Chennaiyin coach bemoans “two points lost” after draw

Balwant Singh and Vivek Nagul
Striker Balwant Singh (L) and assistant coach Vivek Nagul rue missed chances in 1-1 draw

Chennaiyin FC came from a goal down to register a draw against FC Pune City in the much anticipated clash for a spot at the top of the table, here at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Pune. As a result, Chennaiyin are level on points with Kolkata, but lie second in the league due to an inferior goal difference. Mr. Vivek Nagul, the assistant coach and Chennaiyin forward Balwant Singh were present to address the media after the match.

When asked whether this was a point gained or two lost, Nagul was quick to reply. “It’s two points lost. It’s been the same story, as it was against NorthEast (United) and against Kolkata. We should have scored nearly four or five goals. We studied their game and the matches they played; we were expecting to score with our strikers’ abilities, our midfielders’ abilities, with the attack force we have up front.”

With Stiven Mendoza and Elano both rattling the woodwork early on, Nagul rued his team’s luck in not scoring more goals. “The goal-post; we blame the post for the loss!” he joked.

It was pointed out to Nagul that livewire winger Stiven Mendonza seemed left alone upfront on many occasions, but the Chennaiyin assistant coach explained that this was a deliberate tactic. “That is Mendoza’s style. We have Mendoza with his abilities, and Balwant brings his own abilities. We wanted to mix and try and match the two to keep the opponents defence guessing.” He went on to add, “Mendoza’s speed on the ball and balance is fantastic, and we give him the freedom and space to express himself on the ground, because we know with that he creates a lot of chances. In the first half itself we could have scored 3-4 goals through him.”

But no one, including Nagul, expected Elano to miss the penalty. “I had already written down 1-1 as the score in my notepad, we all expected him to score,” he bemoaned. “But he’s a professional, and he put that behind and was ready for more.”

Chennaiyin pressed more after Pune lost Lenny Rodrigues through injury in the second half, and the deputy coach admitted a change in tactics, “When Pune lost Lenny, we were forcing our midfielders to go up, and we were successful but it was too late.” Another player from Pune that caused Chennai some trouble was Israil Gurung, who almost got his name on the score-sheet. He got the better of Chennai’s defence at times, finding himself into large pockets of space on many occasions, but Nagul expected that. “We didn’t come here for one point, we came for three. So we were pushing forward, and when that happens, you leave space behind.”

Nagul was full of praise for his defence, however. “They did a fantastic job today. They won all the aerial balls, won all fifty-fifty chances and played the ball forward.” And he reserved special mention for his managerial partner, player-head coach Marco Materazzi. “This is what Materazzi was doing in Milan, in Italy, and Indians and people of Pune got to watch him. It’s amazing. We saw a master of defence at work today. Silvestre too was good, you saw him going up with the ball so many times. I’m pleased with them.”

Balwant Singh also found himself in front of goal on many occasions, but was unlucky. Singh joined coach Nagul in praising Materazzi, who could be seen spurring the striker on in the second half. “He (Materazzi) was very supportive. He told me to keep doing what I did in the first half, and I could get a goal. We were just unlucky today, and Arindam (Bhattacharya) was brilliant too to deny us.”

Nagul also credited Pune City’s keeper for keeping the Chennaiyin strike force at bay. “Arindam was amazing,” said Nagul. “We expected that, and discussed that before the match.” Nagul also revealed that they were fully aware of the role Pune’s goalscorer Kostas would play in the match, although the goal nevertheless came as a surprise. “We also knew Kostas would be influential, but because we had Elano, we expected him to mark Elano.”

Unlike many coaches who can be content with the performance when the result doesn’t go their way, Nagul emphasized the winning mantra that defines Chennaiyin. “We’ve played better matches earlier. We did create more chances in this match, but you can’t rank this as a good match on that fact. Three points make a good game; even if you don’t play well and you get three points, it’s a good match.”

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