Indian national team head coach Igor Stimac expressed his disappointment as his team suffered a 4-2 loss to Malaysia in the Merdeka Cup semi-final at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

The Blue Tigers faced a formidable challenge in their return to the prestigious Merdeka tournament. Malaysia, bolstered by recent successes and fervent home support, proved to be a formidable adversary for Stimac's team.

India was without a couple of key players in midfield and Anwar Ali in the heart of the defence, and their substitutes failed to meet expectations.

The Croatian tactician shed light on his team's performance against Malaysia, emphasizing the need for better decision-making in the attacking third.

“In some situations, we were not putting the ball into the box in time. We were mostly waiting too long and the crosses were being blocked, or we took too long to take our shots. In football, once you get close to the box, you need to keep thinking about how you will score the goal. We need to improve our decision-making,” Stimac said following their exit from the Merdeka Cup.

After trailing 3-1 in the opening half, the Blue Tigers made a strong start in the second half and pulled one back through Sunil Chhetri, who scored his 93rd international goal.

India continued to apply pressure in search of the equalizer, and they came close when Lallianzuala Chhangte's shot from a tight angle deflected off the keeper, hit the post, and was then cleared by a Malaysian defender.

“It’s not right to speculate what could have been if some decisions had gone our way. Having said that, if the goal was allowed at 3-3, things could have been different for us,” Chhetri said.

Malaysia reestablished their two-goal lead with a swift counter-attack a few minutes later. The Indian captain believes they should have focused on maintaining their momentum and defending well to prevent the fourth goal.

“We have ourselves to blame. We conceded the fourth goal when we should have defended well. That was at least in our control. We had the momentum, we were controlling the game in the second half, but the fourth goal killed it,” Chhetri added.