The Indian football team opened their Hero Intercontinental Cup 2023 campaign in perfect fashion as the Blue Tigers recorded an easy 2-0 victory against Mongolia at the Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar on Friday.

First half goals from Sahal Abdul Samad and Lallianzuala Chhangte sealed the deal for India, who also registered a clean sheet alongside three points. India head coach Igor Stimac was pleased with his team’s performance, stating the players achieved the targets set by him.

“Overall, I am very happy with what I have seen. I put two eggs to our players - one was a clean sheet and the second one was to win the game while enjoying it. And that’s what they did. It was obvious that they were enjoying being on the pitch - passing the ball, creating chances and scoring goals. I feel a bit sorry that there were no more goals because there were enough chances to do that,” said Stimac in the post-match press conference.

“Also, the Mongolian team defended well. We knew we’ll have the flanks open for more combinations and for creating areas where we could put more crosses into the box. That's what happened, but it's a bit sad that we didn't score more goals,” he added.

This was the sixth straight victory for the Indian football team on home soil, starting from the AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers in Kolkata in June 2022. During this run, the Blue Tigers have registered 13 goals and conceded just once. Stimac backed his side to continue their good run and mentioned about the hard work his players have been putting on the training pitch.

“This is our sixth consecutive win at home. With the goal difference, we have conceded one goal and scored 13 or 14. That's a good base to build up on. We have more games this month. I hope all the hard work our boys are putting on the pitch will pay back to them because they deserve it,” he stated.

“It’s not easy to play in such heat and humidity, prepare and train for two-three and a half weeks with two training sessions everyday without any complaints. I’m so proud of them and hope they stay injury-free and get enough time to enjoy themselves," the Croatian further added.

Samad netted his third goal for the national team with a composed finish after the Mongolian defence failed to clear their lines. Meanwhile, Chhangte scored his first goal for the Blue Tigers since 2019, with his last goal coming against DPR Korea during the previous Hero Intercontinental Cup edition. Stimac explained his decision behind handing Samad a place in the starting eleven and hailed both his goalscorers.

“We made a choice to start with Sahal because that is how we analysed our opponents Mongolia. We wanted a player like Sahal who is able of finding the areas in the gaps, turning (players) and creating chances, and also scoring goals. It was right (decision to start with him). I'm so happy for him,” Stimac asserted.

Talking about Chhangte, Stimac said: “I’m also happy for Zuala (Chhangte) who is working so hard on a daily basis. You should make a movie about this boy for future generations and everyone who is coming up and knocking on the door of the senior team. They should learn from him what it takes to be a professional and how much work you need to put in.”

"People see him on Sundays scoring for Mumbai (City FC), but they don't see him the rest of six-and-a-half days working for that Sunday which is there to come. We need to appreciate him. It was his birthday (on Thursday) and he scored the goal. I hope his run will continue," he concluded.