Stephen Constantine: The response from the fans was unbelievable
India sealed their second win of the Hero Intercontinental Cup with a 3-0 victory over Kenya at the Mumbai Football Arena on Monday, where incessant rainfall dominated proceedings at length. A brace from the ‘man of the moment ‘Sunil Chhetri, who made his 100th appearance for India, and a brilliant finish from Jeje Lalpekhlua pocketed the three points for the Blue Tigers after a cagey first-half. The victory sees India in prime position to qualify for the finals of the tournament to be held on June 10.
India’s head coach Stephen Constantine was present to address the media at the post-match press conference and began by congratulating his players for digging deep and finding the winner in spite of the hard conditions. “First of all, I want to congratulate the boys for a very hard fought win. Difficult conditions with the rain, especially in the first half. We did not play particularly well and gave them too much space. The win almost puts us into the final which is what we wanted to achieve since the beginning.”
Captain Chhetri stole the show with a penalty and a stunning chip in the second half, and the Englishman expressed his delight over the memorable 100th game that the skipper enjoyed. “I was just thinking before the game, who is going to spoil this day for him. I am delighted that he got a couple of goals and that we won. I don’t think he is going to forget that for some time.”
Constantine also shed light on the half-time team talk he gave to his players, which instigated them to push for the victory in the second period. “Well, I can’t repeat those magic words, but what I told them was that we needed to get a hold of the midfield which we had not (in the first half). The weather did not help so I will give us the benefit of the doubt. In the second half, we won most of the balls. It was a great result for us and I am pleased for everybody.”
The 55-year-old also took the moment to thank the Indian supporters for turning up in large numbers to support the team. “Look, I have said this before that I don’t think we should be begging people to come and watch our national team play. But the response today was unbelievable. I thank every single one for coming and I expect them to come again for the next two games.”
Sandesh Jhingan, who received the ‘Hero of the match’ award for his rock-solid display at the back, echoed the same sentiment and was grateful that so many supporters had gathered in Mumbai to cheer them on. “Of course I have been lucky enough to play in front of some really good fans, but there is no competition when playing for India. There was great support today and I am really happy.”