ISL 2017/18: Chennaiyin players got the reward for their efforts, says Mohammed Rafi
Chennaiyin FC nicked a point from their match against Jamshedpur FC in the ISL on Sunday evening to ensure that the game finished 1-1. The stakes were high in this match as both sides were looking to take a decisive step towards advancing to the playoffs.
Chennaiyin had to rally from a goal down after Wellington Priori put the visitors ahead in the first half with a brilliant strike. A much-improved second-half showing, egged on by a raucous home support saw them equalize in the 89th minute to take a point from the game.
The man who scored the all-important goal was veteran striker Mohammed Rafi. He came on as a substitute with 25 minutes to go and made the telling contribution in the end. The goal sparked a passionate celebration with the other players in front of their home fans.
After the game, Rafi spoke about the goal: "We try these in our practice sessions. Many crosses we try to practice. That's why it helped in the match today. We were pressuring them so much towards the end, it felt like a goal was coming. We got the chance, it was a good cross and we scored."
He said the players were aware of the importance of the match considering how close the teams were on the table from third to fifth.
"We needed the point today because we are going to play Kerala next. Had we lost today, our morale would have been a little down. Today we draw, so somewhat okay. Next match if we can again do the same, we qualify", said Rafi.
Right-back Inigo Calderon had another of his tireless performances, especially in the second half when Chennaiyin were desperately hunting the equalizer. When we caught him he looked completely spent, but could still afford a smile thanks to the result.
"I'm very tired", said Calderon with a smile.
He said the team struggled to play their best in the first half, but then managed to get it together in the second.
"Sometimes when you're a bit tired, it's not easy to reach your top level. So in such times, you need to stay together and that's what we did. Came out in the second half and played better. And now we're happy with the point", he said.
When asked what changed at half-time, Calderon replied: "Nothing much really. We weren't having a great day, sometimes that can happen in football. We just accepted that we played bad and that we would have a chance if we played better in the second half. We did and we got the reward in the end."
After the game ended, Calderon and a couple of other Chennaiyin players went around the stadium to thank the crowd and ended up giving their jerseys to a certain section in the crowd.
"We had some special fans in the crowd today. A few of us visited an orphanage and today they came to see the match. So it was a special occasion for them and that's why at the end some of us, we gave our jersey to them", Calderon said when asked about the gesture.
The kids from the Dazzling Stone orphanage were one of the many special guests invited to the game by the club. Also in attendance were the Tamil Nadu women's football team who recently won the national title and chess great Vishwanathan Anand.