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ISL 2016: Steve Coppell feels there is still a lot of room for improvement for the Kerala Blasters

The Englishman felt his team was poor in the first half against Chennaiyin.

Steve Coppell Kerala Blasters
Coppell has seen team recover from a disastrous start to the season

The Kerala Blasters made it five games unbeaten in the Indian Super League after they secured a point away at Chennaiyin FC in a tight game on Saturday evening.

It was a game of two halves with the home side and defending champions, Chennaiyin doing most of the running in the first half and creating the better chances. The Blasters though came back strong and were the better side going forward in the second half. Speaking to the media after the game, Blasters coach Steve Coppell agreed as much.

“From my point of view, I thought we were terrible in the first half. We found it very difficult to get out of our own half. We tried so many times to pass out, but got ourselves in trouble. And although nothing really came of it, in terms of our performance, I think we were worse.”

“So, we had a few words at halftime, we had a different emphasis in the second half and then we created three or four decent opportunities, which on another day might have gone in. I was very pleased when the halftime whistle came so that we could have a chat and sort things out.”

The Blasters were able to make more runs into the box as well as get more crosses in during the second half, looking more threatening. And Coppell believed his team looked good for a win on that basis.

“In the first half, we weren't doing anything. So I was pleased we had more attacking intent and you know I felt the better team was going to win it is the second half, and that was going to be us because we had a bit more purpose about our play.”

Chennaiyin; an excellent team

He also showered high praise on opponents Chennaiyin who how believes to be an excellent team.

“You got to remember we were playing the champions, so it was good for us to be measured against them. They play a certain style of football which has been successful for a couple of years. We have to respect what they do. They are a good team, good players. It's not just a case of going out there and playing the way you want to. They make you play a certain style and they also put you under a lot of pressure in certain areas of the pitch. We couldn't respond in the first half, but in the second half we had more energy about us.”

The Blasters’ veteran centre-back Aaron Hughes had to be withdrawn around the hour mark with the player going down clutching his hamstring. Coppell shed some more light on Hughes’ situation.

“Yeah, hamstring. At halftime, he came in and he wasn't comfortable and he felt his hamstring was tightening up. So we always knew that it might be a possibility and he just came to a full stop really, he couldn't continue. So we had to make a few changes which we did and it worked okay.”

No clue about the scuffle at final whistle

The final scenes from the match saw players and staff from both sides engaged in scuffles after the full-time whistle was blown. Asked about the incident, Coppell said he didn't really know what it was about.

“No to be honest. I just saw a scuffle develop. I think very often in these situations, the peacemakers cause the trouble. You know you get so many people from both sides trying to separate people, but people get the wrong intention and there are about 20-30 people all trying to be peacemakers and they create more problems. So I don't know what happened, I'll find out. I think it's just one of those things that gets out of hand at times without anything really happening”, Coppell summarized.

As mentioned earlier, the result meant the Blasters have gone five games unbeaten. Coppell said he doesn't base the games on whether he's satisfied because of how tight things are in the league.

Still not satisfied

“I don't really judge on being satisfied. Am I satisfied with the point here today? Yeah, probably, but now we go off to Delhi. It's become a seven game season. It's so close and there doesn't appear any great advantage of playing at home. There are awful a lot of away victories and draws. So someone's got to find a formula to win at home consistently and I think that will be the team that makes the playoffs. At the moment, its very, very difficult for the home teams to pick up three points.”

The Blasters have a number of forward options in their squad with Kervens Belfort, Mohammed Rafi, Antonio German and Mohammed Rafique. Yet goals haven't been as forthcoming with the Blasters having scored twice only once this season, in their previous game against FC Goa. Coppell attributed some of it to the way they are set up, but admitted that the room for improvement was there.

“We play a tight game, we are disciplined. We've had some good opportunities, even today we had some good opportunities. Belfort had some decent opportunities. You know, I'm reasonably happy with what we are doing, but obviously, we need to have one, two, three strikers to catch fire over the remaining seven games because we'd love to make the playoffs.”

He also said that despite a decent run of form, his side was in no way the finished article yet and that any team wanting to be in the playoffs had to earn its place.

“However, you have to earn the right to be there, and you earn that right by being solid at the back, creative in midfield and finishing off chances up front. So we are very much a work in progress and we've got a lot of work to do to prove ourselves worthy of being at the top end of this division.”

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