ISL 2017: Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory not bothered about Jeje Lalpekhlua's lack of goals
Chennaiyin FC return to home comforts in the Indian Super League on Thursday when they play their third home game of the season against struggling ATK at the 'Marina Arena' in Chennai.
They come into the game on the back of a 1-0 away win at FC Pune City last Sunday while defending champions ATK currently are at the bottom of the table still looking for their first win.
After defeat in the opening game at home to FC Goa, Chennaiyin have rebounded with two wins on the trot and coach John Gregory said he was pleased with his side's progress while speaking to media ahead of Thursday's encounter.
“We had to change after 45 minutes in the first game. We changed for the better. We’ve had two wins after that. It’s pleasing," said Gregory.
"It shows the team’s character and passion. They’ll keep going regardless of what happens", he added.
India's Jeje Lalpekhlua has led the line as the lone forward in all of the games, but is yet to score thus far. Gregory though said that it wasn't an issue because of how much he's helped the team in other ways.
“Not at all," he said when asked if he was worried about the lack of goals.
"As long as somebody is scoring, I’m not bothered. I thought that his best performance came against Pune. He didn’t get too many opportunities and Pune were good defensively as well. He works exceptionally hard despite not scoring goals. He’s unselfish and plays for the team. If he continues to work hard and do things he does best, the goals will come," Gregory exclaimed reassuringly.
Gregory will be pitting his wits against former Manchester United striker Teddy Sheringham who has taken charge as coach of ATK this season. Having previously played against him when his Aston Villa side took on a United that featured Sheringham as a player, he had plenty of praise for his fellow countryman, but added with a smile that he hopes Sheringham gets his first win in ATK's next game as opposed to Thursday.
“Yes, I’ve coached against him when he was at Manchester United. We went there and lost. When he was in his prime, he was a brilliant footballer. He had a fantastic playing career. He has won everything there is to win while also earning numerous England caps. Unfortunately, he could only go as far as the semi-finals in the Euros and he couldn’t win the World Cup, either," he said talking about the England striker's playing days.
"He’s only starting out in management. His stint in England didn’t go well. We’re in the same place in a lot of ways, though, as India is new to both of us. He’s got Ashley Westwood there. Let’s hope he starts winning from Sunday.”
The meeting tomorrow pits the only two teams who've won the ISL title against each other. It's a matchup that ATK have traditionally had the better off, but Gregory shot the past performance down alluding to the result against NorthEast.
“They have been champions twice. They have beaten many teams in the ISL since the inception. They are a huge club, with history to back it up as well. It’ll be a huge game for us, the fans, TV and the media. It’s a clash of champions. We put the NorthEast United record to bed. We hope to do the same with ATK.”
While Chennaiyin have scored six goals so far in their three games, their backline has really come to the fore and has proved hard to break down. The foreign trio of Mailson Alves, Inigo Calderon and captain Henrique Sereno, along with India's Jerry Lalrinzuala has kept two clean sheets in a row.
Local lad Dhanapal Ganesh has been one of Chennaiyin's best players in the last two games; playing as part of a double pivot in midfield with Bikramjit Singh he has helped his side gain control of the midfield. His coach continued to lavish him with praise for his efforts.
“Ganesh is in the team to do what he does best. I won’t want play against him. He’s tough. He’s good in the air. He’s good on the ball. He stays within his limitations. He doesn’t try to be what he’s not. He had a great game in home as well as Pune. I’m pleased with him and the players are, as well.”