The Spaniard believes his team are still in the race for the playoffs…

FC Pune City suffered heartbreak in Chennai as Chennaiyin FC ended their fairytale two-match winning run with a 2-0 win against the Punekars. The result means Tuesday’s hosts have leapfrogged the guests in the Indian Super League standings.

City coach Antonio Habas refused to let the defeat bring the vibes down as he suggested that they should bounce back swiftly with only four games left. “In this league, every team is very close to the other,” hypothesized Habas. “Before today’s match, Chennaiyin were finished. Now, they are close to the playoff berths. Maybe, after three more matches, it is possible [that we are out], but we are alive. We’re not the best team in the world. One day, we win and on the next day, we may lose or draw.”

For the Stallions, yesterday’s game was their first in four days, with the squad flying from Mumbai to Chennai for the crunch clash. The former Valencia gaffer denied making excuses as he said, “We don’t want to make excuses like humidity or travel woes. We’re coming off two very tough games in which we played well and won, but we could not win today. Chennai scored two goals, and we didn’t; that’s it.”

City deployed five at the back in what seemed a 5-3-2 setup, but their coach stated that he had espoused a rather attacking setup with only three at the back. Stating Chennaiyin were hardly in the game until the penultimate minute of the first half, he seemed to suggest that City had a decent chance of producing a result despite a woeful display.

“In the beginning, we did not have five defenders; we had three centre-backs and two full-backs, so that means we played five players in the midfield,” claimed Habas. “This [loss] is not because of the system. We won the last two games with this system. The goal Chennai scored in the 44th minute changed everything. Until the first goal, Chennai did not attack and we did not, too; nothing of note had happened.”

No card was handed out by Tuesday’s referee in Nick Waldron and his work caught the Spanish gaffer’s attention as he heaped praise on the officials despite often being openly critical of refereeing standards in the competition. “I want to congratulate today’s referees. They had an amazing game. Maybe, sometimes, I’ve been critical of the referees but, today, I didn’t witness any bad call. Refereeing was perfect,” he said.

City have scored the second least goals this season, with only NorthEast United scoring fewer goals than them. Their manager joked about his strikers’ inability to convert chances as he said he had no other striker at his disposal to experiment.

“We’ve played with all four strikers – [Momar] Ndoye, [Dramane] Traore, [Jesus] Tato and Anibal [Rodriguez]. I don’t have more forwards in my team, but the goals are not coming. The Chennai game is over, so it’s my duty to work on the next game now,” he signed off.

City host league leaders Delhi Dynamos FC on Friday night as they hope to bounce back swiftly. Having defeated juggernauts in Mumbai City FC not so long ago, they will fancy their chances of causing yet another upset.

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