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John Gregory delights in keeping clean sheet, De Deus not concerned about lack of goals

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The hosts delivered a command performance against the Highlander whose struggles on the road from previous seasons continue.

Chennaiyin Football Club bounced back in grand style after their opening day defeat to Goa, with a humdinger of a performance against NorthEast United, and coach John Gregory delighted in his side’s keeping a clean sheet against the Highlanders.

Raphael Augusto scored twice in the first half before Mohammed Rafi capitalized on NorthEast’s fatigue and desperation for goals to head home the third in the dying minutes of the second half.

 “It’s a pleasure to not concede besides producing a great result and performance,” said the England manager. “The best teams win championships or get to the playoffs by keeping clean sheets. We’re excellent in defence today. We came back from a big deficit in the second half [against Goa], and it could have happened tonight as well. It’s important to not concede. I asked my players to not take chances and not to get too many bodies to find more goals. Keeping a clean sheet in the 20 minutes in the second half was important.”

The former Aston Villa manager’s team selection was off in the opening game against Goa, but he got everything right against NorthEast, as he masterminded a crucial win. He reckons the next 10 days will be enjoyable in light of their first win of the season.


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“The substitutes had a chance to impress and they did,” he said. “[Jaime] Gavilan created the goal from a free-kick, with Mohammed Rafi scoring it. [Gregory] Nelson didn’t start against Goa and he performed exceptionally well today. The next 10 days [before the Pune City game] will be enjoyable.”

Asked about Raphael Augusto’s contribution, he said: “He’s been battling with aches and pains, and rarely is a player 100 percent fit. He’s about 85 percent fit. He carries an injury, but you saw his goals and performance. His contribution was outstanding. I had an opportunity to rest him for the last few minutes and I did. It’s down to him and the rest of the players to get the maximum out of him. You have to give him the freedom to express himself.”

On Indian midfielders Dhanapal Ganesh and Bikramjit Singh, who performed superbly on their first night playing together, he said, “The first time you touch the ball, you do something good, and Dhanpal Ganesh did just that. He was in the middle of everything. He had an outstanding game, along with everybody else. The two boys in central midfield were both outstanding. Bikramjit [Singh] had a cramp, so I had to take him off. He covered a lot of ground tonight. Their contribution was immense. I’m so proud to have two Indian boys in our midfield. Germanpreet [Singh] did a good job as well. The future looks very bright.”

His NorthEast counterpart Joao Carlos Pires de Deus, despite shipping three goals and scoring none, refused to backtrack on his claim that his side might be the best-attacking side in the league. “I continue to believe that [we’re a top attacking side] despite not scoring tonight,” said the Portuguese. “I’m not going to change my opinion. I know what my boys are capable of. It’s easy to [to think we’re not a good attacking side] after seeing us score no goal in 90 minutes, but I think we produced six opportunities to score tonight. When you don’t create, you have problems. I’m not concerned, for we create opportunities.

“We lost because the opponents scored three when we lost our concentration. We conceded two goals poorly; I don’t need to speak about the first goal and we should have done more about the second one. We’re going to improve; we’ll look to be better in the next games.”

Published: Fri Nov 24, 2017 11:32 AM IST

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