Stephen Constantine: The crowd was definitely the extra-man

India’s preparation for the AFC Asian Cup 2019 seems to be on the right track as they became the champions of the inaugural Hero Intercontinental Cup after defeating Kenya 2-0 at the Mumbai Football Arena on Sunday. A spectacular brace from ‘Hero of the tournament’ Sunil Chhetri in the first-half confirmed the victory for the Blue Tigers, who were also able to restrict the Harambee Stars’ attacking onslaughts in the second half.

At the post-match press conference, head coach Stephen Constantine was present to take questions from the media. The Englishman started off by expressing his delight over the hard-work put in by the players on the pitch. “Firstly, I would like to thank the crowd that turned up for the last two games, they were definitely the extra man. I have to give credit to the players - they were absolutely tremendous. Their work rate was excellent and they did not stop running. Although Kenya did put a lot of pressure on us in the second half, I think we deserved this.”

Constantine also showered praise on the Kenyan team for their warrior-like performance, especially in the second half. “What pleased me the most was the two goals and the clean sheet. The Kenyans showed how tough they are. They had a game only two days ago and they were still able to put pressure on our team, so that shows you the quality of their side.”

The 55-year-old was full of compliments for his captain and took the opportunity to stress his importance in the team ahead of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. “Sunil is unbelievably fit. He looks after himself. It is not easy, but as long as he is able to do that, I don’t see why he can’t stop playing. We are a better team with him on the pitch than off it.”

Chhetri, who went on to finish the tournament with an astonishing eight goals to his name - a personal record for himself, was present alongside Constantine in the press conference. The skipper was delighted with the win and again pointed the importance of these games. “We wanted to win this tournament. But everything we do now is for the Asian Cup. When I played in 2011, I knew how important it is for the country and I am just trying to tell the boys how big it is.”

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