Stimac: Will keep backing the young lads so India can enjoy its football

India squandered a two-goal lead against Tajikistan to end up on the losing side in the opening match of the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 at the EKA Arena in Ahmedabad on Sunday. Sunil Chhetri scored both of India's goals in the first-half only for Tajikistan to hit back four times in the second-half.

At the post-match press conference, India head coach Igor Stimac shared his views on the result and opined, "We missed our chance to win this game because after everything was going so well in the first-half, we missed a few chances to score the third goal. We totally lost the plot in the second-half after conceding the first goal. I feel sorry for the boys because they were doing a great job. First 45 minutes was fantastic. I think that India hasn’t played better football than that for a long, long time. I was a little worried about how good everything was looking in the first 45 minutes.”

"Then I said to them in the dressing room at half-time that ‘listen to me, this result is very dangerous. Do not lose your patience, now is the time to kill off the game. You need to keep playing in the same way, being aggressive and taking your chance for the third goal. Otherwise, you will put yourself under pressure and we are going to face problems because Tajikistan team are in the competition form and we are not’," he continued.

The Croat also issued a sincere apology of sorts for the fans who had to watch their team lose and said, "I feel sorry for the people who came today. They were fantastic, they were pushing us, they were enjoying the football and then individual mistakes gave the goals away. What can you say when you show so good front in the first 45 minutes, you enjoy your football, you see that all the people are enjoying in the stadium and then we come out in the second-half with a lack of concentration. We lost the discipline in certain individual positions, and that cost us four goals."

Stimac however, vowed to stick by his players and said that the larger objective for the team will be the World Cup 2022 Qualifiers starting in September. "In football, everything changes in three days. Now, we need to use the next five days to work and consolidate. We need to win that one and get our chance back to get into the final," he remarked.

"But as I said to the players, we need to focus on what's coming in September. We are playing a new brand of football and the results might suffer. We need to be consistent because that's the only way to succeed in football. I will keep working. The lads are very young. They will make more mistakes but I need to back them up so that India can enjoy its football," the 51-year-old added.

Igor's counterpart, Tajikistan head coach Usmon Toshev, also reacted to his team's brilliant come from behind victory and stated, "Football is not about 45 minutes, it's about the full 90 minutes. If you have conceded two goals in one half, there's no reason we can't score more in the second. You have to believe in the team, keep faith, and do your job."

Read the full match report here.

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