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ISL Media

Gregory applauds defensive solidity, Lobera expresses happiness with Indian players

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The Marina Machans will face Bengaluru FC in the final of the Indian Super League (ISL) now. 

Chennaiyin FC progressed to their second final in Hero Indian Super League (ISL) after defeating FC Goa 3 – 0 in the second leg of the second semi-final of Hero ISL 2017-18 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Tuesday. Jeje Lalpekhlua scored a brace and Dhanpal Ganesh got the other goal as the hosts won 4 – 1 on aggregate. They set themselves up for a date with southern rivals Bengaluru FC in the grand finale and addressing the media during the post-match press-conference was their head coach John Gregory.

The Englishman was pleased to have kept faith with Jeje despite the forward’s recent goal drought. “He (Jeje) has always played the role of playing down the middle,” he explained. “It can be a lonely job, and sometimes when you don’t score, you don’t get any recognition of taking part in the game. But he has been working really hard. He put in so much tonight that he got a little bit of a cramp. But I supported him, and I always wanted him in the team. I knew he would always get a chance. And he just went out there and got two goals.”

Gregory explained the reason behind Chennaiyin’s solid display in such a crucial match. “Just like Goa put a lot of faith in their offensive play, we put a lot of faith in our defence,” he revealed. “To get into our team, you have to have the ability to work hard and have the energy to run for 90 minutes. The fitness levels our players have got enables us to play that way.”

However, Gregory did admit that his team survived an initial scare, following which they went through the gears. “We aren’t probably as technically gifted as Goa, and they pinned us back in the early stages,” conceded the 63-year-old. “And we couldn’t really do anything about it except for hanging in there and putting a huge responsibility on the defensive side of our play. But that has really been what our team has been built on this season; the ability to withstand huge amount of pressure.”

Elaborating further on the success of their defence, Gregory added: “We have got three foreign players in defence. Goa tend to load their other end with foreign players. So I have got three vastly experienced players playing with a 19-year-old left-back. And really I need to tell them once and they remember it and display it on the pitch. The three of them have been leaders on and off the pitch.”


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FC Goa succumbed to a 3 – 0 defeat at the hands of Chennaiyin FC in the second leg of the second semi-final of Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on  Tuesday. The hosts progressed to the final with a 4 – 1 aggregate victory, but the Gaurs had their moments, especially during the opening quarter of an hour when they had their opponents on the ropes.

Speaking to the media at the post-match press conference was their head coach Sergio Lobera, who admitted that while they controlled the game in the early stages, two lapses cost them dearly. “We were exceptional in the first 25 minutes and much better compared to our opponents,” he inferred. “We had opportunities to put ourselves ahead in the score-line. The difficult part of it is that within two-three minutes, there are a couple of mistakes that took the game away from us. But I think it was the best 25 minutes we played in the entire season.”

When analysing his team as a whole though, the Spaniard was pleased with the performances Goa had put on over course of the season. “I think we have to analyse the team and not just individual players,” Lobera stated. “There were two players who did a lot for us in the entire season, but so did the rest of the team. This is a difficult moment, but we have to take positives out of it. But if we were to do a whole analysis of the season, we should be very positive and happy about the way we reached the semi-final.”

Elaborating on the two quick goals they conceded, “It is true that when you are playing so well in a game and you suddenly concede a goal, it affects your gameplay. And conceding two in four minutes affects it even more. I think it cost us and it was difficult to get ourselves up and back into the game,” the 41-year-old said before adding, “There were two errors at the point where I think we were superior. And sometimes these are the things that make the game.”

Lobera concluded by saying, “I am very happy with the performance of the team and the performance of the Indian players. And from here on we have to analyse what areas we can improve on and plan for the next season.”

Published: Wed Mar 14, 2018 11:10 AM IST

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