The manager and the marquee player engage in a war of words…

Chennai City again threw away their one-goal lead, against outgoing I-League champions Bengaluru Football Club to draw 1-1 at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Wednesday night, and coach Soundararajan claimed to be happy with the result despite promising an upset before the game, on Saturday afternoon.

Reflecting on the result, he said, “One point is very valuable for us. We were going up against one of the best sides in India. Despite the psychological factor, we were able to get a result.”

The Madurai-born gaffer benched Haroon Amiri as he brought on Raegan Albarnas to replace him. With the Tamil Nadu striker proving ineffectual, many observers expected him to introduce the former, but he elected to bring on Denson Devadas and Liandala Sena. Speaking to the journalists after the whistle, he revealed that his Afghanistan midfielder had refused to come on as a second half substitute.

“Amiri had a good game in the recent 1-1 draw with DSK Shivajians,” said Soundararajan. “My plan was to bring him on in the second half. Raegan, unfortunately, wasn’t playing well, so I asked him to warm-up. It seemed as though he had wanted to be in the starting eleven as he refused to come on as a substitute.

“Amiri has been in fine form; he even scored in the Shivajians game. His coming on would have been helpful for us. He’s an experienced player, who works hard and is highly spirited. I had to change my strategy because of Amiri’s decision to remain on the bench. I have nothing against Amiri and I’m okay with his decision.

“He warmed up during the half-time break. I don’t know what was going on in his mind when he made his mind up not to be used as a substitute. He didn’t talk with the players. He was feeling bad in the end. He didn’t understand why I wanted to bring him on a second-half substitute. I didn’t expect that from Amiri; he should have listened to the coach like every good player does. I’ll talk to him personally; we’ll look to solve the problem as soon as possible.”

The former Dempo midfielder, however, lambasted Soundararajan whilst speaking to Swapnaneel Parasar of Goal as he stated that the coach had chosen to censure the player publicly because of their stained relationship. He also accused him of nepotism as he claimed that the coach had always overlooked foreign players unfairly in favour of local talents.

Bengaluru coach laments poor refereeing decisions

His Bengaluru counterpart Albert Roca looked dejected as he saw his side fail to capitalise on boasting the most of the ball yet again. He questioned Chennai’s lack of desire as the Tamil Nadu outfit chose to sit back for the better part of the game.

“We have to be disappointed for the result and not for the performance,” stated the Spaniard. “My team played a very good game today. Only one team on the pitch wanted to win today while the other team only looked willing to waste time.

“I’ve never seen a team be as unlucky as we were today. We created a lot of chances. We were clearly the better team on the pitch. The numbers on the scoreboard doesn’t reflect the performances of either team. I want to congratulate the players. They had the fight in them to try and win until the final minute. Chennai had what it takes to stop us. They were luckier than us.”

He elected to lambast the night’s referee as he waved away Bengaluru’s penalty appeal in the dying minutes when Debabrata Roy appeared to have handled the ball inside Chennai’s 18-yard box. The former Barcelona assistant coach said, “The refereeing decisions weren’t helping us. If it looks a penalty, the referee has to blow the whistle even if the offence takes place in the final minute. The penalty was obvious to everyone in the stadium except for the referee. Even his linesmen couldn’t spot the foul.

“Poor refereeing decisions are never an excuse if it happens once. Often times, Bengaluru are the victims of bad refereeing. I’ve often been unhappy with the refereeing standards in the competition. I try to think the wrong refereeing decisions weren’t made on purpose, but it always happens against us, unfortunately.”

Although the teams hardly produced a front page-worthy performance on the pitch, what ensued has caught the attention of the football fanatics in the country.