Chennaiyin FC head coach Owen Coyle is pleased with his players as they rallied from being 1-0 down to secure all three points against Mohun Bagan Super Giant in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Sunday. 

Both teams began the match struggling to maintain possession, but it was the home team that found the opening goal 29 minutes into the game, with Joni Kauko scoring his first goal for the Mariners since his return. Deep into the second half, Australian forward Jordan Murray levelled the score for the Marina Machans, and centre-back Ryan Edwards gave them the lead at the 80th-minute mark. 

An injury-time penalty provided Mohun Bagan SG an opportunity to salvage a draw, which Dimitri Petratos converted with ease, but Irfan Yadwad's goal seconds before the final whistle handed Chennaiyin FC a thrilling 3-2 victory. 

Coyle’s men came to Kolkata fresh from a defeat against Hyderabad FC with the head coach demanding a show of character from his players. 

After letting ourselves down and letting our fans down against Hyderabad FC, I needed a big test of character and I have seen it tonight,” stated Coyle at the post-match press conference.

He continued, “I think anybody watching the game, any neutral fan, would have loved the game because it was two teams going all out to win.”

The 22-year-old Irfan Yadwan was introduced to the match in the 88th minute, and what an impact the super sub had in his few minutes on the pitch. Yadwad capitalized on the situation as Mohun Bagan SG custodian Vishal Kaith rushed out of his goal, and the young forward went past Kaith with ease to score the winning goal for his team and bag his first ISL goal.

Full of praise for the youngster, the Scot shared, “For young Irfan (Yadwad), he's a young Indian number nine who has got a lot to learn. He scored in the Super Cup. He's had five or six chances before in the Indian Super League to score. So to get his goal and what it meant and the quality showed, that will stand him in good stead. So I'm working with him daily and you can see his improvement, but there's still a lot of stuff to come.”

Chennaiyin FC moved to ninth place on the league table with 21 points from their 19 matches, just a point below sixth-placed Bengaluru FC with a game in hand. 

Coyle is optimistic that his team will make it to the playoffs if they can replicate the performance they showed against Odisha FC or Mohun Bagan SG in their upcoming two games.

He said, “We've got it all to do two home games now against two very good teams, Jamshedpur FC, who I know very well, and NorthEast United FC. But if we can replicate the performance level from tonight, from against Odisha FC, then of course it can lead to points and if we can win games, it gives us a great opportunity of trying to attain that sixth spot.”

“But listen, there are six teams that feel the exact same way as I do,” he added.

Happy with his team’s performance and his own strategy for the match, the 57-year-old shared, “I had to try and nullify Mohun Bagan SG's strengths, but still allow us to be creative and attack-minded. And we did that. We were very brave tonight.”

Sharing his aim with the Marina Machans, Coyle stated, “I know how honourable they (Chennaiyin FC) are and I want to try and get Chennaiyin FC back to the heights where it's been before. Now that's a real challenge because there's some big, big clubs in this country, but I know we can do it because I've done it before and that's what I'll try and do.”

Chennaiyin FC goalkeeper Debjit Majumder was brilliant against Mohun Bagan SG, making 11 crucial saves. The head coach is quite impressed with him, just as he is with his other players.

He said, “I think Debjit (Majumder) is probably taking more crosses in the league than anybody. He's brave, he's experienced and he's a great lad. And I think he showed tonight, you know, a top-level performance when it was needed because when it got to 3-2 and there was, I think it was six minutes, it became nine minutes. Then you had to stand up and be counted. And Debjit showed his real quality.”

“And I'm delighted for him as I am all the boys, and it's always nice when within a team performance you're very good at individual performances. I think that's a good point,” stated Coyle.