Indian football coach Stephen Constantine hailed the goalscorers as his side edged past Mauritius 2-1 in the opening match of the Tri-nation series at the Mumbai Football Arena in Mumbai on Saturday. India fought back from a goal down thanks to goals from Robin Singh and substitute Balwant Singh to stretch their winning streak to nine matches.
The coach refused to read too much into the winning run, but had words of praise for both of his strikers. Robin ended his goal drought in an Indian shirt when he slotted home the equaliser in the 37th minute before Balwant, who came on in his place at the interval, put India ahead in 17 minutes after the restart.
After being asked about Robin ending his goal drought, Constantine had a rather surprising response. "I told you before that I don’t care whether he scores or not, I care that he does the work," the English coach told reporters at the post-match press conference.
"Robin is not going to score 15-20 goals in a season, that’s not his style of play but he beats the crap out of defenders. He is a punishing player and the wear and tear he leaves on a player for 90 minutes or even 45 minutes results in other players scoring. So, it's not always about Robin scoring but I’m pleased with the way he took his goal," he added.
Constantine believes his work rate and tenacity are qualities that are crucial to the way he plays, and without it, he won't be the same player.
"Robin is a particular player that if he does not do the work then he cannot be the player that he can be. I thought he worked hard in some patches and I’m very pleased with his goal," the coach said.
The 54-year-old was also pleased with how Robin's replacement Balwant performed. Making just his second appearance for the national team, the former Mohun Bagan striker didn't just score his first international goal, but also made a big impact on the match that India dominated after he came on.
"Balwant, for me today, was superb. He absolutely ran himself to the ground and I’m really happy that he got his first international goal," said the Englishman.
India will now play St. Kitts & Nevis in their second game of the Tri-nation tournament on Thursday at the Mumbai Football Arena, a place where The Blue Tigers have made a habit of winning. They have won all three encounters they've played at the venue, the coach was quick to appreciate the role the fans played in their success.
"I think they were outstanding as I always expect. If they are 1,100, they’ll make enough noise to make it seem like 15,000 people. I’m very happy that they’ll party tonight," Constantine said.
The coach is expected to name a similar line-up against St. Kitts & Nevis with an aim to get his top players ready for the AFC Asian Cup Qualifier against Macau on 5 September.
Updated Date: Aug 20, 2017 11:59 AM