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James praises players, Gregory happy with clean sheet

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The Southern Derby ended goalless as goalkeepers on both sides turned heroes.

Kerala Blasters FC were held to a 0 – 0 draw by Chennaiyin FC in Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday. In an end-to-end encounter, the hosts had their fair share of chances and even missed a second-half penalty. The draw means that qualification for the playoffs is no longer in Kerala’s hands, and speaking to the media during the post-match press conference was their head coach David James.

The Englishman admitted that he could not blame his team for the draw since they gave it their all. “We had a lot of chances, lot of them on target,” James inferred. “But they kept saving them. So, I can’t fault for one minute the performance by the team. We are frustrated of course, because we did not win. Granted, Chennaiyin did not need to win the game in one sense. But, we kept hitting the target and their keeper kept saving. That is always frustrating.”

He further praised his players by stating, “I have to applaud the players. Well done for their effort, can’t fault that one bit. I can’t fault their desire, the attempts made on goal. Even our keeper (Paul Rachubka) made some crucial saves to keep it at 0 – 0. So, I think it was a full-squad performance today.”

While the result means that qualification is now clearly out of Kerala’s control, James pointed out that the scenario would have been similar even if they would have won. “The reality is we could have won this game and still not be in control of whether or not we qualify,” remarked the former England custodian. “So, our position of relying on others is still the same, if not more acute. We need some heavy results going our way, rather than the odd results. Mumbai, Goa and Jamshedpur are all in there. It was important that we did not lose, but that is a slight improvement on not losing.”

The 47-year-old also lauded Chennaiyin keeper Karanjit Singh whose heroics time and again denied Kerala a goal. “I think today their goalkeeper (Karanjit) was man of the match,” James stated. “We did everything we could to try and win it, and he got in the way. It’s frustrating for us, but credit to him for being so good today.”


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Chennaiyin FC played out a goalless draw with Kerala Blasters FC in Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday. In a very open match, Chennaiyin had some good chances but their keeper and Hero of the Match Karanjit Singh to thank as he came up with some splendid saves – including from a penalty – to ensure a point for his side. The 2015 champions stay third in the table and are within touching distance of sealing a playoff spot.

Speaking to the media at the post-match press conference was their head coach John Gregory and the Englishman acknowledged the strength Kerala possessed. “At this particular time of the season, this is probably not the venue I would choose to play in,” he admitted. “Kerala also happen to be on a fantastic run of form, picking up points all the time and making a real effort to challenge the top four teams. And it was not easy. David (James) picked a very offensive team tonight.”

Regarding Chennaiyin’s difficulties, Gregory elaborated, “We were obviously without Mailson (Alves), so we had to adjust with our set-up. But it was really tough coming here, so I must say I am particularly happy keeping a clean sheet. And our goalkeeper (Karanjit) should take a lot of credit for that. At the end of the game, I was happy to have got something from the game.”

The 63-year-old also praised Kerala for their efforts on the pitch. “Kerala are out and out trying to get into the top four and they throw everything forward,” Gregory inferred. “So, the tactical side of the game changes a little bit. They are in a position where they can chuck everything at it, which they did. They gave it everything tonight.”

Dhanpal Ganesh has been a revelation for Chennai this season, producing solid performances in midfield and at the back on a consistent basis. Gregory highlighted the youngster’s performance and lauded him for the same. “He (Dhanpal) has been thrust into the limelight by his performances,” he stated. “He is a local boy of Chennai’s, and he has had a lot thrown at him this season. His life really has changed a lot since last November. So, he has coped very well this season.”

However, he added, “He still has a big part to play in the remainder of our games. He has made tremendous progress, but obviously I need to make sure he keeps his feet on the floor. He gave it everything tonight, and I am pleased with his contribution this season.”

Published: Sat Feb 24, 2018 12:00 PM IST

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