Bengaluru FC defeated Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta'zim 3-1 in the AFC Cup semi-finals on Thursday. With a 4-2 result on aggregate, the Steelmen became the first ever Indian club to enter the finals of the cup.
A proud Albert Roca hailed it as a great day, and said that India had become more than just a cricketing nation.
''For sure it is a great day and perhaps, today we can say that India is not a cricket country any more. Football has shifted something important and for sure, we are happy for that. Everybody is involved, not only Bengaluru FC but also other teams and fans in India. It’s very important,'' he stated.
The Spaniard appreciated the fans for their consistent support, with the Kanteerava Stadium teeming with fans who cheered their hearts out for their side.
''Fans were part of the success from the first minute. They didn’t stop their support. This was my first experience with them. I am glad to see so many fans and with this kind of supporters, we can go everywhere,'' the coach said.
The Southern Tigers struggled to contain Bengaluru during set-pieces, and the 53-year-old credited assistant coach Carles Cuadrat for it.
''We trained a lot on set-pieces and the players can attest to how much I have worked on it. I have to credit Carles for doing a good job. I would also like to congratulate the players because they have to take the lessons and they did it very well,'' he appreciated.
The gaffer furthered spoke about Chhetri's importance in the team as a leader.
''I would also congratulate Sunil, he is an example of everyone and we cannot have a better captain for Bengaluru FC than him. From the first day, he is dedicated. He is a big part of the success,'' hailed the former Barcelona assistant.
Roca was confident that the Indian skipper could operate in any position he's deployed in.
''I knew Sunil (Chhetri) could play in any position. He has shown commitment from first day, going from one side to the middle, it worked. He is an example and since the first day he has been helpful.''
Going into the tunnel at half time, the team aimed on a defensive play, revealed Roca. He explained that they key was to ensure that the opposition doesn't score their second of the game.
He said, ''We knew that if Johor score the second goal, it will be difficult to win. So we had just talked about it in the dressing room. We focussed on defending well as this was a serious game for sure. We cannot play for 90 minutes at our peak against a big team. I think we did a good job.''
Bengaluru fly to Doha to face Iraq Air Force Club in the finals of the competition. The gaffer was delighted to make it into the final two and believes clinching the title would add the cherry on top.
''We have a final which is wonderful. We can see what the team is doing today. Even to win the title, that will be an incredible award for all of us. Let’s go for it. Let’s work hard, have the same mentality, same behaviour and we will have our chance,'' he asserted.
Lalchhuanmmawia Fanai and Udanta Singh are expected to be in contention for a spot in the final and their presence would boost the team's chances to get their hands on the trophy.
''I hope to have these two players (Lalchhuanmmawia Fanai and Udanta Singh) for the final. We have two weeks to really prepare. It would be incredible if we win the title, for us and Indian football. We are focussed. If these players are back, then it shall boost our chances to score and win even more,'' he concluded.