Peter Hartley scored the only goal for the Men of Steel.

Jamshedpur FC came from behind to hold SC East Bengal to a 1-1 draw in their opening match of Indian Super League 2021-22 on Sunday. Franjo Prce put the Red and Gold ahead in the 17th minute after his back-volley from a half-cleared corner deflected into the net. Peter Hartley scored the equalizer with his shoulder, also from a set-piece, seconds before the half-time whistle. The away side came close to scoring the winner on a couple of occasions in the second-half, but failed to keep their shots on target. Of the 18 shots they attempted, only three were on target. Head coach Owen Coyle called for his side to be more clinical in front of goal.

Here’s what the manager said after the draw in their opening match:

Areas to improve

Owen Coyle critiqued his side for conceding a ‘cheap goal’ that he feels they could have avoided. The 55-year-old also highlighted the need to be more clinical to clinch all three points going ahead.

“I am disappointed with the goal. I think it was avoidable. We need to look at it at the back. TP Rehenesh parried it off and the second ball dropped. Then we get caught and three-four people were bouncing off each other. That’s certainly something we feel could have avoided,” assessed Coyle after the match. “SC East Bengal didn’t have too many opportunities although they were dangerous with (Antonio) Perosevic and (Daniel) Chima good players. But the chances we had, that’s another thing to improve. We need to be more clinical because with the wonderful chances we created in the second half, we certainly feel we did enough to win the game. But of course, there are always areas to improve on,” he added.

Keeping Greg Stewart & Jordan Murray on bench

Jamshedpur FC went with the centre-back pairing of Peter Hartley and Eli Sabia, with Alex Lima in midfield and Nerijus Valskis leading the attack. Coyle was asked how difficult it was to leave players like Jordan Murray and Greg Stewart, who recently won the Scottish Premiership with Rangers, on the bench. He agreed it was indeed difficult, but something the league and fans will get used to. Coyle also revealed both players had niggles.

Watch: Owen Coyle speaks at the post-match press conference after the SC East Bengal vs Jamshedpur FC match.

“It was difficult. That’s the dilemma coaches are going to be faced with. You can play only four (foreigners) instead of the five that were played last season. Jordan Murray has only trained for one day. He’s been out with a little niggle in the groin area and Greg had an issue with his thighs. He has come back in the last five-six days. You can see they are wonderful players. So obviously, that’s the dilemma as a head coach we will have,” said the JFC boss, frustration in his voice after dropping points.

“But there’s no doubt with the talent of the players. All the foreign players are wonderful. Alex (Lima) and (Nerijus) Valskis were wonderful today. The two centre-backs in Eli Sabia and Hartley are wonderful players. So of course, it’s going to be a challenge in every game we play. But Ultimately, we can only start with four and we have to make sure we have the right balance to try and win games. We feel we had that tonight.”

Chances in second half

Jamshedpur FC came out all guns blazing in the second half and created plenty of goalscoring chances, but lacked decisiveness in front of goal. 11 of their 18 shots attempted came in the second half. But sadly, only two of them were on target.

“We dominated for the large parts of the game. They have got a wonderful goalkeeper. I know that. He broke my heart two years ago in the playoffs final,” recalled Coyle. Arindam Bhattacharya, now with SC East Bengal was the ATK goalkeeper in the 2019-20 ISL season, when his side beat Owen Coyle’s Chennaiyin FC in the playoffs final to win their third title. “He’s a terrific goalkeeper. Fantastic signing for SC East Bengal. I think he showed his quality tonight. He made a couple of wonderful saves and that’s what he’s there for. That’s why you have good goalkeepers. They are there to do the job,” Coyle said in praise of the SCEB custodian.

He was, however, quick to point out, “we had some wonderful chances in the second half and that’s where you need to be clinical. SC East Bengal were really dangerous in the counter-attack. You always need to be wary of that threat. But we certainly feel we had enough chances in the second-half to score some more goals.”

Never say die attitude of the players

Although annoyed with the result, Owen Coyle praised the effort of his team.

“We have that never say die attitude. We made some positive changes at half-time cause we weren’t prepared to sit and accept a point, we wanted all three points. SC East Bengal made it difficult They worked hard. They have got a terrific coach. He’s got an absolutely great pedigree and we saw that today. He’s got his team well schooled and well drilled. Difficult to beat them. But we did have opportunities,” said the Jamshedpur tactician.

“So I think there were a lot of pleasing aspects and equally things that we need to work on to make better as we move forward.”

Tactical changes

Coyle also highlighted how the depth and strength of the squad allowed him to bring players like Murray and Stewart from the bench in the second half.

“That’s an important factor. I didn’t have that luxury last year because we were limited in terms of substitutions,” expressed Coyle. “But now we are trying to build a squad. We are not quite there yet. But we are trying to build a squad with each transfer window that we get to bring quality players to Jamshedpur. So it’s not just looking for a quick fix. It’s to have something longevity and build something at the club,” he said. “That said, when we made those changes, we wanted to get all three points. But we do have the opportunity to do it in the remaining games.

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