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CFC v KB: Point Gained, Two Lost Feels Both Coaches

Saturday, 23 December 2017|Vineeth Krishnan
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It is not often that a team loses a lead deep into injury time and then their manager comes out and concedes “we could very easily have lost that game”. This is exactly what happened Friday as Chennaiyin FC manager John Gregory called a spade a spade, saying his side were lucky to take a point at home against the Kerala Blasters.

“I think (the draw) was not more than they deserve to be fair. We were fortunate to get the penalty. The game lacked goalscoring opportunities and quite easily could have gone against us. They probably had the best opportunities. In the first half they hit us on the counter and maybe should’ve done better. As the game went on.. They could’ve scored before we did. So in many respects, we haven’t played that well but we’ve managed to get a point from it,” said Gregory, whose side sit top of the league after this result.

In the opposite dressing room, Rene Meulensteen was glad his team managed to pick up their first points on the road this season. However, it was clear from his demeanor that he felt his team had dropped a couple of points on the day. Apart from the penalty, keeper Paul Rachubka’s goal was hardly threatened throughout the game while at the other end, the men in yellow fashioned a few good situations on the break.

“If I would have sat here empty-handed, I would’ve felt totally miserable because I thought we had a very good performance. We should’ve gone 1-0 up on the chance that Jackichand had. We defended well, we were waiting for the opportunities to come our way and then the penalty threw a spanner in the works,” said Meulensteen.

The Dutch tactician was adamant the penalty decision was a real shocker from the referee. This is not the first time in the young season that Meulensteen has expressed his displeasure at the standard of officiating in the league. Asked about the 87th-minute penalty, he said, “I’ve seen the pictures and it's not a penalty. Sandesh was turning away, he’s not even looking at the ball when it hits him,” adding that the ball hit Jhingan on his side, behind and below his arm and not on the shoulder as the referee claimed.

The former Manchester United assistant manager would’ve been pleased with how his side fought back in extremely limited time to salvage a draw. Gregory, on the other hand, felt his side should’ve done better in seeing the game out.

“We normally run down the clock pretty well. There was a bit of a mix-up over the throw, we thought it was ours and one or two of my players went to pick the ball up. It was given to the opposition and they took it very quickly and made the best of a chance. So it was disappointing to concede so late in the game,” the former Aston Villa boss said.

Having run up a reputation for scoring late goals, Chennaiyin would probably have expected the same script to continue when Slovenian substitute Rene Mihelic slotted home his penalty. But the Blasters are beginning to earn credentials of their own right as a team that never gives up. Gregory chose to dwell on the positives coming out of this result, feeling his side will take more care in similar situations going ahead.

“That (the late goal conceded) will probably teach us a lesson. We’ve done that to a few teams already this season and kind of got a bit of our own medicine, which doesn’t taste very nice I have to say. The players are extremely disappointed in the dressing room having been in control of the last couple of minutes. It will serve as a reminder, when we’re playing out injury time, that this can happen again and everybody will be, maybe, a little more alert,” felt Gregory.

For Meulensteen, after the drubbing at the hands of Goa in their first away match, things are starting to look up. Without Dimitar Berbatov they have now picked up four points from consecutive matches, with this result following a win against Northeast United. CK Vineeth, a confidence player, has notched two in those games, while the side as a whole are creating a lot more chances than they did before, especially compared to the first two goalless draws at home.

“We had a good performance. It took a penalty for them to score. I don’t think they created any chances that really bothered our goalkeeper. I think we had the best chances. But Chennaiyin are up there for a reason so I’m happy with a point, although it could have been three,” said Meulensteen.

Up next for the Blasters is a second straight southern derby, against Bengaluru FC at home. Rino Anto, who went off having “tweaked his hamstring” and Berbatov should be doubtful for the game on New Year’s eve. Rachubka, who had some discomfort towards the end of the game after inadvertently kicking a sprinkler that hadn’t receded into the turf, should be available though.

“Bengaluru again like Chennaiyin will be a big game, another with a derby atmosphere. For us it’s another great game to look forward to and hopefully, we’ll keep the three points with us,” signed off Meulensteen.