Chennaiyin FC came back from behind in the dying minutes of the game to draw 1-1 against Jamshedpur FC.
The one point ensured the former champions stayed put at third in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 table, with one foot set in the playoffs. An 89th-minute header for super-sub Mohammed Rafi cancelled out Wellington Priori’s stunning first-half volley.
With two more games to go in the league stage for the hosts, their head coach John Gregory was asked in the post-match press conference if he was content with the hard-fought one point against a resilient opponent. “I think, after the second half performance we deserved the three points,” he stated. “It has been an incredible performance and an incredible effort by our team. No one can be as proud of their team in the ISL as I am. Besides, it’s our fourth game in 12 days and we had to travel as well but the performances have been brilliant. We completely dominated the second half. Some of our young boys who are inexperienced, didn’t shy away from the ball and kept passing. Some of the individual performances were great tonight.”
Chennaiyin looked a more menacing outfit in the second period of 45 minutes and when asked what led to the same post the half-time break, the Englishman revealed, “Nothing much. I just asked them to keep going and build chances. Whenever the opposition got the ball to smash it onto the opposite side and counter-attack. And overall, just to follow our philosophy and play in our normal style.”
The 63-year-old was also asked to comment on the two yellow cards which his players were shown in the game, but Gregory did not see much into the decisions. “Seeing it is another thing and being there on the ground is another. So far in the season, we have accepted the decisions that have gone against us. But I think there has been an improvement there than the first half of the season. However, some decisions go against you when you have not done anything whatsoever, but then it’s football!” he concluded.
Jamshedpur’s head coach Steve Coppell was present at the post-match press conference to address the media and shared his thoughts on the outcome of the match, where three points were snatched from them in the dying minutes by Rafi’s header. “It is a valuable point as far as I am concerned,” he began. “I think the point helps Chennaiyin more than it helps us, but it’s still a good point for us. It is a difficult place to come to. Chennaiyin are a proud team and they weren’t just going to lay down and die. They have got some terrific individual players. We sustained a lot of pressure in the second half. We weren’t keeping the ball for long enough, we were just defending so hard. Credit to them and praise for my players. Once again they showed their resilience and stayed in there, and it’s just unfortunate. The marking of the set-pieces got a little ragged due to players coming in and going off. It’s hard to get messages across to people to whom to mark. I obviously know Rafi from last year in Kerala. I know he is very good in the air.”
He further continued, “We faced Chennaiyin tonight, and on the reflection, it can be said that a draw was a fair result, but three points would have been really good. We would have been broken-hearted if we had picked up no points tonight. We are putting the pressure on and doing what we can do under our circumstances to finish as high up the table as we can. Let’s see where we end up.”
This was the second game in a row that Wellington Priori scored a screamer for his team and on speaking about the difference the new signing has brought to the team, the Englishman replied, “I would love if he continues, that’s all I can say. Yes, he has been a significant difference for us since he has come on board. Right from day one we needed international players, we needed that substance that international players have. He can play in a variety of positions and his goal-scoring is a real bonus for us. It’s three (goals) that he has got until now and he’s a real threat going forward. As I said, I hope he continues.”
The league debutants are up against the other debutants and table-toppers Bengaluru FC next, which is sure to be a heady encounter taking into account the current form both the teams are in. When asked about the same, the 62-year old stated, “Yes, we have done really well in recent games to put ourselves in this position. And obviously, to take advantage of that, we have to sustain it till the end of the season. Bengaluru are the best side in the league. They are at the top of the table and they qualified before anyone else did. But yes, I have to agree that they are still playing hard. I expect a really difficult game against them. I am looking forward to it because if you have to do good in the playoffs, you have to perform against the better teams.”