The Chennai City manager was happy with a point after a goalless draw against Minerva…

Chennai City have got off to a decent start in I-League with a respectable goalless draw with fellow top-flight debutants Minerva Punjab at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on sunny Sunday evening. However, their coach Robin Charles Raja foresees an upturn in fortunes in the upcoming weeks as the players train together more.

Speaking to the media after the whistle, the City manager said, “For sure, [we will get better]. As we had limited time, it was definitely [not our best performance]. We should have got three points, but we are happy with one point now.”

Despite being assembled in 20 days, the home side produced a promising performance. The double pivot comprising Dhanpal Ganesh and Denson Devdas in particular impressed. Asked about the chemistry between his defensive midfielders, the Chennai Football League-winning manager said, “That’s why we signed Dhanpal. Being a home player, after signing Dharmaraj Ravanan, our captain, we were definitely going to sign him. Denson became available only later. When we knew Denson was available, we knew he would fit into the team, and it worked. Zakeer [Mundampara] also played as a defensive midfielder at Chennaiyin, but I think he prefers an attacking role. After coming on, I hardly saw him defending [laughs].”

Haroon Amiri, former Afghanistan skipper, started the game on a high note. However, as the clock ticked, his influence waned as he gave away possession often, squandering all the efforts that Abhishek Das and co. took to find him. Many expected the City manager to take off his Asian player, but he had his reasons, apparently.

“Amiri, Abhishek, Charles [de Souza] and even Zakeer were looking tired,” stated Raja. “I thought the right thing was to take off Abhishek. Abhishek was recovering from a small [injury] only recently. That’s why I took him off. They were good in air, so I brought on Tank. Amiri had a free role, so I thought of keeping him. Zakeer could not play Amiri’s role. Even Malsawmfela plays only as a striker. That’s why I didn’t take him off.”

Malsawmfela’s much-anticipated City debut was delayed due to a plethora of reasons, but the former Mizoram Premier League’s Best Player will not be the only debutant in the Bengaluru game on January 14 as the manager divulged the imminent arrival of Kerala Blasters player Prasanth Karuthadathkuni. He said: “We have signed Prasanth from Kerala Blasters. We could not finish the paperwork in time; maybe, he will play in the next game.”

On his first I-League game as a manager, he said, “[It was] better not to lose because, initially, when we went in, they did not know us as we did not know them. However, as the game progressed, they had their moments of domination. Once we had the possession, we created chances that we should have converted and changed the match scenario.”

For a team assembled in less than three weeks, City produced a cohesive performance, with the chemistry amongst the players surprising the onlookers. To the question of whether the performance surprised him, he said, “You don’t say that. I know they have the stuff in them. We had very little time to get together, but the whole team performed well today.”

City travel to Sree Kanteerava Stadiumfor their arguably the toughest game of the season next weekend as they take on I-League champions and AFC Cup runners-up in Bengaluru.