India went down fighting to UAE in their second Group A game at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup but there were still plenty of positives for the team, said chief coach Stephen Constantine.
The Blue Tigers managed to pin their opponents onto their back foot for most part and created plenty of chances, including two efforts that were denied by the post. However, a Khalfan Mubarak strike against the run of play in the 41st minute and an 88th minute Ali Mabkhout goal sealed the game in favour of the hosts.
Constantine lauded the hard work which was on display throughout the 90 minutes but rued the missed chances.
“The boys gave absolutely everything. Two or three of them ran themselves to the ground which is usual for us. I thought that we did not convert chances and we paid (for it). There were a couple of chances that we should have scored from.
“I have 23 bitterly disappointed boys and you couldn’t say that a few years ago. We would have come here, lost 2-0 and been quite happy. They are bitterly disappointed, they know that we could have taken something from this game. We look forward to that, hope that we can convert the chances we make,” said Constantine.
The coach also explained the decision to make the bold move of bringing on Jeje Lalpekhlua at half-time.
“I think Jeje came on and he was able to hold the ball up better. Ashique (Kuruniyan) gave us pace on that side. He is a bit quicker than Halicharan (Narzary). We brought Rowllin Borges on to get on the ball, but it did not happen as we expected it to. But I think they did okay,” he said.
India have gone into the continental tournament with a young squad. Constantine stressed the importance of trusting the youth and giving them opportunities to max their potential.
“You will always be a bit inconsistent with the young players. But the beauty of it is that if you stick with them and give them the time, they will mature and become top players. As you can see, they gave UAE a very good run for their money. We know what happened against Thailand. I think they are going to get better with these kinds of games. This is the first time 20 of the 23 players are playing in this event. They can only get better.”
With two commendable displays in their first two games and knockout hopes well and truly alive, India are now second in Group A. Now, they await a crucial test against Bahrain in their final group stage game on January 14, 2018, at the Al-Sharjah Stadium.