India toiled long and hard and only in the 82nd minute did they manage to break the deadlock through talisman Sunil Chhetri. It was the first win for the Blue Tigers at the ongoing SAFF Championships. Igor Stimac’s men desperately needed to win to keep up their hopes of making it to the finals of the tournament. They are now third, only behind Nepal and Maldives and they play the latter for the last match in the group in a ‘winner takes it all’ scenario.
After the win, Stimac addressed the media at the post-match press conference. The Croatian tactician was very pleased with the win and also shared how it keeps them in the hunt to qualify for the finals after two drab draws against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka respectively. He highlighted how his team needs to improve in several areas especially on the scoring front.
India created some chances and had Sunil Chhetri and others taken them, then it would have been a cakewalk for Stimac’s men.
Speaking on Sunil Chhetri’s role as he has been India’s sole goal scorer till now in the tournament. Stimac explained how the entire team works as a unit to facilitate him upfront and how he should be scoring more especially the chances that he got in the first half. However, he also added that he is happy for the 36-year-old and hopes that he scores more for them.
“He could (have) made the difference earlier (had he scored the first half sitter). He’s keeping us all nervous till the end. We are all happy for him and the whole team is working for him. They’re all working hard for him, so that he can keep scoring goals.”
Lastly, he was questioned about the celebration which Nepal’s coach Abdullah Almutairi thought was disrespectful. Stimac however saw nothing wrong in it as he said, “I think he should ask himself what he meant when he said India has 95% favour (chances of winning). That’s disrespectful to his team. He shouldn’t be thinking about myself and my celebration. I’m sorry that he mentioned this because nothing was wrong with my celebration. Or maybe, I don’t have the right to celebrate.”
India will now take on the Maldives in their last match at the ongoing SAFF Championships. It is a virtual knockout game as only one of the teams is likely to make it to the finals of the tournament.