After squeaking past Mauritius 2-1 on Saturday in the opening match of the Tri-nation friendly tournament in Mumbai, India head coach Stephen Constantine was lavish in his praise for striker Balwant Singh who scored the match winner after coming on as a half-time substitute.
Balwant came on for Robin Singh, who had scored the equaliser, at halftime, making his first international appearance since his debut in 2010, and went on to notch the winner in the 62nd minute after combining well with Jeje Lalpekhlua.
"Look, Balwant, for me today was superb. He absolutely ran himself into the ground. And I am really happy that he got his first international goal," said an impressed Constantine.
The 54-year-old coach also justified his decision to start with Robin Singh, claiming he offers much more than goals. "I don't care whether he [Robin] scores or not, I care that he does the work," he said. "Robin is a player that if he doesn't do the work, then he doesn't become the player he can be.
"He 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 his defenders. He is a punishing player."
The Englishman rued the poor start India made to the game but lauded his players for turning things around at the break.
"The way we played the first half [is what I did not like]. I don't like it when we give other teams a head start. We are not the kind of team that can afford to give a one goal lead and okay now, we can play. On another day, we get punished," he expressed.
"I know Mauritius. I knew they were going to play like this. I think they perhaps could have played a little bit better. We didn't do what we normally do. I think we were a bit fortunate to get the equalizer when we did.
"I told the boys at the interval that we needed to buck up. and they did so. Credit to them. they worked their socks off in the second half."
Constantine also had a word of praise for the skipper on the day, Sandesh Jhingan, and termed him a player capable of plying his trade in a bigger league. "Sandesh for me is a player, who could and should be playing in a bigger league. Sandesh is a fighter, just like me. He leads by example," he stated.
Though the win on Saturday extends India's winning run to eight games on the trot, the coach had a word of caution to his boys with the AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Macau fast approaching.
"I am proud to make this little bit of history but if we don't qualify for the Asian cup, what is the use of 8 wins in a row?"