Ishfaq Ahmed: Momentum the key to qualifying for semi-finals

Kerala Blasters FC play host to Chennaiyin FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Saturday. Currently eighth in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 table with 14 points from as many outings, the Kochi-based club are in dire need of points to stay afloat in the top four race and will be looking to secure all three available from the upcoming Southern Derby.

At the pre-match press conference, Kerala assistant coach Ishfaq Ahmed explained how the club’s new philosophy may take time to yield desired results and said, “I think there’s a process. The club changed the entire philosophy. From going to a different set of coaches, to a new direction with a new coach. It’s a process. Results haven’t come unfortunately, but the team has been playing some fantastic football.”

“For example, it is not easy to play (FC) Goa in their home with their first XI and have 60% ball possession. But we’ve had those moments where we tend to make mistakes and concede from them. I think we need to give time to this team. The coaching staff is working really hard on that, and hopefully, we will see in the future that those mistakes are not repeated again,” added Ahmed.

He also felt that injuries have been a big reason behind the Blasters’ under par season so far and they may play a part on Saturday’s tie as well. “We have been unfortunate with injuries. Sometimes you have this in football, where you have one season where you are really unlucky. Prasanth (Karuthadathkuni) in training, without having any contact, got injured. Most of the players are on the verge of being fit. By Saturday, we will take a call on whether Rahul (KP) is fit or not,” he said.

Looking ahead, Ahmed opined, “In this league, we have seen Odisha (FC) winning four matches in a row and they are in fourth spot. You need two matches to build momentum. I think it’s all about momentum. Any team, who is behind the top spot, can qualify. It’s just about getting two wins in a row.”

Finally, he shared his thoughts on the Chennaiyin squad, stating, “I think the new coach (Owen Coyle) has given them belief that they can do it. Once you get a couple of wins, you get self-belief as well. They have really good players and they are playing quite compact football. Sometimes changing coaches is what you need. I don’t think the earlier coach (John Gregory) was a bad coach. Sometimes some fresh ideas motivate players. Somehow they are doing pretty good under Coyle.”

Blasters youngster Samuel Lalmuanpuia, who was also at the media briefing, said, “I didn’t get any chances in the beginning, but my teammates gave me confidence. When I got the chance, I proved that I am working. That’s what I am doing.”

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