ISL 2017: Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory accepts responsibility for defeat against FC Goa
Chennaiyin FC got their ISL 2017 campaign off with a loss as they went down 2-3 to FC Goa in an enterprising clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Chennai. The match saw the first goals of this year's tournament being scored, but Chennaiyin finished on the wrong end of the 5-goal contest.
The final score, though, does not reflect what was at one time, a huge deficit as FC Goa's slick play saw them jump out to a 3-0 lead in the first half. Chennaiyin coach John Gregory, who started with a 5-2-3 formation, took full responsibility for the setback.
“I think I started with the wrong team and the wrong formation. I accept responsibility for that. I felt it exposed our team to Goa too soon,” quipped Gregory.
When probed on what it was he got wrong, Gregory said, “I felt it was the wrong shape with the midfield.”
Goa enjoyed wide open spaces on Chennaiyin’s right flank in particular, and they took full advantage to thoroughly outplay the home side, in the first half, at least.
Gregory wrung-in the changes at half-time though, introducing Dutch wide man Gregory Nelson for Slovenian Rene Mihelic and midfielder Bikramjit Singh for embattled defender Dhanachandra Singh, who had a torrid first half. The move, Gregory said, “brought balance” to the team.
It showed Nelson, in particular, had an immediate impact as Chennaiyin set about salvaging the situation. In the first two minutes of the half, Chennaiyin struck the post twice - first Jeje from close range, and then Nelson when one-on-one with the keeper.
“From kick-off in the second half, we were pressing Goa all the way,” said Gregory, whose side got two goals back through Inigo Calderon’s free-kick and Raphael Augusto’s penalty, but could not get a third.
“We brought in the changes and it worked. I felt we deserved a draw. In the end, Goa were more pleased to hear the final whistle than us. We kept going to the end and I'm massively pleased with the fight shown by the boys from 0-3 down”, continued Gregory.
He did praise his opponents' first-half showing, though, saying that their movement and passing was “exceptional” in the first period.
Chennaiyin’s key midfielder Raphael Augusto found the going tough in the first half with Goa continually swamping his side and stealing possession. He had a better second half but still looked a bit off his usual level. Gregory though praised his efforts and admitted that he's not fully up to speed.
“He isn't 100% fit. He's been carrying a few knocks picked up in pre-season,” said the coach.
Gregory also felt that nerves played a part in his side's first half showing.
“I felt we looked a little nervous in the first half. All the preparation and work we'd done coming into the match was in front of 100 people maybe, but here with millions watching on TV, under the lights, in front of a huge crowd like this, it can be difficult. But it's something they will learn from. Sometimes you have to get your fingers burnt while trying to develop something,” conceded Gregory.
Chennaiyin face a quick turnaround as they play their next game on Thursday when they host NorthEast United FC.