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Gregory hoping to keep Chhetri, Miku quiet as Chennaiyin seek encore of corresponding league clash


The Englishman is keen for his team to draw on the experience from their first trip to the Garden City to good effect in the season finale.

Chennaiyin FC travel to the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru to take on Bengaluru FC in what promises to be a pulsating climax to Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18. The former champions will be eager to reclaim the title they lost last season, but have a formidable Blues side playing in front of their vociferous fans. Chennai, however, have beaten their opponents when they visited them in the league phase.

Speaking to the media at the pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday’s final was their head coach John Gregory along with top-scorer Jeje Lalpekhlua. The experienced English head coach recalled the last time Chennaiyin beat Bengaluru 2-1 at the Blues’ fortress. “We have been here before, and that was my first time ever in this stadium. So, I know what it’s going to be like tomorrow,” Gregory said.

He continued: “The dressing rooms, the drive to the stadium and everything else. A very passionate crowd as well. It was an amazing atmosphere and we went and won the game. When you know what to expect, it gives you a much better feeling. So, we are going into the game with a lot of confidence, knowing that we won here before.”

Regarding opponents Bengaluru, the Englishman maintained that keeping Sunil Chhetri and Miku at bay was of utmost importance. “Well, Chhetri scored three goals in the semi-final,” Gregory inferred. “He had an outstanding season and is one of the most important players for Bengaluru. And Miku as well. Between them, they have scored 24 goals out of the team’s 35 in the league phase. And if we can keep those two quiet, we might get a chance of winning the game. If we do that, we have got a bit more chance. That is a hard thing to do, but let’s see what we can do.”

The 63-year-old also admitted that there is hardly any room for error in a final and that the result may depend on who scores first. “Our first leg in the semi-final was cagey.” Gregory stated. “Obviously, we got the away goal before getting the job done in the second leg. The final is a one-off game. So, we don’t have that first leg which becomes a sparring match."

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"It is a game where if you concede a goal first, you have a mountain to climb. And you have to do that quickly. Both teams have got to be a little more attack-minded because somebody needs to score more goals in 90 minutes. No one really wants to play extra-time and then penalties.”

Chennaiyin have been strong at set-pieces, while defending as well as attacking. However, their opponents have been just as good in set-pieces, if not better and regarding dead-ball situations, Gregory remarked: “I always regard set-pieces important both from a defensive point of view and the attacking sense as well. If you do it right, you don’t concede goals, and get opportunities to score at the other end. And we have scored quite a few goals from set-pieces. So, they are incredibly important.”

He added, “We have (also) seen Bengaluru score many goals from set-pieces. They have worked very hard for it, and they rarely repeat their set-pieces. We want to make sure we have the right people in the right position during the set-pieces and yes, the game can be decided by one of those.”

‘Mizo Sniper’ Jeje lost his scoring touch towards the end of the league phase but rediscovered it in style while netting a brace against FC Goa in the second leg of Chennai’s semi-final. Needless to say, Jeje was pleased to be back on the scoresheet ahead of the final. “As a striker, if you do not get any goals, it is very difficult. But my coach kept having faith in me and kept motivating me."

That’s what gave me confidence. I worked hard in training. And so last game, I scored two goals which helped my team. And it is not important if I scored or not, the most important (thing) was we won. We have a team with so many great players, and I am happy to have scored and helped my team reach the final.”

Published: Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:46 AM IST


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