Head coach praises Chennaiyin players’ character, desire and discipline
Four of its squad members were down with food poisoning on matchday minus one – Thursday. But, Chennaiyin, at the Mumbai Football Arena in Mumbai on Friday, proved it isn’t one that comes up with excuses. Owen Coyle’s side edged fellow play-offs contender MCFC 1-0 to enter the knockouts in extraordinary fashion.
CFC head coach Coyle, who helped the team rise remarkably from its ruins in a space of just 11 games, waxed lyrical about his boys in the post-match press conference. “I have got to give huge credit to my players. They gave everything on the field. We showed a lot of character, desire and discipline,” Coyle told reporters.
“Laldinliana Renthlei didn’t even train. Nerijus Valskis managed to practise but couldn’t come for the (team) meeting. Andre Schembri didn’t train the last three days. He tried his best but broke down in the warm-up,” revealed Coyle, who replaced Englishman John Gregory six fixtures into the ongoing campaign.
During his three-season stint with MCFC, Lucian Goian was a darling among the West Coast Brigade – the official fan club of the City Football Group co-owned franchise. Having shifted his allegiance during the summer transfer window, the current CFC captain ironically got the goal that mattered to puncture his former employer’s hopes.
“Goian had been a wonderful servant for Mumbai City. These things happen in football. I am very happy for him,” said Coyle. With the victory, the two-time title-winner, on a seven-match unbeaten streak, completed a dramatic turnaround. CFC now sits fourth in the standings with 28 points from 17 games and will play its semi-final home leg at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on February 29.
“We have earned the right to be in the play-offs. In the last 11 matches, we have managed to collect 23 points. We have won six of our previous seven games. We started from the bottom of the league. To qualify for the knockouts from such a situation is very satisfying for myself and (assistant coach) Sandy Stewart,” added the 53-year-old manager.
With Chennaiyin sensationally achieving its first objective, the former Republic of Ireland international is keen on getting the job done. “We are not a finished article. We still have to improve upon a few areas. We are on a run and it’s important we see it through. CFC knows how to win these knockout matches and we are looking forward to them,” signed off Coyle.
Prior to its play-offs commitments, the Chennai-based outfit will be on the road to Guwahati next Tuesday for a rescheduled fixture against NorthEast United FC – its last league encounter.