India's chief coach Stephen Constantine has blamed "individual errors" as the reason behind the hosts' 1-2 defeat against New Zealand in the Intercontinental Cup football tournament in Mumbai.
The Sunil Chhetri-led India scored resounding 5-0 and 3-0 wins over Chinese Taipei and Kenya before producing a below-par performance to slump to its first defeat in the tournament on Thursday.
And Constantine said silly individual errors cost India the match.
"Look, whenever you win two games 5-0, 3-0, maybe you get a little-bit carried away. New Zealand were a young and disciplined side, they played quite well. We made some mistakes. We didn't start off as we did in the previous two games. We scored first and we let two silly goals in. Individual errors cost us today," the coach told reporters last night.
"This is part of the learning process. We are not going to beat every team 3-0.
The Englishman made as many as seven changes to India's starting line-up on Thursday and he said it was pre-planned after the hosts had registered two convincing wins on the trot.
"It (making seven changes) was always going to happen, because we are using this tournament to prepare for the Asian Cup. We were always going to change the team. Obviously we didn't get the result we wanted, but it was important that the youngsters got the opportunity to play," Constantine said.
New Zealand scored a come-from-behind win after skipper Chhetri had given India the lead in one of the most bizarre ways immediately after the resumption of second half.
"We started with the seven of the bench. You're not going to have 11 Sandesh's (referring to Sandesh Jhingan) or 11 Chhetri's (referring to Sunil Chhetri) or 11 Thapa's (referring to Anirudh Thapa).
"We are going to find these players and this is why we use these games. Today some players didn't take this opportunity to put themselves in the spotlight," Constantine said.
"We knew that we were in the finals, unless we lost 4 or 5-0 to New Zealand, that was not going to happen. It is not the end of the world, we are into the final and job done after the first two games. We got the first six points (and) can't ask for more," he added.
The coach also made it amply clear that the seniors were never going to play this game and he wanted other players to perform.
"Jeje (Lalpekhlua) was never going to play after the first two games. I didn't want to play Sunil, but you know why he (was) playing. Hali (Holicharan Nazary) was never going to play, Sandesh was never going to play, Anas (Edathodika) was never going to play," he said.
"It was time for others to come in and stake a claim for their place. Some did and some didn't."
Meanwhile, Kiwi coach Fritz Schmid said he was proud of the performance of his boys.
"It's of course a fantastic feeling and I can say that the boys must be proud of their performance. We knew playing the hosts, scoring 8 goals, conceding none, we knew it was the toughest opponent. But looking at our performance and the way we played on the pitch, I must say the team did a great job," Schmid said.