ISL 2018-19: "I wouldn't spend so much time on picking a team if I believed that the season is over," says Kerala Blasters FC coach David James
The Kerala Blasters came from a goal down to salvage a point against Jamshedpur FC during the 1-1 draw under the lights at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Tuesday in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL).
David James' men conjured a reaction on the pitch following the outburst from the fans, who decided to boycott the game due owing to the team's poor performances so far this term.
However, the Blasters failed to register their first win since September and were forced to be satisfied with just a point when Seminlen Doungel pounced on an opportunity in the 77th minute to restore parity between the two sides, after Carlos Calvo had the put the visitors ahead from the penalty spot shortly after the hour-mark.
The result meant that the 'Men in Yellow' are now eight points adrift off Mumbai City, who occupy the final playoff spot with a game in hand, after managing to secure a paltry nine points from their 10 games until now.
Despite going off the boil in the race for the playoffs, James insisted that he is confident that there is still time to overturn their fortunes.
The former Liverpool custodian also suggested that he would not spend too much time thinking about his best starting eleven if he had nothing to play for at this stage.
“If I felt that we did not have a chance, I would put the youngest players on the field just so that they get an experience of the ISL", James told Sportskeeda during the post-match press conference.
“I wouldn’t have to think too much about how to pick a team because I would not be worried about the result.
“This season we have had three defeats and three of them were against the top teams in the league.
“But, the performance we did today, that performance like you said, showed character but also some of the ability [in this squad].
“Of course, we need to improve and get the three points but when you see that as head coach then you are not too worried about your team", he insisted.
I can't moan about decisions, it has been a constant theme for us until now
The Kerala Blasters FC have been quite unfortunate with the amount of decisions that have gone against the team so far this season.
Perhaps no other team has had such a torrid luck when it comes to being on the receiving end of such disheartening blunders from the officials.
The latest chapter in the novella unfolded before our eyes when Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem clattered into Tim Cahill completely against the run of play in the 66th minute of the Blasters' meeting with Jamshedpur FC.
The referee awarded a penalty after consulting the linesman and the replay clearly suggested that the officials got it completely wrong.
Dheeraj, who was booked for the foul, made contact with Cahill outside the area and it was just a case of the striker tumbling down inside the box.
The penalty should not have been awarded and James admitted that he can't really moan about it anymore, especially considering that it is a becoming a recurring theme for his side.
“I would love to be able to say that it’s the first time this season we had a decision that went blatantly wrong against us”, James told reporters during the post-match press conference.
“There is an ounce for human error, it’s not about blaming individuals for necessarily being wrong.
“But, it has been a constant theme this season, I can’t moan about it", he added.
Despite their poor run of form in recent weeks, Kerala Blasters showed a lot of character and impetus in the first half against Jamshedpur FC to dominate proceedings right from the start.
The hosts enjoyed the better chances and hit the woodwork through Sahal and were unfortunate to not find the back of the net before the interval.
James admitted that the performance from the team was possibly the best they have conjured so far this season and reiterated on the fact that is tough for the players when they are pegged back due to decisions, especially during a game in which they deserved maximum points.
“If you isolate this game, it was a game that we should have won", James told reporters during the post-match press conference.
"We had clearly the best chances, we scored a legitimate goal and we got undone by a decision which was never a penalty.
“Yes, this was possibly the best we have played. We have had goal-line clearances, we had crossbars, we had the goals, we had dominance in many areas against a decent outfit.
“These are really good ball players and we did not really give them much.”
“From a team point of view, everybody did everything right. But, it is frustrating for the players in the change room since they will be thinking what more do they need to do to win.
“With regards to their performance today, there is nothing more they could have done to get the three points", he admitted.
I feel sorry for Sahal, admits David James
The rise to prominence of Sahal Abdul Samad has arguably been the only glimmer of hope in what has been a forgetful season for the Kerala Blasters until now.
The local-boy has been a revelation in midfield for the 'Men in Yellow' and has gone from strength to strength with every passing game.
Sahal was a live-wire in midfield during the first half and impressed with his astute passing range while also hitting the woodwork early on.
Despite possibly being the Blasters' most creative player until now, Sahal is yet to clock the full 90 minutes and the trend continued on Tuesday when he was sacrificed for Matej Poplatnik during the hosts' push for a winner.
However, James revealed that he was forced to introduce Poplatnik and had initially planned to provide Sahal with the opportunity to play the entirety of the game.
The Blasters' head coach also lauded the talented midfielder for his commitment and went on to claim that he will be a key player for the team in the future.
“I feel for him [Sahal] a little bit because before the game I told him that he would play 90 minutes. The plan was 90 minutes because he hasn’t clocked the full game yet and today it was not due to fitness", James revealed.
“We had to put Matej [Poplatnik] on because of his pace and that is one thing Sahal has not got, he has not got Matej’s pace.
“Because we had so much pressure on them with the equalizer, we just thought Matej would make that difference.
“But, Sahal is a very gifted young player and he is a part of the future of Kerala Blasters. It is encouraging that he goes out game after game, gives 100 percent.
“He loves the pressure and so as a head coach it is good to play him in every game, especially when he plays with that smile [irrespective of the result]", he added.
The Kerala Blasters FC will next face FC Pune City at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday during their final home game before the mid-season break in the fifth edition of the ISL.