Defending champions Chennaiyin FC are showing no signs of turning around the awful start to their campaign in the Indian Super League (ISL). On the other hand, Mumbai City have had a resurgence after their 5-0 defeat to FC Goa. Chennai boss John Gregory spoke about how luck has played a role in their underwhelming campaign.
“I thought Mumbai were a bit fortunate in Delhi. I saw a lot of ‘us’ in Delhi’s game the other night. They created a lot of chances and should have been ahead at half-time but unfortunately, they conceded a fluke goal and went behind. This (bad luck) is something that’s been happening to us too," the Englishman said.
“But I think Mumbai played better in the second half and ended up winning the game. They have been very tough defensively, kept a few clean-sheets. I think Jorge (Costa) learnt a lot after they conceded five against Goa. After that they have been very strong defensively. It’s going to be hard to score against them. They remind me a bit of us from last season. They have won games where they have not particularly played well and that’s a sign of a good team," he continued.
The Englishman was full of praise for his Portuguese counterpart and commented on how Jorge Costa is getting everything right at Mumbai.
“If you look at the league table, it’s obvious that Costa has been doing a great job. Like I said earlier, it’s not always the free-flowing football, like you see with Goa. But he’s winning games and that’s what matters. Sometimes he has had to change his formations a bit and it has always worked well for him. I think it will be a tough game for us tomorrow,” Gregory explained.
The 64-year-old attempted to provide an explanation for their dismal show. His argument revolved under the simple fact that luck has not favoured Chennai.
“We haven’t won enough games. Our players have continued to give everything they have. We were the better team against Kerala and should have had three goals by half-time. But we had to settle for just a point. Against Kolkata, Jayesh Rane scored a goal from 25 metres and then we conceded two penalties. The passing statistics and possession statistics show that we were better than the teams we have faced but we are unable to win the games. But it means nothing if you don’t win the games," rued Gregory.
“We lost a couple of tough guys in Dhanpal Ganesh and Henrique Sereno. We also lost Bikramjit (Singh), who used to play in central midfield, to Delhi. We have lost that little bit of an edge. We need to be a lot more ruthless. It’s hard to get the players angry and make them play more physical but I think we need to do that.”
Gregory refused to rule out a fight for the top four. The team will be looking to win every game and gather all 24 possible points from the remaining fixtures.
“We’re a long way off from the play-offs and I think we need to win all the remaining eight games to even stand a chance of getting anywhere near the play-offs. But football being football, nothing is impossible. We need to keep our heads down and get some points. We need to win some points for our pride as I think we have performed nowhere to our standards this season," he stated.
Chennai have to make room for their Asian engagements in March and the Englishman wants to salvage something from the AFC Cup to revive his season.
“We have not given the AFC Cup too much focus. We have one eye on that. We play our first qualifier game on March 6 and the home leg on 13th. We get through that and then we have the group stages. That’s one way we can try to salvage something from our season. We also have one eye on the recruitment. We need to check which foreigners we need to pick. But we will be fully prepared for that," the Chennaiyin boss said.
With four goals already, Thoi Singh has been Chennai’s revelation this season. The 28-year-old was at the receiving end of a lot of praise from his boss.
“I think Thoi is a great player. He forced his way into the team this season. He’s doing really well on the training ground and given the situation of the team, I couldn’t ignore his professionalism. He runs by far the most and out-runs the opponent too. He has been rewarded with four goals and could probably have had ten. He has been getting into goal-scoring positions. He has done great and we are very proud of his contributions to the team. I wish I had more players who can run as much as he does."