India vs Myanmar: The result was 3-0 for me, says Blue Tigers coach Igor Stimac

India coach Igor Stimac was impressed with what he saw from debutant Naorem Mahesh against Myanmar and asked the fans in Manipur to be even more vocal against the Kyrgyz Republic.

Ujwal Singh March 23, 2023 13:48:43 IST
India vs Myanmar: The result was 3-0 for me, says Blue Tigers coach Igor Stimac

India coach Igor Stimac in background as Anirudh Thapa fights for the ball in the match against Myanmar. AIFF Image

Imphal, Manipur: Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac rued the refereeing decisions as Blue Tigers started the tri-nation international football tournament with a 1-0 win over Myanmar at the Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal on Wednesday.

106th-ranked India’s only goal came in the 46th minute through Anirudh Thapa while captain Sunil Chhetri missed a host of opportunities. Chhetri was seemingly fouled inside the penalty box in the first half, which wasn’t given, and had a goal ruled out as offside in the second half.

Read: Manipur sets the stage on fire for Indian football team’s first-ever match in the state

India also had some nervy moments in their own half, but goalkeeper Amrinder Singh stood tall to deal with the threats.

Stimac, in the post-match press conference, praised the team and stated that while the scoreline read 1-0, for him it was nothing less than 3-0.

“It was a good football game and everybody could enjoy the quality of football. It was a close game because of only one reason the referee as he did not give a clear-cut penalty. For me the result tonight is 3-0, not 1-0.

Read | India impress, Manipur celebrates and coach Igor Stimac’s special request

“I cannot say anything to my players as they did everything we agreed upon. We need to work on few defensive situations and not give away easy fouls in dangerous positions. Overall we won the game and it was a clean sheet. Goalkeeper Amrinder Singh was excellent tonight and Sunil was unfortunate not to score. He could have scored a hat-trick and was hungry to score,” Stimac said.

Chhetri was the only player in the starting XI who also played in the Indian Super League (ISL) final on 18 March out of the eight in the squad and talking about his decision, the Croatian coach said the 38-year-old’s commitment to the national team influenced his decision.

“Sunil was the first player to make it to the camp after the ISL final. He did not waste a minute but rather rushed to join the national team. That proves his hunger and commitment. He is one of the fittest players in the squad and can play continuously for three days,” Stimac said.

Three players made their India debut on the night against the 159th-ranked Myanmar — Mehtab Singh, Naorem Mahesh Singh and Ritwik Kumar Das.

While centre-back Mehtab had an okay game, Stimac was impressed with what he saw from East Bengal winger Mahesh.

“He (Mehtab) was great but sometimes too nervous. But he will get used to the pressure as we only had one training session before the match,” the 55-year-old said. “Mahesh was a big surprise. I saw what he’s capable of in the ISL, but when players come from the 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.”

Before winding down for the day, Stimac also thanked the local fans for making the occasion extra special but asked them to be even more vocal against the Kyrgyz Republic (on 28 March).

“There were many people tonight but most of them were sleeping. We need them to cheer up in our next match against Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyz Republic). I appreciate they came here in good numbers but when the team needs support you need to be there for them. When the crowds become sleepy players too become sleepy and it affects them,” the coach said.

“They were brilliant and a big thanks to them for coming up in huge numbers to support. Against Kyrgyzstan we expect them to be singing for 90 minutes which is what we expect.”

India face the 94th-ranked side Kyrgyz Republic on 28 March.

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