Mumbai: India made a clinical start to the Intercontinental Cup by blanking Chinese Taipei on Friday night on the back of Sunil Chhetri’s hat-trick. India was hardly tested in the match against a young inexperienced side. Coach Stephen Constantine was happy with the performance and felt India will have tougher challenges ahead.
“We have played well in quite a few games in the past three-and-half years. Everything clicked and worked for us. There were some very encouraging performances from the young players and I am very pleased,” he said.
India will next play Kenya on Monday. Like Chinese Taipei, Kenya and New Zealand have also brought here a depleted side in absence of senior players. India who is preparing for far more tough challenges in the AFC Asian Cup in UAE might not get stretched in this tournament as expected but Constantine felt Kenya and New Zealand are stronger opponents.
“I don’t control what and who they (opposition) bring. We play whoever is in front of us. We had two players who had debuts and the other two came on too, so we also played young players. We had a good game but we cannot get carried away. We have much tougher games coming up against much stronger opponents,” Constantine added. Chinese Taipei coach Gary White wasn’t rattled by the big defeat and felt it was an learning experience for his young team.
“Everything went right for us in terms of future. We had six U-23 players and two U-19 players on the pitch. In addition, we had four players who made their debut. This was a learning experience for us. We will try to fix our gray areas. Unless you try these players you will never know,” he said.
White said his younger players can learn from Chhetri. “He showed my young players how to deal at the senior level. My players will definitely utilise the experience in a positive manner. Congratulations to Sunil for his wonderful career and the goals. The youngsters of my team will certainly look up to him some day,” he said.
I don’t celebrate outrageously:Chhetri
Indian captain Sunil Chhetri scored his third-career hat-trick but it did not invoke a wild celebration. He is the top Indian scorer with 59 goals in 99 caps.
“I am very happy when I score. I do not take it for granted. I am very fortunate to score so many goals for my club and country. I am very happy from the inside and it’s just that I don’t celebrate outrageously like Robin Singh,” Chhetri quipped.
“A goal at the Asian Games, at the Asian Cup, a goal that might help us qualify against Bahrain are goals that might rouse a more wild celebration. I will jump and hug and shout and come and hug somebody,” he said.
Jeje Lalpekhlua set up Chhetri for his first two goals on Friday night. The first assist was classy and Chhetri anticipated it well.
“I think it comes from the fact that we have played many games together and the fact that he is supremely talented. He is very experienced, knowledgeable and works so hard on his game.”
“He is somebody who I respect a lot and is one of our best players. So it is not difficult to combine with him and I have done my best help him and he does the same,” he said.