India triumphed over neighbours Nepal 2-0 in a friendly match held at Andheri sports complex in Mumbai on Tuesday. Second half goals from defender Sandesh Jhingan and Jeje Lalpekhlua propelled India to a comfortable win over The Gorkhalis, who fielded a young team on the day.
Speaking to the press after the match, India Coach Stephen Constantine said such friendlies are important to judge the progress of the national team and felt they could have scored more given the number of chances wasted throughout the game.
"These friendly games are very important for us to get us back in the rhythm. I can't stress how important these games are to us. Obviously when you win it makes things better but I reckon we got a good lesson today. We dominated but we didn't put away the chances we had."
The last encounter between these two teams was in SAFF Cup 2015, which India won. The London-born coach wants his team to continue the progress his team has made and awaits a different challenge from their next opponent Kyrgyz Republic in the Asian Cup qualifier on June 16 in Bangalore.
"It was a friendly international and you have to take it in that context. Are we progressing? We want to get better. The next big test will against Kyrgyz Republic, a completely different game and atmosphere. "
Constantine also reserved special praise for striker Robin Singh and explained that his substitution was not a reflection of the striker's output in the match.
"Robin is a fighter. He will give you everything he has. He has a particular job he does. On another day, he could have scored a hat trick. It didnt happen but I was always going to change players because I have six substitutions. It's not a reflection whether he played good or bad. He was always one of them who was going to come out."
"I am not going to go into detail about particular players or aspects of the game. It was a much needed game, we were good in patches. But there were areas we have to work upon. We will be quite different next week", said the coach.
The Indian team is on a 7 game winning run (which includes an unofficial friendly win over Bhutan) but the coach is hungry for more.
"It's just another game. My thoughts are already on Kyrgyz Republic. It's good to see the boys win games especially after a tough start to my second stint. We were a 173 when I walked through the door and we hadn't beaten Nepal for two years. We are on the right track. We haven't achieved anything yet. Need two or three wins more to get to the Asian Cup and maybe then I will be happy" said the coach, who was also happy with the goals scored. " Two goals won us the game. Some great movements, something that we have been working on - going wide and getting the ball into the box. I think Jen's goal was excellent build up play and great crossing by Rafique. As for Jhingan, I don't know if he is going to score another goal like that with his left foot! He was in the right place and took it like a striker" remarked Constantine.
He was also affirmative about Gurpreet Sandhu getting a start in between the sticks for India next week against Kyrgyz Republic.
"He is our number one keeper and is going to start next week so I wanted him to get games with the national team. I didn't want to change too much from the goalkeeping perspective. There will be opportunities for the others."
Lastly, the coach said he doesn't field players who aren't 100% fit but understands that the short preparation time is a part of the International football framework.
"That is the life of an international coach. Would I like one month to prepare for a game? Yes. Am I going to get it? No. For this camp, we got 12 days with the players who arrived in the first phase, then we got the Bengaluru FC players on the 2nd of June. Some of them are tired, some carrying niggles but it is a part of it. I don't like it obviously but I don't get what I want. Udanta is out, also he will miss the U-23 camp. CK Vineeth is also out, I am trying to protect Sunil. I don't play players who aren't a 100% fit" concluded Constantine.
India play Kyrgyzstan in the Asian Cup qualification match on June 16 in Bangalore.