ISL 2018-19: "No knee-jerk reactions," says Chennaiyin's John Gregory as they prepare to host FC Goa
Indian Super League champions Chennaiyin FC's title defence began with a loss last Sunday to neighbouring rivals Bengaluru FC. On Saturday, John Gregory's men play their second game of the season, this time at home, against FC Goa.
Last year Chennaiyin played these two teams the most times as they faced off against them in the playoffs as well beyond the regular season meetings. Speaking ahead of tomorrow's game, Gregory gave his thoughts on this tough beginning to the season.
"Bengaluru and FC Goa were two of the best teams last season. Very good football teams, always enjoyable to watch. I enjoyed watching them play because they play such good football back to front", said Gregory. "They're two teams I expect to be involved in the playoffs come the end of the season. So yes, it's a tough start for us."
Gregory though believes that's part of the game and spoke about their opponents tomorrow. " Goa have made a couple of changes. I enjoyed watching them the other night against NorthEast; it was a really entertaining football match. And Coro has started where he left off last year", Gregory said alluding to the lethal striker's form.
Last Sunday at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore, Chennaiyin fell to a 1-0 defeat courtesy a special strike from Bengaluru's Venezuelan striker Miku. The champions though outplayed their hosts in the first half with a largely even second period. The wafer-thin margin between the two sides was not lost on Gregory who felt there were plenty of positives.
"We obviously have a look at all the stats we have after matches. We outpassed BFC last week by over a 100 passes", he said. "In the second half, we had 63% possession. Almost all our numbers were better than Bengaluru - we ran more, made more sprints than them. But the single most important component in all statistics, they scored one more goal than us and won the game. So sometimes those things don't matter."
"We've sat down since and looked at the game a couple of times. And we saw that we dominated possession, we had a huge amount of the ball. But we need to use it a bit better in the final third. That's really where we let ourselves down a little bit. So I was happy with a lot of things last week, except the work in the final third; not quite enough imagination, not quite enough goal-scoring chances. Hopefully, it'll be better tomorrow", Gregory explained.
He was also happy at his side's ability to contain the threat from Bengaluru for large parts of the game, boding well for the clash against Goa: "We limited the best team in the ISL. We kept them quiet. They changed their team a lot to accommodate us."
Notable from Chennaiyin's first game were their striker Jeje Lalpekhlua's struggles in front of goal. The Mizo man failed to convert on two occasions when presented with good goal-scoring opportunities. Gregory said there were going to be no hasty decisions and that it's about keeping the faith.
"My strikers had a bit of a difficult time of it a couple of times last season. We were perhaps not scoring as many goals as we should have. But if you keep faith with them, you keep loyal to them, you keep them motivated and focused. And they will deliver for you. So it's just one game, there are going to be no knee-jerk reactions."
He added: "We always seemed to manage goals from somewhere last year no matter who scored them. It was spread right across the team. And this year's going to be the same. We could have been two or three goals up at half-time last week had we taken our chances. In football, you have to take your chances and we will look to get off the mark and score some goals tomorrow."
Gregory believes the key to tomorrow's game against Goa is continuing much of the good work from the Bengaluru game while doing it that tad bitter.
"Goa we know are likely to score from any chances they get. Coro literally got just two chances the whole match the other night and took them both. So we have to be aware of his threat in our box and make sure we're as switched on as we were in the two legs of the semifinal last year", concluded Gregory.