For me, the result is 3-0, not 1-0: India head coach Igor Stimac
Indian football men's senior national team head coach Igor Stimac was happy with the overall performance as India beat Myanmar 1-0 in the opening game of the Hero Tri-Nation International Football Tournament in Manipur on Wednesday. He opined that the scoreline could have been wider given the hosts' complete dominance in the game.
Two decisions involving captain Sunil Chhetri – an apparent foul on him not given as a penalty in the first half and a goal disallowed for offside – led the head coach to demand a bigger scoreline at the end. Stimac expressed his delight towards the performance by his players and the work they put in while collecting a clean sheet.
“For me, the result is 3-0, not 1-0. I cannot say anything to my players, as they did everything we agreed upon. Goalkeeper Amrinder was excellent tonight, and Sunil was unfortunate not to score. He was hungry for goals and could've had a hat-trick," the Croatian said in the official post-match press conference.
We could've won by a bigger scoreline, states @stimac_igor after the Myanmar game#INDMYA ⚔️ #HeroTriNation 🏆 #BackTheBlue 💙 #BlueTigers 🐯 #IndianFootball ⚽— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) March 23, 2023
Stimac said one of the elements of these March friendlies will be to celebrate the players' achievements in the Hero ISL and recognise their good performances. In line with that, he handed out three national team debuts. It wasn't just a historic night for the capacity crowd at the Khuman Lampak Stadium, but also for Mehtab Singh, Naorem Mahesh Singh, and Ritwik Kumar Das, who earned their first India caps.
“Mehtab had a great debut, he was nervous at times, but he will get used to what we need. The team collected a clean sheet, which can be counted as a perfect start.
The debutant who impressed the Croatian the most was Naorem Mahesh Singh, who was in fact a last-minute call-up due to forward Sivasakthi Narayanan's withdrawal due to injury. The East Bengal FC defender handled the pressure of coming from the Hero ISL to international football brilliantly in his first appearance.
“Mahesh was a big surprise. I saw what he's capable of in the Hero ISL, but when players come from the Hero ISL to the national team, it's a different type of pressure. He was brilliant tonight, and everything he did was perfect by the book,” praised Stimac.
Home town hero @NaoremMahesh is lost for words having just made his debut for the #BlueTigers 🐯 in front of friends and family. #INDMYA ⚔️ #HeroTriNation 🏆 #BackTheBlue 💙 #IndianFootball ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/BHOqEkdqpm— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) March 22, 2023
Hometown hero and debutant Naorem Mahesh Singh was lost for words after making his first appearance in front of the home crowd. Singh was joyful after he helped his team get over the line and gain a clean sheet.
“It is very special to represent the nation in front of my hometown. This is one of the best games I have played, and it is very special to play in front of my home crowd.” Naorem Mahesh Singh said.
Match winner and goal scorer Anirudh Thapa accompanied Stimac in the official post-match press conference.
Thapa's goal separated the two sides and gave India a good start to the tournament. The midfielder was impressed by the support they got in Manipur and was delighted to get the win in front of a fully packed stadium.
“I am happy to score, but we came here to win, and it is a good start to the campaign. We have played a game together after months, we showed character, and we are happy with the win,” Thapa said.
“The support was amazing, and they came out in full numbers as they acted like the 12th man of the team. Everyone was happy and proud to get the win in front of a fully packed house,” he added when asked about the support from the fans.