'This is the beginning of a new era' - Roca

Sen: Air Force Iraq deserving winners (0:45)

Debayan Sen sums up the AFC Cup Final where Air Force Iraq lifted the title with a 1-0 win over Bengaluru FC. (0:45)

A gracious, yet disappointed Albert Roca admitted that a "rusty" Bengaluru FC had been completely outplayed in the AFC Cup final by Air Force Club, but felt that his team's memorable run in the competition had paved the way for a bright future for Indian football.

Bengaluru lost 1-0 following a goal from striker Hammadi in the second half, and Roca said that his side's lack of experience in such a big game made them a "bit too nervous".

"I want to say congratulations to Air Force. I think they were superior," he said. "The game from the first moment, we saw we were not comfortable on the ball. All of the Air Force players have a level that we cannot achieve right now. This is the kind of football we have never experienced before.

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"Most of the Iraqi players are stronger. They push and press hard. They did a good balance between attack and defence. A lot of them have played for the national team. They play at a superior level.

"We have to work towards that. Working hard, we can achieve the same next time and try to win, or have more opportunities to win."

Roca revealed that Bengaluru's plan was to sit back and nick a goal on the counter, but his "risky" decision in the second half to remove Nishu Kumar and Alwyn George "backfired".

"The idea was to create more speed on the pitch by putting our fastest players on the pitch and press on them. But we made a mistake and then we conceded. Our players tried their best to create problems for them. It was just not our day. It was hard and I have to accept that. In front, there was a team with more experience, they have a different level and rhythm in their competition.

"We have to take risks, and in the end, even our central defenders tried to score. They (Air Force) have always shown a lot of experience. We lost a lot of balls. They showed that they are superior, It is a lesson for us also, If we have to improve and compete at this level, we must upgrade."

Despite falling at the final hurdle, Roca said that he was proud with what Bengaluru had achieved in the tournament, and called for a "more competitive" domestic league to ensure that the players kept improving their game.

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"I think we have to look forward (about Indian football) and we must be honest. We can say these guys were here in the final because they deserved that, but not enough to win. We must not stop, we must be aware of the reality, and there's a lot to do. A lot of growing up has to be done. As I said, 'not enough'. We have to work hard and be more competitive than today.

"We have achieved a level that we are not used to in our league. But that's not only on us, it is important to have a more competitive league. You have to be honest about where you are right now.

"India has never shown an incredible level, but today we have shown that we can. This experience is perfect to accept that there's a long way to go ahead. Let's just go there. I am proud of my players because they tried."