AFC Cup 2019: "Game we should have won," says Gregory after stalemate with Minerva
- Minerva's coach Badhade however felt his team were "above" Chennaiyin
Chennaiyin FC and Minerva Punjab played out a goalless draw in their opening game of the AFC Cup in Group E. Chances were there for both teams to take the points, but the game ended in a stalemate after none of the openings were taken.
Chennaiyin dominated large parts of the match with possession with Minerva restricted to a couple of outside shots that tested Chennaiyin keeper Karanjit Singh. Thoi Singh was once again active down Chennaiyin’s right flank and provided the team with its two best chances, both coming within a few minutes of each other in the second half.
In the 59th minute after being played into space by Anirudh Thapa down the right, his cross was snapped up by Minerva keeper Arshdeep Singh just before an onrushing Jeje Lalpekhlua could apply the finish. And a few minutes later the Manipuri found himself in the box, charging his way through to try and get on the end of a cross from Tondonba Singh. His header however was just inches wide of the post.
“A game we should have won," exclaimed Chennaiyin coach John Gregory speaking after the game. “We had so much of the game, particularly in the second half. Think there was some maybe nervous tension in the first few minutes. It was a big match and big occasion for us.”
The lack of action for the Minerva keeper disappointed Gregory.
“We had the ball enough that we had to get their keeper to work a little bit more. We gave the ball away too many times, guilty of losing possession needlessly. We needed to have more concentration on the ball and focus,” said Gregory.
He also expressed his disappointment over some of the delivery on the set pieces.
Gregory though was happy with the clean sheet kept by his team, their third in succession. “Defensively we looked good, we didn’t concede again. Just would have liked one at the other end," said the Englishman.
He was also happy with the impact that Anirudh Thapa had on the game coming off the bench. The midfielder replaced a disappointing Halicharan Narzary in the 56th minute and improved the tempo immediately.
“We’ve just been trying to look after him a bit. He’s been involved in the Super Cup as well and we’ve got games coming thick and fast. He’s been overworked in the last month or so, playing for the national and for us. But the bench is looking strong and it’s good to have players like that who can come on and change the game,” exclaimed Gregory.
His opposite number Sachin Badhade was happy with Minerva’s performance and the point.
“It was a really good game for us. In the first half, we had 4-5 chances that we missed,” said the Minerva coach referring to the shots from outside the box that required Chennaiyin keeper Karanjit Singh to make the saves.
“Playing away and getting a point is a good game for us. I'm happy with the work put in by Samuel and (Mahmoud) Al Amna. We focus on young talent. Thoiba and Makan - they were 16 and 17 year olds playing against ISL stars. And they did well.” he added.
Badhade seemed intent at highlighting the ISL versus I League battle – “Looking at the situation they are an ISL team and we are an I-League team. We are really above them in quality.”
"In the second half, they had only one good chance and our defenders were able to deal with them properly."
Gregory too seemed aware of it saying, “They raised their game to play us. Defended very well and put numbers behind the ball. Credit to them for that, I guess they were keen to pit the I League against the ISL,” concluded Gregory.
Chennaiyin next head to Bhubaneshwar for their Super Cup encounter against NorthEast United. Their next AFC Cup game is on April 17th against Manang Marshyangdi in Ahmedabad while Minerva play Dhaka Abahani.