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ISL 2019-20: Owen Coyle delighted to get first win as Chennaiyin overcome controversial refereeing decisions 

  • Coyle was critical about the officiating but was impressed with his players who did well to take all 3 points against the Blasters.
Modified 21 Dec 2019, 02:41 IST

Coyle was none too pleased with the officiating for the second game in a row (Image: ISL)
Coyle was none too pleased with the officiating for the second game in a row (Image: ISL)

Chennaiyin FC registered just their second win of the current Indian Super League season with a 3-1 win over southern rivals Kerala Blasters in what turned out to be a game marred by questionable officiating.

All of the goals came in the first half with Chennaiyin taking the lead initially through Andre Schembri before being pegged back by a piledriver from Blasters skipper Bartholomew Ogbeche. But the hosts responded with goals from Lallianzuala Chhangte and their in-form striker Nerijus Valskis to round off the first half, a lead that they preserved in the second.

The game though was littered with controversy as the officiating crew came under the scanner. In the 25th minute Anirudh Thapa fouled Seityasen Singh, but the referee pointed his hand in favour of Chennaiyin, indicating a free-kick to them. The hosts took it quickly catching a disbelieving Kerala off guard and Schembri teed up Valskis to sweep home a nice finish to make it 2-1. After initially allowing the goal, referee Om Prakash Thakur then changed his decision after pressure from the Kerala players and coaching staff, awarding a free-kick to Kerala for the original foul. FIFA rules don't permit a reversal of decisions without the interference of VAR or any incident that merited a red card offence in the build up.

Owen Coyle was delighted post match with his team's win, but hoped that the standard of officiating improved in the league. He said,

"We knew going into the game that with our firepower we could hurt them (Kerala). Nirka (Valskis), Rafa (Crivellaro) and (Lallianzuala) Chhangte all performed really well today. All the things that we had worked on in practice paid off. We did it with some style. Before the game, the 3 points was important, and I was very happy with how my boys stayed disciplined to get that today."

He then touched upon the disallowed goal by saying,

"With everything that went on, it felt like we had to win this game three times. Whether this free-kick was provided rightly or wrongly, once you allow the play you cannot pull it back again. That's what the rule states! In the last game, the Jamshedpur player has basically punched the ball into the net and it is given."

Adding to Chennaiyin's frustration they were denied two penalty claims, the second on Rahim Ali towards the end of the game when in a goal-scoring position looking very much like a clear foul. They also lost central defender Eli Sabia to a second yellow which the referee awarded after the Brazilian stood over the ball to prevent a quick free-kick.

Sabia's sending off left Coyle bewildered.


"Losing Eli at the end was bizarre! The referee should use his experience there, it's the 94th minute, just tell the defender to step back and give him a warning."

The officiating, Coyle felt, took the attention away from the game and it is an element that he believes the league has to get right. He said,

"We can sit here and laugh about it now because we won, but we have to get these decisions right. We're all here to help Indian football grow, but such things brings the attention to the referees, negative attention which is not good."

Coyle took off his striker Valskis in the 57th minute, bringing in Thoi Singh. The move, the coach said, had to do with the Lithuanian being unwell.

"He wasn't well before the game and after the 30th minute wasn't moving too well. So I had to take him off unfortunately, but he had a wonderful game today, scoring the goal and had the assist for the second."

Coyle started with two forwards up front in Schembri and Valskis with both getting on the score sheet. On his decision to pair the two forwards, Coyle said,

"Everybody wants to play, I felt there was goals in Andre. He combines well with Nirka and we saw that again today."

Midfielder Thapa felt the win was a big one saying,

"We had players unwell, with some injuries, but everybody stepped up to get the win."

About the disallowing of their goal, he said,

"It's surprising because it's happening in almost every game. But everyone stayed motivated. The captain and Rafa told everyone to stay calm and that we could score again and we did. We kept the belief."

Chennaiyin with the win leapfrog Kerala into 8th place. They next play FC Goa on 26th December at home, a game Coyle is hoping his key players recover in time for.

"Eli will be a big miss, but hopefully Nirka can recover in time. Goa are a tough team, but I feel there is not a lot between all the teams in ISL."
Published 21 Dec 2019, 02:34 IST
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