The Reds manager was pleased to get a prized away win…

Coach Thangboi Singto proved his genius yet again, as his bringing on Brazilian Pena for Redeem Tlang early in the first half proved the moment the balance of the game shifted in the visitors’ favour. Speaking to the press after the final whistle, he acknowledged their shabby start before heaping praise on goal scorers Pena and Vanmalsawma.

“Yesterday, we pledged to improve our away record,” reminded Singto. “Today we did it. I’m really happy for the boys; they stuck to the plan, of course. We had a shabby start. We did not keep the ball well; we often gave away the ball, and Chennai were all over us.

“We had players on the bench who could come on and make a difference. Credit to Fabio — we had a height advantage after he had come on. The delivery from Issac was perfect. He has been our best asset this season; most of our goals come from him. We need to start better. Had we conceded in the first few minutes when Chennai were dominating, we would have been forced to be in the back seat.”

Japan midfielder Yuta Kinowaki had a brilliant game, drawing fouls in crucial areas and orchestrating play from the deep. The Shillong Lajong manager lauded him before explaining why coaches should never undermine players that lack physical strength.

“Yuta’s presence is crucial to the team,” asserted Singto. “Yuta may look slow, but he reads the game very well. His anticipation is excellent. Otherwise, Charles [de Souza] and [Haroon] Amiri might have run riot. His instruction was to sit deep and help the back four; he did that very well.

“Issac is not the quickest player, but he’s very clever with the ball. He’s intelligent. Sometimes, the coaches need to drop burly players in favour of those who can make a difference irrespective of their size. In world football, players like David Silva, [Andres] Iniesta and of course, [Lionel] Messi are not the strongest players, but they can definitely do the job. Yuta and Issac are crucial to the team, but our motto is to attack and defend as a team.”

Chennai coach Soundararajan did not look his usual upbeat self, and understandably so. Reflecting on the chastening defeat, he said: “Actually, we conceded two from free kicks. Our defensive wall and the goalkeeper were not in the right position. Two free kicks changed the game entirely. Had we scored from the numerous chances we created in the first half, we would have settled properly. Charles missed two chances while Nandhakumar and Edwin [Sydney Vanspaul] missed one each. We wanted to get right back into the game after their opener, so we brought on Tank and Soosai, but my forward players faced a lot of confusion, unfortunately.”

Soundararajan pledged to work on the training ground on their mistakes as he takes his side to Aizawl, whom they had defeated in Chennai, on February 25.