goal from close range, and again Gurmeet parried it away. From the resultant corner came the goal. Dai headed the delivery across the goal straight into the path of Gao Tianyi who volleyed from inside the six yard box to give them the lead.

Chasing the game, India were forced to commit more to the attack and it proved costly in the 24th minute, when a wayward pass from the back saw Tan bear down on goal with only the Indian goalkeeper to beat. Gurmeet infringed upon the attacker conceding a penalty, and then quickly redeemed himself by saving Dai’s effort.

It proved to be the catalyst India perhaps needed. China became overly cautious and India’s midfield caught some much-needed space.

In injury time, Abdul Anjukandan played a ball over the top to release Rahul running in from the right. The winger took the ball and in one clean motion shot at goal, bringing India level with the hosts.

China retook the lead six minutes into the second half with Dai scoring from long range. From thereon the hosts took a stranglehold on the game, denying India’s tiring squad the ball and forcing them into long periods of defending.

In the 72nd minute, Wang Haijian shot again from distance, his effort deflecting en route to the Indian goal. Gurmeet adjusted brilliantly to parry, but unfortunately for him the ball fell straight into the path of an onrushing Tao who tapped it in. He added a second to his tally with a kneed volley three minutes later to increase China’s. Fang Hao added a fifth in injury time to finish the game 5-1 in China’s favour.