Perhaps keeping that in mind and coupled with the fact that his team was up against a formidable foe in Bengaluru FC, Chennaiyin manager, John Gregory wasn’t too glum and addressed the media, on the eve of the match against FC Goa, with his customary chutzpah firmly intact.
“This is just one game. We need to stay composed. The game against Goa represents us a chance to play in front of our fans and give them something to cheer about. We were disappointed not to have given them that in our first match, but hopefully we will make up for it on Saturday. I kept the nucleus of my team from last season. Like last year, our first priority will be to reach the playoffs,” said the 64-year-old.
According to Gregory, his only complaint about his team’s defeat to Bengaluru was that it lacked imagination in the final third despite having created a glut of chances. “Against Bengaluru, we enjoyed 63 per cent of the possession and we could have easily scored two or three goals in the first half. We didn’t quite have imagination in the final third. That’s one area we need to get better at. In the last 15-20 minutes of the game, Bengaluru had eight players at the edge of their penalty box making it difficult for us to score. But as a champion team you are expected to deal with such things,” added Gregory.
If there is one name that keeps getting mentioned invariably at every Chennaiyin press interaction, it is that of its former captain Henrique Sereno who, apart from winning the trophy, also won over the entire Chennaiyin fan base with his inspirational leadership. While acknowledging his contribution – both as a leader and a defender - and conceding that he is a tough act to follow, Gregory said he was pleased with how Eli Sabia acquitted himself in the opening match. “We knew before that we will have to manage without Sereno. But I’m glad how competent his replacement Sabia was against Bengaluru. He should be happy about his second debut for Chennaiyin. He looked really switched-on throughout the game and that augurs well for us,” explained Gregory.
Asked about the history Chennaiyin and FC Goa share – their 2015 summit clash is still fresh in the memories of both sets of fans – Gregory had only words of approbation for the Goan team. “Along with Bengaluru, FC Goa was the best team last season. Both those teams are enjoyable to watch. They play from back to front. I expect them to finish in the top four again. Coro has continued from where he left off by scoring two against NorthEast United. It should be an interesting game on Saturday,” signed off Gregory.