The Englishman was pleased with his side’s second half showing…

Chennaiyin FC and Kerala Blasters played out a 0-0 draw at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Saturday night. The win does not alter the position of either team in the Indian Super League table although the home side have a game in hand to secure a four-point cushion above their fierce rivals Blasters.

Chennaiyin restricted Blasters to few shots in the first half as Eli Sabia Filho and Bernard Mendy rendered the latter’s frontline obsolete. However, Blasters’ performance improved in leaps and bounds after the half-time break, especially with the substitutes forcing numerous saves from Karanjit Singh.

When quizzed about their revival in the second half, the Blasters manager admitted that they espoused a different strategy after 45 minutes and lamented the lack of luck as they failed to find the net.

“From my point of view, I thought we were terrible in the first half,” admitted Coppell. “We found it difficult to get out of our own half. So many times, we found ourselves in trouble. Although nothing really came out of it, in terms of our performance, I think we were were good. We had a few words in half time. I was very pleased when the half time whistle came, so that we could have a chat to sort things out.

We had a different emphasis in the second half. I think we then created three or four decent opportunities, which, on another day, might have gone in.”
With two tall men in Dudu Omagbemi and Davide Succi leading the Blues’ line-up, the much-acclaimed Blasters defence seemingly struggled to deal with aerial duels. However, their manager diplomatically refuted the charges, stating they were the better side in the second half whilst also acknowledging Chennaiyin’s prowess.

“Yes, to a certain extent but then again, at least in the second half, there were crosses in the penalty box. In the first half, it wasn’t the case, so I was pleased that we had more attacking intent,” delighted Coppell. “I felt if there was a team winning in the second half, it was going to be us, because we just had a little bit more purpose in our play.

“We have to remember we were playing against the champions, so it’s good for us to be measured against them. They play a certain style of football, which has been successful in the past couple of years, so we have to respect what they do. They are a good team. As much as you want to go out and play the way you want to, they make you play a certain style, and they also put you under a lot of pressure in certain areas of the pitch. We never responded in the first half but, in the second half, we did that.”

Aaron Hughes limped off the pitch in the second half, with Pratik Chaudhary replacing him at the back. Despite the veteran defender’s absence, the Blasters managed to keep a clean sheet against the defending champions. The manager shrugged off any serious injury concern as the player could return to action in the near future.

“No, no, [it was a] hamstring problem. In the half time break, he wasn’t comfortable,” announced the Englishman. “He thought his hamstring was tightening up, so we all always knew that there might be a possibility. It was a forced call as he could not continue. We had to make a few changes, which we did. It worked okay. When they made the substitutions just with a little bit more penetration down the left, it could have caused us a few problems.”

Saying he was not aware of the cause for the scuffle after full time, he stated it should have been a minor problem that was blown out of proportion only because of the players’ poor attempt at making peace.

“I just saw a scuffle developing and, very often in these situations, peace makers cause the trouble,” suggested the former Manchester City manager and Manchester United legend. “You get so many people from both sides trying to separate people, people get the wrong intentions, and it ends up with twenty or thirty people all trying to be peace makers only to create more problems. I don’t know what happened, but I’ll find out when I talk to them. It’s just one of those things that gets out and suddenly get out of hands without anything really happening.”

Although Blasters are languishing in the bottom half, they have a strong streak to boast as they are now undefeated in five games. However, the manager, as he said before the game, stated the results of the previous games hold little significance and added that they should make the play-offs, at the very least.

“I don’t really judge about being satisfied or anything. Am I satisfied with the point we earned today? Yeah, probably but now, we go to Delhi. It’s now become a seven-game season. It’s become so close. It doesn’t seem to be a great advantage playing at home. Sometimes, you need to find a formula to win at home consistently. I think that will be the team that makes it to the play-offs because it’s very difficult for the home teams to secure three points.”

Blasters boast a strong frontline, with Duckens Nazon, Kervens Belfort, Mohammed Rafi, Michael Chopra, and Antonio German all making them one of the most intimidating sets of strikers in the league, but their returns have been poor, with just four goals in seven games – the worst scoring record in the competition.

“We play a tight game. We’re disciplined. We got opportunities even today Belfort had a few decent opportunities from the edge of the box. I’m reasonably happy with what we’re doing but, obviously, we need to have three strikers for the remaining seven games. We’d love to make it to the play-offs but, to be there, you have to earn the rights to be there. We’ve to be solid at the back. We’ve to be creative in the midfield though we need to be able to finish upfront, so we are very much a work in progress as we have a lot of work to do to prove ourselves to be worthy of being in the top end of the division,” signed off the former Premier League gaffer.

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