ISL 2017: "Will serve as a big reminder and lesson," says Chennaiyin FC coach Gregory after late draw with Kerala Blasters
Chennaiyin FC were stunned right at the death by the Kerala Blasters in their southern derby in ISL 2017 on Friday as the visitors bagged a late, late goal to ensure they left with a share of the points.
Playing in front of their home fans, Chennaiyin themselves had scored with just a minute left in regulation through a penalty kick from Rene Mihelic after Blasters defender Sandesh Jhingan was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box. The Slovenian's calmly taken penalty had seemingly set Chennaiyin on course for yet another win, but there was to be a late sting in the tail as Jhingan, playing as a forward in an attempt to salvage something, set up CK Vineeth with a lovely ball across the box.
Chennaiyin coach John Gregory felt that it was a result that their opponents on the night deserved. "It was probably nothing more than what they deserved. We were fortunate to get a penalty," quipped Gregory.
He then went on to explain what happened out there in those chaotic final moments, "We normally run down the clock pretty well. I think there was a mix-up over the throw in. We thought it was ours; one or two of my players went to pick the ball up, but it was given to the opposition. They took it very quickly and made the best of the chance. It was disappointing for us to concede so late in the game."
The clash between the two southern neighbours is always a very passionate affair as is the case with most derbies, but this one was a game of few chances and not the most entertaining affair, a fact underlined by Gregory too. He also admitted that the visiting Blasters had enjoyed the better chances and that his side wasn't up to the mark.
"It wasn't a great match to be fair. Neither team wanted to lose, for obvious reasons, but we thought we had won it. That was one of those games that was just lacking incident, lacking scoring opportunities. They probably had the best opportunities in the first half. You kind of got the feeling that nobody was going to win it. They could have quite easily scored before we did. So, in that respect, we didn't play that well tonight, but we managed to get a point from it", he said.
He also looked at the result as a learning experience for his side as far as managing late game situations were concerned.
"It will serve as a reminder and we obviously need to be more alert in the last couple of minutes. That will probably teach us a lesson. We've done that to a lot of teams and kind of got bit of our own medicine tonight. It doesn't taste very nice I have to say," the Englishman said referencing to Chennaiyin's very own habit of scoring late goals this season.
Chennaiyin have made a habit this season of scoring late goals and they did so yet again on Friday. When Jhingan was said to have used his arm to block a shot in the box, the referee pointed to the spot and up stepped substitute Mihelic to give the hosts the lead. This time however, the boot was on the other foot, as it was the visiting team that struck a late blow.
"The players are extremely, extremely disappointed downstairs in the dressing room right now. So it will serve as a reminder that this can happen again and we should perhaps be a little more alert in such situations. We did it the other night in the BFC game, we saw it out. We couldn't do it tonight. Generally, it was a disappointing outcome considering the game was in the palm of our hands and the three points should have been ours. But as I said, it will serve as a big reminder and big lesson for us", he added.
To go with his team's below-par showing, Gregory also credited the Blasters for having stifled his side and believed that they won the battle in a key area of the pitch which proved decisive.
"I think Jeje (Lalpekhlua) was on his own a little bit down the middle and we didn't keep the ball well as we did in our previous games. We had to look for a little bit of invention. Rafa (Raphael Augusto) found it hard to get going and they did a good job on him. They obviously tried to keep him away from their goal area. They had Wes Brown in there who spent a lot of time at his feet. Their midfield was very active and I think they possibly won the midfield battle on the night", Gregory summarized to round things off.