The Chennai boss reflected on a successful spell with the Super Machans…

Chennaiyin thrice took the lead against NorthEast United at Marina Arena on Saturday night only for United to salvage a point to keep themselves in the race for the playoffs berth, in what was the club’s last home game of the Indian Super League season.

The Marina Machans manager Marco Materazzi sounded more composed than he has ever been this season as he answered journalists’ questions with a smile, laughter or a joke preceding his answers. Quizzed about his Chennaiyin future, he sparked a few chuckles in the room when he said “Goa” with the next game in mind before proceeding to provide answer to the question.

“I don’t know because it’s the club that has to take the call to evaluate and examine me,” revealed Materazzi. “If they think that this year’s performance is due to my mistake, I will step down. If they think what I’ve done is good, we can talk about it. Anyways, I’d like to thanks them for all they’ve done for me. I’ve received as much as I’ve given.”

Despite their previous seasons’ stellar goalscoring record, they had never netted thrice in a single game before Saturday’s crunch clash. Asked whether he foresaw the topsy-turvy draw, he admitted that the game – as the game always does – took him by surprise.

“No, I’d have never thought that but, unfortunately, this is football,” claimed Materazzi. “My players deserved to win today as they were fighting for the whole time while NorthEast only came here for a draw. At Kolkata, we conceded a goal in the 85th minute. Against Mumbai, we conceded on 87 minutes from their first and only shot on target. Similar thing happened in Pune as we conceded from a free-kick on 84 minutes. Today, it took place in the 95th minute.”

About his future in the ISL, he said, “If they had told me to come to India, where I would make the playoffs in the first year, win the title in the second and get out the way I did in the third, I would have signed anyway. I’m happy about today’s performance. It’s football and there’s nothing we can do about it. We intend to play as good as possible in Goa.”

Siam Hanghal impressed against his former employers in only his fifth ISL start of the season, but when the former Everton defender was questioned about the 23-year-old Indian youth international getting fewer chances than he seemingly deserves, he censured the player although he proceeded to laud him shortly afterward.

“It’s because the other players were in a better physical condition,” said Materazzi. “We should remember that the error that led to a goal in the Delhi [Dynamos] game was caused by him. I know he has had a really good season; he’s a really good player. I have to pick from 25 players, so I had to make my choices.”

Much to the dismay of the home supporters – who have fallen head over heels in love with the Chennaiyin skipper – Bernard Mendy started the game from the bench, with underperforming marquee player John Arne Riise partnering Eli Sabia Filho in the heart of the defense. The Chennaiyin manager revealed post game that a fever kept him away from playing the entire 90 minutes and expressed his admiration for his commitment as he proceeded to pull down the blue shirt when the team was in dire need of motivation.

Chennaiyin’s defense has conceded three or more goals on four occasions this season despite having big name defenders at their disposal. In theory, the former World Cup winner ought to be furious with his backline. However, he denied blaming the defenders as he reiterated that his team would always defend as a unit before pointing out a couple of avoidable errors.

“When you concede a goal, it’s not only the defense’s fault,” claimed Materazzi. “You can’t blame one single phase. Actually, when we conceded the first goal, the action started with Hanghal as he did not tackle hard enough. What I regret is the fact that we didn’t try to score the fourth goal and Raphael [Augusto] trying to dribble past five players in the final minute while he could have produced a long ball to Mendy. As I said, it’s football, and it’s gone like this this year and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

On conceding late goals, he said, “We’re a new team. Maybe, it’s due to a lack of experience. If Pune and Mumbai can score incredible goals, there won’t be much you can do. My players were ready to die on the pitch for a result. Unfortunately, things did not go our way, but I want to congratulate the players for their great performance.”

United winger Nico Velez added insult to injury after scoring a brace when he rubbed a few Chennaiyin players the wrong way, thereby sparking a huge commotion that reflected in the stands as well. Whilst his antics saw the home fans clamour for a red card, a composed Materazzi chose to be diplomatic as he asked the All India Football Federation and ISL management to take necessary disciplinary actions against the player.

“I think [that was] for sure a yellow card,” said Materazzi. “After that, both [Mehrajuddin] Wadoo and Velez were given yellow cards. It’s not up to me to judge but, if you choke someone like that, it must have been [a booking]. The referee, AIFF and ISL should take appropriate measures. I was banned for one game unfairly, but I cannot judge as that would be one-sided.”

United appeared to be keen to frustrate the home team at all costs, as they pulled off quite a few tantrums that indirectly resulted in the Highlanders nicking a late equalizer. Underlining the quality of refereeing, he proceeded to label a few unnamed ISL goalkeepers as clowns thanks to their ridiculous attempts to waste time.

“I can’t say that [instigating Chennaiyin players] had been planned. It can happen on the pitch or down in the streets. It’s just that the referee has to make the call and make the players respect him. In the ISL, three or four goalkeepers are clowns. If you’re really stretched and have an injury, you cannot play for 20 or more minutes. I think they were only making fun of the referees. In football, you can have bad footballers, bad coaches. The same applies for referees as well, but we cannot change that now as it’s already in the past,” he concluded.

Photo © ISL Media

Report by Khel Now Correspondent from Chennai Praveen R. Paramasivam