Sunil Chhetri scored the winner that beat Kyrgyzstan 1-0 at the Kanteerava stadium in Bangalore on Tuesday, sending India to the top of the group in their bid to qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. India now have two wins from two matches in the four-team Group A and Chhetri said it was one of the finest games the team has put together in his time playing for India.
"I've been playing 12 years for my country and this is by far the best performance," he said. "At half-time, we got badly battered by the gaffer. We weren't upto the mark. It was our home game, we allowed them a lot of ball possession in the first half. So the dressing room wasn't a happy place."
"We showed character, we came back, we took everything that came on our stride, and what a performance. Right from the goalkeeper to the defence to the midfielders. Everyone . This is by far the best game I have played," he said.
Goalless at half-time, India's goal came in the 69th minute through a counter-attacking move which Chhetri finished with the help of a chipped pass by Jeje Lalpekhlua. Chhetri later went on to say that the goal was "right up there" among his best and stressed that the three points were "massive" to qualify for the Asian Cup in 2019.
"The first thing I did after the 30 seconds of celebration is looked at the clock and said to my team let's get one more. The match isn't finished," he said.
Chhetri's fitness was a concern prior to the game. He didn't start in India's friendly against Nepal. Constantine thanked the backroom staff for getting the skipper match-fit.
"Sunil made an unbelievable run as he did in the last game against Myanmar," Constantine said. "He is fit, as he proved. I would like to thank the medical staff, they did an unbelievable job to get him into a position where he is today. I'm very pleased that he didn't play against Nepal because maybe he wouldn't have made that run had he not been protected. So I'm very pleased with all the boys. This is something that we have waited for a very long time."
After eight wins on the trot, and 13 wins out of 15 -- though that figure includes an unofficial friendly against Bhutan -- the coach later said it was "about time" the results reciprocated the work that has been put behind the scenes. "At any level, amateur, La Liga, Premier League, Championship, 13 out of 15 is unbelievable."
India play Macau away on September 5 next, before hosting the team on October 10.
Group standings (after two games):
India - 6 points
Myanmar - 3 points
Kyrgyzstan - 3 points
Macau - 0 points