Mumbai, June 5 (IANS) Underlining the work rate of footballers in India’s comprehensive 3-0 victory against Kenya in the Intercontinental Cup’s second match, thus taking them into the finals, head coach Stephen Constantine said this is what he wanted to achieve from the beginning.
India rode a second-half brace from captain Sunil Chhetri who was playing his 100th game for the country and one from Jeje Lalpekhlua to brush aside Kenya and log their second win in as many matches.
They had thrashed Chinese Taipei 5-0 in their tournament opener.
“I want to congratulate the boys for a hard-fought victory under difficult conditions. We didn’t play well in the first half. The win puts us in the final of the tournament. That’s what we wanted to achieve since the beginning,” Consantine said at the post-match press conference.
“We won most of the balls in the second half. Kenya will always be a strong team whichever squad they bring,” he said. “The work rate today was phenomenal. The game against Chinese Taipei was one of the highest in terms of work rate. We had lost out a little bit in regaining the second ball.”
The 8,500-seater Mumbai Football Arena was packed after Chhetri’s plea to fill the stadium and cheer them reached the fans. His request came after the first match saw only 2,500 people turning up.
On this, Constantine said: “I don’t feel we should be begging people to watch the national team. The response has been unbelievable. When the national team has been playing the manner we have been playing in the last three years, it was disappointing to see the turnout in the first match.
“I expect the stands to be full in the next two matches.”
Central defender Sandesh Jhingan, who was voted the most valuable player of the match, said it is “great to play in Mumbai”.
“It is always great to play in Mumbai. (Fan club) Blue Pilgrims is a unique concept. I am happy that everybody can go back with a smile on their face.
“There is never any pressure to play in front of such a full crowd. It was extra motivation from the moment when we entered the stadium. We knew we had to deliver and we did,” he said.