Sunil Chhetri: India's finishing could have been better

The Indians had several chances to find the back of the net but were denied by the woodwork and an overall splendid display by the UAE goalkeeper.

Captain Chhetri rued the missed chances but was proud of the players' fighting show.   -  AP Photo

India's hopes of cruising into the knockout stage of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 took a beating on Thursday when the side was handed a 2-0 defeat by host nation United Arab Emirates. The loss dents India's chances of progressing to the round-of-16 but a win or even a draw in its last group game against Bahrain, and favourable results in the other group game between UAE and Thailand, could see the side advance.

The Indians had several opportunities to find the back of the net but were denied by the woodwork on two occasions and an overall splendid display by the UAE goalkeeper Khalid Eisa. The Indian defence, albeit a tad uncoordinated, restricted the Whites by offering them little room and forced them to play on the defensive for large parts of the game. That turned out to work in UAE's favour as the side hogged possession and made the most of its sporadic chances -- scoring from two of its three shots on goal.

Read: Stephen Constantine rues missed chances

Analysing his side's performance post the game, Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri showered praise on his boys for their spirited effort. “Everybody who watched the game saw that we gave it our absolute everything. Our finishing could have been better, I take the blame. But as far as our determination and fighting spirit are concerned, we gave our everything,” he said.

Chhetri continued that his team must take heart from the fact that they didn't sit back and defend and fought until the very end. “I went into the dressing room and hugged everyone and to them to keep their chin up. No one else is going to help us through this, we have to do it ourselves. We have to pick ourselves and prepare for the next game. I want them to be proud of how they played. We will learn from the mistakes we made and be a better unit on January 14.”

Much like coach Stephen Constantine, Chhetri also lamented his side's misfortune in front of goal: “We should have taken our chances. In a game as big as this, you get 1-2 chances and you need to take them. Ashique’s (Kuruniyan) one on one with the 'keeper or my header, we should have converted at least one of them. Things would have been different then. I think Ashique and I, we are not going to sleep well for a few days. Those are routine chances. If in training if you give us 10 such chances, we would score eight of them.”  

The Indian camp now has three days to regroup ahead of its crunch clash against Bahrain in Sharjah on January 14 and Chhetri is confident of his team putting up a fighting display. “We are confident about the way we fight. We are not the most technical side, we are a very young side, but will not shy away from fighting. We will fight till the very last minute, no matter whatever happens. And what’s going to happen against Bahrain as well.”

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