Igor Stimac 'not happy' with India's first-half display against Bangladesh

The India head coach says his defenders dwelled on the ball for too long, which, for him, was "unacceptable" against a compact side like Bangladesh.

Indian football team coach Igor Stimac singled out the passing from the back as one of the reasons which cost his team full three points in the World Cup qualifier Group E match at the Salt Lake Stadium.   -  PTI

After facing teams which dominated ball possession in the first two matches of the World Cup qualifiers, India stumbled when the plot was reversed at the first time of asking in Igor Stimac’s stint so far as India coach. In his eight matches in charge, the match against Bangladesh on Tuesday was the first time India was expected to take charge of the proceedings from the first whistle.

When the game began, India’s pedestrian approach on the ball allowed Bangladesh to keep its shape compact while defending deep. Stimac singled out the passing from the back as one of the reasons which cost his team full three points in the World Cup qualifier Group E match at the Salt Lake Stadium.

“I’m not happy with the first 45 minutes,” said Stimac, in the post-match press conference. “I told our players before the game that when you play against a team like Bangladesh, who will defend with at least nine players, who are tight and compact, our passing must be quicker from the back. For some reason, our defenders weren’t doing that when it came to passing quickly from the back. They kept the ball for more than three seconds which isn’t acceptable.”

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

In the second half, India changed gears trying to force the initiative in search of an equaliser which ultimately came only in the 87th minute in the form of a set-piece. Stimac also made an early change after the restart in the form of Brandon Fernandes, who provided the assist for India’s goal, for left-back Mandar Rao Dessai. Midfielder Raynier Fernandes replaced Anirudh Thapa, who struggled to provide defensive cover against the pace of Mohammad Ibrahim’s pace on the left flank, in the 68th minute.

Explaining his substitutions in the second half, Stimac said, “No gaps were opening between their lines [in the first half]. Changing Mandar (Rao Dessai) for Brandon, I had enough speed with Ashique (Kuruniyan) on the left and another player in the middle. I thought we could handle the risk of playing three in the bank. What we didn’t do well is that Brandon didn’t link with Ashique as well as he could have.

“Thapa made a few consecutive mistakes with lack of energy so I needed to bring him off. Raynier came back after having a good pre-season camp with Mumbai City and he showed a lot of energy. I was sure he could do the job for us and pass the ball into the flanks. We needed to score so I felt we needed more space on the right, hence we brought on Lallianzuala Chhangte to open spaces for Udanta (Singh). The substitutes improved the quality of our game.”

Stimac felt his team should have bagged the win from the chances it created.

“In the second half, we executed better passing from side-to-side and the channels started opening. We started using our speed. However, we missed that aggressive touch when attacking the crosses. Many more things we need to work on,” said the Croatian.

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