Stimac not happy with first-half performance against Nepal

India head coach Igor Stimac is not happy with the way his team performed against Nepal in the first friendly at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu on Thursday evening.

Nepal took the lead through Anjan Bista in the 35th minute, and India breathed a big sigh of relief when substitute Anirudh Thapa scored the equaliser for them in the 60th minute of the game. The contest between the neighbours eventually ended 1-1.

“The game had two phases. The first 45 minutes weren’t good, and I am not happy at all. That’s why I made four changes at half-time, and the second half was far better as all could see. We were passing the ball, had good pace on the ball, we were picking up second balls, and coming into the final third with quality – all of which was missing in the first 45 minutes,” quoted Stimac as saying.

Stimac also praised the Nepalese team under Abdullah Almutairi for giving India a tough time. “India are the better side – we all agree, and we can play better quality football. Nepal relied on a bad pitch, tight defensive blocks, and counter-attacks. When they came to the final third, they put in dangerous crosses inside the box. The coach has put stable composure in the team, they have good discipline, and are showing their quality in many parts of the game,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rahim Ali, who made his debut for the Blue Tigers on Thursday, was pleased with his performance. The Chennaiyin FC striker came on as a substitute in the second half and mesmerised one and all.

“The level of intensity in international football is much higher. The reaction time is much less and that highlights how fast decision-making on the field needs to be for any player. I want to build on from here,” he said.

“The seniors have been extremely supportive, and that was a huge motivation in itself. Coach told me not to get tense, and impressed upon me the importance of doing the same stuff which I do in training,” Rahim, who was also adjudged Man of the Match, added.

Another debutant on the night for India was Seriton Fernandes. The defender, who plays for FC Goa in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL), said representing his country for the first time was an emotional moment for him. “Whenever any kid starts playing football, representing his country stays his ultimate dream. All these years came rushing through my head when I took to the field.”

“There is a feeling of everything and everyone being on the edge at all times during the game. In fact, I have been waiting for a long time to join the camp. This time too my reporting to the national team hit a roadblock and I want to thank the coach for granting me permission to join the team in Nepal,” he further said.

Both teams take the field again on Sunday at the same venue.


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