I-League 2018-19: “We played an equal match,” says East Bengal coach Menendez after Chennai City loss
After two back-to-back away wins, East Bengal suffered the first defeat of the season at the hands of Chennai City FC. The visitors comfortably won the match 2-1 at the Salt Lake Stadium on Tuesday evening.
With this win, Chennai City consolidated their position at the top of the table with 10 points from four matches. They are four points ahead of East Bengal, who have played a match less.
Chennai were initially stumbled because of the pressing game adopted by the East Bengal players but they gradually found their rhythm and deservedly went ahead through a superb free-kick from Sandro Rodrigues.
In the second half, Enrique Esqueda equalised for East Bengal but goalkeeper Rakshit Dagar conceded a penalty in the dying moments only for Pedro to put Chennai City ahead again in the game.
After the match, East Bengal coach Alejandro Menendez didn’t want to accept that they were the second-best team. “This was an equal match. They scored in the first half. We had some chances in the second half. Unfortunately, we couldn’t score and had to lose the match,” he said.
The Spanish gaffer is, however, happy with the fact that the team have adapted to his style and are playing more direct football now. “If you see, in the last three matches, we have conceded only three goals and all of them came from set-pieces. Also, our opponents have failed to create too many chances against us. Now the team is playing more vertical football than combination (play),” Menendez said.
“If we play only combinations in our half, then we can’t score goals. We have to attack more on the opponents' half and that’s how teams win matches. I believe now we are playing more direct football. We have players who can vary their speed and more wide angles,” Menendez added.
Chennai had four Spanish players in their playing XI. Asked whether they made the difference against a Spanish coach, Menendez said, “It’s not only about the Spanish players. They played well. But I am with the performance of the team. They performed till the last minute. We are training for six weeks and I must say the team has improved a lot. They are, in fact, improving every day. We will learn from our mistakes and will try to put up a better show in the next match.”
One question that remains is why Menendez hasn't given enough playing time to Kassim Aidara yet. Kassim played a pivotal role in helping Minerva Punjab win the I-League last season and has only made an appearance off the bench in EB's second match against Shillong Lajong.
Menendez defended his decision saying he always picks his Best XI for any game and hinted that Kassim was not one among them.
“I am the coach. So I decide who plays and who doesn't. The team consists of so many players but there are only 11 who get the chance to play in the first team. So it’s about the team and not about any individual players. We don’t like to talk about any particular players. This is a team sport, not an individual sport,” Menendez said.
East Bengal will hope to get their campaign back on track when they travel to Aizawl FC on Saturday, November 24. The game will kick off at 2pm.