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ISL Media

Westwood praises team's character, James frustrated by dropped points


The visitors twice threw away a lead in a game they needed to win to stay in the race for the playoffs.

Defending champions ATK equalised twice to finish 2-2 and snatch a point against Kerala Blasters FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Thursday. Gudjon Baldvinsson and Dimitar Berbatov had twice given Kerala the lead in either half, but Ryan Taylor and Tom Thorpe struck respectively to draw level. The hosts, however, remain rooted at the eighth spot in the table, with chances of missing out on a playoff berth for the first time ever, looming large. 

Addressing the media during the post-match press conference was their interim head-coach Ashley Westwood, who seemed pleased with his team’s performance and spoke about the positives from the game. “We have not lost; we scored two goals in a game, which is the first time the club has done this season,” he inferred. “So, scoring was a problem, which I think we have broken a little bit now. Obviously, we need to be a little more ruthless at the back. But we can’t be too displeased. We have come a long way in such a short period of time.”

He elaborated, “It was important not to lose. We had a good going, we were not scared, we tried attacking football, we were entertaining and fast, moved the ball around nice and quick, and we created plenty of chances. We scored two, but we should have scored one or two more and we might have been a bit comfortable. They too had chances, but we made a good game of it. They tried to win, and we tried to win. We were unlucky, but we have got to take encouragement from the two goals.”

The Englishman also lauded the attitude his players displayed on the pitch against a tough opponent. “We have shown good character because we had gone behind twice,” he remarked. “Being on a winning streak, we could have quite easily given in there, conceded more and lose heavily. But at least we showed some real character and we were unfortunate not to score a few more goals.”

However, the 41-year-old had some bad news to share as well. “Unfortunately, we have picked up another injury at half-time (Jordi Montel) and that’s weakened us a little bit,” he revealed. “We are trying to get through games without picking up injuries. And that has been the story of our season. So, no matter what the coach does, if players keep getting injured for one reason or the other, it’s always going to get hard.”

When asked about his plans for the remaining fixtures, Westwood replied, “I think we can safely say that it is going to be very tough now to get to the playoffs. But what we need to do is keep playing and keep trying to win. We need to finish the season strongly.”

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Kerala Blasters FC shared the spoils in a 2 – 2 draw against defending champions ATK in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Thursday. Gudjon Baldvinsson and Dimitar Berbatov both struck with their first Hero ISL goals, which were cancelled out by Ryan Taylor and Tom Thorpe’s maiden strikes, respectively.

Kerala climbed to the fifth spot in the table with three games left to play. Their head coach David James cut a frustrated figure during the post-match press conference, as he shared his disappointment at having drawn the game. “I think we should have won the game,” he opined. “But to ATK’s credit, they still have a mathematical chance of getting to the playoffs. I did not expect an easy game at all. It’s frustrating for us to lead twice and then give away the lead twice.”

He further added, “We created a lot more chances than they did, but unfortunately, the good play that we did was not enough to win the game. But overall, I am very happy with my team because they have played their hearts out right till the end, which was unfortunately, not quite enough today.”

The 47-year-old also pointed out that the team did not get the reward for a good show on the pitch, but lauded the quality of his players. “It’s frustrating when you see so much quality playing well, and you still don’t get three points,” he remarked. “There was some fantastic play today. I know the players have quality and I have seen them flourish. The quality and the team spirit are there. Kerala Blasters FC is one good club at the moment. The frustration is that we were left with a very difficult task after the defeat to Goa, essentially needing only wins. Mathematically we can still do it. We will go for three wins in our last three games.”

The Englishman also revealed how he generally shapes his players for the matches. “I tell my players that they are going to face things that aren’t quite right, within the game,” James said. “That’s football. These things are going to happen if they are trying to do the right things. But we are encouraging our players to do things like that. You can see the effort. You can see the players trying to do the right things.”

Published: Fri Feb 09, 2018 01:10 PM IST


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