CHENNAI: Finally, after seven games, defending champions Chennaiyin FC got three points. Since the first match of the season, coach John Gregory was saying that they have been unlucky. He kept on stressing that players were giving it their all and it was only a matter of time before the results fell their way. While it did take longer than Gregory would have hoped, the 64-year-old said pretty much the same thing after his boys beat FC Pune City 4-2 on Tuesday. “We played some very close matches before this and didn’t get the results we deserved. The football has been excellent in the previous games but we couldn’t get the break. We gave away a couple of goals due to a couple of mistakes at the back. But I think things changed today.”
The start wasn’t ideal as Pune took the lead before Chennaiyin came roaring back scoring four goals. “The players never lost their desire or professionalism. Even after we went 1-0 down, we continued playing. The confidence had been damaged in some of the games but they continued to work hard. Hopefully, this is the start of many good things to come.”
While a rock solid defence was key to Chennaiyin’s success last season, the team has managed only one clean sheet so far this season. Last year, Chennaiyin defenders were also a constant threat in the opposition penalty box, especially during set pieces. That was missing this time until Mailson Alves decided to roll back time with a powerful header past Pune keeper Kamaljit Singh to level things for Chennaiyin.
“We had Mailson back in the line-up and he was pretty much like he was last season. He scored a goal and defended well. It was nice to see the old Mailson back again today. I didn’t want to change anything at half-time. I think we did well, keeping possession and creating chances. I think Pune got one chance and converted it. Germanpreet Singh and Anirudh Thapa ran the midfield. They were up against players who are more experienced and they did a good job. This was Jeje’s best game so far. He was left out in a couple of games and it worked as he did well today. He might be disappointed not to have scored but he played well.”
The win helped Chennai to eighth position on the table with four points. While they are nine points behind leaders Bengaluru FC who have played two games less, the confidence gained might have a say in whether Chennaiyin can still make it to the play-offs. “The players lacked a bit of self-belief. But I had belief in them. We need to keep working hard and never give up. The dressing room was very quiet today but this win gave everyone hope. Everyone’s smiling now and we are going into the break with three points. We have a tough game against Jamshedpur after that and need to get ready for that,” said Gregory.