ISL 2017: Kerala Blasters coach Rene Meulensteen happy with a point, but remains critical of officiating
The Kerala Blasters snatched a last-gasp goal in their Indian Super League encounter on Friday against Chennaiyin FC to grab a point as the game between the two southern neighbours finished 1-1. CK Vineeth was once again on hand to score the crucial goal for the Blasters after being set up with a neat ball into the box from the right by central defender Sandesh Jhingan in a desperate last-ditch effort.
The Blasters could well have taken three points from this game as they had chances to score before Chennaiyin did, a sentiment echoed by their coach Rene Meulensteen.
“If I sat here empty-handed, I would have felt miserable", said the Dutchman. "I thought we had a very good performance. Should have gone 1-0 up, Jackichand (Singh) had a chance. We defended well and we had good chances coming our way."
The Blasters went a goal down when Chennaiyin scored from the spot after the referee adjudged Jhingan to have handled the ball in the box. Meulensteen didn't agree with the decision, saying, "The penalty really threw a spanner in the works. I've just seen the pictures and it's not a penalty. Sandesh was turning away and it hits him on the body and the referee gives it."
From the replays, the ball looked to have hit him between his armpit and shoulder. And the Blasters' coach proceeded to provide a very critical appraisal of the officiating in the competition.
“A lot has been said about the standards of the referees and the linesman. I think we have to sort something out with the ISL to take a step forward. The fourth official, referee and linesman should not have such an impact on the results", Meulensteen added.
"I know it's a difficult job, don't get me wrong. It's a very difficult job, but they need help and must also want to be helped. I see incidents every week in the league and I think it is time to address them.”
Chennaiyin scored late themselves, Rene Mihelic's penalty giving them the lead in the 89th minute before the Blasters struck back in the fourth minute of added time. Meulensteen revealed that their first win in their last game gave the side confidence to keep going.
“There's only one way to get confidence in the team and that is winning. It was huge for the players after that performance (win over NorthEast United)", he said.
He also felt that his team had managed to keep Chennaiyin largely quiet while enjoying the better chances in the game.
"It took a penalty for them to score today and they didn't have many other chances that troubled our goalkeeper. We had the best chances in that respect. But Chennai are up there for a reason. So in hindsight, I'm happy with a point. I thought it could have been three, but you know, it's a good away point.", stated Meulensteen.
Blasters right-back Rino Anto had to be taken off during the match after he pulled up having gone for a tackle. Meulensteen revealed that he tweaked his hamstring, but said that his team is unlikely to "miss him for too long."
The Blasters get a bit of a breather after Friday before their next ISL game which will be on New Year's Eve back home in Kochi. It will be another derby for the Blasters as they welcome Bengaluru FC. And Meulensteen was in no doubt whatsoever that his team will be looking for the win there.
“We always look for three points. Bengaluru again, like Chennaiyin will be a big game. They will want to bounce back after a loss. They played very well against Jamshedpur. For us, it is going to be another great game to look forward to and hopefully three points at the end of it", he concluded as he wished everybody a Merry Christmas.