CHENNAI: Chennaiyin FC chief coach John Gregory was in awe of his defenders after they thumped FC Goa 3-0 in the second leg of their second semi-final of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) here.
After the first leg in Fatorda ended 1-1, Goa came here in the second leg hoping to earn a crucial away goal firstly and they dominated the first 25 minutes before Chennayin turned the game in their favour, with goals from striker Jeje Lalpekhlua (26th and 90th minutes) and Dhanpal Ganesh (29th minute) during the match on Tuesday.
Gregory has mostly fielded Henrique Sereno and Mailson Alves in central defence along with Jerry Lalrinzuala (left-back) and Inigo Martinez (right-back). The four players denied Goa's ferocious attacking team, who have striker Ferran Corominas and attacking midfielder Manuel Lanzarote.
"They (Goa) pinned us back and were under pressure at the beginning. We hung in there and put huge responsibility on our defence -- we have this ability to withstand pressure. We put a lot of faith in our defence to help us and they did the job again for us tonight," 62-year-old Gregory said at the post-match press conference.
"We have foreigners in our defence and they have been key figures for us not just on field but also off it. They are experienced and have had long careers in football. They understand the demand (of the job)," the former English international added.
"They help the other guys in the squad as well. They interact with the youngsters and push them hard. They have fantastic personalities and are approachable."
Gregory was pleased to see his striker Jeje back in goals as he ended a seven-match scoring drought. "I said here the other day about backing him and supporting him and he came away with two important goals," he said.
Former champions Chennaiyin will face Bengaluru FC in the final in Bengaluru on Sunday.
"It is a matter of honour to say about approaching final. If you play final, you need to win it. It is about going there and winning it," he said.
"We have got ISL champions in our team. They know what it is like to play in big matches. Bengaluru are also a very good team. We are ready for the final."