India held China to a 0-0 draw at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre, Suzhou, on Saturday. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu put in an exceptional performance between the sticks as he denied the Chinese strikers on several occasions.
“Our goalkeeper (Gurpreet Singh Sandhu) has outstanding potential. He was in Norway for three years but now back in India. He is a great talent. He definitely played his role today and kept a clean sheet,” said coach Stephen Constantine.
Sandesh Jhingan, who was handed the captaincy, put in a commendable shift at the back and his display earned a lot of praise from Constantine.
“Sandesh Jhingan is a fighter, puts his body on the line. He gave everything today. All the boys tried very hard. I am very happy,” he said.
China were denied by the woodwork on two occasions and despite seeing more of the ball, they failed to breach the Indian defence. Constantine gave his players all the credit for their dogged performance.
“I thought it was a very exciting match. Both the teams tried to win the match. China had more possession and they had more opportunities to score but we expected this. I think we defended very well. We could have had a goal to ourselves.
“The main thing was to get a good experience, to play against a tough side ahead of the Asian Cup. Congratulations to all the players. Two (Anirudh Thapa and Udanta Singh) of the starting eleven players were under the age of 23. This has been my policy, to give the young players more chances,” he mentioned.
Constantine explained why the Chinese team found it difficult to break their defence. He also reiterated that while his team doesn’t have as much quality as some of the best in the continent, they are a difficult side to beat.
“We paid attention to all the players. The striker is good. Number seven (Wu Lei) is a great little player. China have very good players. You cannot focus on just one player. We tried to stop them in front of the goal. The distance between the defence and the midfield was tight and so they didn’t get much space.
“Our back four and the goalkeeper played well. Everyone was running and fighting. We have shown in the past four years that we are a difficult team to beat. We may not have the quality what the other teams in Asia have. But we can fight against any team in Asia,” said Constantine.