Constantine: India cannot afford slow starts
Goa: Coach Stephen Constantine knows India cannot afford such a slow start as witnessed in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Myanmar when the unbeaten Group A winners mix it with the continents best at the AFC Asian Cup 2019.
India had already secured qualification for the tournament in the United Arab Emirates with two games to spare after reeling off four straight wins, but fell behind after just 13 seconds at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium as Yan Naing Oo netted for the visitors, who are battling with the Kyrgyz Republic for the second qualification spot.
Kyaw Ko Ko kept Myanmar ahead at the break after Sunil Chhetri had equalised for India, but the hosts hit back again to maintain their unbeaten record as Jeje Lalpekhlua struck with just over 20 minutes remaining.
“It reminded me of the game against Oman. We had conceded a goal in less than 15 seconds. We have this bad habit of starting very slow.
"We were lucky that we didn't pay for it this time. Against better teams, we will pay. We talked about this before the game. We started sloppy and we paid,” said Constantine.
“We sometimes have this bad habit of playing to the level of our opponent. We know that nine times out of 10, we would beat Macau. We know that we can beat Myanmar.
"We don't know if we can beat Kyrgyz Republic or Oman. Sometimes we get a little bit over-confident and I think was an example of this.”
The draw means India completed an unbeaten record in 2017 with seven wins and two draws from their nine outings.
“At the moment, it's one of the best times with India,” added Constantine. “It was a game where we could have scored five or six goals, but Myanmar fought hard.
“We have already qualified, and it was a must win for Myanmar but not for us. Had it been a must win for us, we would have seen a better performance, but we still could score nine goals.”
The draw leaves Myanmar third in Group A, two points behind second place the Kyrgyz Republic, with both sides still with two games to play including the return fixture between the pair following a 2-2 draw in Yangon in October.
The Kyrgyz Republic moved up to second place with an entertaining 4-3 away win against Macau, leaving Aleksandr Krestinin’s side eying a first-ever AFC Asian Cup appearance.
“I would like to congratulate us for the win, the victory, and the performance of our players,” said Krestinin.
The Kyrgyz Republic will entertain India in March plus they also have their rearranged fixture against Myanmar, which was postponed from September, to come.
Macau, meanwhile, suffered a fifth consecutive defeat despite recovering from a 3-0 deficit to trail by only a single goal with 11 minutes remaining.
“You may say the second half is a good result, but the final result is not a good result because some may say it is not bad to lose 4-3, but losing is losing in top level football,” said Macau coach Chan Hui Ming.
“That is why for me I’m still upset for the result, but not if you are talking about the performance, talking about the fighting spirit.”