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ISL 2017/18, Semifinal 2, second leg: Away goal a "minimal advantage" according to Chennaiyin coach Gregory

Gregory feels both sides know what needs to be done

Exclusive 12 Mar 2018, 21:22 IST

Chennaiyin will be looking to shut Goa out [Photo: ISL]
Chennaiyin will be looking to shut Goa out [Photo: ISL]

Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa will do battle on Tuesday to determine who joins Bengaluru FC in the final of the Hero ISL. The two teams are deadlocked ahead of the second leg of their semifinal in Chennai, on Tuesday.

While they conceded first in Goa, Chennaiyin did strike back and as a result, the tie stands at 1-1, with Chennaiyin having a crucial away goal.

Speaking ahead of the big game, Chennaiyin coach John Gregory said that it's all about doing whatever it takes to qualify.

“The most important thing tomorrow is to qualify,” said Gregory. “Goa keeps the ball for long periods and you have to work hard. We're delighted that we have an away goal but it is a minimal advantage.”

Though they emerged from the game with a draw, in truth, Chennaiyin could have scored more as they had some really good chances, something that Gregory too agreed.

“We worked exceptionally hard the other night and we were disappointed that we did not put away some chances. We should have been ahead on goals but it was a hard-earned draw,” he said.

Technically, Chennaiyin can go through even with a 0-0 draw with away goals counting for double this season. But Gregory said his players will look to react to situations as the game progresses.

“It is not something we're going to think about,” he exclaimed. “Of course, if they score, it changes the complexion of the game. My players will be very aware of the situation in case we ship a goal. We're all fired up and ready to go.”

When asked what it would take for the team to be victorious in the tie, Gregory's answer was a simple one: “Goa is a team that relies on playing possession football. To match them, we have to be defensively solid. They will play their way against any team, whether it is Bengaluru or NorthEast. To get the ball from them, you have to work hard and hold on to it when we get it.”

He felt his team didn't make the best use of the ball in Goa: “We play well with the ball, but the other night we were not that good in that aspect.”

Gregory added that keeping a clean sheet against a side like Goa will be paramount: “We both know our strengths and weaknesses. We keep a clean sheet and we go through. So that will be our first priority but there are so many permutations that can happen.”

Chennaiyin right-back Inigo Calderon, who has been one of their best performers this season, had to be patched up during the first leg after a cut he received courtesy of a tackle from Goa's Ahmed Jahouh. Asked about his participation on Tuesday, Gregory assured that the Spaniard would be present.

“Inigo was at the receiving end of a terrible tackle which went unnoticed by the officials and he got a nasty gash on his right calf. Trying to get him to come off the field is tough. He will be there no matter what. I might as well try my luck with something else”, he joked.

“He will be starting tomorrow night. I just keep supporting him because he's one of my players. He has saved us and won us matches at the click of a finger. If you remember the ATK game, he scored the winner. He has this ability to get goals and I have a huge amount of faith in him,” Gregory went on to add.

One player who is going through a bit of a barren run is striker Jeje Lalpekhlua. It has been seven games now since he last scored. But Gregory defended his man saying, “Strikers do become inhibited if things are not going according to plan, but Jeje worked so hard the other night in Goa. But he has tremendous support from us.”

Youngster Anirudh Thapa was the one who scored the crucial goal after Chennaiyin had spurned numerous opportunities. The coach also had much praise for him but stressed that it was important that he kept developing: “Anirudh Thapa came into the game the other night and started really well. He's still developing and has a lot of work to be done on his game. He needs to step up and get into the first team on a regular basis. He needs to progress and can't afford to stand still. Obviously, game time will help him in that regard.”

Gregory also said that despite some believing that Chennaiyin were better placed to progress to the final, nothing had been decided yet.

“We are a million miles away from getting into the final. We won't get complacent at all. It's the same for both teams. Both teams know what they need to do to qualify”, Gregory concluded. 

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