John Gregory: Priority must be to keep a clean sheet against Goa

Chennaiyin FC host FC Goa in the second leg of the second semi-final of Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Tuesday. The home team has a slight advantage going into this game, having secured a 1-1 draw and a crucial away goal in the first leg at Goa. Chennai’s defence though will have to be wary in the second leg and brace themselves to take on a free-scoring Goa outfit, who’ll head into the encounter with an attacking mindset.

Addressing the media at the pre-match press conference was their head coach John Gregory and he admitted that although his team could have had a bigger advantage, he was satisfied with the score-line they came away with from Goa. “We go into the game having worked exceptionally hard the other night, and I think deserved the outcome,” he remarked. “They were some clear-cut chances in the game that we should have taken, and really should be coming into this one with a numerical advantage in terms of goals. But it was a hard-earned draw.”

The Englishman doesn’t believe that the away goal gives them any major advantage ahead of the second leg. “The away goal is really a very minimal advantage,” stated Gregory. “It is not something I would spend a lot of time thinking about. Obviously, if we keep a clean sheet we go through. But, should they score, it would change the whole complexion of the game.”

Speaking about their opponents, he mentioned that Chennai knew what to expect in the second leg. “They (FC Goa) are a team that relies on natural football,” inferred Gregory. “And to match them, we have to be defensively very solid. The way they pass the ball is kind of ingrained in them. It is up to the opposition to try and stop them; and get the ball from them. So, we are very aware of the job we have to do tomorrow night. If we get a clean sheet, we go through. So, that will be our first priority.”

Chennaiyin’s top scorer this season Jeje Lalpekhlua has failed to find the back of the net in the last few games, but their head coach remained supportive of the forward. “I just keep supporting him (Jeje),” said Gregory. “He has saved us and won us matches on many occasions this season. He has this ability that at any given stage, he’ll come up with the goods. And he’s usually done it when we have really needed a goal from someone and I still have got huge amount of faith in him.”

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