Chennaiyin FC completed the double over FC Pune City after they beat them 1-0 in the Indian Super League on Saturday evening. Playing at home, the Blues picked up their second win of the season over Pune City with winger Gregory Nelson scoring the decisive goal.
The visitors had enjoyed the better opening half, but the hosts came back to win thanks to an improved second-half showing and Chennaiyin's assistant coach Sabir Pasha said his side deserved the win.
"We deserved a win because of our second half", said Pasha.
"As I said pre-match, they are a good, strong attacking side. I think we defended really well in the first half. We were outstanding. But after that, in the second half, I think we took over and obviously, the goal was about to come. We did pretty well in the second half, attacking-wise", he added.
Pune City could have easily gone into the interval with the lead, Diego Carlos going closest when his shot rattled the crossbar. Chennaiyin also didn't help themselves as they failed to convert a penalty that was awarded to them. Pune City, however, did not show the same kind of intensity in the second half while Chennaiyin put in an improved showing.
"They had some changes. They sat back, didn't attack like they did in the first half. They went a little negative. So I think that worked for us and we were able to take over", Pasha said.
The result takes Chennaiyin to the top of the table and it also means that they are now unbeaten in five games since a 0-1 loss away at Mumbai City. Pasha said the run illustrated his team's consistent strong showings.
"That shows how strong we are. Clean sheets win matches ultimately. We have scored goals also in the last minutes, but you need to defend well. That's what the team is showing. I would say that there are (other) good defensive teams, but I feel we are one of the best", he said praising his outfit for their displays.
Star midfielder Raphael Augusto was once again on the bench for this game with Rene Mihelic starting as the attacking midfielder. But Augusto changed the game after coming on as a substitute in the 66th minute to rapturous applause. His presence lent Chennaiyin more control in midfield and it was he who set up Nelson for the winner.
"Pune is a good attacking side. You need legs so that you can get at them and press them. Raphael is more of an attacking player. I think that strategy really worked today", explained Pasha about why they chose to bring Augusto off the bench.
"We wanted to hold Pune until the 60th-70th minute... see to it that we get some of our best players in once they are tired. It worked today. Yes, initially we were lacking, but after that, it went well."
Another important player this season for Chennaiyin has been their defensive midfielder Dhanapal Ganesh. Today he picked up an early yellow in the 28th minute and could have been easily sent off for a second bookable offence on two occasions in the first half. Chennaiyin stuck with him though for the entire game, opting not to bring on an alternative with Pasha revealing that Ganesh was told to exercise restraint in the second half.
"We were really worried about Ganesh going out because of some of the tackles. Before the second half, we were very strong with him and told him to be careful. He showed his composure, that's what was important", Pasha said talking about the midfielder's improved second-half showing.
Pune City were without the dangerous Marcelinho due to suspension, but Diego who played in his place was a constant menace down the left and Chennaiyin's right-back Inigo Calderon had a tough time. Pasha admitted that his midfielders should have given his right-back some more protection.
"It wasn't Calderon's fault (Diego's constant attacks down that flank). It was a problem of the midfielders who gave Pune's attackers a lot of space to play. They have some very good players like Lucca who are able to penetrate easily. I think our midfielders should have given him more protection”, he opined.
The refereeing came under the scanner once again in this game with the penalty awarded to Chennaiyin in the first half one of the major lowlights. In the 23rd minute, Nelson had made a good run into the Pune box and as Adil Khan came up to cover his run, his shoulder-charge saw Nelson fall to the ground and the referee pointed to the spot to leave the Pune City players shell-shocked.
When asked for his take, Pasha succinctly replied, “They (officials) gave us a penalty."
"We missed it. So it was fair enough I guess", he added with a smile to round things off.Published 14 Jan 2018, 14:33 IST