India crashed out of the Asian Cup 2019 after falling to a 1-0 defeat against Bahrain in their final group match at Sharjah on Monday.
Jamal Rashed’s 90th-minute strike from the penalty spot broke the Indian hearts as they came ever so close to becoming the first Indian team to reach the kncokout stages of the Asian Cup, only to fall at the final hurdle.
After the game, Indian coach Stephen Constantine said, “I am bitterly disappointed to go out in the 90th minute with a penalty. The boys are sick as you can imagine. I am just disappointed for them as they gave everything in the last few games. We perhaps didn't create enough chances as we did in the first two games. But that's it. We go home.”
“Anas going out with a hamstring injury in the initial minutes was one factor. We had trained very hard for the last six months. We did prepare well enough. For the most part, the boys were fantastic," he said.
Constantine made just one change in the starting XI which went down 0-2 against UAE in their last match. Rowllin Borges made his way into the lineup in place of Anirudh Thapa but had a poor game.
On asked if the decision to field Rowllin backfired, the British coach opined, “I don't think it backfired. Borges is one of the best passers of the ball in India. But, obviously, that didn't go as planned. We thought he (Thapa) was tired and did have a back problem. So I got in Borges and his fresh legs.”
The Indian coach refused to believe that his team played for a draw today.
He said, “We didn’t intentionally set out for a draw. Bahrain were full of energy and looking to get the goal. We were defending deeper and deeper and were finally punished. But I think we were a bit unlucky. To defend well for 90 something minutes and then get beaten by a penalty is harsh.”
He further added, “This is a very young team and we lacked a bit of experience. I think that when it was the 75th minute, the boys were thinking okay, we have 15 minutes left, we can hold them. Bahrain were playing with six forwards and four midfielders. So it was tough.
“But as I said in the beginning, we did not come here to play for a draw. But things happen in the game. Subconsciously, perhaps some of the players did (begin to play for a draw). But playing for a draw was never our intent.”
On asked if it was unfair for India that they crashed out of the competition after securing three points, Stephen said, “What can I say? Is it fair? Is it fair to concede a penalty in the 90th minute?”