'We had four players down with food poisoning, but we still kept going till the end', Owen Coyle marvels at Chennaiyin FC's character after victory over Mumbai City FC | ISL 2019-20

Coyle was impressed by the character displayed by his players
Coyle was impressed by the character displayed by his players
Modified 21 Feb 2020

Back in December 2019, Chennaiyin FC represented a club in absolute strife. The Marina Machans, at that juncture, couldn’t buy a victory and were especially dreadful on the road, having not won a single fixture since November 2018.

Yet, as push has come to shove in the 2019-20 edition of the ISL, Owen Coyle’s troops have found that extra gear, even when their caravan seemed destined to get stuck in the quicksand.

Unsurprisingly, the Irishman was grinning from ear to ear as the Marina Machans completed a sensational turnaround to seal their berth in the play-offs. In the process, they’ve also incredibly notched up four consecutive positive results away from home. On the achievement, Coyle said -

When I came in, we hadn’t won away from home since November 2018. So, when we won at Hyderabad, that was so important. Then we won at Kerala, Kolkata and now Mumbai, each venue is difficult for different reasons.

Subsequently, the Irishman also swatted aside claims that his side would now be under more pressure, considering they would now be embroiled in a knock-out scenario.

From when I arrived, as I said earlier as well, we have been a team under pressure. We simply had to win every game or else we would not have been in this position. I just told the boys that we had come so far and that we just didn’t want to go only this far. And, for that, we knew we needed to be at our best.

Over the course of Coyle’s tenure, Chennaiyin FC have been an immensely entertaining outfit and have made the net ripple on countless occasions. However, against Mumbai City FC, the Marina Machans endured a patchy spell, wherein they weren’t able to create enough clear-cut openings.

Yet, they embodied their clutch team mentality by keeping a clean sheet, which incidentally was only the 4th the club has kept all season.

We obviously set out to win and that was our intention from the start. The first 15 minutes we controlled the game but then Mumbai grew into it. A few of our players were also guilty of playing the occasion rather than playing the game and we didn’t find the fluidity in our passing. Mumbai are a team with great attacking quality and that’s why it is more satisfying to come here and get that clean sheet. So that was really pleasing and we were deserved winners and have earned the right to be in the top four.

In fact, the visitors had several hurdles to overcome, even before the encounter began. Coyle stated,

We had four players that were down with food poisoning, but we fought till the end. Dinliana didn’t train yesterday, Nerijus was also not feeling very good. And, then Schembri went down in the warm-up. So everything that could go wrong went wrong for us. But, we showed great character, mental strength and discipline. Having said that though, there is still a lot of areas to improve and we are definitely not the finished article.

Thus, through the course of the contest at the Arena, Chennaiyin had portrayed that their remarkable comeback wasn’t solely built on an effervescent attacking brand of football.

After all, when the stakes were at its crest, especially against the Islanders, they found a totally different way to emerge victorious.

Yet, that’s what all good teams seem to do, even when they aren’t playing well. And, courtesy that victory, they can now relax a touch before clashing swords with the league’s elite in the final four. 

Published 21 Feb 2020
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