India chief football coach Wim Koevermans was happy with the team’s 2-1 win over Syria in the rain-marred Nehru Cup opener at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here yesterday.
The Dutch, however, said that the torrential downpour influenced the match. The game was stopped after 34 minutes of play due to waterlogging of the pitch.
“Rain was a big influence. It was a very good Syrian side. We had some opportunities in the first 20-25 minutes but the Syrians started to get on us. After the 15 minute break the plan was to get aggressive but it didn't happen. The goal from Sunil (Chettri) raised the spirit of the team,” said Koevermans.
With Chettri’s injury time header, India went into the break with a 1-0 lead but passing continued to be a problem due to the heavy outfield.
“After the break we had to change our strategy. I asked the boys to get the ball into open spaces for Sunil and Francisco Fernandes. We had an incredible attack from the left in the second half,” said Koevermans.
“Today Clifford (Miranda) was brilliant on the left. He made two brilliant chips and Sunil scored from one,” he said.
The Dutch praised the young Fernandes, who flourished in his role as an attacking mid-fielder. “I think Fernandes was good. He played in a supporting role behind Chettri and they are getting used to the new style,” he said.
Koevermans also had words of praise for debutant Sanju Pradhan. “He was quick and smart,” he said.
Asked if his defence was complacent as they conceded a last-minute goal, Koevermans said: “I think today they were brilliant. Even in rain they did well. But when you concede a last-minute goal, you can point that, but that can also happen due to an occasional lapse in concentration.”
Syria’s assistant coach Anas Makhlouf said: “We did get a lot of scoring opportunities but unfortunately we couldn’t score. Rain was not really a problem for us,” he said.
Makhlouf said the team is missing some of the overseas-based players. “We haven’t called our professional players who are based abroad,” he said.